Yesterday’s announcement that General Motors is recalling 1.3 million cars for steering problems pretty much takes the automotive cake. This recall involves compact Chevrolet and Pontiac compact cars sold in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico which may have power steering motors that fail. If braking problems with your Toyota were not enough, now GM appears incapable of making units which a driver can guide down the highways and byways.
The recall affects 2005 to 2010 Chevrolet Cobalts, 2007 to 2010 Pontiac G5’s, 2005 to 2006 Pontiac Pursuits in the U.S. and Canada, as well as 2005-06 Pontiac G4’s sold in Mexico according to the news. Though the auto maker claims the vehicles are safe to drive, the news is none the less disturbing especially given GM’s dashed brand name since its bankruptcy.
Underplaying the problem is obviously job one for GM’s PR team right now, though probably not an advisable track to take in the digital age where people are so connected. For those of you who have never had a power steering unit fail at highway speeds, maybe their “understatement” of the danger will be enough though. As a former test driver and automotive Research and Development coordinator, simply suggesting “some drivers may notice difficult steering when the motor goes,” is not exactly total transparency.
One GM spokesman, Alan Adler, stated it will take some time for GM go issue the estimated 1.3 million new power steering motors to affected owners. He also said the failures are rare and that your car is still driveable, though a notable difficulty in steering may be noticed at under 15 mph. The chiming bell and the warning light that alert the driver their power steering just pee-peed the bed will hardly help an old lady effect a lane change at 75 mph in my experience and view. Adler aptly suggested said grandma may be “surprised” when the electric motor fails. What a guy. Maybe if she is slow enough to react, she won’t notice at all?
Okay, maybe I am being overly critical here, but two of the world’s largest and most trusted auto makers recalling all the cars in Russia for example tends to make on wonder what is going on. I guess we should not be surprised though. GM probably cut back on QC personnel in order for corporate executives to fly the corporate jets around clubbing or something? Seriously, if you ever wondered why GM is broke, here are some good examples. Underplaying the potential danger of a steering malfunction and allowing such a critical component to pass testing?
Individual Expectations Not Numbers
Yes you can steer a power steering equipped automobile even if the pump stops. It is slightly harder than steering a manual steering equipped vehicle such as old rack and pinion types used in sports cars, but you can do it. The point is, “would it not be more wise to overestimate the danger involved?” Maybe this is a sign the numbers which might fail are very small? The bottom line is, what about those few that may fail at a critical maneuvering moment? Not everyone is Mario Andretti.
The way big business is these days one also has to wonder at the numbers of vehicles GM, Toyota and others make which have not fallen under the scrutiny of company actuaries? I mean, “how many serious problems are there which someone has calculated the cost of lawsuits to be under the recall window?” Maybe this is too critical too, but if GM and others do not want this kind of criticism, maybe they should make better products, fly around in jets less, and not bankrupt a nation to cover their mistakes?