By on January 20, 2016

Chevrolet Aveo Roja Victoria 2015

General Motors CEO and Chairwoman Mary Barra defended Wednesday her company’s decision not to put airbags in some of its cars in international markets.

“In many of those places the technology is available and it’s a customer choice if they want it,” Barra said, according to the International Business Times. “There’s many cases where we are well above standards, but we also have to look at affordability otherwise you cut people out of even having the availability of transportation.”

Barra made the remarks in Davos, Switzerland, which was a response to a letter sent to her last year by consumer advocacy groups in the U.S. — including Consumer Reports — requesting the automaker standardize safety features in its cars worldwide.

In her opening remarks, Barra said that automakers could save money by adopting similar safety standards in worldwide markets:

“Right now the industry faces country by country differences that require different technical solutions, different validation solutions — if we can globalize that, because after all a person is a person, it allows the cost of implementing that technology to come down, allowing it to be made available to more people across the globe. So there is a huge benefit from globalizing safety standards.”

She then defended governments’ rights to enforce different safety measures in its cars, and GM’s ability to meet those standards, whatever they are.

“We need to respect all governments — who is say which government is right (in) the commonization of safety standards, because there’s huge variation even in developed markets that drive costs,” she told the International Business Times.

So, wait. What?

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115 Comments on “GM’s Barra Defends Not Equipping Some Global Cars with Airbags...”


  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    She’s right.

    My prior comments on this subject: http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/12/mexican-chevrolet-aveo-zero-star-safety-rating/#comment-7007409

    This is not GM’s problem.

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed. It’s that region’s government’s responsibility. The onus lies on them.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        “We need to respect all governments — who is say which government is right (in) the commonization of safety standards, because there’s huge variation even in developed markets that drive costs,”

        Yup, we will respect the lesser safety laws of a country especially if it makes us a profit.

        • 0 avatar
          FOG

          Yes, profit is such a bad thing. Why can’t businesses just sell things at cost. Car companies get sued by people injured by airbags because they disable the seatbelt warning sound and don’t wear a safety belt.

          Laboratory tests show that airbags can break the driver’s nose, even blind them, in bumper bender accidents.

          Basically a group of pompous U.S. citizens want U.S. auto manufacturers to bear the burden of making sure that every country in the world complies with their definition of safety.

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      From a legal perspective, I agree. But I wish GM and Barra thought about it from the perspectives of reputation and engagement.

      Does she want to be the CEO of the company that caters to certain markets with marginally safe vehicles, or the one that sets a global standard for safety, regardless of whether the buyers are Mexican or Canadian?

      Does she want her employees to work at the carmaker that is #1 in saving lives, even when it costs them money? I know I’d work a lot harder for that company.

      Given how international the world is, does she want most immigrants to the US to think that Chevys are crappy and unsafe, because that is what they grew up thinking?

      Lutz used to go around saying he wished that GM had developed the Prius, if only because of what it has done for Toyota’s reputation. Here is Barra’s opportunity to do something similar for GM. Let’s see if she can break they cycle of incompetence that has ruled GM for 40 years.

      • 0 avatar
        RobertRyan

        She is doing a marvellous job at bringing the reputation of GM even lower.. Maybe a Chinese company can hire her as they would love her ” profits before safety” attitude

      • 0 avatar

        In 3rd world countries, where people can barely afford a car, the price of an airbag could easily make them noncompetitive and cost them sales.

        Also, given the transportation systems and vehicle stock in a lot of those countries, a new vehicle without an airbag is probably still considerably safer than what most people are driving. Especially since there is a huge industry of exporting totaled cars from first-world countries to those countries and duct-taping them together.

        • 0 avatar
          VoGo

          Anthony,
          Your argument is that people in the middle class can afford $7,000 for a car without airbags, but can’t afford $7,300 for a car with airbags?

          Seems unlikely. Besides, no one is saying that consumers in developing countries are forbidden from buying cars without airbags. We are asking one company – GM – to provide a global standard of safety features which add minimal cost, but can really improve GM’s reputation.

        • 0 avatar
          HotPotato

          Trouble is, some other designs in these markets–even ones designed decades before and priced lower–still pull decent safety scores without airbags, whereas the Aveo without bags is an excellent way to visit the morgue early. I’m thinking Mexican Aveo vs Mexican Nissan Tsuru here.

          So there is no excuse for GM’s behavior. Build it with bags standard, or build it so it’s reasonably safe without them, but don’t just sit there doing neither and pretend nothing can be done without harming the consumer; that’s simply BS.

          This is the same company that deleted roof strength components from overseas market Cruzes and deleted side-impact bars from US rental Impalas. They do it when they can, because they can, to make more money and for no other reason. It’s beyond sleazy.

      • 0 avatar
        RideHeight

        @VoGo
        60 years of ham-handed indoctrination to make Americans feel responsible for the world’s luckless and stupid in all their billions is being scoffed at by this shameless hussy.

        • 0 avatar
          VoGo

          One more time for the few who struggle with reading comprehension:

          The request to GM that they apply a global standard for safety is intended to INCREASE their profitability.

          It’s not to assuage liberal guilt, advance noblesse oblige, strengthen bureaucracy or confirm any other strawman you may have.

          And calling a CEO “shameless hussy” doesn’t reflect well on you or this site.

          • 0 avatar
            RideHeight

            “The request to GM that they apply a global standard for safety is intended to INCREASE their profitability.”

            And yet:

            “Does she want her employees to work at the carmaker that is #1 in saving lives, even when it costs them money? I know I’d work a lot harder for that company.”

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            Higher material costs for airbags, but higher prices charged for better reputed product, built by more motivated, productive employees. Get it now?

          • 0 avatar
            RideHeight

            “higher prices charged for better reputed product”

            In dirt-poor countries only getting poorer because babies… success!

            Because of you I can’t get the theme from Man from La Mancha out of my brain.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            You may be surprised at how large the middle class is in places like Mexico, Brazil, India, China, Indonesia…

          • 0 avatar
            RobertRyan

            It is huge. They would not be impressed by a CEO who thinks they are ” Untermensch” Barra’s attitudes could well and truly lead GM to the edge again.

          • 0 avatar
            RideHeight

            “You may be surprised at how large the middle class is in places like Mexico, Brazil, India, China, Indonesia…”

            What do real middle classes have to do with entry level little crapster cars?

            And a real middle class can demand and support government agencies that will protect them from any chintzed-out safety hazards that concern them. Let those do the work in their respective countries, not “consumer advocacy groups in the U.S.”.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        @VoGo: It is not GM’s mission to set a standard for safety, and it doesn’t need to be.

        Consumers in other countries have their choice of other ‘safer’ cars – how are Volvo, Mercedes, or Subaru doing in Mexico? These mfrs have promoted safety for years, yet none of them is a top seller, even in the US.

        Not all consumers rank safety as their top priority, no matter what country they hail from.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        “Dear poor person –

        Keep riding that scooter or a Tuk-Tuk, because rich Americans think you’re too stupid to make the choice to have or not have an airbag and all the expense that goes with it.

        Or, let’s be realistic, you’re just going to buy some other non-GM car that because of this costs a lot less.”

        I mean, news flash time: *The cars of the third world* are “crappy and unsafe” by American standards (and a Global Chevy with belts and no airbag is probably safer than any car on the market in 1975 … or possibly 1990).

        Safety and quality cost money, and “any car” is better than “no car”, which is the alternative.

      • 0 avatar
        saskp

        IMO, it simply does not matter from a PR perspective – even if it does, the impact vs cost is near zero. Mexicans don’t care if their vehicles don’t have these safety features and Canadians don’t care if Mexicans have safe cars or not.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I also agree but internally it should be approached as such: “Global Safety Spec” and “Custom”. I highly doubt you will get all nations to agree on a global spec but if you can get say half on board you standardize half of your global production with only outliers left for your “custom” configurations.

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        This is pretty common in the pharmaceutical industry, where the vast majority of nations follow either US or EU approvals.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I didn’t know that, thanks for the info. I was trying to look at it from a software perspective.

        • 0 avatar
          Jeff Waingrow

          Good luck with that. If you only knew the kind of crap generic makers in India and China pawn off on Africa and elsewhere, you might think differently. In fact, many generics from these countries have been banned from the EU for various failings. For the TTAC community: it would be worth Googling “authorized generic” to improve one’s chances of getting safe drugs. Info can also be found at the FDA’s web site.

      • 0 avatar
        RobertRyan

        Agree. Barra is selling models, that are sold Globally. Too say that the same model is less safe, in some markets, is a terrible message to convey about the Company

      • 0 avatar

        We are already over half way there… almost all non US / EU market specs are just slightly different versions of FMVSS or ECE specs. The trick will be getting the Germans ERRRRRR the EU to commonize with the US.. Its obviously possible… look at the Focus RS – truly a global car – but at a rather steep price point.

        Sadly, Barra works for the share holders and the share holders are not in the business of exchanging dividends for airbags in BRIC countries.

        • 0 avatar
          VCplayer

          DrunkMike gots this.

          Barra’s job is to make the company money. Standard airbags would necessitate an increase in price that would hurt sales via competitors. When these countries want to standardize airbags in cars, GM can help. In the meanwhile they have to keep costs competitive to stay in business.

          GM’s a business, not a charity.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            No one is arguing that GM is a charity. I am arguing that GM would make MORE profits by providing a minimum standard for safety globally, as this would enhance their brand, hence their margins.

          • 0 avatar
            VCplayer

            @VoGo

            Maybe, but that’s a really difficult thing to determine.

            One of the reasons these countries are poor in the first place is due to the lack of available education. Consumers with less education tend to base buying decisions are simple criteria, such as need and cost. Factors like safety are harder to sell for the manufacturers.

            Now maybe they can base their marketing on the concept of better/safer vehicles and have a lot of success doing that. Japan sure did in the US. That’s a huge gamble to ask a cooperation to take though on a market that is probably less inclined to be concerned about it.

            Edit: Looks of course matter a ton with young consumers in any country. The bad decision making that this drives also exists everywhere.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            “One of the reasons these countries are poor in the first place is due to the lack of available education.”

            This is a more likely reason:

            http://www.amazon.com/Confessions-Economic-Hit-John-Perkins/dp/0452287081

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            “I am arguing that GM would make MORE profits by providing a minimum standard for safety globally”

            Unlikely, otherwise GM would already be doing it.

            One of the factors is that someone who is killed in Mexico by a crumpling car won’t be able to sue for large sums, so there is no incentive either positively or negatively to bother adding such equipment as standard. The only things that will force change are: (a) consumers who vote with their money by not buying such cars or (b) laws that require safety equipment.

            And adding airbags won’t be enough. Those third-world cars don’t have all the structural reinforcements, either.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            PCH,
            Reasonable minds can disagree. My point is that this is a voluntary decision GM could take if it chose to lead on safety.

            I have traveled in about 20 developing countries in the last 5 years, and never did I see a BMW, MB, or Volvo that looked decontented from a safety perspective. Smaller? sure. Less luxurious? yes. But not less safe.

            Maybe they’re onto something.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Different price points. Not really comparable.

            For one thing, the volumes are probably not high enough to create a cheap-imploding-tin-can version. For another, the buyers are different; they are paying more and expect better.

            One thing that Latin NCAP is trying to do is to get ordinary people to care about auto safety. OEMs can’t get away with this stuff in the US (where airbags are mandatory) or the EU (where they are not) because consumers now know better. The word has to spread in order to move the markets if the governments refuse to act.

          • 0 avatar
            saskp

            The average customer in Mexico would rather have standard aluminum wheels instead of standard airbags even if they have a family of 4. The only way to make safety equipments popular in most developing markets is through legislation (see: Brazil and Argentina).

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I find it interesting Barra is in Davos, is it customary for GM to send its CEO?

  • avatar
    hawox

    car w/o airbags is still much safer than riding 4 pple on a mopped!

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    Well, they certainly “respect” China’s lack of environmental or labor standards to make cheap products for us and consumer advocates don’t seem to be saying much. So why the outrage over this? GM is really just being consistent with the tenents of the Global Economy religion. I mean, if we’re going to mandate that GM follow U.S. vehicle safety standards across the board, then make them follow U.S. minimum wage, hour, and environmental standards across the board as well.

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      SD,
      There is no such outrage. There is no such mandate. It’s a false strawman created by right wing zealots so they can whine about bureaucrats taking away their rights, destroying American business and degrading traditional values.

      • 0 avatar
        Superdessucke

        I almost hope that is the case because the position is very inconsistent logically with what has been and continues to be tolerated as to our treatment of the rest of the world. Unfortunately, my guess is that myopic and reactionary liberals who can’t think outside the box are behind this.

        • 0 avatar
          VoGo

          I suppose you could label Consumer Reports as myopic and reactionary liberals who can’t think outside the box.

          I mean, there was a dude on here yesterday who called Bernie Sanders a Nazi, so I guess anyone can label anyone else whatever they please.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            I’d vote for Martin O’Malley for POTUS because clearly he is the best candidate and most qualified to hold the job, more so than either of the other two. But O’Malley doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell to get elected.

            I haven’t seen anyone on the Republican side that stands a snowball’s chance in hell to get elected either.

            Bernie Sanders is more a Communist than a Nazi, but he can’t get elected. No Independent would vote for Bernie. Maybe Joe Biden will be a last-minute draft choice.

            I may have to vote for Gary Johnson again, as a protest vote.

  • avatar
    JuniperBug

    Are there seriously people out there who don’t understand why some markets have fewer safety features than others?

    Blindly imposing first world standards in lower-wage countries is simply going to restrict people in those countries from being able to afford a vehicle at all, with the result being less mobility and possibly being forced to choose even more dangerous transportation alternatives. A new car with no airbags or stability control is still preferable to riding around on a moped.

    There was a time, not all that long ago, when the richest nations in the world were wholesale dumping tonnes of toxic gases into the air while driving around in cars without airbags or other advanced safety features. It’s only normal that emerging nations are going to go through that same stage to some degree or other, and I bet that they’ll adopt safer, cleaner technologies a lot faster than it took the first world to develop them. Hell, 50cc scooters in Southeast Asia are already rocking fuel injection.

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      JB,
      I don’t think it’s a lack of understanding, but rather a different perspective.

      I’ve done consulting work for world class blue chips like J&J and Pfizer. These companies make a lot of money, more than GM can dream about. And while they’ve made their share of mistakes, at the end of the day, they are about commercializing medicines for people who need them. They take care of the customers, and the profits follow.

      No one at a J&J or Pfizer is going to say: “Hey, don’t worry about quality control on shipment 7486 – it’s going to Mexico, and they have lower standards there.” Everything they make is to the highest standards they are capable of, which is why patients pay extra for Lipitor or Remicade, even when they go off patent.

      People like me are asking GM to consider a global minimum for car safety that goes beyond what some nations require. We aren’t trying to impose American laws on other countries, and we don’t presume to know what’s right for them.

      • 0 avatar

        No one at a J&J or Pfizer is going to say: “Hey, don’t worry about quality control on shipment 7486 – it’s going to Mexico, and they have lower standards there.” Everything

        That might be true – but I promise you that is exactly what happens in the Auto Industry – Have an untried (non safety related) Technology – lets try it out in Brazil and see how it works. The profit margin is the traditional markets where they make bank… the BRIC countries can literally be real world test beds…

      • 0 avatar
        VCplayer

        “No one at a J&J or Pfizer is going to say: “Hey, don’t worry about quality control on shipment 7486 – it’s going to Mexico, and they have lower standards there.” Everything they make is to the highest standards they are capable of, which is why patients pay extra for Lipitor or Remicade, even when they go off patent.”

        Not really an equivalent example. This would be as though Lipitor was replaced with a new formulation that cost say 10% more. Regular Lipitor is no loner available in the US, but in Mexico they can sell both Lipitor and Lipitor 2.0.

        Now say the Mexican economy only makes the original Lipitor a choice for most people. Yeah, Lipitor 2.0 is better/safe/etc., but a lot of people wouldn’t have it at all if they didn’t make the original drug available.

        Now if the government wants to step in and change the standard, they can do that, but it isn’t anyone else’s responsibility.

        • 0 avatar
          VoGo

          It’s common for blue chip pharmaceutical companies to change formulations to improve the medicine and/or gain longer patent protection. But they don’t compromise the safety of their product for short term cost savings.

          Because they get the fact (which you don’t) that their brand is everything, and they do whatever they can to build that brand.

      • 0 avatar
        JuniperBug

        What’s the markup on pharmaceuticals? As I understand it, the markups are insane due to R&D costs, but the material and transportation costs of drugs are nearly negligible. I wouldn’t be surprised if it cost the pharmas more money to produce a second line of “substandard” pills for the poorer markets.

        With cars, where each unit has a substantial production cost (in addition to R&D costs), the margins are slim, and I suspect that the balance sheets look a little different, and airbags cost significant money, money that consumers often can’t afford to pay.

        Would the pharmas still do business if each additional unit sold in emerging nations actually cost them money?

        In any event, I think it’s misguided to equate pharmaceuticals to auto companies. Aside from a myriad of other imaginable differences, the pharmas are making substantial profits, while GM, along with Ford and Chrysler, are living in a reality where bankruptcy is a real possibility, to say the least.

        • 0 avatar
          VoGo

          Pharma isn’t a perfect analogy, for the reasons you suggest.

          But if BMW, MB and Volvo can sell safe cars in developing countries, at what I expect is much higher margins, then why can’t GM at least contemplate copying much more profitable companies in their own industry?

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            Volvo is a Chinese company. Before that they were a Ford subsidiary. Do you think every Geely sold in China is built with the safety standards of one of their cars that is badged as a Volvo and sold in the US?

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            Interesting point, CJ,
            No, I don’t think that Geelys sold in China are built to Volvo’s global safety standards, nor would I advise them to suddenly embrace those standards for Geely.

            What I would recommend is that Volvo continue to lead in safety, regardless of market, because safety is integral to its brand.

            This will complicate platform sharing for a while, but my expectation is that the Chinese car market will soon mature to world class safety and environmental standards. It is already the largest market in the world.

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

            Lol @ vogo. You ask why three luxury carmakers can sell safe cars, but GM cant.

            Okay, so which BMW or Benz or Volvo is as cheap as the Chevy Sail (as its known in India I believe)? Oh, wait, this isnt GM selling ATSs without airbags for similar amount as a Euro luxury car maker, this is GM appealing to the low end of the market. People who can barely afford a new car at all. You or someone else said above that its “only $300 more” (paraphrasing). $300 is A LOT of money to these people. (Hell, it is to me too lol.) $300 could be the difference that puts them in a used junker instead of a new car.

            Oh, but the margins on luxury cars are high! Well, this isnt a fancy London department store, this is Walmart. Deriving profit for selling many copies of a product with a thinner profit line each instead of just a few at a higher margin. But, GM should do it because BMW does it, right? Nevermind that GM is catering to the entry level market while the examples you named are doing the opposite.

            To sell cars for a price inline with its main compeditors, it isnt fesable to eat $300 on every super low-margin subcompact you sell.

            Throughout all of your GM bashing, you fail to have harsh words for other car makers doing the same exact thing, some with cars far older design wise, and are less safe than the GM entries. Google Nissan Tsuru, for example.

      • 0 avatar
        Superdessucke

        If you are asking GM to consider a global minimum for car safety that goes beyond what some nations require, then are you also asking them (and other US companies) to consider a global minimum for wages and manufacturing emissions beyond what some nations require? If not why not?

    • 0 avatar
      saskp

      It’s not about being super evil and preventing the third world from having the latest safety technologies, it’s about their own set of market preferences. Surprise: believe or not, people in developing markets are actually capable of making their own decisions!

      In most developing countries, it’s easier to sell a set of 4 aluminum wheels for $2000 than a “Swedish safety pack” for $500.

  • avatar
    DubVBenz

    For all of you anti-government regulation nutters, here’s a more modern example of regulations dragging a company kicking and screaming into the modern era. For older examples, look at how they fought seatbelt and crash safety mandates. If it were cheaper to sell you a car with a dashboard made of repurposed rusty spears, they’d do it if it weren’t for safety standards.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      There’s currently a similar fight being fought (and mostly lost–it will change in my lifetime) over putting seatbelts in schoolbuses.

      Seating technology in school buses is currently at pre-WWII levels–it’s a lightly padded 1m-wide vinyl bench bolted to the floor. The interior of a bus is essentially a tin can going down the road. When a bus tips or rolls over (which is what happens when a vehicle is 8 feet wide and 10 feet tall), the only passenger without serious injuries is the driver, who has a belted air-ride seat out of a semi. Bus builders will fight to the death not to put any seatbelts in school buses because that would mean they could no longer advertise 3-across seating on one bench that barely fits 3 kindergarteners. And yet my father and other bus drivers are always complaining about how kids will never stay seated.

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        This is a very strange situation in the US. We parents are SO overprotective of our young with all the latest safety technology in our homes and cars. But then, we send them on school buses that truly scary without a second thought.

        And yet, the statistics I’ve seen show very few deaths of kids in schoolbuses, probably because they mostly run on 30 MPH roads.

        • 0 avatar
          Drzhivago138

          I don’t know how good/bad my school was for having lines of SUVs and minivans at 3:10 waiting to pick up their kids. I took the bus every day until I got my license, and there were streams of kids leaving by foot. I do know that there parking lot/curbs closest to school were absolutely off-limits to non-emergency or non-school vehicles. If you wanted to pick your kid up yourself, fine, you just had to make them walk to the far lot.

          To me, school buses were less scary and more tiresome. Both in the sense of, “I had a hard day at school, now I have to ride this dusty tin can home,” and, “it’s 2008, why are we using technology that’s 65+ years out of date?”

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            I’m not sure if the lineup of SUVs at 3:10 is more about safety, or more about mom showing off her new Escalade/GL/X5.

            In our family, it’s in a minivan, and it’s because we have to get you to practice on time.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            Haha, anyone in my town with a GL or X5 would not be the type to also have children. Escalade, definitely, because in my neck of the woods, nobody has any reservations that it’s anything more than a fancy Tahoe/Suburban.

            As for practice: My school was the only one in a town of >5000. If you have sports, they’re there.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        Whenever I think of seat belts in buses, I think of kids beating each other with the buckles.

        It’s bad enough without giving the little savages weapons.

        (I say this as someone who *remembers* what K-12 was like.)

    • 0 avatar
      Superdessucke

      I’d really like to make them comply with labor and environmental standards too while we’re at it. I know they could afford it and still remain profitable.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    For those who missed the original story, the crux of the matter is that to get airbags on an Aveo in Mexico requires a $2700 option package. The cost of providing the airbags alone is guestimated at $200-$300. The base Aveo runs about $8300, so adding standard airbags would hardly break the bank for their customers, while greatly enhancing their safety.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    I’ve read in the comments section of this website that everyone outside of the US has identical safety standards. Are you suggesting that this isn’t true and that those comments are false?!?!?!

  • avatar
    Hummer

    I don’t really see what the story is here, every single one of us have been in vehicles without airbags, and, as far as I am aware, we’re all still alive. This is NOT a matter of life and death, these cars are still safer than what we had in the 80s. They’re called supplemental restraints for a reason. If the consumers want these options, they can get them, nothing more to it than that. It would be nice if we had these options in the US.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I don’t think the airbagless Aveo is safer than “what we had in the 80s”.

      Well at least the Gamma II Chevy Spark/Daewoo Matiz was able to eventually garner an acceptable crash rating, perhaps there is hope for the Aveo (same platform).

      http://www.autonews.com/article/20140122/OEM11/140129973/chevy-spark-only-tiny-car-to-get-acceptable-rating-in-new-iihs-crash

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      Hummer,
      You can always remove own airbag if it’s so important to you to exercise this freedom. And, by your logic, since you once survived riding in a car without airbags, you are guaranteed to survive without one now.

      • 0 avatar
        Drzhivago138

        Here lies Hummer

        He died when his head cracked open on the dash after a texting driver ran a stoplight

        But he saved $2700

        So he won

        • 0 avatar
          Hummer

          Oh come on, steering columns are made to collapse on impact, steering wheels are made to be bent, dashes are plastic.

          Opting for not having airbags is a risk you take, I don’t believe you can make that risk analysis for everyone. A car without airbags is still safer for a family than a moped.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            “Dashes are plastic; therefore, you can’t possibly be killed when your head strikes one at 30 MPH.”

            Honestly, I don’t mind if people want to have a car that’s less safe if it means they can save money. If someone wants to do that, go ahead. But don’t act like the freedom to be more likely to die is a freedom that should be protected.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            I’m OK with people taking risks with their own lives; the problem occurs when they risk others, esp. children.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        In all seriousness I have known the offroader types to replace their steering wheels with airbag-deleted ones, but this was on 95 and earlier equipment. Volvo “people” are another group of enthusiasts who have engaged in this behavior, but of course the 200 ran long enough where many of them never came with an airbags in the first place as in this MY79 for example:

        https://c1.staticflickr.com/9/8453/8032781482_cb1b046346_n.jpg

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        Rates matter – he’s sort of arguing by anecdote, but he’s more accurately pointing out that everyone over 30 was in an airbag-less car as a kid – or longer – and we can *see* that they were not the revelation of safety that seatbelts were.

        (Also, Airbags are *known* to be a marginal improvement more than a Fundamental Safety Feature Without Which Cars Are Deathtraps.

        See http://www.usroads.com/journals/p/rilj/9709/ri970902.htm, quoting NHTSA reports.

        Seatbelts have an immense effect on injury reduction.

        Airbags? Not nearly as much, though usually not zero.)

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      Heh heh heh, and some people who had Takata airbags were killed by them.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Damned if you do…

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        7 people died from Takata airbags. 30,000 fewer people die annually than did 30 years ago driving in the US, mostly because cars are safer today.

        Where do you want to bet your life?

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          “Where do you want to bet your life?”

          Not in a vehicle with a GM ignition switch in it, fer sure!

          But in all seriousness, in my 70 years of living I have never been in any accident. Seriously.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            False equivalency. Just because a person has never been in an accident, does not in any way mean that they will never get into accidents, people in general will never get in accidents, or that safety equipment is unnecessary.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            If I live to tell about it after my first accident, I’ll let you know.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          A seat belt saved my life in 1997, if I had to choose between them I’d go with a belt over an airbag but prefer both.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            I saw a drawing once of an OSHA-equipped cowboy.

            It was the gawd-awfullest thing I ever saw – a horse with a metal cage all around it, the cowboy strapped to the horse saddle with a seat and shoulder belt, and airbags all around the cage.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            HDC,
            Are you 100% that this drawing was from OSHA?

            Because I’m guessing that the cartoonist didn’t work for the government at all. I bet he got paid by some people trying to eliminate protections for workers so they could make even more money. Is that possible?

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            The farm and ranch are about the only workplaces in the US where people can still get killed on a daily basis–and yet, we had the first widespread adoption of any kind of safety equipment (ROPS and shields). Because we realized that the freedom to get killed is not really a freedom worth fighting for.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            It was not a drawing from OSHA. It was a drawing depicting a cowboy on horseback enveloped in OSHA mandated safety requirements.

            I don’t know who the artist was.

            Drzhivago138, “The farm and ranch are about the only workplaces in the US where people can still get killed on a daily basis”

            My oldest son, along with his former father-in-law are in the beef business here in NM, but they no longer herd cattle on horseback. They now use old 4×4 pickup trucks, with seatbelts and airbags.

    • 0 avatar
      philadlj

      Airbags are only a good thing if you wear your seatbelt AND if they’re not faulty.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        Like Hummer, I remember cars without airbags. And since I have never been in an accident or collision, I am totally at the mercy of the manufacturer. You can’t ever tell until after you live to tell about it.

        OTOH, I know of people who before airbags were killed by their seatbelt when their guts exploded because of the seatbelt during a collision.

        • 0 avatar
          Drzhivago138

          So you’re saying we should never wear seatbelts either?

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            I think it should be a personal choice.

            All these safety devices mandated by the government are supposed ensure us a longer life.

            Yet when we live beyond 65 and the Medicare age, the government wants us to die sooner rather than later so it will not have to pay out social security retirement benefits or Medicare expenses. Plenty of precedence to draw on.

            Delve into the the Advanced Beneficiary Notice and the Medicare Guide if you want to know more.

            Infuriating topic for many over age 65! Let’s not go there.

            Ditto mandated automotive safety devices and emission standards.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      “every single one of us have been in vehicles without airbags, and, as far as I am aware, we’re all still alive.”

      This comment must be tongue-in-cheek, as it otherwise makes no sense whatsoever.

  • avatar
    Funky

    It is nice to see this topic is getting some “airtime”. And, it is good to see Consumer Reports is being proactive in bringing this to light. Too often do we easily dismiss the safety, health, and welfare of fellow human beings just because they are not amoungst the privileged few. GM’s approach to this says a lot about them as a company.

  • avatar
    VenomV12

    She can argue all day that it is an option in some parts of the world and she is technically correct, but with the negative safety reputation GM has, it would probably be in their best interests to include them anyway. All this does is reinforce the stigma that GM doesn’t care about your safety.

  • avatar
    Big Al From 'Murica

    So what? Tata sells us blingtastic Jags and Land Rovers while pushing the Nano in their own home market which is abysmal when it comes to safety. Different Markets have different priorities and of course Tata is not GM sooo…

  • avatar
    Maymar

    Not to say GM’s unequivocally right, but why are they the sole target of this criticism? Nissan will, for not much less money than the stripper Aveo, sell you a brand new 25 year old Sentra that doesn’t offer air bags at any price. Not that the Aveo is the next coming of Volvo, but which of those two would you rather be in in an accident?

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Nah, fukk GM/Barra. This is simply an ethical question for a company with questionable ethics.

    “…otherwise you cut people out of even having the availability of transportation.”

    So for them, it’s “brand new” cars or NOTHING?? What a stupid thing to say.

    Just deleting the spare tire would be stink. I don’t know if anyone, anywhere should be buying a brand new car if they can’t spring for either.

    “We need to respect all governments…”

    No, governments aren’t telling you to delete basic safety, that’s you weaseling out of completing the car.

    If you, GM can’t otherwise “compete” in developing/3rd world markets, what the hell are you doing there??

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Would those in third World countries be safer with exploding Takata airbags? Exploding airbags might not be seen as a safety feature. Until the issues with defective airbags can be fixed it might be less libelous to not install airbags where they are not required. I am for global standards for safety and emission standards but only if they resolve any safety issues with the required components.

  • avatar
    mr_min

    Wow, this is such a beat up on GM, I don’t like to defend Barra, but all car companies operate the same way, so unless Government/consumer standards force a minimum specification, the almighty dollar will rule.

    And in the real world, Mercedes Benz, Audi and BMW continue to make customer pay extra for safety features in 1st world countries. They are not exactly leading the pack either.
    Go and look at vehicle configurator websites in Germany for the “Premium Brands” and you’ll find side airbags varying in price between 500-700 Euro…

  • avatar
    maxxcool7421

    Look this is all about equality. They want to KILL people with lack of airbags AND ignitions.

  • avatar

    To me, this perfectly sums up why GM will never fully regain public trust. Profit above Safety. Regulation above Innovation. Adherence above Leadership.

    Look, I understand that for 108 years GM’s real purpose has been to make money, not cars. But they made lots of money and became the world’s biggest company by leading in styling and engineering, creating products that consumers wanted.

    Alfred P. Sloan was a bean counter who may not have had an ounce of gasoline in his veins, but he understood that.

    Most of his recent successors, particularly starting with Roger Smith, have not had a clue. For over 30 years now, GM has just been stumbling along to keep up, and they’re not always trying. Even a near-death experience doesn’t appear to have changed that.

    No automaker is exempt from criticism, but GM’s indifference and lack of thinking about the opportunity here is particularly egregious. Barra’s canned talking points are rightfully criticized.

  • avatar
    WriteCodes46

    She argues that adding airbags would increase the price of the car, making it unaffordable to poor people. However, the base model of the Mexican Chevy Aveo currently sells for about $11,000 (right now it’s a bit lower due to the recent low exchange rate of the peso, but in terms of acquisitive power it’s about that), and the fully loaded model, which is the only one that comes with 2 front airbags and 3-channel ABS brakes (it doesn’t have seatbelt pretensioners, side airbags, traction control, passenger sensing system, tire pressure sensor, reinforced structure, etc), costs about $16,000. And the car is assembled in Mexico using cheap labor. By contrast, the base model of the US Chevy Aveo also sold for about $11,000, and it came with all the safety features mentioned above (plus 4-channel ABS brakes), and was assembled and imported all the way from South Korea.

    So, it seems the decision to sell the Chevy Aveo without any safety features in Mexico has more to do with profit margins (and taking advantage of nonexistent safety regulations) than keeping the price of the car affordable (which they did in the US with no problem). The European (made in Poland) Chevy Aveo was also a deathtrap, by the way: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2UGyCbp6iVs If they could get away with it, I bet GM would also sell these deathtraps in the US.

  • avatar
    tomLU86

    She’s right about the “affordability”.

    Also a little disingenuous about the “common standards reducing costs”. While this is true, common standards will allow EVERYONE to be more efficient and reduce the cost of air bags, etc. But every car buyer in poorer countries will have to pay more, because they will have to get air bags. They simply won’t as much more as they might have.

    Either way, how does commonizing standards, translate into more profits for GM? Won’t other automakers get the same break? Where’s the advantage?

  • avatar
    lon888

    GM ain’t the only ones doing this. In 2014 I rented a brand new Brazilian -built VW Gol in Mexico. No airbags, no ABS, no traction control, not even a seat belt warning light and buzzer. The engine was so basic it even had one of those funny little things called a distributor. It was cheap basic transportation – its only luxury was A/C.


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