Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Comments on General Motors and Chrysler

In a radical departure from my previous posts, considering the dramatic economic events, I decided I just had to comment on some of the other things going on in the world.

Presently, the Congress of the United States is considering a bail-out of two of the major car manufacturers, General Motors and Chrysler. I was born on the General Motors side of town, which means me and my family buy General Motors products and disparage Ford and its products. If you aren't aware of this phenomenon, you probably don't read the white lettering on the back of the windows of pickup trucks. However, I am not a purist. We have owned American Motors cars, and a whole variety of foreign makes, including Mazdas, Toyotas and Hondas. Just like everyone else in America, we think Toyotas and Hondas are better made than any American model.

Even though the arguments in Washington center around billions of dollars in aid, I see the problem as being very simple. General Motors cannot make a car without bothersome defects that it refuses to fix in year after year. I purchased my first Chevrolet Suburban about thirty years ago. It was well known at the time, among the truck crowd, that the transmission would go out about 70,000 miles. Mine went out at 72,000 miles. I sold that Suburban when it had 115,000 miles when I thought that buying a newer model might help with all the small things going wrong, like rattles, loose door handles, generally small things that drive you crazy.

My next Suburban not only needed a transmission at about 70,000 miles, it added a whole list of additional buggy items. The worst was a hole in the frame around the passenger side wing window. We stuffed it with felt and didn't ever open the window. It was not something that could be fixed without redesigning the window. I found out by comparison with other owners, that all Suburbans of the same design had the same problem. Year after year, General Motors ignored the problem and kept making the same machine. When the model changed, we bought a Silverado truck.

Now about my truck. The front window has been fixed because it doesn't have the wing window anymore, but now the rear window, on the extended cab model, will not shut entirely causing exactly the same problem with wind noise and air blowing into the cab. I understand that this is a similar general problem. Also, as expected, my transmission failed at about 70,000 miles.

My Honda and my Toyota on the other hand run perfectly. I drove my Honda for over 135,000 miles and never had a major problem that couldn't be fixed. I now have a Toyota Prius and it runs perfectly and everything works. So I know it is possible to make a vehicle that doesn't have inherent obvious defects. It is highly unlikely that I will ever buy a GM or Chrysler product again.

Now, here is the lesson to be learned. You can't keep making cars with defects when other manufacturers are making defect free models and keep selling cars. No bail out will solve this problem. If America wants to compete, it has to compete.


  1. You're right about the GM defects, and of course the defects aren't just in the physical vehicles, but in the structure of their research, design, and manufacture.

    By the way, my Ford transmission lasted until 77,000 miles.

  2. Funny your should mention this because I was reading a news story on the BBC about the Auto Industry bail out and at the end of the article I found this quote to be rather interesting, "GM admitted on Monday that it had "disappointed" American consumers by letting "our quality fall below industry standards and our designs became lacklustre"."