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! 

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
February 26, 2020
Ed Sanders
The Ex-Terr GooGoo Eyes “The Russkies Did it!” Plot
February 25, 2020
Michael Hudson
The Democrats’ Quandary: In a Struggle Between Oligarchy and Democracy, Something Must Give
Paul Street
The “Liberal” Media’s Propaganda War on Bernie Sanders
Sheldon Richman
The Non-Intervention Principle
Nicholas Levis
The Real Meaning of Red Scare 3.0
John Feffer
Cleaning Up Trump’s Global Mess
David Swanson
How Are We Going to Pay for Saving Trillions of Dollars?
Ralph Nader
Three Major News Stories That Need To Be Exposed
John Eskow
What Will You Do If the Democrats Steal It from Sanders?
Dean Baker
What If Buttigieg Said That He Doesn’t Accept the “Fashionable” View That Climate Change is a Problem?
Jack Rasmus
The Nevada Caucus and the Desperation of Democrat Elites
Howard Lisnoff
The Powerful Are Going After Jane Fonda Again
Binoy Kampmark
Viral Losses: Australian Universities, Coronavirus and Greed
John W. Whitehead
Gun-Toting Cops Endanger Students and Turn Schools into Prisons
Marshall Sahlins
David Brooks, Public Intellectual
February 24, 2020
Stephen Corry
New Deal for Nature: Paying the Emperor to Fence the Wind
M. K. Bhadrakumar
How India’s Modi is Playing on Trump’s Ego to His Advantage
Jennifer Matsui
Tycoon Battle-Bots Battle Bernie
Robert Fisk
There’s Little Chance for Change in Lebanon, Except for More Suffering
Rob Wallace
Connecting the Coronavirus to Agriculture
Bill Spence
Burning the Future: the Growing Anger of Young Australians
Eleanor Eagan
As the Primary Race Heats Up, Candidates Forget Principled Campaign Finance Stands
Binoy Kampmark
The Priorities of General Motors: Ditching Holden
George Wuerthner
Trojan Horse Timber Sales on the Bitterroot
Rick Meis
Public Lands “Collaboration” is Lousy Management
David Swanson
Bloomberg Has Spent Enough to Give a Nickel to Every Person Whose Life He’s Ever Damaged
Peter Cohen
What Tomorrow May Bring: Politics of the People
Peter Harrison
Is It as Impossible to Build Jerusalem as It is to Escape Babylon?
Weekend Edition
February 21, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Election Con 2020: Exposing Trump’s Deception on the Opioid Epidemic
Joshua Frank
Bloomberg is a Climate Change Con Man
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Billion Dollar Babies
Paul Street
More Real-Time Reflections from Your Friendly South Loop Marxist
Jonathan Latham
Extensive Chemical Safety Fraud Uncovered at German Testing Laboratory
Ramzy Baroud
‘The Donald Trump I know’: Abbas’ UN Speech and the Breakdown of Palestinian Politics
Martha Rosenberg
A Trump Sentence Commutation Attorneys Generals Liked
Ted Rall
Bernie Should Own the Socialist Label
Louis Proyect
Encountering Malcolm X
Kathleen Wallace
The Debate Question That Really Mattered
Jonathan Cook
UN List of Firms Aiding Israel’s Settlements was Dead on Arrival
George Wuerthner
‘Extremists,’ Not Collaborators, Have Kept Wilderness Whole
Colin Todhunter
Apocalypse Now! Insects, Pesticide and a Public Health Crisis  
Stephen Reyna
A Paradoxical Colonel: He Doesn’t Know What He is Talking About, Because He Knows What He is Talking About.
Evaggelos Vallianatos
A New Solar Power Deal From California
Richard Moser
One Winning Way to Build the Peace Movement and One Losing Way
Laiken Jordahl
Trump’s Wall is Destroying the Environment We Worked to Protect
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail