FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

General Motors–Backwards Into the Future

Once again, General Motors shows how it can go backwards into the future. Its average new motor vehicle fuel inefficiency has been getting worse in recent years. Now it wants to unbundle many of its vehicles by dropping standard equipment side air bags and anti-lock braking systems (ABS) and charging its customers more for these life-saving devices as options.

So the new GM is like the old GM which charged customers in the Sixties and Seventies extra for seat belts and airbags respectively until federal law required or induced their standard installation.

Unless car buyers change GM’s mind by showing their displeasure and moving away from GM to another manufacturer that builds these safety systems as standard equipment, GM’s directive will have the following consequences:

1. Car buyers who opt for the options will have to pay two to three times as much. Once a feature ceases to be standard equipment, it costs more to manufacture in more limited quantities. Also car makers routinely overcharge consumers on options to begin with.

2. More lives will be lost, because these features will not be on all cars. To those rigid ideologues from the right who would leave such matters up to choice, I would ask if they would include seat belts, doors and padded dash panels under their ideology. The whole principle behind mandatory safety standards is to put a safety net under all vehicles sold, just like a good fire code does for building construction.

3. General Motors is exposing itself to losing more product liabilitylawsuits. Actively removing a safety feature from standard equipment straightens the argument by innocent, injured motorists that GM knew better and acted recklessly by deleting a clearly feasible “crashworthy” safety feature.

According to USA Today, GM expects to save about $100 million a year on this move from standard to optional for ABS and side airbags. Last year GM grossed over $177 billion, by comparison. How many lives and injuries is that ill-advised decision going to cost motorists and eventually, in dollars, General Motors.

USA Today, in its report, seemed to lay this decision at the feet of GM’s Product Chief, Robert Lutz, instead of the usual bean counters. I hope this is not the case.

Lutz is a free-thinking former Chrysler executive recently brought in by GM bosses to shake up the staid or stagnant corporate culture and put exciting engineering functions and designs on the road. I held a joint press conference with Mr. Lutz about a decade ago to celebrate Chrysler’s winning our celebrity buyer race by being the first to place air bags as standard equipment in automobile models affordable to middle class buyers. Celebrities such as Phil Donahue, Paul Newman, Dear Abby, Steve Allen and Bill Murray had pledged to buy such a vehicle and did.

It remains to be seen what the National Highway Safety Agency (NHTSA) will say about what Clarence Ditlow, the director of the Center for Auto Safety, called a “retreat from safety.” It remains to be seen also whether GM will start a race to the bottom by other auto manufacturers who see greed and callousness in their “strategic planning” process.

Consumers can vote with their feet and send a signal to these companies not to follow GM into the pits. In the meantime, any citizeninterested in safer roadways can convey his or her displeasure by writing to GM at GM headquarters, Detroit, Michigan or by logging into the company’s website — http://www.GM.com.

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! 

Weekend Edition
March 22, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Henry Giroux
The Ghost of Fascism in the Post-Truth Era
Gabriel Rockhill
Spectacular Violence as a Weapon of War Against the Yellow Vests
H. Bruce Franklin
Trump vs. McCain: an American Horror Story
Paul Street
A Pox on the Houses of Trump and McCain, Huxleyan Media, and the Myth of “The Vietnam War”
Andrew Levine
Why Not Impeach?
Bruce E. Levine
Right-Wing Psychiatry, Love-Me Liberals and the Anti-Authoritarian Left
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Darn That (American) Dream
Charles Pierson
Rick Perry, the Saudis and a Dangerous Nuclear Deal
Moshe Adler
American Workers Should Want to Transfer Technology to China
David Rosen
Trafficking or Commercial Sex? What Recent Exposés Reveal
Nick Pemberton
The Real Parallels Between Donald Trump and George Orwell
Binoy Kampmark
Reading Manifestos: Restricting Brenton Tarrant’s The Great Replacement
Brian Cloughley
NATO’s Expensive Anniversaries
Ron Jacobs
Donald Cox: Tale of a Panther
Joseph Grosso
New York’s Hudson Yards: The Revanchist City Lives On
REZA FIYOUZAT
Is It Really So Shocking?
Bob Lord
There’s Plenty of Wealth to Go Around, But It Doesn’t
John W. Whitehead
The Growing Epidemic of Cops Shooting Family Dogs
Jeff Cohen
Let’s Not Restore or Mythologize Obama 
Christy Rodgers
Achieving Escape Velocity
Monika Zgustova
The Masculinity of the Future
Jessicah Pierre
The Real College Admissions Scandal
Peter Mayo
US Higher Education Influence Takes a Different Turn
Martha Rosenberg
New Study Confirms That Eggs are a Stroke in a Shell
Ted Rall
The Greatest Projects I Never Mad
George Wuerthner
Saving the Big Wild: Why Aren’t More Conservationists Supporting NREPA?
Norman Solomon
Reinventing Beto: How a GOP Accessory Became a Top Democratic Contender for President
Ralph Nader
Greedy Boeing’s Avoidable Design and Software Time Bombs
Tracey L. Rogers
White Supremacy is a Global Threat
Nyla Ali Khan
Intersectionalities of Gender and Politics in Indian-Administered Kashmir
Karen J. Greenberg
Citizenship in the Age of Trump: Death by a Thousand Cuts
Jill Richardson
Getting It Right on What Stuff Costs
Matthew Stevenson
Pacific Odyssey: Puddle Jumping in New Britain
Matt Johnson
The Rich Are No Smarter Than You
Julian Vigo
College Scams and the Ills of Capitalist-Driven Education
Brian Wakamo
It’s March Madness, Unionize the NCAA!
Beth Porter
Paper Receipts Could be the Next Plastic Straws
Christopher Brauchli
Eric the Heartbroken
Louis Proyect
Rebuilding a Revolutionary Left in the USA
Sarah Piepenburg
Small Businesses Like Mine Need Paid Family and Medical Leave
Robert Koehler
Putting Our Better Angels to Work
Peter A. Coclanis
The Gray Lady is Increasingly Tone-Deaf
David Yearsley
Bach-A-Doodle-Doo
Elliot Sperber
Aunt Anna’s Antenna
March 21, 2019
Daniel Warner
And Now Algeria
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail