By on April 12, 2011

As I’ve explained many times before, it can be very difficult to know when a recall is worth covering. Drawing too many conclusions from a single defect can be dangerous, as defects are a fact of any industry that balances quality and cost as closely as the auto business. But in this case, I’ve received enough emails about the video above that I’m willing to open a discussion about it here. But before you jump in, be sure to read the caveat after the jump.

Though it resulted in a tiny recall (just 2,500 Cruzes in the US and Canada were called back), the drama of losing a steering wheel on the freeway certainly seems to have captured the popular imagination. For the record, nobody has been injured due to this defect, and (high-minded debate in the Youtube comments section notwithstanding) this defect can not reasonably be blamed on government ownership or the fact that the Cruze is assembled by unionized workers. If you’re tempted to make a sweeping conclusion about anything based on this relatively small (and promptly recalled) defect, please take a look at those Youtube comments before you do, and remember that TTAC strives to host conversations that rise above the internet’s lowest common denominator.

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71 Comments on “How About That Crazy Cruze Steering Wheel Video?...”


  • avatar
    Sinistermisterman

    I blame Obama. And the UAW. And Aliens. And TTAC.

    • 0 avatar

      I blame Jellodyne’s cigarette (see below). And Boris and Natasha from the Bullwinkle show.

      • 0 avatar
        Domestic Hearse

        BORIS: You mean, that was not Schmittovich driving Cruise?

        NATASHA: Sabotage is sabotaged!

        MR BIG: You fools, you were supposed to take out truth and car blogging interweb people!

        BORIS: We will try again.

        MR BIG: Do more than try. Mr Antonov is not a patient man. He is in process of buying entire Saab company out from under Saab company, then shipping it back to Russia in submarine.

        NATASHA: Back to drawing board. This time, we will make pedal stick to floor and truthblogger will splat in wall.

        BORIS: Ha! Good one. Nobody have tried that before!

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-Iron

      The initial bailout came while Bush was still in office, so I blame him for some reason.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Bush gave GM and Chrysler bridge loans so that Obama could have a shot at saving them in exchange for Obama coming to him on his knees and agreeing to reverse his campaign promises concerning a trade agreement with Colombia. Obama’s backers didn’t want an FTA with Colombia because they are smart enough to shoot labor organizers there. Bush made his deal with the devil, but of course it turned out to not be worth it. How could restricted trade with Colombia cost us as much as having to perpetually fund the UAW?

    • 0 avatar
      Motorhead10

      Don’t forget to blame Toyota - 

      • 0 avatar
        HoldenSSVSE

        Clearly Chevrolet drivers are far superior to Toyota drivers. Losing their steering wheel on the highway they were able to bring the errant Cruze to a stop without twisting sheet metal and creating a firey Chevy vehicle of death (and thus also preventing the destruction of all evidence of what happened). They were able to do that despite the distractions of a grandmother, a mother, an 18 month old child, the Pope, and a very sick dog named Balto on its way to hydro-therapy from the injuries it received saving 1,254 Japanese school children during the earthquake by balancing each one on its head while paddling through surging water, upstream, both ways. Oh, and the car was a birthday gift to the younger woman from her father who’s last dying wish was to buy her a new Chevrolet.

        Toyota operators can’t even figure out what to do with a stuck floor mat, it requires a call to 911 and firey cars of ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        BLAME CANADA!!! (Totally NSFW.)  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vxPRHXgYVlk&feature=related

  • avatar
    Jellodyne

    I understand the steering wheel mount is made of high quality, soft touch material.

  • avatar
    toxicroach

    It’s a small recall, but the steering wheel falling off taps into the primal fear that your car might betray you in an even more dramatic way than unintended acceleration.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    Why was she pulling on the steering wheel? Was she trying to take off? I’m just amazed that a Chevy was delivered with such a good wheel alignment that this didn’t end badly.

    When the VW Fox came out around 1987, a few of my friends received them from their parents. They all had problems with the steering wheels backing off the column, but I don’t think any of them actually fell off.

  • avatar
    aristurtle

    Nothing that a little JB Weld can’t fix.

  • avatar
    dror

    This is not small, even if it’s “just” 2500 cars or so, it’s a shame that since Toyota massive recall, all car manufacture recall everything, like, trying to be honest with customers, so, in a sea of stupid recalls, here come a real dangerous one that some people call “small” as “not a big deal”.
    I just wonder how many Cruze owners are not even aware of this recall.
     

  • avatar

    Did the video really need to point out who was in the car?  Talk about going for the sympathy / shock points while also alienating people who already see the severity of such a problem without having to resort to that.

    Sad.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      A lone 30-year-old male attorney driver wouldn’t receive nearly as much sympathy.

    • 0 avatar
      tekdemon

      Well, if you said a convicted child rapist was in the car and died horribly because it fell off it might make the Cruze look like a hero lol.
      In all seriousness though it’s pretty horrible for the steering wheel to fall off at speed simply because your control options are basically reduced to the brake and praying.

      • 0 avatar

        …In all seriousness though it’s pretty horrible for the steering wheel to fall off at speed simply because your control options are basically reduced to the brake and praying.

        For those of us keeping score at home, it’s worth noting those are precisely two fewer options than were available to all those innocent victims trapped in careening Camrys and Priuses. Those drivers still had steering control… oh, and Neutral…

        And yet, I expect DaHood to remain oddly quiet on this one.

  • avatar
    redliner

    I happened to be driving by a wall-mart (hey, i can’t help it, their everywhere) an at that very moment, a minivan pulled out of one of their service bays, turned onto the roadway a few car lengths in front of me, and promptly lost it’s right front wheel, coming to a grinding, sparking stop. Being of the iPod generation I stopped and got out to see if I could help took out my cell phone and video recorded it. Different kind of steering wheel, but still…

  • avatar
    Samuel L. Bronkowitz

    Fair or not, it fits nicely with the image that many of us have with “Government Motors.” Unlucky PR for GM and Chevy (oops, Chevrolet).

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    I have sympathy for the cruise-people.  I once popped a wheelie on my bannana bike and the front wheel set itself free and rolled merrily away.  All good things having to come to an end, and my ability to sustain a wheelie being somewhat limited, I can tell you, when the front fork hit the pavement that was a nasty surprise… 

  • avatar

    turn, turn, turn…

  • avatar
    OldandSlow

    Race cars used to have this feature.  In theory it allowed one to exit the crumpled, burning wreck a little easier.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      In last weekend’s F1 race the driver’s handwheel came off and he went off course… saw this on cnn or bbc…

    • 0 avatar
      Highway27

      Most top-flight race series have steering wheels that come off the steering column for ease of entry and exit of the driver.

      The incident Robert Walter mentions tho is that Vitaly Petrov jumped his F1 car 3 feet in the air, and when it landed it broke the steering column entirely.

    • 0 avatar
      M 1

      Race cars still have this feature, and it’s actually because it makes it a lot easier to exit even when the car isn’t on fire. Think seats with high/hard bolsters, big roll cages, non-adjustable steering columns, small windows, bulky fire suits and helmets… not to mention harnesses, radio cables, cooling lines and other junk conspiring to entangle you.
      In a fire, the driver finds amazing new motivation to accomplish a rapid exit, and detaching the wheel may or may not play into the resulting gymnastic display.

  • avatar
    Jeffer

    Damn lucky the air bag didn’t deploy when the wheel detached, can you imagine the potential harm?

  • avatar
    hifi

    I’m not really clear what happened. The socket that the steering rack goes into is not cracked, so I don’t see that it broke off. Was it pulled off? Not that that’s acceptable either, I’d just like to understand if it was normal use or something else.

  • avatar
    Verbal

    OMG! WTF? LOL!!!
     
    Okay, now that I have that out of my system, this reminds me of a CRX I once had with an aftermarket Momo steering wheel.  It was feeling a little loose one day, so when I arrived at my destination I gave it a tug.  It came off in my hands.  That was interesting.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    If this happened to a Union rep. or politician, can you imagine the flame war that would erupt? It would make the other week’s flame war look like child’s play! Incidentally, I credit Ed with keeping the thread open and let that play out. Emotional as it was, it was reasonably civil considering what gets posted on other sites, and it was great fun to boot!

    Hopefully this is just an anomaly and due diligence will win out so it doesn’t happen again.

  • avatar
    HoldenSSVSE

    This is a safety feature. It allows for easy egress in the event of a major crash or fire, and prevents the steering wheel from trapping the driver in the unlikely event the cabin safety cage fails, we simply did not alert the customer to this new, innovative feature adopted from our years of supporting professional motorsports. Further, my legal department has asked me to point out that steering wheel did not fully detach, this is clearly evident by the fact that our quality wiring harness remains firmly connected, as you can clearly see in the provided video. Further claims that the steering wheel fell off will be met with swift action from Tesla’s lawyers.

    Next question please from up front…

    HoldenSSVSE
    Marketing weasel for 20+ years

  • avatar
    Jimal

    Did someone forgot to fasten the wheel to the steering shaft or did something fail? Either way, why pull the wheel off at speed? I’m sure it didn’t just pop off on its own. Those things normally take a puller (or in the case of a Volkswagen a bunch of wiggling) to get the wheel off the splines.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    This is probably akin to the Tundra camshaft issue (which affected a whopping 32 trucks): a small number of products, probably one bad batch.  Nothing endemic to the product.

    Can we not freak out, please?

  • avatar

    I am having a hard time figuring this one out too. 

    All the steering wheels I ever removed required enormous effort and some very old (but tough!) tools to remove. A mother/grandmother should not be able to removed the steering wheel.

    I wish we had a better view of the hub that attached the steering wheel to the column. It looks ALL chewed up, like somebody threading in a bolt on an angle (plenty of experience with that.)

    No doubt defects are going to slip through, but GM does not need this kind of negative publicity. They have to step up their quality control to ensure this kind of stuff doesn’t happen.

    • 0 avatar
      M 1

      Yeah, I’ve removed and installed plenty of wheels and if it’s pressed on even a LITTLE bit, it requires massive effort to remove. If it’s most of the way on, you can’t get it off without a puller (which involves a couple of bolts, a contraption for leverage and a wrench).
       
      I can’t even think of a way that the splines could become chewed up that way. Doesn’t make any sense at all.

      • 0 avatar
        hifi

        If it did come off while she was driving, I’m sure that she did attempt to shove it back on. That could have caused some of the chewed-up marks. The whole thing is odd.

    • 0 avatar
      Kevin Kluttz

      GM and negative publicity?  An oxymoron, I believe.  Their cars speak (again) for themselves.

  • avatar
    sitting@home

    My father was a metallurgist for a car company and told me a story where he had to find why steering tie rods were failing on a regular basis. It turned out someone had cranked up the thread cut on the rods by an extra turn so more would pass inspection and the extra thread made it slightly too brittle and the bolt slightly more likely to shear off. There must be hundreds of places in a car where just the wrong accumulation of intolerances could lead to something like this steering wheel falling off.

  • avatar
    eldard

    This is what happens when you badge-molest a glorious Daewoo Lancetti.

  • avatar
    tallnikita

    More Le-Mons!

  • avatar
    cheezeweggie

    The steering column appears to be made of the same white metal used to construct my sons hot wheel cars.  Fortunately because the part was bar-coded, they should easily tell which Daewoo-woo plant in Vietnam made the part.  Probably the same plant that makes the hot wheels cars.   Ultimately this means more used Chevy’s at a discount for those who cant afford something decent.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    I curious about one thing:  Will Congress be dragging GM execs to Capital Hill to explain how this could happen?
    Or not?
    Because this is pretty damn serious and if someone gets killed are we going to see the same feigned outrage and unbridled anger we saw over Toyoya’s gas pedals?
    I think not.

  • avatar

    Hilarious, until someone dies because of G.M.s poor engineering or assembly. Nothing like a door flying open in a crash either.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pBmv4ioyukY

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    Hello!

    I’ll admit that I was one of those who emailed.  Ed, thank you for taking our concerns to heart.  And yes, I wanted a conversation about this, but for many reasons:

    1.  I think this is an important issue, regardless of the number of cars being recalled.

    2.  I too look forward to learning what the cause of this is. 

    3.  At first, I thought it HAD to be an old urban legend come around again, or a faked problem; but I found numerous references in recent articles, including the Wall Street Journal Online.  Mostly, I was suspicious about the source beccause this story had not appeared in TTAC, or had not appeared at least as a link to a news story.

    4.  After I got over my suspicion of the validity of the story, my next feeling was disappointment that it appeared in the WSJ before appearing in TTAC.  For shame!

    5.  I understand Ed’s hesitation to report on every little recall thing.  But this was not a trim piece falling off or a missing turn signal bulb or paint blemish.  In my opinion, anytime a recall to prevent a potential catastrophic failure makes the WSJ, I think it can be considered newsworthy for TTAC.

    6.  Yes, GM “seems” to have quickly recalled it.  But did they get ‘em all?  I’m not confident that they did.  I have trouble believing that they’re disclosing the true impact and/or the true number of cars affected by this problem.  But I suppose time will tell.

    7.  Will GM be allowed to slide on this?  Luckily, nobody was killed.  Yet.  But if Honda or Toyota had a 2,500 car recall due to a safety issue, we’d probably hear wailing from the ivory towers in DC.  The government has a conflict of interest here.  They’re not gonna punish their own company, and that does all of us a disservice.

    And…

    8.  Basically, I’ve been bored to tears with TTAC content lately.  I’m a driver, not a watcher.  I couldn’t give a damn about these races between beater-looking cars, and I can’t care less to watch them in videos.  Aaaaah, torture!  Besides, I see too many beaters on the roads during rush-hour.  All too often, they cause me to miss the green light, which is really annoying.

    9.  Although it’s a very serious issue, I loved the humor and tongue-in-cheek posts in this thread.  Nicely done, BB!

    10.  I think it is legitimate to question the quality of a car company who’s owned by the government.  After all, those are my tax dollars (not) at work, and this angers me to no end.

    Thanks, Ed.  And thanks, BB.

    Be safe…

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    Having the steering wheel fall onto the lap of your wife or mother while your infant is in the back seat is a serious problem.

    The reason Toyota survived it’s problem is because most people trust Toyota after decades of worry free driving with millions of cars.

    The reason Chevrolet should worry is because most people do not trust Chevrolet after decades of problem filled driving with millions of cars.

    This horrible issue simply reaffirms the prejudices millions have towards Chevrolets. If GM had hoped this vehicle would be cross-shopped and win over competitors – that hope is dead.

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    Not the first Chevy to lose a steering wheel. A friend, while in grad school, was tooling down 494 beltway around Minneapolis when the steering wheel on his Chevy Beretta came off in his hands. Car was only a couple years old at the time, he was still making payments. Too bad there was no YouTube at the time. Dealer told him this wasn’t the first case he’d heard of with the Beretta/Corsica, but GM had no official position or recall of the problem. The internet sure lights a fire under OEMs to do the right thing and do it quickly.

  • avatar
    doctor olds

    This recall was not prompted by a quality failure of GM’s production manufacturing system. GM found one loose steering wheel and traced it to an in-plant repair in which  the originally installed steering wheel was replaced but the work was not done properly. The 2,000 some cars are almost certainly not all effected, but just captured by the wide net that would be used to make sure any car than had been or could have been reworked was checked. Most cars were probably still on dealers lots. GM is very, very agressive about any potential risk to safety.  

  • avatar
    GarbageMotorsCo.

    The GM quality we’ve come to know and love is no longer the distant memory that GM wants us to believe


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