By on April 20, 2006

 The ancient Greeks knew the truth: character is fate. If Oedipus hadn't been such an asshole he wouldn't have killed his father, married his mother and kept psychiatrists busy for centuries. By the same token, if Rick Wagoner wasn't a corporate narcissist, he would've completed the Herculean tasks left by his predecessors. GM's CEO would have cleansed The General's stable of excremental vehicles, severed its eight-headed brand portfolio, subdued the UAW's cretinous bulls and sent Cerberus packing. Instead, we get to watch Rabid Rick's company sink into the mire, bribing a financial journalist and engineering a sports car whose roof flies off at 60mph. To wit:

Robert B. Reich is a journalist and commentator who once worked for President Clinton in the Labor Department. He currently enjoys a regular slot on NPR's nationally-syndicated "Marketplace" program. On Wednesday, Reich announced that he'd been approached by a "public relations firm working for General Motors." Reich said the flack asked him to praise GM's buyback deal for its workers. He then offered to pay Reich "remuneration" for a positive story "out of respect" for his reputation. Reich declined the unspecified offer.

The man attempting to bribe the twenty-second United States Secretary of Labor was Richard Strauss of Strauss Media Associates of Washington, DC. According to the company's website, Strauss Media uses its "integrity, perseverance, and skill" to help clients "realize the power and influence of radio." The PR company's client roster includes Nike, Eastman Kodak, Coca-Cola and General Mills. Although Strauss Media Associates doesn't list GM as a benefactor, a description of recent projects includes work on the Saturn brand's Second Annual National Donor Day.

Marketplace's host Kai Ryssdal confirms the connection. In a phone interview with TTAC, Ryssdal said Richard Strauss personally set-up a recent radio interview with GM CEO Rick Wagoner. When I asked if the show's producers investigated Reich's claim that he'd been bribed, Ryssdal said they had. According to Ryssdal, Strauss backpedaled furiously; calling the offer a "misunderstanding." Ryssdal also said the program had spoken directly to GM's new PR Supremo, Steve Harris. Harris said he never authorized payments to "sympathetic journalists." When Reich's damning piece aired, GM and their Washington PR firm remained silent.

So, The General's own PR firm didn't have enough confidence in the value of GM's employee buy-out plan to let a journalist draw his own conclusions. Clearly, the General's generals feel embattled and desperate. And why wouldn't they? What has their imperious leader said or done that would lead them to believe that GM is a company that deals with its problems head-on?

Meanwhile, on the same day, Sprite2005 posted two pictures of his semi-decapitated C6 on a Corvette forum, with an accompanying explantion. "I still can't believed this happened. Had just shifted out of first @ around 6900-7000k, hit 2nd and hear a loud crack, pull over and my roof is missing…" Sprite2005 is not alone. On the 23rd of February, GM sent out tech bulletin number #05112A, which states the following.

"On certain 2005-2006 Chevrolet Corvette vehicles, the painted roof panel may separate from its frame in some areas if it is exposed to stresses along with high temperature and humidity. The occupants of the vehicle may notice one or more of these symptoms: a snapping noise when driving over bumps, wind noise, poor roof panel fit, roof panel movement/bounce when a door or hatch is closed, or a water leak in the headliner." Dealers should "apply adhesive foam to ensure proper adhesion, or in a small number of vehicles, replace the roof panel."

Although the defect doesn't appear to affect the Corvette's structural integrity, an airborne roof panel raises some pretty major road safety issues. Equally important, the situation does nothing to bolster GM's supposed reputation for improving build quality– or the company's willingness to accept responsibility for customer concerns. Notice that the notice says the roof may become separated 'in some areas,' blames "stress, high temperature and humidity" and recommends replacing the roof panel "in a small number of vehicles." If that attitude isn't familiar to disgruntled GM owners, perhaps this [unedited] response is:

"I can't believe how many of you people are actually defending this and saying its not that big of a problem," writes forum member Sweetvet. "The mans roof flew off his brand new $75K car- thats a pretty big friggin deal to me- I would be livid, and would ensure this car was bought back by GM, and would never buy another GM product again. God, I'll be glad when my corvette is sold so I can get back into something with build quality- something (anything) German"

GM's first quarter losses less than last year? So what? As long as Rabid Rick Wagoner is tempting the fates, GM's is sealed. Ipso facto.

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