By on March 20, 2009

Although it’s not exactly the riddle of the Sphinx (answer: man), many of our Best and Brightest have wondered why GM can’t make a decent car interior. Even before GM Car Czar Bob Lutz assumed the throne (since abdicated), the American automaker has admitted that they need to step up their game within its vehicles. And yet, in the main, the fit and finish of GM interiors still doesn’t make the grade. Obviously, there’s a whole host of contributing factors—from supplier contracts to union work rules. A GM insider recently contacted TTAC to provide an important piece of that particular puzzle. Agent X reveals one of the main reasons GM’s interiors failed to match the competition: the executives didn’t know there was a problem. Still don’t. Here’s why . . .

As you probably know, ever since GM was founded, its execs have either been driven by a chauffeur or provided with carefully prepared and maintained examples of the company’s most expensive vehicles. Of course, there are times when the suits must sign off on the company’s more prosaic products. Since 1953, this intersection between high flyer and mass market occurred at GM’s Mesa, Arizona, Desert Proving Grounds (DPG). The execs would fly into Phoenix’s Sky Harbor airport, limo out to the DPG and drive the company’s latest models.

Our agent says that all the vehicles the execs drove were “ringers.” More specifically, the engineers would tweak the test vehicles to remove any hint of imperfection. “They use a rolling radius machine to choose the best tires, fix the headliner, tighten panel and interior gaps, remove shakes and rattles, repair bodywork—everything and anything.”

Did the execs know this? “Nope. And nobody was going to tell them . . . As far as they knew, the cars were exactly as they would be coming off the line. That’s why Bob Lutz thinks GM’s products are world-class. The ones he’s driven are.”

I asked Agent X if the GM execs would ever drive the cars again. Did he know if Wagoner or Lutz dropped in at a dealership to test drive a random sample off the lot? He found the idea amusing.

Well, did the DPG at least send a list of changes to the design and production teams? “The tweaks were never reported to anyone,” he says. “That would’ve been a sure way to kill your career . . . We’d see the cars come back to us after production with the exact same problems.”

According to Agent X, GM’s testing regimen is getting worse, not better. GM has sold-off the DPG (soon to be a major resort). The replacement facility in Michoacán, Mexico, has proven problematic—weather and local topography are hampering testing procedures—and the new Yuma, Arizona, facility is not yet up and running.

And anyway, GM’s reduced its DPG testing by over seventy percent. “The buzz inside GM is now ‘from road to lab to math.’” In other words, laboratory tests are replacing road tests, until computer simulation can replace lab tests.

Agent X and I agreed that GM’s product development system was and is fundamentally flawed. Equally important, we also shared the belief that there’s tremendous talent locked-up inside the CYA hell that is GM’s corporate culture. “Look at the ZR1,” he said. “It shows GM can make great, world-beating cars.”

“But what about the Corvette’s interior,” I asked. His silence spoke volumes.

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128 Comments on “Inside GM: Mystery of Crap Interiors Solved...”


  • avatar
    GS650G

    For me the interior matters most. It’s what you see while driving it 100K miles and you have to be comfortable with the look and feel of everything. For domestics Ford had the best of the three, Chrysler had some good looking interiors made from craptastic plastic, but GM had the worst looking and poorest made interiors of all.

    Take the pickup trucks. They had this ridiculous odd sized radio next to the console with a huge hole in the middle of the dash for aftermarket stereos. Considering a large number of people would be inclined to put a sound system in one of these trucks they made it stupid and more difficult to do so.

    Buick did the same thing for years.

  • avatar
    like.a.kite

    haha wow now that’s interesting though hardly surprising, that the execs remain ignorant

  • avatar
    kkt

    GM executives as a group seem to know the least about cars of any group of people on the planet. They don’t learn about how to make cars, because the way to a GM executive job is through business school, not engineering school. They don’t learn about them as consumers because little hourly-employee elves make the best possible examples of GM cars appear at their door and magically get them fixed, tweaked, and replaced as needed without telling the executives or them having to see a bill. They don’t learn about them from customers because they only see the dealers, and even them only briefly as entry-level management. They don’t learn about them from their friends because their friends are all other GM executives.

  • avatar
    John R

    This is something I kind of suspected.

    How hard is it to go to a dealership on a Saturday and test drive something? How many people does it take to tell the emperor he has no clothes?

  • avatar
    RayH

    It’s a given they should drive their own product via random samples; what’s more important is driving the competition immediately afterward (not a Chrysler). If you’ve been sheltered from cars for over a decade, I bet a Cobalt’s interior looks pretty dang good, until you drive most anything else comparable.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Why, that would require actually interacting with mere commonfolk…which would be just so wrong for big time CEOs to do. They have better things to do with their time, like run their respective companies into the ground. Take one spin in something like a base G6 and tell me you can honestly consider it world-class? Heck, Ford (for all of the talk of it being the top of the 2.45667) interiors aren’t really that much better. My three year old Fusion has massive creaks and rattles already..to include “chrome” interior door handles that are bubbling and peeling and a steering wheel that feels like a soft sponge on warm days (due to there being zero adhesion of the foam to the interior metal ring). My son’s 1997 Toyota Tercel, now dangerously close to 200k mind you, is still holding up better than the Fusion. I’m tempted to sell off the Ford when my son goes to the Air Force Academy this summer and keep the Tercel!

  • avatar
    Samuel L. Bronkowitz

    Isn’t it obvious that the execs wouldn’t care anyway? If they had any pride about making a quality product they’d have done some digging and found out on their own. As other commenters have stated, it isn’t that hard to pop into a dealer anonymously. This is clearly willful ignorance.

    GM executives are all about keeping the patient breathing long enough to extract their money; they are clearly not interested in creating a quality product.

  • avatar
    steronz

    OK, maybe GM is really this stupid, but I can’t see a huge company like that relying on executives’ ideas for selling cars. Aren’t these people doing product surveys, polling the owners of the competition to see why they didn’t buy GM products, getting the opinions of control groups on how good the cars and their interiors are, reading magazine/internet reviews, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc….

    I mean, TTAC is always saying how these are businessmen, not car guys, and businessmen don’t care about the product. If you’re making toys, you don’t play with the toys yourself and see if you like them, so it doesn’t matter if the engineers are showing you ringers. You get a bunch of kids and have them play with toys off the assembly line and see what they think. I’d be 100% flabbergasted if GM wasn’t already spending millions doing this.

    So, does “Agent X” have any proof that the reason GM interiors suck is because the executives get ringers? Or is he just seeing executive ringers and crap interiors and thinking the two are necessarily related?

    Because, and I know this post is long already, we can’t forget that GM still sells A LOT of cars… up until a few years ago, they still sold more cars than anyone else in this country. Crap interiors might have been a bad idea in the long run, but in the short term America obviously wasn’t too torn up about them. My guess is that executives WERE getting feedback that the interiors sucked, but they decided to ignore that feedback in favor of a cut-your-way-to-profits strategy.

  • avatar
    Ken Strumpf

    I remember reading once that Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart, spent half a day a week in his office. The rest of the time he was out visiting stores, talking to customers and employees and suppliers, looking in back-rooms, and generally making sure he knew everything that went on in his business including the customer experience. It’s really not a unique story, Tom Peters talked about “management by walking around” back in the 80′s. One thing for sure, you can’t manage from the penthouse.

    • 0 avatar
      shstrang98

      I seem to remember a marketing professor I had talking about the President of General Dynamics using the MBWA method.

      It’s a great idea but one cannot expect a General Motors exec to lower himself to the level of the unwashed masses.

      I have a 2010 acadia and I will say that it is probably the best GM interior I’ve seen. Unfortunately it has had the dash taken apart at least twice looking for an air bag warning problem. But it is rattle free.

      In my experience Chrysler products are the worst rattle traps.

  • avatar
    willbodine

    The problem stems from the fact of GM’s historic success/size. The same pitfall is now facing Toyota (their interiors are not among the best, not by a long shot. The rest of their vehicles are class leading however.)
    When you are so big, the benefits of cost-cutting are that much larger. And managers make their bonuses by controlling costs. So they nickle and dime the suppliers. It goes on for years, and soon the parts are sub-par. Wouldn’t it be refreshing if a manufacturer awarded supply contracts to the best rather than the cheapest?

  • avatar
    Ingvar

    That GM management has been insulated for ages can not be a news item? That’s the core of the GM culture, and the core of its problems. To solve that, the head must be cut off, and in a move for self preservation, the head has been resisting that for as long as the problem has existed.

  • avatar
    Wunsch

    I was really liking the CTS I test-drove, until I had to stop for a while at a train crossing. Then my attention started to wander around the interior, and I started seeing the uneven panel gaps, the creaking plastic when you adjust the clock, and so on. The CTS ended up being removed from my list to consider. There’s no way that a “Cadillac” should suffer from problems like that.

  • avatar
    grog

    Why would you consider “union work rules” to be a contributing factor to the indecency of a GM interior? Other than the usual anti-union bias seen here? I mean I can point out a host of transplant interiors that are no better and there ain’t no evil unions “helping” contribute to those crappy interiors.

  • avatar
    Hippo

    LOL, in addition we did the same to mag test cars and kept the VIN and bought the ringers at auction for personal use.

  • avatar

    Worse yet, most are reluctant to ever set foot in a competitive vehicle. Being seen driving a Honda or a BMW would be too shameful. They don’t even know what they’re competing against.

    When all you know is mediocre, mediocre looks good.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    They don’t learn about how to make cars, because the way to a GM executive job is through business school, not engineering school.

    Look at the bios of GM’s “senior leadership” team, and you find lots of folks with undergraduate engineering degrees. (Bob Lutz’s bachelors degree is in production.) Engineering is a common path into the company.

    It’s not a matter of engineering educations vs. MBA’s, but of whether the customers’ needs are served. GM’s focus has long been on cost management, not customer satisfaction, so sales have naturally declined.

    It’s a retail product, so the execs should be spending time out in the retail environment so that they can see their products from the perspective of the average person who uses them. These guys should head out of town, rent some cars — their own and those of the competition — and drive them around, observing the world around them and talking to people randomly who buy the competitors’ products.

    As pointed out above, the private jet/ penthouse mentality bars them from getting the market feedback that would help them to make better decisions. They can’t relate to the customer, so it’s understandable that the customer’s needs are ignored.

  • avatar

    What they needs is “mass forgiveness.” Basically, everybody reports what’s going on, even if they are the ones doing it, and work backward from there. Granted, there are many thousands of things going on, but if people aren’t going to lose their job over something like this, they might be more willing to come forward.

  • avatar
    MBella

    Do you all remember when Bill Ford hired Mulally? At the press conference, Mulally said how much he liked his Lexus. To me that showed that he got it. However, the Ford faithful were insulted. That’s the biggest problem. You have to drive the others cars to know how good your own are. It’s why our Car Czar friend always said GM’s cars were better than the competition. He didn’t drive the others, and apparently his own cars were ringers.

  • avatar
    rocket88

    Id like to provide a true story to underline this article. For two decades we built and sold quality control equipment to GM. I talked at length with our customers, the quality control managers of various plants. Each was provided a new vehicle made by their division (eg Oldsmobile), which they took notes on and logged problems. They turned it back in after three months.
    But during this time they drove only their own divisions vehicle, and never went to a dealership for either a repair or purchase experience. It was serviced in the corporate garage, and everything fixed up so even little items could be taken care of.
    Thus as Toyota etc started to really pick up steam these persons were blissfully unaware of any problems, vehicle or dealer relative to the competition. The only competititve analysis i found going on was done by a small group in the GM tech center who took the other vehicles apart and laid all their peices on the floor. Again missing alot of the customer experience aspect.
    This really bothered me, as it seemed the company was flying blind to a degree- and it was. People were more concerned about what their counterparts in other GM divisions were producing , than in the outside world.
    There is a good article todayin Automotive news by Rob Kleinbaum about how GM culture must change.

  • avatar
    nearprairie

    RE: Rolling radious machine. Did that perform the same function as trim and trueing a tire?

  • avatar
    mikey

    36 Years of witnessing GM senior management do thier bit.After reading between the lines of Mr Faragos piece.After purchasing a top of the trim line Impala LTZ,with the very expensive upgraded leather interior.I have reached an inescapable conclusion.

    The credentials of TTACs inside source,are beyond
    reproach.Not only that the guy knows what he is talking about.

  • avatar
    derm81

    Why, that would require actually interacting with mere commonfolk…which would be just so wrong for big time CEOs to do

    Nasser did this while at Ford…but he fucked up. How? He used to go to car shows and general “middle class” events in Metro Detroit dressed up in the finest custom suits and simply didnt fit in. He had this aristocracy thing….seemed like he was dressing up to go to a board meeting, not to view vintage Mustangs. The only way you could get away with something like that, at least around here, is if you are a member of te Ford family.

  • avatar
    DPerkins

    It still doesnt explain all of the interior shortcomings. Low and middle management are well aware of the products, why dont they mandate changes?

    How does the Cobalt SS powertrain and suspension (they’re great by the way) get approved when interior upgrades do not? The Cobalt’s interior deficiencies are mentioned over and over and over, and they are the most visible to the customer. Why not upgrade the interior first, increase sales volume (and customer satisfaction), then move on to the performance goodies???

  • avatar
    highrpm

    Stories from my time at Chrysler:

    - whenever the execs schedule a plant visit, the plant folks spend weeks cleaning up the place and making sure that everything looks presentable.
    - Chrysler has test labs onsite in Auburn Hills. I remember a particular incident where the execs (Eaton at the time I think) was going to do a walk-through. It was announced weeks ahead of schedule. Many hours were wasted in cleaning up the place. Also, any tests that could potentially fail a part were hidden, and only the completed or low-risk parts were run that day. More time wasted. I never understood why someone like Eaton didn’t just take a walk down into the labs in the middle of the week to see what the heck was really going on down there. If it was my company, that’s what I’d do. Remember how Sam Walton used to go to his stores unannounced? Like that.
    - The Big 3 have a fleet of vehicles that they run to 100k miles every year as part of their emissions certification. To me, this looked to be an ideal opportunity for the execs to drive an example of their cars that had undergone testing and see what wears out, what breaks, etc. Nobody took any interest in these cars. They were scrapped.
    - Overall, the vast majority of folks at the upper echelons in the Big 3 tend to focus on their career only, and to hell with the product. This mindset seems to have permeated into most public companies since nobody has ownership and there don’t seem to be immediate consequences.

  • avatar

    Wow. This is just… not exactly all that surprising.

    But I disagree; Chrysler, Dodge and Suzuki have worse interiors.

  • avatar
    newfdawg

    Way, way back in 1966, Fortune magazine commented
    on General Motors that GM officials were products of a system than discouraged attention to matters outside of their jobs; they spent most of their time in camaraderie that kept them in much of each others company…there was no self-examination going on. Recently, Fortune wrote another article on GM-and called managed insular and isolated. General Motors needs to be blown up, the existing management subject to a Stalinist purge and new management brought in. Then, the company may have a chance of survival.

  • avatar
    Jeff Puthuff

    @ rocket:

    There is a good article todayin Automotive news by Rob Kleinbaum about how GM culture must change.

    You could have read it here first: http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/guest-editorial-retooling-gms-culture/

  • avatar
    Bridge2far

    Great reporting of an urban legend. GM interiors are fine. Is a Cadillac interior nicer than a Chevrolet? Of course it is. Is a Toyota interior any better? No. But a Lexus may be.

  • avatar
    unseensightz

    I would like to have actual sources (eg. names of people or articles, where these people worked or work or where the articles came from) to back this story up. This article is just hear say without any valid sources.

    Also, of all the interiors I have been in regarding GM I have enjoyed them all and I own three GM products, a 77 camaro, 96 buick park avenue, and 2008 Impala, all interiors good by my standards.

    And while I have been in, admittedly, less foreign cars, while the gaps have been ok, the materials have rated no better in my opinion than that of the GM.

  • avatar
    A is A

    Did the execs know this? “Nope. And nobody was going to tell them . . . As far as they knew, the cars were exactly as they would be coming off the line

    That kind of behavour is the epithome of a dysfunctional organization. Google “Potemkim Village” to see a 18th century Russian precedent to that level of dysfunction:

    http://www.google.es/search?hl=es&q=Potemkin+village&btnG=Buscar+con+Google&meta=

    Tom Peters talked about “management by walking around” back in the 80’s. One thing for sure, you can’t manage from the penthouse.

    In the Toyota Production System they call that principle “Genchi Genbutsu”, i.e. “go and see for yourself”.

    http://www.google.es/search?hl=es&q=%22Genchi+Genbutsu%22+%22Toyota%22+%22Production+System%22&btnG=Buscar&meta=

    Of course that it is completely pointless if you “go and see” a carefully staged automotive Potemkim village, as the one described in the article.

  • avatar
    ttacfan

    To Bridge2far:

    I was on a local car show and was amazed how cheap the Toyota Camry interior looked, event in a convertible Solara, which was supposed to be a bit more upscale car that the base 4 cyl 4 door.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Low and middle management are well aware of the products, why dont they mandate changes?

    Because they’d be fired if they did.

    The “squeaky wheel gets the grease” axiom only applies at non-dysfunctional organizations. At a place like GM (and sadly, many others) the squeaky wheel is scrapped.

  • avatar
    ronin

    I know at least one very large apparel retailer that sends new executives (or those about to be promoted to execs) to work at an actual retail store for a few weeks during their big Christmas season. They work as a regular sales clerk.

    This gets their hands dirty actually seeing how their money is made, how their product is sold. See customers face-to-face, or watch customers walk out the door without a purchase, and head to a store across the mall.

    What a fantastic concept. This retailer has risen to be a leader in its segment.

  • avatar
    King Bojack

    It should be pointed out that most American business of any real size generally does not have a top management that really spends much time with the “plebians” under their power. I work at a place where all of our C level execs are RARELY seen in the IT or Accounting departments despite the fact that it would take all of half an hour a week to come up and talk to all of us. However, this does not happen even in our small corporate office. I reckon similar shit happens at many, many US companies.

  • avatar
    cardeveloper

    It gets even better, the ones that don’t get Limo’d to work every day, have a private parking garage, with a their own set of mechanics and engineers to make sure the cars are spotless, run perfect, and are perfect fit and finish. The engineers, are at least manager level making over 100k/yr. And the longest they will drive a car, is 6 months.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    Even if this is true (it may be, I’m just skeptical…though I can’t imagine the top execs have a ton of time to spend at a dealership), I don’t fault them too much….they shouldn’t have to go to a dealership to find a random sample if the people working below them, the engineers and engineering managers, along with design, did their jobs.

    If they had, the cars they saw at the proving grounds wouldn’t be ringers, and the problems would have been attacked and fixed instead of swept under the rug and those who pushed to fix were punished. It lies with the people making those decisions, not a Bob Lutz or Rick Wagonner.

    Sorry, that’s my take on it. People have to do their jobs. Bob Lutz can’t do everyone’s job for them.

  • avatar
    menno

    I have to say, I was very inimpressed with the newest Toyota Corolla interior. I thought that they must have sub-contracted the design and plastics to Chrysler, in fact. Awful. I only looked inside the Camry, but it didn’t strike me as particularly upscale.

    Toyota is not immune to stupidity, either.

    If you want a really nice interior in a boring family car, go look at a Hyundai Sonata, especially in tan (with black accents). Very nice, even in the basic GLS car line.

    This is what a middle-class family car should be like inside.

    Interestingly, the CEO of Hyundai declared that from the top on down to the line workers, quality WAS going to improve, and the cars were going to improve. Or else. And, they did. Not just in cars built at their South Korean plants, either.

    Hence their recent sales increases are genuinely for a reason other than just people ‘value shopping’.

    Yes, people ARE ‘value shopping’ but when they get to see the product they’d ignored, they are genuinely impressed enough to part with money.

    GM and Chrysler could take notes, but they don’t think they have anything to learn from the company that is breathing down Toyota’s neck and scaring them very badly in Japan.

  • avatar

    Jerome10

    It is the truth.

    The people at the proving grounds were punished for telling the truth/reporting problems. So they didn’t.

    Anyway, as the Italians say, the fish stinks from the head down.

  • avatar
    noreserve

    Interesting story. I do question the sense (value) of any executive who would not expect this and take measures to ensure that they indeed find out what a regular Joe experiences. That’s not to say Lutz could have walked into most showrooms unnoticed. He simply would have had to be creative and procure a vehicle sample through a 3rd-party. Not exactly rocket science.

    Another aspect of this that raises an eyebrow is that there is no way on earth you can “tweak” most of the crappy interiors in GM vehicles. Shitty plastics can be aligned until the cows come home and they are still shitty plastics. Poor ergonomics and seats can’t be “tweaked”.

    Sure, take care of the rattles and file a few of the ridiculously sharp edges on console lids and such if you’re trying to hide some things, but that tube of lipstick only goes so far on the pig.

    A couple of examples come to mind – both a C5 and C6 Corvette I’ve previously owned had “The Legend Lives” sticker on the door put on crooked. If you aren’t paying attention to something like this that the customer can see, then God only knows how they are putting together things you can’t. A second example would be the volume knob on the C6 that was way too small. How something like this gets past the premier vehicle team at GM highlights the sad state of affairs. Same holds for the misaligned sticker – this was Bowling Green. I mean, if you’re going to work at the one GM plant with that kind of storied history producing what is surely the pride of the GM fleet, how can you be that Goddamn sloppy putting shit together? These two things spoke volumes about both the design/development and the production line to me.

    And don’t get me started on the state of most of the other GM vehicles that I’ve had as rental cars. These are in a separate shameful league of their own that any GM exec should better have experienced as an anonymous rental car customer if they had any desire to find out the truth.

  • avatar
    Stein X Leikanger

    Living in a bubble is Job#1 for US executives.

    Akio Morita, the founder of SONY, installed B&O hifi equipment in his homes and office, to challenge his engineers in the 60s and 70s. It worked then.

    @steronz

    Allow me a slight correction to this statement:

    Because, and I know this post is long already, we can’t forget that GM still sells gives away A LOT of cars… up until a few years ago, they still sold more cars than anyone else in this country.

    A company that has lost money for eight years straight (if not more, given their dodgy accounting), doesn’t sell cars, it is giving them away.

  • avatar
    Spike_in_Irvine

    I used to work maintaining mainframe computers at the Ford, Broadmeadows factory. One of our staff got on the list to purchase an “employee” Falcon. Apparently, these cars get an “Employee car” sticker affixed at the beginning of the assembly line and that was the best Ford I have ever seen. It was perfectly assembled – no gaps or rattles. I hate to say it but until the workers are all replaced by robots we will continue to have ‘Monday’ cars and ‘Friday afternoon’ cars built. This affects fit and finish.

  • avatar
    kericf

    All manufacturer’s interiors are getting worse and worse. Camry is as bad as a lot of the Big 3. Honda is a little too space age for my taste. Very few cars south of $30 large have interiors worthy of praise.

  • avatar
    zerofoo

    I worked as a car electronics installer for a while during college, and I noticed that GM interiors really were the worst of the breed.

    It’s easy to identify a bad looking interior – but identifying a poorly designed and assembled interior requires disassembly.

    GMs of the 90s typically had interior panels that would break when disassembled, and would not line up with fasteners when reassembled. The end result was squeaks and rattles when the weather got cool.

    GM was also notorious for using those damned plastic “tree” fasteners on interior panels. They are designed for ease of assembly, but during disassembly the fasteners would break, or become so distorted that their holding power was compromised.

    The Germans, on the other hand, were a real bitch to take apart (tight fitting panels), but the interior panels were strong, fit well, and could be reassembled with precision in a logical manner. German cars rarely came back with complaints of squeaks and rattles.

    The absolute worst cars were the f-bodies – those things all eventually became rattle traps.

    -ted

  • avatar
    noreserve

    Wunsch :
    March 20th, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    I was really liking the CTS I test-drove, until I had to stop for a while at a train crossing. Then my attention started to wander around the interior, and I started seeing the uneven panel gaps, the creaking plastic when you adjust the clock, and so on. The CTS ended up being removed from my list to consider. There’s no way that a “Cadillac” should suffer from problems like that.

    There have been some recent blogs on Edmunds about the CTS’ parking brake release handle, squeaks/rattles, exposed wires, failing trim, etc. It may be a huge improvement over some GM vehicles, but this illustrates they’re not quite “world class”. Not even close. Someone’s asleep at the wheel when it comes to details at GM.

    http://blogs.edmunds.com/roadtests/Vehicles/2008CadillacCTSV6DI/

  • avatar
    Autobraz

    My experience at GM is that middle management is fully aware of defficiencies but, as another commentator already said, may be afraid of blowing the wistle on the issues.

    It intrigues me that, while I was there, myself and the whole product development team were subjected to some training hours dedicated exclusively to getting better interiors. So again, they were fully aware of the problem. One of the training videos for instance compared a GM leather seat to a German manufacturer leather seat (I think it was Audi) and showed the specific differences that made one bad and the other good.

    So why not make it better. I guess beancounting is the answer, of course supported by top management.

  • avatar
    ravenchris

    Why would anybody think GM management is concerned with customer satisfaction or the quality of their products?

  • avatar
    Sutures

    Same old, same old… call them “ringers” or call them “highlighted”, it’s done everywhere.

    This, however, should stand out:
    “Did the execs know this? “Nope. And nobody was going to tell them . . . As far as they knew, the cars were exactly as they would be coming off the line. That’s why Bob Lutz thinks GM’s products are world-class. The ones he’s driven are.””

    While I can’t call the above quote a straight out lie, in the back of your skull a phrase should be gnawing at the base of your brain. That phrase would be “plausible deniability.” The top execs may not have mandated the tweaks to the vehicles but they certainly set up the environment to make them happen.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I have to say, I was very inimpressed with the newest Toyota Corolla interior. I thought that they must have sub-contracted the design and plastics to Chrysler, in fact. Awful. I only looked inside the Camry, but it didn’t strike me as particularly upscale.

    I’m going to come off as a Toyota fanatic, and I really don’t mean to, but I think the distinction has to be made between having nice-feeling plastics and well-assembled ones. Here’s the difference:
    * All the panels in a Matrix (or my Fit, for example) are rock hard, but are well-grained, backlit appropriately, detailed, fit together nicely and don’t shake much. At least the places where you rest your arm/elbow are padded.
    * All the panels in a Caliber don’t aren’t. They’re not aligned properly, the holes show flashing (or, in the case of the door-lock post holes, actual drill shavings curling up from the hole).

    Toyota seems to have come to the realization that as long as the fitment and behaviour isn’t cheap, people aren’t really going to notice. Truthfully, I can’t blame them, because the only reason for soft-touch dashes and such is to imitate the leather dashes from a century ago. There’s no reason for them to be soft to the touch, other than that they’ve always been so.

    Here’s an example: I have a very expensive stereo, and a somewhat less expensive Apple computer and an only slightly-less-expensive espresso machine at home (yeah, yeah, I know…). None of these things use soft-touch plastics, not even the stereo that costs more than my first car: it’s matte black plastic with a few lights here and there. I touch it way more often than my Fit’s dash, and I truthfully don’t care that either are made of hard plastic because they both look and work well.

    And that’s why auto scribes’ griping about hard plastics in Accords and Camrys is kind of pointless: as long as the cars are reliable and treat their owners well, and the plastics aren’t offensive, they aren’t going to care. People will notice misalignment, true, but uneven exterior panel gaps and hard plastic everywhere but the armrest is a non-issue.

    GM’s problem is different: the cheapness was more a symptom, historically speaking, not a reason to hate the car. If your Camry gave you thousands of trouble-free miles but had a hard dash, you’d let it go. If your Malibu’s plastic intake just cost you an engine, or your Caravan’s transmission broke for the third time, those hard—and badly assembled—panels are just the icing on the cake of mediocrity.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    It may be a huge improvement over some GM vehicles, but this illustrates they’re not quite “world class”.

    It’s not World Class until it’s costing you three grand a year in window regulators, fuel pumps and headlamps!

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    The CEO of Loews Hotels, Jonathan Tisch, also spends time doing every single job in the hotel (as do many of his executives). It has lead to major improvements not just in the quality of the hotels, but in the quality of life for employees.

    kericf :

    All manufacturer’s interiors are getting worse and worse. Camry is as bad as a lot of the Big 3. Honda is a little too space age for my taste. Very few cars south of $30 large have interiors worthy of praise.

    I agree with you.

  • avatar
    jerry weber

    But think, the General was and is in a class by itself. I like the Japanese culture of the top man involved with a screw up apologizes publicly for the wrong. Who ever apologized to the emporer or the stockholders, bankers, customers, etc. for say the pontiac aztec?

  • avatar
    jmo

    All manufacturer’s interiors are getting worse and worse. Camry is as bad as a lot of the Big 3. Honda is a little too space age for my taste. Very few cars south of $30 large have interiors worthy of praise.

    I agree with you.

    I really can’t understand how anyone can say that. If you look at any car the interiors now are much nicer than they were 10 years ago. Are you really saying a 99 camry has a better looking interior than an 09?

  • avatar
    Martin B

    I remember reading once that Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart, spent half a day a week in his office. The rest of the time he was out visiting stores, talking to customers and employees and suppliers, looking in back-rooms, and generally making sure he knew everything that went on in his business including the customer experience

    Back in 1984, around the time Roger Smith was applying his particular brand of grandiose rearrangement to GM, I was in business school.

    There we learned a fundamental saying in the retail trade: “The truth is in the stores.”

    In other words, if you want to know what’s really going on, you have to do what Sam Walton did. Visit the stores. See what lines are selling; check the quality, packaging and display; listen to customers’ complaints; observe how sales staff interact with customers and how efficiently they process sales; evaluate the shopping experience; watch out for theft and shrinkage; check compliance with health and safety regulations; etc etc.

    The car companies are retailing a consumer product, albeit via the dealers. They are subject to the same disciplines of the retail trade.

    Their executives shouldn’t sit in their corner office and wait for people to bring them reports. That way lies a slow death due to misinformation.

  • avatar
    Geotpf

    steronz :
    March 20th, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    Because, and I know this post is long already, we can’t forget that GM still sells A LOT of cars… up until a few years ago, they still sold more cars than anyone else in this country. Crap interiors might have been a bad idea in the long run, but in the short term America obviously wasn’t too torn up about them. My guess is that executives WERE getting feedback that the interiors sucked, but they decided to ignore that feedback in favor of a cut-your-way-to-profits strategy.

    GM sells almost no normal cars to normal people.

    Now, let’s define terms here:

    1. “normal cars” means cars (not pickups or SUV) and not exotic vehicles like Cadillacs or Corvettes. Corvettes have bad interiors but nobody cares because it’s a freaking Corvette; Cadillacs cost enough that their interiors are at least OK.
    2. “normal people” means ordinary people who go to a dealer at buy a car at 95% of sticker or so.

    People who aren’t “normal people”:

    1. Car rental firms.
    2. Any company, in fact.
    3. Any government agency (the Feds, the military, state governments, local governments, police departments, school districts, etc.).
    4. People who get an employee discount because they work for GM or a supplier or are related to somebody who works for GM or a supplier or used to work for GM or a supplier and are now retired or are related to somebody who used to work for GM or a supplier and are now retired.
    5. People who pay 80% or less of list price during one of GM’s various OMG NOBODY IS BUYING OUR CRAP sales.

    I imagine both Toyota and Honda sell 3 or 4 times as many normal cars to normal people than GM does.

    Edit: I should point out the groups who aren’t “normal people” don’t really care about how good the interiors look. This also explains why they are the only ones buying GM cars at this point.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I really can’t understand how anyone can say that. If you look at any car the interiors now are much nicer than they were 10 years ago. Are you really saying a 99 camry has a better looking interior than an 09?

    It depends on what’s important to you. Some people put a lot of importance into soft plastics. By that metric, a Camry of a decade ago could arguably have a better interior.

    You’d have to ignore ergonomics and design to make that argument. You’d also have to care about soft plastics, which I don’t.

  • avatar
    cardeveloper

    I viewed an internal Toyota report about how the Sienna development team drove all over the country into small and large towns asking owners of competitive vehicles what they liked and didn’t dislike about their vehicles. IRC, it was a 6 week road trip before they started the latest generation Sienna.

  • avatar
    mikey

    So I go out today and check out Toyota interiors.
    After all I got F.A. else to do.The Camry isn’t all that great,the Corrola is real crappy.

    The Impala interior pisses me off,cause I paid so much for the upgrade.The leather 6 way seats are great, and comfy.Its the plastic door panels that are kinda yuch.But maybe cause I grew up with plush interiors from the 60s to the 80s my view might be distorted.

    @Bridgetoofar…Your right its not a Caddy or a
    Lexus.I didn’t pay a Caddy or Lexus price.I knew what I was getting when I bought it.Even though I picked mine, by watching them come down the line.
    I’m a little let down by the interior.Though I am super happy with the rest of the car.
    @psorhjinion I guess if I get 20 trouble free years out,a my Impala,the crappy door panels won’t be an issue.

  • avatar
    Lokki

    Also, of all the interiors I have been in regarding GM I have enjoyed them all and I own three GM products, a 77 camaro, 96 buick park avenue, and 2008 Impala, all interiors good by my standards.

    I might believe the Park Avenue and the Impala, but, Sir, you go beyond believability in praising the interior of the 77 Camaro.

    I have to say that I rented an 08 Impala in Canada, and I thought that the interior was pretty good.

    I also have to say that when I went to a local auto show last spring, I was appalled at the interior in the Camry. It really shook my faith in Toyota…. I’m starting to subscribe to the “Next GM” theory for them.

    But, back to the point. Our company president was a fanatic about one particular unit (yes, I’m deliberately being vague here) that our company sold…or rather didn’t sell. It was a dog, and none of our stores stocked it. None. We just eliminated the damned thing.

    However, our President Loved to visit stores. So we kept one unit that we put into every store that he visited. Often it flew on the same plane that he did. He would always go to make sure it was in the store (as he knew that there had been an attempt to kill it). Once he’d looked at it, we boxed it up and put in on the plane for his next site visit.

    He never noticed that it was the same unit in three years of store visits.

  • avatar
    jmo

    People:

    So… you’re saying http://www.samarins.com/reviews/img/camry_01_int_large.jpg

    looks better than

    http://image.motortrend.com/f/9757913/112_0806_05z+2008_toyota_camry+interior_view.jpg

    I really just don’t get it.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    … nobody has ownership and there don’t seem to be immediate consequences.

    No, the consequences are not immediate. They are gradual. It’s taken 4 decades for Toyondissan to take half the D3′s market away from them. It only seems like a short time when looking back.

    “That would’ve been a sure way to kill your career . . . We’d see the cars come back to us after production with the exact same problems.”

    I can’t accept this. A culture of fear is not created solely by a handful of top execs. The people who are fearful must bear some of the blame as well. Perhaps GM needs new hiring proceedures – all applicants must drop troussers so that HR can inspect for the presence of “nads”.

  • avatar
    Lokki

    Look at the plastic around the shifter, and look at the cloth on the seats. You’ll get it.

    It’s not about design – it’s about materials.

    You really have to touch the cloth on those 2008 camry seats to recognize how flimsy it feels.

    It’s not going to be there in 200K miles like the old mouse fur was.

  • avatar
    DweezilSFV

    Nothing much seems changed since Brock Yates wrote “The Decline & Fall Of The American Auto Industry” back in the early 80s.

    Some of the chapter titles will give you a start:
    “J” Is Not For Japanese: The $5 Billion Dollar Blunder” [GM\'s J car development and launch]

    “The Detroit Mind” [Pretty much the same indictment of GM and the Other Two as was reported above: 03-20-2009, 25 years after it was published.]

    “The Small Car War: Are Detroit’s Wounds Self Inflicted?”

    Not a bit surprised nothing has changed.

  • avatar
    HarveyBirdman

    jmo,

    I definitely preferred my parents’ old ’96 Camry interior over that of the ’09 they own now. The ’96 XLE felt somewhat luxurious inside, just a step below Lexus. After taking a long road trip in the ’09 XLE, I have to say it ranks as the most unpleasant interior I’ve ever experienced in a Honda or Toyota. I’d much rather spend time in the cockpit of my ’05 Pilot EX, or my ’95 Accord LX, for that matter. Ergonomics and features have certainly improved, but the quality of the interior in the Camry has not. In fact, the “leather wrapped” steering wheel felt as though it wrapped in the hide of a plastic rhinoceros. So yes, I definitely prefer the cars of 10 years ago.

    And Americans used to know how to build great interiors. The interior of my ’91 Grand Marquis had awful ergonomics, but it felt luxurious (at least in a big-boat sort of way, with enormous velvet bench seats and squishy dash). The more recent interiors have been far, far less satisfying.

  • avatar
    redrum

    As you probably know, ever since GM was founded, its execs have either been driven by a chauffeur or provided with carefully prepared and maintained examples of the company’s most expensive vehicles.

    Why would driving around in Cadillacs have any impact on their impression of other GM products? Their most expensive vehicles DO have decent interiors. Where they fall short is everywhere else in the line up (pretty much every Pontiac and most Chevys, etc). And to me it’s more a matter of poor aesthetic design and cheap materials, which cannot be covered up no matter how well it’s fitted.

    I actually think GM’s headed in the right direction. Their new stereo head unit and climate controls (as seen on the Malibu, Aura, etc) are miles ahead of the cheap controls of the Pontiac G6 and Grand Prix (of course, why they continue to build sub-standard cars when they already have something better on hand is another question).

    I find that most interiors look dated after 5 years anyway, regardless of their initially perceived quality.

  • avatar
    NickR

    Please tell me this something I am going to see on Mythbusters, i.e., that’s not the truth.

  • avatar
    jmo

    Look at the plastic around the shifter

    It looks better in the 08. I’ve driven ’94, ’02, and 08 Camry’s and the interiors are better/high quality with each generation. You might get me to agree to a drop from 94 to 02 but 94 and 02 vs 08 08 wins hands down. I really don’t understand where you guys are comming from.

  • avatar
    amac

    Crap interiors? What ever do you mean? Obviously you’ve never experienced the interior splendor of my mom’s 1982 Chevette.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I really don’t understand where you guys are comming from.

    Here’s a quote that helps explain why:

    “The interior of my ‘91 Grand Marquis had awful ergonomics, but it felt luxurious (at least in a big-boat sort of way, with enormous velvet bench seats and squishy dash).”

    It all depends on your perspective. If you grew up driving vinyl-covered, squishy-dash’ed, wood-slathered cars of yore (or if you’re a reviewer who gets seat time in Mercedes and the like) you’ll come to equate certain subjective tactile qualities with objective quality, because that’s your benchmark.

    If you’re like me, and came to your senses when industrial design quality was best exemplified by acetate-shrouded plastic (yes, I’m talking about the iPod) then you end of with a different aesthetic, and are probably a lot more likely to prefer something like a modern Acura or the aforementioned Camry.

    The problem is that most auto scribes fall into the former camp, and many designers into the latter.

  • avatar
    tced2

    High executives at GM know how to drive?

  • avatar
    Stingray

    Farago, you went and picked on the Geo Storm. And that thing has ACTUALLY a nice interior. For a sub-compact you got a soft touch dashboard and door panels. I know for sure because I drive the twin, the Impulse, everyday. Corolla interiors were like that between 1994-1998, after that they went downhill.

    You could’ve posted a Chevette picture.

    80′s GM interior didn’t suck. Japanese were crappy at that time. My dad had 2 Caprices, 2 Malibu, 1 FWD Century, 1 S-10 Blazer and the interiors were nice, the Blazer less than the others.

    I’ve said many times that Toyota will be the next GM.

  • avatar
    shaker

    Keep in mind that “soft touch” materials probably started to give way to the $3000 worth of airbags in the average vehicle these days…

    Though “soft-touch” materials probably help to quell interior noise in cars with weak unibody (or BOF) construction, the ‘soft stuff’ is just no longer a requirement for a quiet, safe (you’ll be eating an airbag at speed instead) interior.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    At last month’s local auto show I sat in the back seat of a VW Passat CC. The leather was already pulling away from the center console, with the foam underneath exposed. I left unimpressed, particularly with such an expensive car.

    I care more for durable and rattle-free interiors and switchgear than attractive ones, and have had mixed success with many makes. No particular opinion on GM’s, but the article makes sense to me.

    The ivory-tower-thinking wouldn’t only affect interior quality. As other have pointed out, this would be reflected in many other aspects of the vehicle, like NVH and dealer service.

  • avatar
    Hank

    Wow. A rather costly example of “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”

  • avatar
    jfranta

    As a former engineer at GM I can tell you that agent x is serving you a great injustice by telling you just the negative half of the story. Probably not in the know as much as he/she likes to think. First of all to imply that the Proving Grounds in Mesa is the “intersection between High flyer and mass market” is akin to saying the sun revolves around the earth. The DPG is not the center of the vehicle development universe at GM. Time to wake up Nostradomus lots of other development tools and feedback mechanisms out there and GM has them all. I have worked with literally thousands of engineeers at GM, in and from places like Michigan, Arizona, Australia, South America, Europe, Korea, and China that all wanted to do a great job and produce world class vehicles while working within a large Bureaucracy that limits creativity. Highly Professional engineers that understand the value of an executive audience while making sure that the parts on their cars were representative, sometimes tweaking needs to be done to do this. GM is simply the self imposed victim of a large bureacracy that first of all breeds complacency as the human condition does, and makes things slow and difficult to change when the impetus exists-problems that exist in all large organizations. Case in point are the changes that have taken place since Lutz was first brought on at GM. Look at the Malibu. Change from the top down is much easier to do then from any other level. Most interiors are much improved now. Look at the JD Powers stuff to view real data. But lets not let that get in the way of our opinions here.

    On the other hand, GM, and the other domestics, did not anticipate the aggressive market move from trucks to cars as they should have or the severe drop in demand that has occurred. But who did? The Asian Manufacturers were already positioned in the car market, moving to high profit trucks, but were not hurt as bad. And we now know what they are now doing with their trucks. As part of Wagoners/Lutz’s plan, GM had already begun to put money into their cars but was a little too late for the recession.

    It seems easy to ignore the positive things that have happened at GM and a rudimentary understanding of the human condition would tell you that they have done some remarkable things with the limitations they have had, still more to be done for sure. Your picture of Roger Smith from the 80′s tells me maybe you are are clinging a little to much to the past, another human condtions problem…

  • avatar
    cleek

    I find it difficult to believe that any car person could drive an Oldsmobile Achieva, tuned or otherwise, and give it a passing grade.

    This exercise seems more like an excuse for a golf outing to escape the Detroit winters.

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    Wow, this thread brought a lot of flashbacks to my time at a certain GM susidiary/division.

    At one point, this company sold more manual transmission cars than other GM divisions but I can name numerous top execs who never drove one because they didn’t know how… despite a fleet of test cars at their disposal they just couldn’t be bothered to learn.

    Report after report about warranty issues and front-line customer experiences relayed from “The Field” to corporate HQ, etc. but a woeful lack of interest except more requests to keep warranty costs in check rather than fix the well-known core issues. Later they decided to cut costs by reducing the size of the field organization and turning to more phone support for dealers.

    I recall a point in the early 1990s when one of the top marketing and “product development” (an oxymoron for this brand) execs came to do her customary 1-day round of the customer and dealer call center. She spent about an hour with me at my desk listening to customer complaints. At this time, the company had decided to use those stupid motorized shoulder belts in lieu of adding a driver’s side airbag to “reduce cost.” Of course, as was usual, I had three calls in a row complaining about inoperable seat belts, another customer who cut her finger on the motor track on the door, and a dealer trying to repair a seatbelt that was 200 miles out of warranty. The exec was surprised by these calls. In about 2 seconds I pulled out the report we had been sending “up the chain” for a year identifying this as not only one of the key warranty complaints and cost drivers but also a key reason identified by shoppers for NOT BUYING THE CAR in the first place. It had never gotten to her level.

    Seems the team responsible for design and manufacturing cost had no idea that the $20 they saved in the factory was costing about $1,200 to fix after the fact… and on about 10% of the cars. I doubt this fact has changed much.

  • avatar
    Stingray

    Thanks =)

    Although you may be right, have he driven that GSi Storm, he may have given Isuzu the support to produce the following generation.

  • avatar
    Stein X Leikanger

    All complex organizations are adept at failing miserably at what they should be doing, or even at not identifying what they should be doing in the first place.

    But to present a capsule interpretation of why GM ended up where they did: It became a place where managers played the corporate game, for a rung on the ladder — and where you did what you could to be associated with success, and to be as far away from failure as possible.
    They chose to ignore the problems and challenges.

    Which is why GM ended up standing still for 25 years. For evidence, consider what happened to Elmer W. Johnson when he tried to warn the Executive Committee of the perils ahead, back in 1988.

    There will be dozens of books written on the massive failure that is GM.

  • avatar
    LamborghiniZ

    GM loses in both possible interpretations of this scenario:

    1) Other car makers engage in the same deceptive practices regarding exec knowledge of mass produced vehicles, but somehow those other car makers (Chrysler, Ford, notwithstanding), somehow manage to shape things up.

    2) Other car makers do not engage in this type of deception regarding exec knowledge of mass produced vehicles, and therefore do not have this problem.

    GM. You lose.

  • avatar
    ajla

    All manufacturer’s interiors are getting worse and worse. Camry is as bad as a lot of the Big 3. Honda is a little too space age for my taste. Very few cars south of $30 large have interiors worthy of praise.

    Not that I’m an authority on the subject, but I find the “Moroccan” brown interior available on the Aura XR to be really nice. It was the first time I had been impressed by the inside of a new GM car.

  • avatar
    vanderaj

    I bet this depends on the location of the GM executives. I find the Holden interiors to be right up there in terms of materials and fit and finish, albeit with HUGE panel gaps in past Commodores. They’ve made huge strides in the last generation or so (post 2006).

    Check out a Holden Commodore Omega, the cheapest Commodore’s you can buy:

    http://www.holdencampaign.com.au/ebrochure/commodore.html#/7/0/

    Although there are like 18 different models of Commodore, they’re all roughly the same modulo engines, trim and body styles. I bet the local executives are driving something that is akin to the Omega on a regular basis.

    Check out that interior and compare it against a slightly smaller vehicle, the Impala:

    http://www.chevrolet.com/impala/photogallery/

    I think honestly, the US could learn a lot from its Australian subsidiary.

    Andrew

  • avatar
    50merc

    stevelovescars: “I pulled out the report we had been sending “up the chain” for a year identifying this as not only one of the key warranty complaints and cost drivers but also a key reason identified by shoppers for NOT BUYING THE CAR in the first place. It had never gotten to her level.”

    In one of my careers I was a chief internal auditor, reporting directly to the CEO and board. When a new CEO was appointed, I would tell him/her that one of the hardest parts of their job is to learn what is really going on in the organization. At each level of every division, people tend to stifle bad news while bragging about good news.

    [This is one of the recurring themes in the wonderful BBC comedy, \"Yes, Minister\" and sequel. Katie, it was this universal human trait, not British politics, that led me to cite the show in another thread.]

    Worse, many managers have a tendency to “work for their subordinates.” That is, bosses want to be liked, and they become advocates for the units they supervise. So there’s another reason to avoid unpleasant subjects.

    If one is lucky, problems can be ignored, glossed over or excused long enough to hit retirement age.

  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    At the GM truck tech center, in the back, there are a number of bays. Here anyone with a valid work-order could have any number of combinations of parts put together to build a truck to the wildest of specifications.

    Adjacent to those bays was a raised platform, like a stage. On that platform sat the cabs of all their competitors trucks, large and small. For each cab was a display board listing all the pros and cons of every design – from materials to ergonomics.

    Those folks there know what’s good and bad. They can make recomendations, but cannot overrule a styling designer, nor accounting. How long would you pour your heart and soul into your work when your credability can be questioned by non-technical people? How long until your only concern is your career, and pension?

  • avatar
    weavermiami

    I’ve got a ’95 Golf with 150k miles and an entire dash that vibrates (but at least not like in the old diesel Rabbits of the 80′s). I’ve fit pieces of felt under some the loose front speaker covers both on the dash and in the doors to stop some of the rattles. The foam lining on the inside of the AC/heating ducts disintegrated and was blown out in chunks for about a year until it all finally was blown out. Fortunately, the vents popped out pretty easily to remove the debris but in the process, I lost a tiny metal clip for one of the vents and now it doesn’t stay in place.

    The side bolsters in the front seats have collapsed and leave a brown “straw” all over the floors, and the drivers seat doesn’t catch on the track when I change positions. I never could find the right spot. The mechanisms that control the side mirrors don’t work. The lights behind the instrument panel went out so I had them replaced. Those lasted about 20k miles and they’re out again, although I suspect faulty wiring (a VW trademark). One of the awful, ugly and easily-stained-with-water cloth seats has a tear and the back seat no longer folds flat (the seat-back latch broke in the upright position– actually the knob broke, but without it, I can’t use the hatch like a wagon). The exterior hatch push-lock broke as well but I was able to fix it with wire. Oh wait, I’m just talking interiors here.

    The headliner has started to peel away in the front but some glue has stopped it from continuing any further. The rest of the headliner, while once white, seems to shred when you try to clean it, so I just leave it dirty. I also don’t mess anymore with the fuse box. Drinks don’t fit in the cup holders and I’m not talking just Big-Gulps. The cup holders are positioned so that nothing tall will fit and this includes 12 oz. bottles of water (they go in the side pockets but then they block the window cranks–thank god for hand cranks! I’ve heard of the many problems VW has had with window regulators in Jettas in which they refused to upgrade a tiny plastic clip that was the culprit with a metal one to fix the problem). Also, standard for the 95′s when VW first installed passenger side air bags in the Golf, is, surprise! No glove box! Just a tiny “locking” cubby behind the parking brake that fits a wallet. A wallet.

    The rear seat pop-out cup holder below the cubby snapped apart years ago despite that no one ever sits back there. The last time someone did sit back there, they got nice black marks on their shirts from the seat belts. I was embarrassed but I figured it was because the belts were so rarely used. The power locks have started to make a strange noise for about a minute after using the “unlock all doors” function, like it keeps running after the doors are unlocked. The once-smooth foam steering wheel is worn and black “crumbs” get on my hands when they are damp, the perfect compliment to a rainy day.

    But the dash looks nice.

  • avatar
    design89

    GM already makes great interiors, in Europe!
    Just look at a Saturn Astra , that interior is just great.
    Nice materials and solid build.At least they did something right
    in bringing this car to NA.

  • avatar
    Lokki

    Jfranta…..

    I don’t want to be mean about this, so just let me quote you…

    “…GM, and the other domestics, did not anticipate the aggressive market move from trucks to cars as they should have or the severe drop in demand that has occurred. But who did? The Asian Manufacturers…”

    GM has known that there is a market for small cars since 1960. They’ve just never taken the market for them seriously, since the profit margin per unit is low. They’ve always preferred to build the big ‘un’s where the money is.

    At least twice in my life time though, the big ‘un’s have stopped selling. Both times the Japanese were ready, and GM wasn’t.

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    BlueBrat: “But I disagree; Chrysler, Dodge and Suzuki have worse interiors.”

    Gads, you should go to the nearest Suzuki dealer and take a new Grand Vitara for a spin. Or easier, read the TTAC review of the GV.

  • avatar
    King Bojack

    Why do people act like the imports are great visionaries for having good cars to “fall back on”? Their home countries have crazy expensive gas so they make cars that work in their home market that they also sell here. They’re not geniuses. Sometimes the market works for them, sometimes not. If gas gets and stays cheap and truck/suv’s reign supreme again will people bash Honda for not having big enough trucks and SUVs?

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    On the subject of interiors, what’s with this fixation on panel gaps? Why shouldn’t there be spaces between them? Don’t rear doors have gaps for ventilation? As long as the gaps aren’t crooked and things don’t rattle and squeak, then who said car dashboards and door panels have to have nanometer-width seams? Even the dashboards of fancy cars have some open seams. Even if gaps are uneven or panels line up awkwardly, like some in our ’90 Spirit, they were designed that way. I don’t really care because the thing is durable, comfortable, works fine and looks good enough.

    Panel gappery may be a convention being used to evaluate quality, but it is not inherently equivalent to quality. More of an artistic convention, and perhaps a way for auto journalists to pretend their reviews are useful. Perhaps even a resource diversion from aspects of cars that need the attention more badly. I awake at night with bad dreams about armies of engineers fussing over panel gaps while engine sludging slides under the radar.

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    If gas gets and stays cheap and truck/suv’s reign supreme again

    I just don’t think that’s going to happen whatever the price of fuel does. Large vehicles inevitably require more fuel and road space. We face shortages of both. Petroleum is far better used for innumerable important and useful products other than car fuel. And if we really end up in an energy jam, petroleum will be needed for growing and transporting food.

    Beyond whether any of these conditions are for real, oversized vehicles have become passe. Out of fashion. I think there’s no going back on that within a generation, and who knows what will be going on then.

  • avatar
    nino

    brandloyalty :
    March 20th, 2009 at 10:26 pm

    On the subject of interiors, what’s with this fixation on panel gaps? Why shouldn’t there be spaces between them? Don’t rear doors have gaps for ventilation? As long as the gaps aren’t crooked and things don’t rattle and squeak, then who said car dashboards and door panels have to have nanometer-width seams? Even the dashboards of fancy cars have some open seams. Even if gaps are uneven or panels line up awkwardly, like some in our ‘90 Spirit, they were designed that way. I don’t really care because the thing is durable, comfortable, works fine and looks good enough.

    Then I’d like to install a kitchen for you!

    I spend a good day adjusting door gaps and alignment whenever I install a kitchen even going so far as removing and re-installing cabinets to get the proper alignment with appliances and such.

    To me, tight and aligned door and panel gaps, speak of care and quality whether it is a kitchen or a car. If someone building a car ignores or is indifferent about something that is so noticeable, how can you be sure they cared about something you don’t see?

  • avatar
    nino

    To those that see nothing wrong with GM interiors, I defy you to look inside a previous generation CTS and tell me that’s acceptable for any car much less a luxury car.

    As far as the lesser quality of today’s Toyota interiors compared to Toyotas built before, what you have to figure is that material and labor costs have gone up. In order to sell a car at a certain price, some compromises have to be made. However as has been pointed out before, you can still install those cheaper materials with great care and precision and get a high quality look and feel. And let’s not forget making sure all the colors match.

  • avatar
    nino

    On another note:

    Has anyone seen the seats inside a 2009 Mazda RX8 Touring with the R3 trim package?

    They have to be the most gorgeous, most comfortable seats I’ve ever sat in in a car costing less than $35,000.

  • avatar
    Cicero

    To me, the interior is at least as important as the exterior. I chose my Lexus GS 350 (I know, I know) over a Mercedes E-class becuase the Lexus interior was head and shoulders above the Mercedes.

    Over the past two weeks, I’ve been riding in a client’s current-model Escalade every morning into L.A. from the suburbs. It’s astounding how cheap the interior of what should be GM’s very best actually is. The leather looks like naugahyde, the plastics are mostly hard and unyielding, the switchgear is cheap and the clock is a chrome-plated plastic thing that looks like something they stole from a Cobalt. In a vehicle that stickers for north of $62 large, it’s astonishing to me that GM would deck out the interior in such mediocrity.

    This experience has really confirmed my suspicion that for a long time, GM’s market has consisted of people who are simply uninformed about the alternatives. It’s hardly a market that can be used to build a business.

  • avatar
    Stu Sidoti

    Geeez…I could spend all day commenting on this subject, but I will say this. Your Agent X obviously works (or worked) at GM but like 99% of folks in any large car company he or she is viewing the ‘World of GM’ through their own personal prism and mos-def not speaking for the whole company.

    For example, as indicated by jfranta, the Mesa Proving Grounds are certainly not ground zero for quality interior testing…Mesa is/was the main hot weather testing grounds, and not a whole lot more.

    Additionally, over the last 20 years, GM has added more testing capabilities at the origin of the designs-the R&D centers and has subtracted some functions at dedicated testing grounds. Yes kids, many testing functions can be done at other places than 120 degree deserts…some can even be done on a computer-y’all ever heard of DFA? DFM, Virtual Builds? or even old-fashioned FEAs? Every company uses these technologies…so to say that GM’s interiors are crap and not improving because they don’t do enough desert testing at Mesa is a specious argument at best. Both GM and Hyundai have made the most interior execution improvements over the last decade in their respective interiors and that ain’t due to hot weather testing, it’s due to good Design, Engineering and better Manufacturing.

    Also…stop thinking of GM as having NA, Europe, Korea, China, and Australia as separate little fiefdoms with no one communicating…trust me kids, they all work together on many projects-not all-but many. Heck, even here on TTAC someone posted a link clearly showing that VP of Design Ed Welburn was doing late night online critiquing of sketches of Chinese-American designed Buicks at PATAC wherein some design elements were done in China, and some in NA and some in Australia. GM is a global brand-I wish many of you would stop saying ‘ oh they make great interiors overseas but not here’…it’s the same talent shared around the globe. For example, the interior design manager on the GMT900 series of SUVs is now the European interior design director working in Germany designing the interiors of those Euro-GMs you love so much. Not too mention the fact that several of the Euro and Aussie GM products that you loved overseas are now available here, yet once they hit that boat, so many of you here instantly deficate all over the same cars you loved overseas-amazing. The Camaro was primarily Designed in the USA and primarily Engineered in Australia. GM is a one-world company folks and to suggest that sending cars to Mesa or Yuma instantly improves quality because the test Engineers ‘optimize the cars’ the suits drive to cheat the results is just silly.

    I would say that GM still has improvements to make to their interiors-YES… but dollar for dollar, they make amongst the best interiors you can buy today. Here try this…go sit in a Nissan 370 Z interior, then go sit in a Camaro interior…go sit in a Hyundai Accent, Scion XA, or Toyota Yaris interior, then go sit in a Cruze interior (when it comes to your town). The Cruze will probably win you over-maybe but even if it doesn’t , it certainly isn’t crap-it’s better than a lot of cars in it’s class…same with Malibu, Aura, CTS, Enclave… (BTW do you realize that the 300HP Camaro V-6 gets the same highway EPA mileage as a US-sold gas-powered VW Rabbit? They both get 29 mpg…Hmmm.) No GM does not make the world’s best interiors, but I think that today, in many classes and price points that if you fairly compare them within their price points, they are in the top 2 or 3 in interior design and quality in many classes…wherever they’re Designed, Engineered and tested.

    Now…as for Agent X’s assertion that the execs ride in optimized cars…1: that ain’t new, every car company does something similar when the suits arrive-they make sure the cars are ready and that nothing will happen to embarass themselves in front of their bosses-no story here. They’re not trying to cheat the system, they’re just trying to save face and make sure the issues at hand are fairly evaluated and discussed with no distracting missteps. 2: Execs and higher end people associated with any car program headed for launch usually get to drive a pre-production prototype sometimes called an NSB or Non-Saleable-Build car…sometimes these cars are indeed hand built, hand painted etc because the assembly line is being built up, tested and the plant staff are being trained for launch. These vehicles are thoroughly wrung out by they program team to do any last minute real-world evaluations to try and nail down final issues that need addressing before full launch…So some people like Agent X may be perceiving that execs get special cars because they do, but for evaluation purposes, not to cater to the suits.

    While a domestic OEM might spend an afternoon spiffying up for a suits tour, have any of you ever witnessed an Asian OEM suit visit-that level of preparation is simply off the charts compared to a D3 suit visit and I have survived several of those visits myself and there is simply no comparison to the D3 suit visits.

    If you think the D3 and Asians are bad about spending time getting ready for an executive visit, you would not believe the pomposity of a German car company executive suit review…that’s perhaps the worst of all…boy do they expect to have their asses kissed…Woo-Wee!!

    In short, what Agent X is ‘revealing’ to you happens at every carmaker, supplier and R&D center when the suits come around. Believe it.

  • avatar
    jurisb

    Detroit interiors suck for one reason. Interiors actually consist of many parts that need to be cast and then assembled precisely. It is hard to compare Sam Walton who ran a retail store for selling items to a company that has to manufacture real items. My question is if US is unable to engineer and cast high precision parts, then what stamping devices and industrial robots were doing the job? mostly those were US made robots and industrial benches from Gm `s own Unimatic to Cincinnatti Milacron to Lewis &Giddings to Adept Technologies.As they turned out to be built under the same culture as Gm `s own products, I believe they were pretty much failing to do precise detailing of parts.And the new Camaro`s interior might be better not because Gm`s culture has improved, simply Camaro is being welded and stamped by german robots now, so you won`t see huge gaps around headlights and bumpers.
    Have you noticed that you can get pictures from many factories where you can see how cars are being rolled down the assembly line, and you can also see whose robots are assembling the cars, whether fanuc, kubota or ABB.But you can never see pics as to what robots Gm uses, one guy who posted pics on autoblog even got fired for that.Another issue is cost cutting, and buying materials from the cheapest suppliers, it also affects material durability and texture.And if you buy the cheapest ,even a precisely molded intrerior will wear out and deteriorate.Detroits interiors have improved only for one reason- all the industrial robots making the parts are import. And durability of parts and mechanicals have improved for only one reason- most of the parts are engineered aborad by foreign companies starting from japanese Aisin gearboxes in Ford and ending with german engines in Gm products.Have you ever asked yourself how come, that a 70k corvette interior is far worse than 14k Chevrolet Leganza interior? Simply ask who really engineered them……….

  • avatar
    jurisb

    A hypothetical news. Toyota is launching a new entry-level midsize sedan next year. it will be based ona german engineered VW platform. Tranny will come from peugeot, while the engines will come from Toyotas own 1.8 liter to VW 2 liter to Peugeot 3 liter engine.Chassis comes from VW Passat but will be slightly tuned at toyota engineering centre in California.The car will roll off the new VW -Toyota joint assembly where the new Passat will be assembledas well.
    Now, a question for A+. Why this hypthetical piece of news is impossible and what it has to do with Toyota`s success?

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    … It seems easy to ignore the positive things that have happened at GM and a rudimentary understanding of the human condition would tell you that they have done some remarkable things with the limitations they have had, …

    What limitations? They used to have 50% of the market. They were the biggest most profitable corporation in the world.

    They’ve lost more than half their market share in 30 years. Remarkable.

  • avatar
    akear

    A few years back there was an editorial in one of the major English car magazines concerning the superiority of Asian interiors. The author stated that the Japanese experience in producing precision knobs and controls on consumer electronics played a big role in this advantage. The radio controls in a Lexus have always reminded me of a high-end Sony stereo system.

    When the US lost its consumer electronics industry they lost a valuable skill.

    The Asians carmakers look at car interior as an extension of high quality televisions and stereos you have in your living room. In Detroit car interiors are seem as an appliance, where aesthetic are sometimes secondary. A decade ago a GM executive was asked about GM’s cheap buttons, and the reply was, “a button is a button, what is the big deal”. It did not even occur to this executive that quality mattered in this area.

    Why does the new Malibu still have those cheap looking pixilated dots on the radio interface? On a Toyota they use LCD displays, not a cheap pixilated interface. If the sun shines on the radio you can even see the circuit board glaring through. They had a similar setup on my old 1995 Skyhawk.

    GM’s interior quality is now mediocre to fair and now they declare victory. This illustrates GM reduced expectations, which is another problem entirely.

  • avatar
    skor

    Remember that kid from high school who was a pain in the ass, jerk? Well, I’ll bet that today he’s a fat, balding, pain in the ass, jerk. A minority of people, with serious character flaws, have life changing experiences, that lead to an epiphany. They undergo meaningful, and lasting life, changes. Most other people just remain pain in the ass jerks until their dying day. Corporations are defined as fictitious persons, that’s why they are called business entities. These entities, just like real people, have characters(corporate cultures). As with real people, it is nearly impossible to change character. This is why GM is toast. GM’s corporate culture is poisonous, and so pervasive inside the company, that the only way to change things is to fire at least half of its current management. That ain’t gonna happen. GM is not going to have an epiphany, in either case, it’s too late for that. It’s too late for new interiors. Next stop, scrap metal dealer.

  • avatar
    Ingvar

    “On the subject of interiors, what’s with this fixation on panel gaps? Why shouldn’t there be spaces between them?”

    Because panel gaps are an easy tell-tale of the overall quality of the car. There’s no car that can do without them, though the tell is the tolerance between the gaps, how wide they are and how well they are aligned to the whole of the car.

    As said, there’s no car that can do without them, but there’s a million ways of dealing with the problem, where a lot of quality and care goes into how those problems are dealt with, and how it is actually seen from a distance those makers that don’t really give a shit about the problem.

    The W210 Mercedes are a good example, with huge and non-aligned gaps that wouldn’t have been accepted on earlier designs. The W210 does stand out as one of the worst Mercedes in case of overall quality.

    And it speaks tons of percieved quality when even cheap korean econoboxes have decent tolerances, while the US car makers don’t really care and haven’t done so for decades. What’s seen on Cadillacs is just not accepted on Lexuses and Benzes.

    Though it isn’t an american problem per se. On my Citroen DS, the gaps are a problem, due to the problem that the structural parts of the car are built up like a spaceframe, where all the panels are bolted on non-stressed parts. All four doors, hood, trunk, fenders, quarterpanels and roof does have to be individually adjusted, with shims on every bolt. Stripping a car and building it up again is a hell of a job. Align something right, and all the other panels will have to be re-aligned to the whole. A well aligned Citroen DS is very rarely seen…

  • avatar

    There is a practice in vehicle manufacturing called “tolerance stacking”. Essentially, it’s how a ringer for journalists is made. Or if you confront a company, it’s how they build race vehicles (same difference). What happens is that on the assembly line, the workers pick out the best pieces that are closest to the perfect tolerances, and put them aside. These choice cuts are used to build the ringers, which are often fettled with on top of having the best bits. It’s an open-secret that journalists get ringers all the time; there were some cases in the 80s with motorcycles that were actually stripped and rebuilt by a team of top mechanics right before the journo got his grubby meathooks on it. It’s why the Suzuki RG500, which has been considered a mediocre attempt in hindsight, got rave reviews at the intro – the bikes were specially prepared to such an extent that they didn’t even compare to the production model. Let’s not forget the Buick GNX either, that thing was a poster child for journo ringers.

    The more you know… The less this stuff surprises you.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    This is precisely what happens when you fail to promote integrity in your corporate culture. This isn’t done by talking about it either.

    It’s done by rewarding the one who points out the emperor is wearing no clothes, and promoting the one who creates a good outfit for him in time for the next public appearance.

    GM, and almost every established organization over a couple thousand folks does just the opposite.

  • avatar
    jybt

    They…didn’t….know…there was a problem? What a bunch of lazy morons. You never read the hundreds of bad reviews on C/D, MT, TTAC, R&T, Edmunds, etcetera? You never listened to the millions of customers who said the interiors needed improvement? You didn’t look at the interiors yourself and ask how they could be improved? You actually had cash back then to spend on the interiors, so why didn’t you use it? It’s the most basic principle of business – to listen to your customers – and nobody seemed to remember it, and they now wonder why they need a federal bailout.

  • avatar
    Lokki

    You didn’t look at the interiors yourself and ask how they could be improved?

    You actually had cash back then to spend on the interiors, so why didn’t you use it?

    This actually demonstrates a more fundamental problem that may be insurmountable for Detroit.

    American engineers are trained:

    How can I make a component of equivalent quality while reducing the price?

    Japanese engineers are trained:

    How can I make a better component while not increasing the price?

    Neither engineer ever completely reaches his goal – over time, American quality creeps downward, bit by bit, while Japanese price creeps upward.

    Thus the Cadillac eventually becomes junk and the Accord becomes expensive. However, it’s easier to introduce a model below the Accord (first Civic, and now Fit) than to develop a model above Cadillac (ain’t none).

    Apply this thinking to interiors, and you can see the results.

  • avatar
    Jared

    I’m driving a brand new Toyota Corolla Rav4 rental at the moment. The good: gauges are very clear, easy to read day and night, and very attractive. The bad: most of the interior is very hard and unattractive plastic. The dash is made up of many different pieces, and the gaps and seams are not all that well aligned. The large, heavy, side-hinged rear door already clunks over large bumps, and this car only has 500 miles on it. The headliner is typical Toyota mouse-fur.

    While GM certainly has its problems, Toyota is far from perfect.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    Detroits interiors have improved only for one reason- all the industrial robots making the parts are import…

    Your “anything import is better” bias is rearing its head again. That statement quoted above is, as Spock would say, most illogical. Facts work better than emotion when you want to be taken seriously.

  • avatar
    Captain Tungsten

    Not that anyone here will believe it (even, apparently, mikey) but if you ever had your ass handed to you because of a deficiency detected in a rail head audit that was part of your responsibility, you’d realize that Agent X is way out of the loop, at least from the actual quality process. Maybe exec cars are ringers, maybe they aren’t, but they are certainly not part of the regular quality process. They have tons of data available to them. They know what they are shipping.

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    nino – recently test drove one. They were just as comfortable as Volvo’s thrones. It had the right amount of support and texture and they look good. Actually I can say the same with the rest of the interior as I like the refresh it got this year.
    I don’t (or hope I don’t) want to start a flame war, but I think out of the mainstream Japanese makers (not counting sub-brands like Infiniti, Lexus, and Acura…I’m counting Toyota, Honda, Nissan, and Mazda – the major players), Mazda uses the best materials. I have a family member with a new Mazda3 and I’ve driven enough Mazda3,6, Miata and RX-8s to make an opinion. Yes, all cars are loaded with hard plastic but I think Mazda’s doesn’t feel as hollow as say what Toyota has screwed into the Camry. I would have to put Honda as a very close second (and that’s were the S2000 wins out…it hasn’t had a major overhaul since Day 1 (just the 2006 minor refresh) – the materials are far better than current cars so the cheap-creep didn’t really settle in) and Nissan has finally started to use better materials. It couldn’t get much worse with the 2001-gen Altima and 1st Gen 350Z.

    I remember those god-awful GM interiors of even 15 years ago. Those were the dashboards with ribbon speedometers, banks of warning lights off to the side, orange fake wood, and acres of buttons that looked and felt the same.
    I still think their Hall of Shame (since 1990):
    1. The last gen Olds Toronado (sp?) with the strange touchscreen display that never worked
    2. The IP “wings” that Pontiac used to control things like wipers. They looked tacky and failed after a while.
    3. The steering wheels with dozens of buttons. From personal experience with a company 6000STE(SUX…sorry…couldn’t resist!), not all of them lit up.
    4. The pocket calculator sized A/C and radio units with what seemed like a dozen buttons per sqare inch. Don’t forget the tape deck way off to the side.
    5. The “why can’t they just rename it ‘auto lamp settings’” Twilight Sentinel knob.
    6. The floor vents on their body on frame trucks/SUVs that took up an insane amount of foot space.
    7. The HUD that never matched the dash speedo.
    8. The badge in the interior that told you what you were driving. It looks like GM even knew their cars looked alike!

    –and probably the worst crime done by GM while others ditched them…

    Their reliance on those unsafe and tacky looking door belts so they can be in compliance with the 1989-1990 safety standards. No one used them as they were meant to be used and after a short period of time, many of them became so loose that they provided no protection…and every time you looked left while driving, all you saw was door belt. How’s that as a safety feature again?

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    …and the next automaker that coats their interior with hard silver plastic and has the guts to call it “titanium-like trim,” they should be forced to sit in the corner until they realize how stupid such a concept is.
    Fake carbon fiber trim (like that stuff in the previous-gen Explorer) should result in a firebombing.

  • avatar
    dwford

    When it comes to interiors, Asian interiors aren’t as good as they used to be and American interiors aren’t as bad as they used to be. Yesterday I took in trade a 1996 Acura 2.5 TL. The interior was mint. Soft plastics everywhere, the leather was perfect, everything was solid and fit together perfectly. Contrast that with the 2009 Honda Pilot I drove a couple weeks ago – cheap, depressing gray plastic, rock hard, that squeaked and flexed when touched. Or compare an old Corolla interior to the new Camry. Shocking how far Toyota has fallen.

    As for American interiors, GM has by far come the farthest. Compare an old GMC Envoy interior to the new Acadia. or an old Caddy Seville to the new CTS. Fit and finish are miles better, styling is better, most plastics are better.

  • avatar
    weavermiami

    It seems that my Golf is upset at me for the post I made earlier about his interior and now has refused to start. So I publicly apologize. Please don’t be mad at me. Maybe I’ll even use a little Armor All on the dash today?

  • avatar
    commando1

    I’d kill to have the interior of my 2006 Infinity Q45 back. That interior should be a Harvard Business School Case Study. I could sit there for hours and see details that I never would have thought of.

    But what does this have to do with this topic? Simple. I’m willing to bet my house that top execs at the U.S. companies never drove one of these for a week, let alone one hour.
    Instead of being chauffer driven to hand assembled ringers, they could have been test driving one of these and then exclaiming ” %^$#-!!! THIS is what we should be designing”.

  • avatar
    vento97


    weavermiami :
    March 22nd, 2009 at 10:57 am

    It seems that my Golf is upset at me for the post I made earlier about his interior and now has refused to start. So I publicly apologize. Please don’t be mad at me. Maybe I’ll even use a little Armor All on the dash today?

    I have a 1997 Jetta with 290k miles and a solid interior, headliner, etc.. I did my research on the pre-1996 OBD-I models and they had interior problems. They also had coolant-related problems (radiator, heater core, etc.) since they were using the old glycol-based coolant and eventually the G-11 blue coolant.

    The mid-1996 and newer VWs use the infinitely-improved G-12 (red) coolant. I haven’t had any coolant-related problems to date on my 1997.

    But then again, I tend to purchase vehicles that are near the end of the production cycle – to make sure most of the bugs have been worked out…

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    GM now has the better interiors on most of there 05 on up products. I couldn’t believe how crappy the interiors were on litterally every Chrysler product I sat in from Caliber to Charger. Ford was better but still a couple of recent 2010 Fusions had door armrests that were collapsing due to lack of padding inside, glove boxes with no finish work that showed were the dash was cut out to allow for the door to close, recycled garbage fake cloth seat material with several mistakes in the stitching and the worlds cheapest glovebox door plastic on the Grand Marquis that I have ever felt.

    Look at the interior of a current Malibu, Impala, Lucerne, G8, 2010 Equinox, any current truck or SUV, the Enclave and so forth and it’s interior is of better quality with more precise fits than the other two American manufacturers.

    My 2008 Impala with 47K miles does not have a sigle interior rattle, the dash and glovebox lines up perfectly, the doors close with a nice thunk, everything lines up the way it should, knobs and controls are better thought out and easier to reach than the new Accord and I am hard pressed to find any flaws inside. I was able to find 3 Fords and 5 Chryslers in one day with many interior flaws and cheap interior plastic.

  • avatar

    What secret ? Spend as little money as possible. If the car makers spent on the interior 1/3 of what they spend on incentives, the car’d not need them.

    Walk around a car show. Go from Aveo to Acura, BMW to Cerebus. There is a finite amount of answers to the question, and it all breaks on style and quality. It is, however, quite clear that until you get to the top, we ARE making it cheap and you will notice.

    It’s really funny when you see the same “style” in cars up and down the line. Best was an Infiniti a few years ago that did wood grain, leather, sport silver trim, and carbon fiber, on the “do it all at once” plan.

    The difference to produce the cheap car vs. the luxo ride is not so great, but the product has been very carefully metered for a long time. They knew how to get you to pay (still do, if you are a german car company)and made sure that the lines didn’t cross. When everyone else followed GM, this de-facto marketing partition worked very well.

    Knowing how little you have to give to the market is no longer a valid business plan. You can’t get them to go Chevy-Pontiac-Olds-Buick-Caddy anymore.

    At the NY car show, the new Camaro was open, and very pretty, moreso than in pictures. The interior needed a few more dollars. I know it’s not an S classe competitor, but it reminded me of the old days, not in a good way. It even had the F-Body door crash, which you think could be cured. Oh well, a set of glass packs and you’ll not hear the plastic.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    “Akio Morita, the founder of SONY, installed B&O hifi equipment in his homes and office, to challenge his engineers in the 60s and 70s. It worked then.”

    Really? Ever compare any speaker Sony has ever made to anything produced in Denmark? There’s no comparison.

  • avatar
    tscurt

    A-HA moment: a local dealership had a pretty much base Malibu in the showroom parked aside a black-on-black full tilt Z06. You could stand between them. Both had the same steering wheel.

  • avatar
    JEM

    There are a few GM cars that are, relative to their price points, quite good on interior design and material quality. The current CTS, the GMC and Buick big crossovers (even the Saturn’s okay), the Malibu’s very good if you stay away from gray.

    You can watch the progression of material quality and design in the Cadillac line from the first-gen CTS through the STS and SRX to the current CTS and they’ve clearly gone in the right direction.

    And if you’re carping about the C6 ‘Vette you need to look at the price point. It’s a vast improvement over the C5 (which other than its Tupperware seats was a substantial improvement over the C4, which was no improvement at all over the C3…) Should GM just say ‘screw it’, jack up the ‘Vette price $20K and put F430-quality trim in the thing?

    But…the sharp pencils got to the Chevy Traverse, same platform as the Envoy and same division as the Malibu but the interior materials are awful. Can someone explain to me what brilliant planner decided GM needed to build the Traverse in a different plant from the other big crossovers? I guess four years ago it really looked like they’d need that much capacity, but you’d think someone would have been bright enough by now to build enough flexibility into the tooling…

    And yes, there’s a lot of other crufty interiors in the company’s products too.

    If I ran an automaker the only people that’d have drivers would be the product managers responsible for the cars we sold into the taxicab market.

  • avatar
    dolorean23

    A few examples of the Potemkin village, courtesy of wikipedia:

    - The Theresienstadt concentration camp, called “the Paradise Ghetto” in World War II, was designed as a concentration camp that could be shown to the Red Cross, but it was really a Potemkin village: attractive at first, but deceptive and ultimately lethal, with high death rates from malnutrition and contagious diseases, and it ultimately served as a way-station to Auschwitz-Birkenau.
    - Gijeong-dong, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea)
    - Following the Manchurian Incident, and China’s referral of the Japanese occupation of Manchuria to the League of Nations in 1931, the League’s representative was given a tour of the ‘truly Manchurian’ parts of the region. It was meant to prove that the area was not under Japanese domination. Whether the farce succeeded or not is moot; Japan withdrew from the League the following year. [7]
    - It was said of Beijing in an article on 08/12/2008 in the Evening Standard in the United Kingdom, that “the entire host city has been turned into a kind of Potemkin Olympic village”.

    And the band plays merrily on….

  • avatar
    Maxseven

    I agree with some of the previous comments as to what defines a quality, aesthetically pleasing, ergonomic, craftsmen styled interior. It is all in the details, material choices, color combinations and soundness of the construction. I definitely put the interior of a car way above anything else and I am happy to pay extra for having it. I also prefer to have a great deal of complexity to the interior (ala command bridge); The controls, displays, buttons, lighting, sensors etc., and have no tolerance for anything that has been designed to look like a Fisher Price toy, or to cater to people that have bad vision, are over-weight and suffer from fumbling fat fingers. I protest against design conventions for the “What are all those flashing lights and whirly-gig do-dads all over the dash – I can’t see!” type of person. And I certainly don’t want an interior designed for the obtuse. I want maximum technology, gauges, style and comfort. Unfortunately, some of the latest offerings from Honda suffer from this ‘dumb it down’ design practice — bad move Honda and I hope this does not spread to other Japanese auto makers.

    The only time simplicity works for me, is in heirloom quality vintage cars, with exquisite REAL metals, wood, leather and glass adorning the interior space.

    Here are some examples of modern car interiors that are among the best…

    http://www.motortrend.com/roadtests/suvs/112_0712_2008_infiniti_ex35/photo_03.html

    http://www.automobilemag.com/reviews/driven/0903_2009_aston_martin_dbs/photo_01.html

    http://a332.g.akamai.net/f/332/936/12h/www.edmunds.com//media/roadtests/spinaroundtown/02.bmw.530i/02.bmw.530i.int.500.jpg

    http://www.motortrend.com/photo_gallery/112_0804_2009_toyota_venza_photo_gallery/photo_15.html

  • avatar
    highrpm

    Interesting to re-read this article since it showed up in the Top Articles section, except this time around knowing that GM has gone bankrupt and is making a comeback on my taxpaying dime.

    Yes, the interiors are crap. The public is not blind. Maybe they’ve gotten better, but the competition has improved as well.

    The perception gap is real. What it means is that folks inside GM believe they make great cars, when the bankruptcy is proof that they do not.

  • avatar
    cheezeweggie

    GM execs think all cars are built like golf carts. That’s because that’s where they spend most of their time.

  • avatar
    Jim Cherry

    Robert is spot on with this critique. Accountants don’t build good autos. Japanese car companies are usually helmed by engineers while our domestics are run by accountants. GM’s culture has to change from the top down. http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-6882-Classic-Autos-Examiner~y2009m4d17-GM-near-bankruptcywhat-happened


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