General Motors’ ‘Not My Problem’ Problem.

Posted on June 10, 2014. Filed under: Media Commentary, Public Relations | Tags: , , , , |

Corporate culture gets the blame for the ignition-switch debacle at General Motors. It’s infuriating to think that people who knew better allowed the problem with the faulty ignition switches to persist after it first surfaced as a potentially lethal threat to drivers. The “solutions” offered up by the in-house geniuses included telling customers to remove all but their car key from their key chains so they wouldn’t weigh down the ignition switch while driving.

It makes you wonder, would these same people have advised their children to own and drive these hellish machines? Only a fool would have done so, knowing that something so innocuous as an accidental bump of the key chain with a knee — or just hitting a pothole — could trigger a disastrous lockup of the vehicle’s drive system. About the only use for such a car would be to sell it to the bad guys overseas — you know, our worst enemies — in the hope that it would take out a top terrorist or two. A CIA special, in other words.

It’s hard to see how this one got by the design engineers. Ignition switches aren’t products of rocket science. They’re known devices, about as complicated to automotive engineers as regular home on-off wall-mounted lighting switches are to certified electricians.

GM was a basket case at the time, sliding towards bankruptcy and its eventual emergence as Government Motors. Employees were demoralized, uncertain about their futures, frightened. That’s no excuse for what happened though. People inside GM signed off on the idea of staying quiet about the defective component. Callous, irresponsible, criminal, all words that come to mind to describe the mindset. An “I don’t give a damn if somebody gets killed. It’s not my problem.” mentality.

New GM CEO Mary Barra has done a masterful job of persuading the public that the new GM will be different from the old one. Gone will be the buck-passing, tell-no-one, just-pretend-everything’s-fine culture of old. Let’s hope so.

Barra herself is the proud mother of teenaged children, according to a recent Forbes article. Maybe she should just tell the world that GM will build and market no car that isn’t safe enough for her own children to drive. That would signal a true culture shift at the world’s largest automaker.

[Addendum: ignorance of ignition switch recall is bliss to GM dealers, according to CNBC:]


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