Wednesday, June 11, 2014

1343 Condition Lockdown At GM

Automakers the world over live in a closed little bubble of their own, protected by private bureaucracies that rival anything Washington has to offer.

Maybe that’s changing.  But don’t hold your breath.  

General Motors CEO Mary Barra Mia Culpa-ed her way through a report on how things went wrong over the course of a decade with flimsy but death-dealing ignition switches that ended with a parade of lawsuits and firings and admissions of incompetence and maybe too much cost control.

Those switches cost about one dollar each to make. It’s the installation that makes this fix expensive.

But as friend and former colleague Doron Levin points out in Fortune Magazine, the easy part -- admitting guilt -- is done with and the hard part is yet to come, changing a culture that rewards the kind of behavior that led to decades of mismanagement.

It started with arrogance. Then it became habit. Then it became the rules of the game.  But the game has changed and so must the rules.

You can’t sit on a fatal flaw and hope it goes away.  Or someone else takes care of it.

GM, of course, is not alone.  Even the most reputable manufacturers are guilty to some degree.  Look at Toyota and Audi and their accelerators with minds of their own.  

Or Ford’s famously exploding Pinto.  Or anything Chrysler made after selling itself and its soul first to Daimler, then to Cerberus and most recently to Fiat.  Yes, they’re improving.  But for decades they were in denial.

There needs to be a production standard.  Here it is: When the buyer takes delivery of the car, it will start and run.  When he or she steps on the gas, it will accelerate. When the brake pedal is pressed, the car will stop.  Suddenly, if necessary, and in a reasonable time and distance.

Nothing under the hood will leak.  The lights will work.  So will the horn, the door locks, the air conditioner, the heater, the transmission, air bags, seat belts, suspension, mirrors and radio.

And no part will be defective, least of all any part the failure of which would likely cause injury or death.

You don’t need massive engineering re-vamps for this.  You don’t need lawyers who would rather pay damage claims for a few than swap out a one-dollar part for every customer.

And you need to acknowledge your screwups.

Is that too complicated?

Now, it’s change or die.  For all of them.


--The no good congressman, Eric Cantor of Virginia has been defeated in the Republican primary by a worse person, the appropriately named Dave Brat. Cantor is the party’s house majority leader and favors immigration reform.  For many Republicans, immigration reform means electrified fences.

--In Troutdale, Oregon, near Portland, a high school kid shot another kid dead, wounded a teacher and then -- apparently -- killed himself, doing us all a favor.  These things are happening so often these days it’s getting hard to keep track of them.  Just keep in mind that guns don’t kill people, just deer and ducks.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2014

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