By on May 8, 2008

gm-crash-test-saabpx300.jpgApparently there are those that would disagree with you. The Local (in Sweden) is reporting that Claes Tingvall, a car safety specialist, told the newspaper Expressen that GM used human cadavers in a multi-year research project (imagine the smell) to test the safety of their vehicles, possibly on the Saab side of the house. In the ultimate gesture of brand devotion, all ah… participants… allegedly donated their bodies to the cause (no word on if any of them met an untimely end whilst in a GM vehicle). GM and Saab are refusing to acknowledge any tests using their most loyal customers… er, dead human bodies. I've heard of "Cradle-to-Grave" strategies, but does GM build a car that even a dead person could drive? I think Lexus has one. Anyway, the whole thing sounds fishy. Dead men tell no tales, and while you can dissect and glean facts from trauma, there's a reason why crash test dummies are so expensive. They're specially designed to measure stresses and forces from the inside in a quantifiable way, which is more useful than a "He's dead, Jim," from an autopsy tech. I like cars,but I guess I'd rather donate my body to real science, not to a bunch of yokels in lab coats that are going to strap me into (God forbid) a G5 and run it repeatedly into walls to test the effects of excrement-based interior materials on human flesh. 

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26 Comments on “If you’ve ever said you wouldn’t be caught dead in a GM…...”

  • avatar

    maybe to test battery fires in a ‘volt’ on human flesh… ;)

  • avatar

    There’s a very good reason that crash test dummies look the way they do.

    Those blank stares…

    The showing vertebrae…

    The joints that seem to flop everywhere…

    The “dead” weight (lol)…

    Its by no means an accident (pun intended) that crash test dummies look as close as possible to dead bodies.

  • avatar

    Maybe they were just Buick customers that were a little too old…..


  • avatar

    At least THEY are testing real world.

    That math stuff goes bad fast. Ask a Crown Victoria owner.

  • avatar

    This can’t be real. As pointed out already, it woudln’t serve the prupose of using real crash test dummies, measuring the forces that the body is subjected to under given circumstances.

  • avatar


    No, but it might give better slow-mo evidence of how a human body reacts during a crash, and it’s probably cheaper to buy a dead american than build a 250 pound, anatomically correct dummy.

    It probably also does a better job demonstrating penetrating, cutting, and burning injuries that a plastic dummy outfitted with accelerometers can’t show you.

    As a bonus, it’s easier to strap a cadaver into a Cobalt than a dead pig. Or so I’ve heard.

  • avatar

    Megan- big fan of GM and the G5. Excellent contribution here. Isn’t this a bit of a reach?

  • avatar

    Searching Swedish words, plus the spokesman for the traffic authority’s name, turns up some references outside the local, actually. Two of the major, national newspapers have the story. There is no confirmation that Saab was directly involved, but GM is said to have performed such tests.
    Heidelberg University in Germany has also used cadavers for crash tests.

    The Swedish insurance company Folksam and Saab have had a decades long collaboration where Saab engineers have been allowed to study automobiles where fatal or serious injury occurred, and where they have also conferred with medical staff, coroners, etc., in order to gather as much information as possible about how to prevent injuries.

    The database contains information on thousands of such automobile accidents.

    Don’t think this refers to that, though.

  • avatar

    I don’t know why this is so newsworthy. Anyone interested in the history of crash testing knows that cadavers have been used in place of dummies since the beginning. Crash test dummies are good, but they are far from perfect human stand-ins. The joints and skin are very close approximations, but are such none the less.

  • avatar


    Yes, and dummies were developed because they’re actually better, allowing for exact telemetry measuring stress forces with greater precision.

  • avatar

    and the cadavers are eligible for zero percent interest loans at their local GM dealer…..

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    Read Mary Roach’s recent book “Stiff” and you’ll learn about all the things your body can be used for if you donate it without restrictions, and yes, crash-test-dummy usage is one of them–nothing new here. You can also be used for ballistics tests, forensics decay testing and a number of other things you don’t want to think about.

    And you thought you were going to be Joe’s liver.

  • avatar

    I’ve been covering this one for a few days now and got word from GM today that they don’t do any of this testing directly themselves, rather they have contribute to various scientific centeres that do this sort of thing.

    I also had a commenter at my site who seems to know a fair bit about this stuff write in and state, as few here have stated, this is nothing new. The main reason being that whilst dummies give good scientific readings etc, they don’t tell you about broken bones and other stuff thet you can learn from cadaver tests. Even computer modelling done on the best parameters in the world needs to be tested.

    It’s got taboo value, shock value and obviously it’s got comedy value (do they name all the test subjects Bernie?) but apparently it’s all part of the standard menu.

  • avatar

    ^ Sorry for the typos. Apparently I didn’t write my own comment and therefore can’t edit it.

  • avatar

    If I recall correctly, Daimler did it many years ago (there was a short-lived uproar over this), so apparently there must be a pretty good reason for this if companies are willing to risk PR issues like this one.

  • avatar

    While I can see that using cadavers would be useful, due to the effects of rigor mortis and other physiological changes after death, I think it would be even better to use convicted murderers… Could kill two birds with one stone, so to speak… :)

  • avatar
    Megan Benoit

    Wolven: Maybe we should go volunteer force — “If you survive the crash, you get a reduced sentence!”

    The more i think about it, the more it seems both make sense… cadavers will show the physical affects of the crash, while the dummies will be able to measure the forces properly. And think about it, who wants to strap a dead child into a car and crash it? No one minds a child-sized crash dummy. Either way, it’s a bit morbid, even if it is scientifically useful. I’d just rather see my body get used for something else. Like crash testing an R8…

  • avatar

    “Maybe they were just Buick customers that were a little too old…..”

    If Buick customers were any older, they’d be dust. What would that tell us?

  • avatar

    Actually, the use of cadavers in modern testing is well known. It was even a large part of a book called “Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers” by Mary Roach. Quite informative.

  • avatar

    I have said “I wouldn’t be caught dead driving a piece of junk” numerous times. So technically, you could say I wouldn’t be caught dead in a GM product.


  • avatar

    Wow. You really do hate that company.

  • avatar

    I dare them to show this on ‘The World’s Dirtiest Jobs’. Yech.

  • avatar

    That book “Stiffs” sounds like a winner. Finally, the perfect Mother’s Day gift!

  • avatar

    I read decades ago that Renault also used cadavers, and had done for years.

    It must work, since Renault cars are now amongst the safest on the roads.

    Did anyone else see that British TV crash of a Renault supermini class car vs. a 10-12 year old Volvo 940 “tank” station wagon / estate car on You Tube? Here it is.

    By the way – the Volvo DOES have an engine in it. Volvo designed the engine to slide below the firewall in a major accident, and it did exactly as it was supposed to.

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    Mary Roach writes funny books about strange, unexplored areas of science, and “Stiffs” is about cadavers ine very way, shape and form. Her newest book is fascinating: “Bonk,” an examination of sex research.

  • avatar

    The reason they used dead bodies for crash tests is,Management could stuff them full of cash and important documents and security wouldn’t notice when they took them back out through the gate.

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