April 1, 2014

"Detroit has Washington pretty greased."

Says Ralph Nader, interviewed by The Nation about the GM scandal.
The first is they knew years ago about a deadly defect that could cause death and injury. Then they got reports of the deaths and injuries, and did nothing. Under law they were supposed to inform the government about it, and they did not do so. Then more deaths and injuries occurred, and they still did nothing. [General Motors CEO] Mary Barra says that she didn't learn about it until January 31! And she's the CEO. So the best view of what happened inside GM is bureaucracy—committees passing the buck to one another, nobody responsible, stifling whistleblowers.
"Why all the attention now?" The Nation asks. Nader says:
I think Mary Barra is a factor. They’re fascinated by this new woman, and how she’s going to handle it. That’s part of it. 
What does that mean? Fascinated by a woman?!
 The second is that it’s such a simple thing to understand: don’t put anything on your keychain, otherwise you may lose your engine and your airbag will not deploy when you crash. It isn’t like it’s a complex handling problem or an engine problem or something like that. 
Wow.

34 comments:

Lucien said...

This is exactly the thing you don't want to come out when you are trying to convince people that you are too big to fail -- or when you are government-owned. Maybe if the government still owned GM it could have classified the information.

Bruce Hayden said...

The thing that the Obama Administration is going to have to worry about, is the question of whether or not their DoT hung back and didn't push this until the govt. had divested themselves of GM stock, etc. The timing was remarkably close, and if the govt. had been a company, even with nearly that many employees, an insider trading lawsuit is likely to have already been filed, based on the legal theory that the company (or in this case the U.S. govt.) has attributed to it the knowledge of its employees. So, we had fed. govt. employees selling the GM securities at the same time that other govt. employees probably knew about the problems with the cars, and finally, the GM board was responsive to the fed. govt. Pretty good insider trading smoke - but not going anywhere because federal employees have sovereign immunity.

Titus said...

Americans, except my parents, who buy domestic cars, are creepy.

I would never.

I am a committed nazi car owner.

tits.

Kevin said...

Key thing to remember. NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) knew about this issue for years. And did nothing. Now, compare/contrast how NHTSA nailed Toyota to the cross for a much more dubious "defect" and the unintended acceleration phenomena.

Hmmm. Gave a pass to GM. Crucified Toyota. What could it be...what could it be.

Wait. Isn't GM a union shop?

And Toyota isn't...?

Naw. The Federal Government would never allow itself to be manipulated to give an advantage to a political ally.

Michael K said...

Government motors cannot fail.

Nader has the useful quirk of occasionally telling the truth.

Such as his description of NOW.

madAsHell said...

I stopped buying GM in 1985.
I stopped listening to Ralph Nadar in the 60's.

Bruce Hayden said...

I am a committed nazi car owner.

After better than 25 years of owning and driving German cars, I actually moved back to GM a couple years ago, and really don't have any complaints, except about gas millage, except that neither my Suburban nor my Tahoe do nearly as well in snow as my line of Audi Quattros did. But, I like the amount of stuff that I can load into them, esp. when moving back and forth to MT every six months or so. And, it is much harder to put an air mattress in the back of the Audis and sleep in them.

The other thing is that you see a lot more big GM, Ford, and Fiat (formerly Chrysler) vehicles in NW MT than where I am in CO right now, where German and Japanese vehicles seem to almost predominate. But, then, again, that part of MT is precisely the type of place that Titus apparently moved away from.

Kieth Nissen said...

I don't think it's as wildly irresponsible as the coverage. OK, they had a car that, occasionally, lost power: so what's the big risk? well, other than the airbags, not much. But who needs airbags when your car is unpowered and, presumably, decelerating? I would like to see statistics on how often people were killed or injured in a Cobalt per miles driven vs, say, a Tercel, or one of those tiny Fiats.

Biff said...

Following on Kevin's 7:07 remarks, when the Toyota thing was happening, I also seem to remember the media volume being cranked to eleven. So, what possibly could be different about GM?

Biff said...

@Kieth Nissen - FWIW, the scariest moment I ever had behind the wheel was when my old car lost power during a turn in traffic. Loss of power can be extremely dangerous during turns, through intersections, and in highway traffic.

The Drill SGT said...

[General Motors CEO] Mary Barra says that she didn't learn about it until January 31! And she's the CEO.

Given that she is a EE and In February 2008 she became Vice President of Global Manufacturing Engineering, it's hard to plead complete ignorance of an electrical defect...

alan markus said...

@Kieth Nissen - FWIW, the scariest moment I ever had behind the wheel was when my old car lost power during a turn in traffic. Loss of power can be extremely dangerous during turns, through intersections, and in highway traffic.

Here's a story about a fatality in Wisconsin -

General Motors recall spurs lawsuit over fatal 2006 Wisconsin accident

They were cruising east on Highway N in St. Croix County shortly before 8 p.m., when the 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt suddenly lost all power and steering. It hit a raised driveway and went airborne for nearly 40 feet before slamming into a telephone pole and two trees. The airbags never deployed.

CatherineM said...

What I thought, hearing that she just learned of the problem 2 months ago? It is like pres Obama saying ' hey guys, I found out when you did". Pathetic.

And yes the media went after Toyota demanding an apology for what was likely driver error (much like the Audis of the mid 80s).

alan markus said...

President Obama, speaking at a GM plant in Lordstown, Ohio, September 15, 2009: “That program was good for automakers, consumers, and our environment,” Obama said of the Cash for Clunkers programs, “and the Chevy Cobalt that you build here was one of GM’s most sought-after cars under that program. Dealers across the country started running out of it and needed you to build more.”

Considering that some people now refuse to drive their Cobalts, you can say for them it was a "Clunker for Clunker" program.

Hagar said...

To Ralph the Raider's remark: I do indeed think it is going to be interesting to see how, not just the Senators, but the media will deal with Ms. Barra.
She is not a man, and she is not Lois Lerner.

Carol said...

don’t put anything on your keychain,

I need help with this. I stopped putting junk on my keychain years ago because I heard it was bad for the ingition.

But is Nader saying the drivers might be partially at fault here?

rhhardin said...

The original idea of manufacturer liability was that safety increases the price, so it's always a tradeoff.

How to make the tradeoff?

Let victims sue for damages, and the company will figure out how dangerous (cheap) to make the cars, the dangerous limit being set by settlement costs.

That's the market solution.

The manufacturer and the consumer both benefit, the consumer by lower price.

This was defeated by punitive damages being started, which means that everything is too dangerous and the prices go up. Not where we wanted to trade off!

Now in addition to punitive damages there are political witch hunts, which lead to another sort of profit for the pols and the networks.

Even a single life is too costly for any price rise, is the idea.

Tradeoffs are forgotten.

Yet people drive out for pizza without giving it a thought. They might die in a perfectly ordinary traffic accident.

That's where people really trade off, when it's left to sanity. About one in 5000 chance per year of you dying, if I remember right. That's a sane risk level.

How many deaths was that now, in how big a population? Essentially zero.

rhhardin said...

Settlement costs don't come out of profit. They come out of consumer price.

gadfly said...

I had the misfortune of working for two female bosses (both were attractive - which reveals a great deal about how they attained their boss status) and both were incompetent and ill-equipped to deal with male-on-male, testosterone-inspired, disagreements in the workplace by displaying leadership like "can't everyone just get along?"

Did I survive? Nope - got fired by one and bailed on the other.

gadfly said...

@rhhardin said...
Settlement costs don't come out of profit. They come out of consumer price.


Consumer prices are influenced by perceived value and competitor pricing, not costs as demonstrated by the give-away pricing that has prevailed with the fiery Chevy Volt.

GM's famed bureaucracy continues to cause costs to rise unabated and out-of-control.

RecChief said...

Why should the GM Bureaucracy be any different than the judicial branch, or the Federal Bureaucracy?

If you are wondering why I threw the judicial branch in there, look up the case of Shelby Duis, and the trials of her mother and live-in boyfriend. Justice in America, it happens every day.

William said...

I don't vouch for the accuracy of the statement, but I heard one commentator say that there were ten deaths in ten years. If that's true, this isn't the bubonic plague....There are umpteen thousand deaths per year because of pharmacist errors, poor infection control standards in hospitals, and drug overdoses by Hollywood stars.....I get the feeling that the outrage will be overdone not because of the damage but because of the perps. Auto executives aren't as bad as big petro execs or bankers, but they're definitely on the hit list.

David Davenport said...

I need help with this. I stopped putting junk on my keychain years ago because I heard it was bad for the ingition.

But is Nader saying the drivers might be partially at fault here?


If the ignition switch is properly designed, extra weight on the keychain should not cause ignition problems.

GM has issued statements asking drivers to take all weight except that of the ignition key off their key chain, because lightening weight on the ignition switch may prevent the bad GM ignition switches from malfunctioning.

But again, properly designed ignition switches should not require this desperation expedient.

Ralph Nader is wrong if he says drivers are responsible or partially responsible for this problem.

mikeski said...

@William:

It's not the crime, it's the cover-up.

Hospital & pharmacy mistakes are one thing.

Giving someone the wrong prescription when you already know it's wrong is something else. Realizing your mistake afterwards, and not calling the patient to tell them about it, is also something else.

This is like the latter cases. They knew about the problem and kept on endangering people by selling faulty cars (and/or not recalling them).

stlcdr said...

Why all the attention now?

This is a good question, but it requires a follow up question because it is - in the case of GM - a loaded question.

There needs to be some real journalism which looks at the timeline for GM. I think the government involvement will be glossed over - there's a real problem with the Too big to fail' mantra, and how GM in such a short period of time was able to get out of bankruptcy, pay back the government (sic) and somehow be able to run as an effective company.

Then we have this 'issue' where in reality, very few people have died; but is considered directly attributable to a switch failure. From 2002?

Somehow we are to believe that the Facts are in and there was a coverup.

Maybe I haven't read enough - or discovered the real facts, but something doesn't smell right. Someone is lying, but I don't think it's necessarily someone at GM.

Christopher B said...

My fiance has a Chevy Cruze that was involved in this ignition switch recall, and we talked about it briefly a couple days ago.

Part of the issue here is that the offending ignition went through a redesign some years ago (when Barra was head of manufacturing, iirc) without a change in part number. I had read a report that this was the case, and my fiance confirmed that she was told this by the dealership. Having the same part number made it impossible to determine if a car had one of the bad ignitions or a good one, so all of them had to be replaced.

The report I read made it sound like redesigning a part without changing the part number was a big no-no in GM engineering, and 20/20 hindsight is making it obvious why. It was less obvious if this was an attempt to cover-up the issue or just a garden variety beauracratic mix-up.

Christopher B said...

My fiance has a Chevy Cruze that was involved in this ignition switch recall, and we talked about it briefly a couple days ago.

Part of the issue here is that the offending ignition went through a redesign some years ago (when Barra was head of manufacturing, iirc) without a change in part number. I had read a report that this was the case, and my fiance confirmed that she was told this by the dealership. Having the same part number made it impossible to determine if a car had one of the bad ignitions or a good one, so all of them had to be replaced.

The report I read made it sound like redesigning a part without changing the part number was a big no-no in GM engineering, and 20/20 hindsight is making it obvious why. It was less obvious if this was an attempt to cover-up the issue or just a garden variety beauracratic mix-up.

SJ said...

@Kieth Nissen said...

I don't think it's as wildly irresponsible as the coverage. OK, they had a car that, occasionally, lost power: so what's the big risk? well, other than the airbags, not much...

Most electrical components in a car begin shutdown when the Ignition goes to OFF mode.

Some don't, but they go into standby-state, because the system designer assumes that the User has switched the engine off, and is about to leave.

But there are two major components of vehicle control that are normally used when the engine is running, and become much harder to use when the engine stops.

These are power-assist steering and the brakes.

If the vehicle is drive-by-wire or brake-by-wire, then steering and braking would probably be totally gone. (Don't know if that was an option on the Chevy Cobalt.)

I don't know how the anti-lock brakes and traction control systems would respond to the situation of Ignition-Off but gearshift-still-in-drive, with speeds above 5 MPH.

But that possibility scares me.

hawkeyedjb said...

"So the best view of what happened inside GM is bureaucracy—committees passing the buck to one another, nobody responsible, stifling whistleblowers."

Yeah, but it's going to be a great way to build a healthcare system.

David Davenport said...

... It is also possible that the GM CEO switch was performed just before this story hit as a cover up … for both GM and the Obama administration. Put a woman on the stand who will be handled with white gloves because of her gender … not to mention the former CEO who knows more is no where to be seen. ...

From The Truth About Cars

Also

General Motors Puts Stop-Sale & Recall On Chevrolet Cruze Due To Axle Failure [W/ Full Text]
By Phillip Thomas on April 1, 2014

lgv said...

There were plenty of articles about Lordstown's infamous quality when they were awarded the Cruze. Now that they are building bad Cobalts one has to wonder.....Nah, it can't be in any way related to Lordstown quality issues.

Kieth Nissen said...

@alan Markus and @SJ, the vacuum reservoir on cars I am familiar with provides braking assist for several seconds, maybe as long as ten seconds, after the engine stops. I think this is typical (although I am unfamiliar with the Cobalt). Power steering assist will stop much faster but on a car the size of a Cobalt I am not persuaded that is a big issue. The big issue is the airbags. I persist in believing that GM's crime is being magnified not because it was negligent but because we have constructed a public system where deep pocketed governments, corporations or individuals can be held liable for huge amounts of money for relatively innocuous oversights. Remember that cars could be purchased as recently as thirty years ago without power brakes, power steering, airbags, etc. Now an arguable mistake (is it wrong to design an ignition device for use with a key only, no key ring?) of minuscule portions occupies the national media and promises to provide incomes for lawyers for a decade.

Joe said...

The second is that it’s such a simple thing to understand: don’t put anything on your keychain

My 1999 Honda Civic had a similar problem and I got a recall notice pretty fast. I didn't think my car had a problem until one day the engine shut off on the freeway. It was very disconcerting. Funny thing is, I don't use a keychain for my car key since I hate feeling the keys brushing my leg. I assume that on some cars, it's very similar and a keychain only makes the shut off event more likely.

chillblaine said...

"What does that mean? Fascinated by a woman?!"

I believe you are emphasizing the word 'woman.' Try to imagine that Ralphie's comments were not about you. Try to imagine the emphasis on the word 'fascinated.'

What he is trying to say is that it will be interesting to see whether the democrat-media-complex protects her, as it is possible she is not being entirely truthful.