By on December 13, 2008

“Yes, a long time. I’ve seen GM do a lot of things. Water pumps – massive failure in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Broken motor mounts  – when they failed the throttle would go wide open… a fun ride. Implementation of emission controls – the plugging of the vacuum lines to the EGR valves. IMHO this is where everything started going bad. GM cars began to have more driveability problems than ever before. Worse, problems became harder to diagnosis. We sold a lot of cars during the 70’s; some good, some not so good. The Chevy Vega was the worst. Then came the X cars and we lost all direction.

About 1982, I was talking to a GM rep. He said they expected a 30 percent major failure rate in that model year. I said, “You mean, if I have 1000 cars, 300 will need an engine or transmission?” He said yes, and I believed him. They knew they had huge quality problems, but viewed them as a cost of doing business.

There were terrible rust problems, worse on pickup trucks. Try and find an 83 on the road. Good luck. We had four cylinders (2.5) engine failure at lifter gallery: head gasket failures. 231 V6: timing chain failure. And I will never forget the GM V8 and V6 diesel engines– and not in a good way. The V8 required an overhaul about every 18 to 24 months.

Big money rigs would stick together. The V6 had more head problems than anything. Did you know if a shop rag is left on top of the piston of a V6 diesel and the engine fired up it looks like it is snowing inside the shop? True story.

Let’s not forget the GM metric thm 200; this underpowered transmission “powered” the Grand National. On the positive side, we had the bulletproof thm 400 (3sp) auto. Great trans! The thm 350 was also very reliable.

I did love the Buick Grand National and the GMC Typhoon. I’m not going to say they were reliable, but wow! Were they fassssssssssst.

Then came the mid-80’s. Talk about losing your way! We had transmissions that would not shift; when you take them apart, you couldn’t find any viable failure. The reps told of being in restaurants wearing the GM lapel pin and asked if they worked for General Motors. They’d respond that they worked for General Mills.

This was the time of the [Pontiac] Fiero. I considered it a modern-day Corvair; it leaked everywhere and would catch fire and GM did not know why.

The mid-80’s brought in electronic repair orders and the storing of repair histories. Most of the time, you still [to this day] had to keep a paper file on hand.

The 80’s also brought the famous “customer satisfaction index,” on which we are all rated and live and die by. They’ve revised it from time to time, but they always ask the wrong questions or make it too long or too confusing. And GM sends them all back to the dealer. I’m not sure if all they do with them is tabulate the score; I don’t think anyone at GM reads them. They want the dealer to handle everything.

I’ve worked in dealers with a poor score and ones with a very high score. It’s very hard to satisfy a customer that was stuffed into the car and can’t afford it or we can’t fix it… something that happened a lot during the 80’s. Not so much any more do we hear “the car is commercially acceptable” or “GM is aware of the problem and engineering is working on a fix”

The came the 90’s, and paint would blow off of your GM carwhile driving down the road. GMC had trucks that ran on natural gas; we could not fix them. Who can forget the 700r4 transmission? They lost the sun shell and then wouldn’t move. No reverse. Nothing.

These days, we have some very good and reliable vehicles. We still fix cars, but we don’t have the major failures that we had in the past. I feel that GM has a future– if we can get past this problem they are facing. How to do it? I don’t know.

And through all these years, one thing has remained constant: we still work on leaks, squeaks and rattles. These three complaints have remained consistent.

I’ve always worked for GM dealers. I’ve never owned any other vehicles but GM. I’ve  driven many types of other cars and see things on them that show up on GM cars about 5 years later. GM is always a day late and a dollar short.

This business has been good to me. I am not rich but have gotten by.

Do I think they should be bailed out? I’ve pondered this for weeks. My job depends on GM being viable. Part of me says help them out. But part of me says the marketplace must find it’s own level. I still don’t know. I do know no one from Congress or GM has asked me.”

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82 Comments on “Inside GM: “I’ve been working in parts and service in GM dealers since 1965”...”


  • avatar
    Dimwit

    Wow! And this is why we read TTAC.

    I remember overhearing a conversation between two guys about 15 years ago. They were GM employees, working at the now defunct Scarborough Van Plant. The gist was one of their coworkers had saved up enough to buy the Cadillac that he’d always desired, and was shocked and very much dismayed at the crappy quality it had. Their opinion was that it was an over optioned Chevy. When your rank and file get pissed at your product there’s not much manoevering room.

  • avatar
    fn2drive

    My 3 year old 81 x car bust into flames-bad tranny. Vowed to never buy another GM product. 25 years later i havent and wont. Frankly i wouldnt drive their product if given to me. They broke the bond of trust and that can never be repaired. Very sad for the salaried and hourly workers. The bailout will allow the reckoning to be delayed and is the right thing to do for America today. I have grave reservations that GM will be able to win back customers. It has taken 30 years to destroy its storied brands. For most Americans, GM products are not part of the good old days. As baby boomers enter their twilight, younger Americans raised on quality imports will see little reason to chance it. Cars are not part of the culture,they are transportation. Hope i’m wrong.

  • avatar
    menno

    I have a pal, we’ve been best buddies since we were 14, and we’re now 51. Our wives are best friends, too. We’re both ‘car guys’ and he’s a certified mechanic and body man, does custom rigs on the side (or did), had a super-rare Porsche; he’s lived in Germany and I’ve lived in the UK, etc.

    He used to insist that American cars, especially GM, were the way to go – because parts were easy to find and cheap. Over the past 5-6 years I’ve countered this comment with “yes but with a Toyota or Honda or even Hyundai, you don’t need to worry about how cheap or expensive parts are because you don’t constantly have to buy them.”

    Went to spend some hang time with him today. Like most of us his finances aren’t doing so well. He has a Tahoe which he’s been using to plow and commute with; it’s an extra vehicle for him. The automatic transmission took a dump; the truck barely runs now. He’s put it up on the road for sale, cheap. He’s putting his wife’s Mercedes SUV up on the road for sale, cheap. His wife’s “winter beater” Honda CR-V is going to be his car, his wife’s Hyundai Tiburon “nice summer car” is going to be their 2nd car.

    He’s all done with GM and US built Mercedes, says the Mercedes is worse than a Chrysler product. He’s never been much for Chryslers or Fords.

    Looks like he’s come around to my way of thinking, as have probably 50-60 % of the US population. Yeah, I’m a slow learner; I kept giving GM, Ford, Chrysler and even AMC chance after chance after chance after chance from 1973 to 2002. Switched from one to the other, and so on. Constantly disatisfied or unhappy. Finally in 2002, I throw in the towel and “took a chance” with a Hyundai, then 3 years later added a Toyota to the stable.

    Think GM will ever get any of my biz again?

  • avatar
    Loser

    Very interesting, I enjoyed reading this.

    This just highlights even more how much of a hole GM has dug for itself. Even if GM started today, build cars that were much more reliable and appealing than Honda or Toyota they would still have a long uphill battle to clear their name. GM has pissed off generations of car buyers and children of the pissed off owners won’t forget the problems their parents had.

    It’s very sad, hell it’s depressing how far GM has fallen. Maybe I’m just a sucker for nostalgia but I still remember the beautiful cars GM used to build and how their cars were once part of many young mans dreams. I hope they can turn this around but I’m not betting on it.

  • avatar

    I’m wondering why the author of the article would have even considered sticking with GM with all the bad experiences he had.

    D

  • avatar
    ChuckBota

    I’m kind of vexed about those reports. I have grown up in Brazil and my parents have always driven GM. When I bought my first car, I also got a GM. Never had any problems, neither had my parents who kept their Chevrolet Caravan (http://mundoautomotivo.blogspot.com/2007/12/caravan.html) for 25 years. Those cars were produced in Brazil by GM and many of the models were not available in the US. I have never driven GM in the US, got a Honda when I moved up here because the compact class of GM in the US is dreadful. What I don’t get: if GM produces exceptional cars in Brazil and Europe, why can’t they in the US? By the way, my parents Chevrolet was sold and I bet it is still driving somewhere. It will now have more than 30 years on the road.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    On the flip side, most auto auctioneers and general manager’s of auto auctions will usually drive GM and Ford products. The Toyota owner is a rare exception (only 2 Camrys and 1 Avalon from my recollection) and Honda vehicles are non-existent due in part to transmission issues and high repair costs.

    Every time I’ve stopped by the closest Toyota dealership it’s been packed. The GM dealer up the road is never more than a third full, and this is an area of the country where domestics still do fairly well.

    It’s an interesting write-up but where was there mention of GM’s intake gaskets? That was the one area during the 1990’s where GM really let their customer base down. But as I recall Toyota’s engine sludge in their V6’s, Honda’s interminable transmission issues, Nissan’s piss-poor interior quality, and the recently botched launches of the Tundra, Avalon and Camry V6, I’m reminded that no automaker can really lay claim to a quality advantage these days.

    It’s going to get worse for some, better for others. Always has. Right now I still think that you’re better off simply buying what you like since any car or truck these days should last 200k+.

  • avatar
    KeithBates

    40 odd years ago, My father was a die hard Ford guy, until one day, he got us loaded
    into the backseat of the family truckster, a new ’67 Country Squire wagon.
    He got it started, backed out of the garage, got out to close the garage door,
    and the car slipped out of park and us kids went for a ride, down the drive,
    across the road, through a neighbors fence, and ended up against a large tree.

    He promptly went out and purchased a Chevy Impala wagon that served him well
    for 10 years. He bought another in ’78, and another in ’83, which is when the
    trouble started… The ’83 had 2 transmissions in a single year,
    I think that was ’85.
    When it needed another tranny in ’87, I put a junkyard unit in it and told him to trade
    the POS in… He did, on a Taurus wagon. Wouldn’t have been my first choice, as I’d
    heard rumor that the trannies were suspect. Ford must have had a good day when
    they built that car, he put over 300K miles on it without a lick of trouble… I’m actually
    amazed with the reliability of that old Taurus…

    Just as a side note, the Taurus died a miserable death, It got T-boned by a drunk in a BMW

  • avatar
    RedStapler

    A post Ch11 GM could turn around their quality perception in a decade or so IF they were willing and able to put their warranty money where their mouth is. Giving their vehicles a 5yr/50k bumper to bumper & 10/100k powertrain would give many piece of mind

    Look at what crap the early Hyundai products were relative to where they are today.

  • avatar
    bts

    There is something fundamentally flawed with the culture of America. No one has any moral sense anymore and it’s now the norm to screw over your neighbor. And at the same time everyone is too ignorant to realize it comes at their own expense.

    GM, Ford, and Chrysler have all improved and we need to give credit where credit is due. There are many desirable domestic vehicles and whenever possible we should be buying them.

    Is GM now a bad word? At what point doesn’t anyone comprehend that GM is not a word, it’s people who do the job. And it’s the people in positions who are responsible for it, not GM. The jackasses who were in charge and made decisions are responsible, not GM. It’s really sad to see we’ve reached a point where GM being used as a dirty word.

    RE: menno
    Done with GM because of a single failed transmission? Would he be done with Toyota because of one sludged engine, or done with Honda because of one failed auto transmission, or done with Nissan because there was a plague of problems?

  • avatar
    210delray

    Oh, so the failure of the water pump on my mother’s ’67 Bel Air at less than 30K miles wasn’t a fluke? (It had the 250 Six, so wasn’t affected by the engine mount problem.) I do recall the “fix” for the faulty left engine mount on the V8s was a steel cable to hold the engine down in case the mount did break!

    Menno: Agree with you totally. My company had an ’82 Cavalier (first year model) that had a bunch of problems. The only saving grace was that they were usually cheap to fix. I had a ’77 Impala bought used at 104K miles. This was a good car for the 3.5 years I owned it, but the original owner had to have the infamous THM 200 tranny rebuilt at around 75K miles.

    I have had ZERO problems with my 2005 Camry (now at 36K miles) and only a minor “stiction” issue in the steering when turning left at low speeds on my 2004 Camry (now at nearly 56K miles). (I haven’t bothered to have it checked, as it hasn’t gotten worse.)

    This despite the fact the older car was badly damaged in the left quarter panel by a hit-and-run driver 3 years ago and pummeled by a freak hail storm last June. Both incidents required extensive body work with lots of painting, but the car has hung tough, and it still looks great!

    Steven Lang: I once had a ’97 Camry 4-cylinder that was also allegedly prone to the sludge issue. Because of this, I followed the story closely on the Edmunds’ forums starting in 2000. My car was still going strong at 111K miles with no signs of sludge when I sold it to buy the 2004 model only because I wanted the side airbags in the latter. From my experience and from reading the stories on Edmunds, I have to conclude that only a small fraction of the engines susceptible to sludge actually had the problem. What has been your auction experience with this issue?

    KeithBates: Ah, the famous Ford park-into-reverse problem. Hope you or your siblings weren’t hurt in your incident. A lot of people died because of this problem, and Ford only got a slap on the wrist (the gov’t made Ford sent a warning sticker to all affected owners).

    I did have one Ford product — a 1990 Sable, fortunately NOT with the head-gasket-blowing 3.8 V6, P–>R issue, thick-film ignition failure, or fire-prone cruise control switch. It was a decent car for 64K miles, with only a few issues (warped front rotors and a faulty wiper switch), just when I finished making the payments on it. Then, all hell broke loose, with numerous a/c, suspension, and starter/alternator/water pump failures and leaks. The killer was the tranny losing overdrive at 93K miles, requiring a replacement unit. This car broke me of the notion that if you took good car of your cars (which I did), they would take good care of you.

    When it was time to dump a car from the family fleet in 2000, the Sable went instead of the 1980 Volvo 240! ‘Nuff said.

  • avatar
    210delray

    bts: There is something fundamentally flawed with the culture of America. No one has any moral sense anymore…

    I agree with you on one thing: it’s those in charge, including the present leadership, that made GM a bad word.

    With regard to your quote which seems to a popular one in today’s America, I have a redeeming anecdote. My wife took a part-time job at the local public high school supervising driver’s ed students on driving simulators (computers). She has 2-6 students at any one time. We live in a small central Virginia town. NOT ONE of these 15-19 year-old students has been mean, vindictive, or apathetic toward her. By contrast, they’ve been polite and responsible. Who’d a thunk it?

  • avatar

    He’s all done with GM and US built Mercedes, says the Mercedes is worse than a Chrysler product

    So much for big Dick, Shelby’s beloved Mercedes plant that’s showing us the future of the “New American auto industry”.

    Let’s face it, the agrarian culture of the South has never really “gotten it” when it comes to industry. Toyota and Honda’s plants in Ohio and Indiana have better quality and productivity than their plants in the South.

  • avatar
    toxicroach

    bts: What are you even trying to say? I think you are implying those silly customers are immoral jerks for not forgiving and forgetting, but the only people I see screwing over their neighbors and thinking it wouldn’t come back on them ARE THE PEOPLE AT GM. 300 out of a 1000 with an engine or tranny failure. My god, I wouldn’t have dared to even suggest it was that bad and it lasted for decades. No wonder so many people will never go back.

    GM is a corporate fiction, true. But did you read the post? 300 out of a 1000 cars suffering tranny & engine failures? All those problems… You wonder why the poor customers who got those 300 cars think GM is a dirty word?

  • avatar
    skor

    My neighbor has a 2008 CTS, all wheel drive, direct injection engine. I’ve driven it half a dozen times, really very nice. So far its had only one minor problem, but it took 4 trips to the dealer to get it repaired. GM is actually producing some of the best cars it’s built in years now. I’m not surprised, they’re scared. Unfortunately it’s probably too little tool late. I’m looking on the bright side. If GM does go chapter 11, I’ll probably be able to buy that CTS for a song.

  • avatar
    Johnster

    bts : There is something fundamentally flawed with the culture of America. No one has any moral sense anymore…

    210delray : I agree with you on one thing: it’s those in charge, including the present leadership, that made GM a bad word.

    It’s like a dead fish in that it rots from the head down.

  • avatar
    Eric_Stepans

    I remember reading an interview in Automobile Magazine several years ago. The subject was either a designer or an engineer at Studebaker, then for Mercedes-Benz, then for Ford (around the time of the Edsel).

    He said that, at that time, Ford had two contracts for every part. One contract went to the absolute lowest bidder; these were the parts they installed at the factory. The second contract went to the lowest bidder that actually met Ford’s quality specifications. These parts were sent to the dealers as repair parts.

    The interviewee tried to convince Ford to install the “good” parts at the factory and increase their warranty coverage (to something like 2 years, 24k miles), but Ford would have none of it.

    @Steve Lang: The reason Toyota dealer service departments are full and GM dealers are empty is that Toyota has about 1/4 the number of dealers.

    Also, the rates of maintenance vs. repair work at dealerships vary greatly. Honda leads the industry with about 2/3 of dealer visits being for maintenance. Most other makes are closer to 1/3 of visits being for maintenance.

  • avatar
    Stu Sidoti

    Thank you to the thoughtful person who shared this with us.

    Many D3 owners had ownership experiences that mirrored this story along the same timeline. This is all part of why I believe if the Big-3 can survive and keep making quality and design gains that in another 30+ years or so, Americans may once again trust them with their business. Good luck.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    My biggest question is when things got that bad, what the hell happened that they didn’t get it right? GM had plenty of cash for better R&D, etc, didn’t it? Was the cost structure so bad that if they spent it on quality they were too expensive vs the Japanese imports? Did the engineers not have the skills? I was just a wee lad then, so I don’t know what it was like.

    There had to have been a reason? And it couldn’t have been they thought they could sell cars with 30% failure rates and people would keep buying them….

    I work in the industry, and the attention paid to quality problems is excessive. Even the slightest complaint gets full attention. Even for the couple of parts we make for GM. Their quality standards are just as high, or sometimes slightly stricter than the others (Toyota, Honda, etc).

    What was going through their heads in the 80s and early 90s? There HAD to have been a reason those problems were licked and just continued.

  • avatar
    Acd

    We all know what happened in the 1980’s and before but what about the current products? GM’s future rides on the quality of the cars it makes now. One of the problems that GM faces now is that they disappointed so many of their customers back when they had 40%+ of the U.S. car market. If someone could figure out how to overcome this GM’s road to recovery would be a lot smoother.

  • avatar
    toxicroach

    I really think they thought GM was immortal and that people would keep buying no matter what.

    I mean, look at the defenders— even in a post of a first hand account of the vast quality problems they had that were “commercially acceptable”, some people are still trying to act like its the public’s fault they won’t consider GM now. That mentality must have been much worse back in the day, especially when they saw what they could get away with and still have the majority of their buyers come back for more.

  • avatar

    Human beings learn from their mistakes. Those that don’t: perish. The REALLY smart ones learn from observation… not making mistakes but watching both those that make them and survive and those that make them and perish.

    I was born in 1963. I watched my father’s Detroit produced cars break, rust, break, fail, and break. With the sole exception of one Buick in the 70s. Unfortunately that Buick burned gasoline like it was going out of style and in 1980 when gasoline doubled in price it was jettisoned in favor of a VW Rabbit Diesel. I took that Pennsylvania-built Rabbit to college in 1983 and drove it all over America, finding my first post-graduate job at the end of a 5000 mile road trip. That car ran and ran and ran. Never an issue, unlike my Dad’s Detroit Duds.

    I’ve never even considered buying something from a domestic producer my entire adult life. My wife has bought a couple of Jeeps, (between her true loves: Volvos) and the Jeeps have been “okay”… lots of minor annoyances. They just never went as far and as reliably as my VWs.

    I’ve “test driven” just about every Domestic CAR built in the 80s through this decade courtesy of Hertz, Avis, Alamo, et al. What an endless stream of complete crap-o-la!

    The only thing I’d buy (and have bought) from Detroit is a basic stripper half-ton pickup truck. They build those things just fine.

    Big Three? Good riddance to bad rubbish.

    –chuck

  • avatar

    I have a ’67 Ford Thunderbird, so I know about the infamous park -> reverse slippage on those cars. It’s the kind of defect that a decade or so later would have been a major product-liability lawsuit.

    What made it worse, though, was that these cars also had parking brakes that automatically disengage when the car moves into gear. This is what turns a bad problem into a truly awful one. I know ’67 T-bird owners who have disconnected and plugged the vacuum lines that power the auto parking brake disengage.

    Solid cars in major detail, though, the late 60s big Fords.

  • avatar

    I’ve always worked for GM dealers. I’ve never owned any other vehicles but GM. I’ve driven many types of other cars and see things on them that show up on GM cars about 5 years later. GM is always a day late and a dollar short.

  • avatar
    slartybarfast

    @bts

    Done with GM because of a single failed transmission? Would he be done with Toyota because of one sludged engine, or done with Honda because of one failed auto transmission, or done with Nissan because there was a plague of problems?

    I cant answer for menno but if these things happened to me before I expected them to .. The answer would be yes, It takes me about 1,066 hours of work to earn the cash to pay for a car. Should an automaker sell me a product that doesn’t meet my expectations you can bet your shinny metal ass I wont be coming back. On the flip side If you make a product that does meet my expectation odds favor me returning as a customer.

    As much as GM may whine about the perception gap, They earned it. In order for GM to succeed in winning customers back the competitors the customers moved will need to fail them.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    My first car was a 1974 GM. By 1989, it had gone 400,000 miles and (literally) rusted to pieces. Who’s got time for crap like that?

    Bought an ’84 Volvo wagon to replace it. 25 years and 600,000 miles later, it still has it’s original… well, everything but brakes, radiator, and tires.

    It doesn’t seem like 25 years is too much to ask from a car. If my Volvo ever wears out, I dunno what modern vehicle I can buy to replace it.

  • avatar
    ronin

    We have seen what happens when a carmaker is fat and complacent. That is Ford & GM of the 70s and 80s.

    The only reason they have upped their quality is pressure from the ‘imports.’ Even if you hate the imports, we have to admit it is this competition that forced the ‘domestics’ to change.

    However, there are still millions of people who remember and have lost millions of dollars of value by ‘buying American.’ You have lost those customers forever, and have without shame failed to offer amends.

    Now with the bailouts, there will be no pressure from competition to maintain any sort of quality. That is because bailouts do not at all address the biggest issue of the domestics- their cars are not selling. Further- they never have to sell again, or reduce price to sell, or increase features- because their revenue comes from taxpayers,not sales.

    So there is no competition to enforce quality or fair market price. So quality can happily now go bye-bye, and MSRP can shoot to the sky. Who cares? No one needs to by one to keep the company viable.

    There is precedent for crap from a car company kept by a government. Think Lada or Volga. Think Yugo. Heck, thing British Leyland.

    Guaranteed that with a bailout we have now seen the high point of domestic quality (and hence high point of resale value). Post-bailout, quality will plunge. In five years the resale value of the overpriced car you buy today will be the equivalent of a BigWheel.

  • avatar
    findude

    During my formative teen years (1970s) I watched my parents sink a lot of money into GM and Ford cars. They weren’t all horrible (the GM 350 backed by the 350 transmission was a strong combination and the 390 in the Cougar was a blast to drive). But by that time there was a strong offering of foreign cars. The quality issues that got people to cross the street from a Big 3 dealer to a foreign dealer opened their eyes to a whole new world. We discovered that the interiors in European and Japanese (well, not the early Japanese imports which were sized wrong) were ergonomically sensible. Many a convert to Mercedes or Volvo was won by the seats alone–and, wow, those seats had proper headrests in the right place for tall people while GM cars had seat backs and headrests that ended at the bottom of the side windows. The shifter on my 1981 Toyota went snick-snick and had a precise sporty feel to it despite the long throw. It was an epiphany after shifting my friend’s Chevy Vega in high school. I also discovered that foreign cars were more fun to drive–at least for my driving style. Yeah, the Cougar with the 390 was a blast on straight valley freeways at 2:00 am, but the VWs, Datsuns, Toyotas, and even the Volvos were fun to drive on curvy roads–the European cars in particular made me feel like I was participating in the driving, working in concert with the machine rather than just operating it. It was a different aesthetic.

    I’ve driven a lot of cars, by lots of manufacturers, over the years. There are lots of success stories and horror quality stories for all manufacturers.

    But I guess there’s a reason they call them the “formative” years.

  • avatar
    1169hp

    News Flash:

    Opinions are like assholes; everybody’s got one!!

    Jim-Bob’s sludge problem in his 1999 Toyota doesn’t interest me because there is about a 0.00% chance I’d buy a Toyota product. Not that they’re bad cars/trucks. It’s just that Toyota’s bore me. A car can and should be more than an appliance. I feel Toyota “short changes” every one of its customers by simply providing a dull, but acceptable transportion device. Nothing more, nothing less. I wouldn’t knock a guy for buying a Toyota. They just do nothing for me.

    I intend to buy a new car in 2009. I’ve been driving the same car for twelve years. It’s a Ford with 104,000 trouble-free miles on it. The car isn’t perfect, but it’s a fun, pleasing ride that I intend to keep around. Am I supposed to be scared of the domestics? Should I be leary because somebody had an issue umpteen years ago with their Chevy and has since swown off GM?

    Buy what YOU like!!

  • avatar
    wannabewannabe

    What’s so interesting to me is that personal experiences with cars, both foreign and domestic, vary so widely. I’ve owned nothing but GM cars: 83 Oldsmobile Delta 88, 47 Buick Roadmaster, 94 Cadillac Fleetwood, 90 Corvette, and I’m about to take my dad’s old 90 Chevy pickup off his hands. Let’s take the Buick out of the mix because its reliability isn’t all that relevant to this discussion. Every single one of these cars has been very reliable, especially considering that these were supposed to be the bad years for GM. The least reliable of the bunch was the Corvette, which had a tendency to use up alternators quickly. But, even with that recurring problem, I drove all of these cars long distances, so their respective costs per mile driven for repairs were all relatively low (all of them in the pennies per mile).

    The Oldsmobile had the cursed THM 200, but I got 150,000 miles out of the original, which is no better or worse than what can be expected out of most automatics, especially those that see a lot of stop and go driving. The Caddy really was a fancy Chevy, but damn if it wasn’t good at being a fancy Chevy. Dead nuts reliable. I’ve mentioned the Corvette. And my dad bought the pickup with 88,000 miles on it, and he put another 90,000 miles on it and has spent only about $1500 on repairs. But yes, it does have the peeling paint problem that so many GM trucks of that era had, particularly the white ones.

    During all this time, all of my GM cars have been excellent, which is not to say that I haven’t seen shitty GM cars. My stepmother had a 95 Olds Aurora for a while, and that thing was a complete dog, even if it drove nicely when it was working. But one bad car doesn’t a terrible company make. Truly, it’s been the one GM car my family has owned that wasn’t a great car, and it alone was not enough to swear off the company. Every company makes lemons.

    From the stories I’ve read here and elsewhere, it seems that my family and I have been particularly lucky with our GM vehicles. It will be a shame if GM fails completely, if only because they are currently making some great cars. Now if they could only trim the fat–the unnecessary dealers and brands and redundant, badge-engineered cars.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    An acquaintance’s respected international firm declined a GM demand for a 15¢ cost reduction on an HVAC assembly. GM placed the order elsewhere. The straw that broke the camel’s back, the firm closed its entire auto parts division. Customers will make up for any quality shortfall.

  • avatar
    jackc10

    Forget ancient history for a moment and consider what GMinazation has done to Saab.

    Yep, GM has really improved things. I should believe that?

    It is also interesting posters defending the Detroit 2.5 seem a lot more concerned and know more about about sludge, transmission and other problems in Japanese nameplates, than those of us who drive them are.

  • avatar
    skeeter44

    Interesting read, including the responses – From #1 to almost bankrupt in less than 1 year. It is astonishing how long it has taken GM to screw up their reputation – at any time in the 80s or 90s this trend could have easily been reversed with the proper product and quality that just MET the market standard (not exceeded it!).Now their reputation is surely done now with virtually no one under 30 aspiring to own a GM car (except possibly the corvette). The news focus is now on the bailout battle with the Southern Senators vs the UAW when the real problem is so obviously GM management. When management screws up it is always the workers who pay the price – very sad indeed but it seems every side has a point.

  • avatar

    The last GM I spent any time with was this year’s CTS Caddy. I drive the yuppie-icon 3 series, so that’s my basis point.

    The CTS had the lowest level suspension and the v-6.

    I liked it quite a bit. The biggest “flaw” I could find was the All Season tires fitted to the car. I wished it had a stick.

    This car was competitive with the best in class, a bit bigger in the back seat, and overall a very, very good car.

    Will it last as long as my yuppie-sled, which has 175k so far reliable miles ? Unknown.

    Still, this shows that Detroit can do it. I just wish the networks would stop showing the CTS assembly line as they intone “uncompetitive products”.

    And yes, those mid 80’s GM cars did turn off my totally GM family. We now mostly have Acura.

    I almost bought an SRX, but the dealers in my area killed that idea, not the car, which was a tossup with the MDX

  • avatar
    rx8totheendoftime

    Perhaps the author should be appointed the Car Czar, rather than some fancy expert?

    My experience has been similar to the others, being vastly impressed by my father’s F-85 Cutlass in the late sixties; unfortunately, my dalliance with American cars consisted of 2 vehicles: a Taurus in 1987 that started having serious problems on the second day of ownership (dealer took a week to solve it), followed by years of trouble, and a Grand Cherokee Jeep in 1995 that, on the day after the warranty expired, needed $2,000 of service.

    That $2,000 bill happened 4 more times in the next 2 years before I dumped it. I refused to pay it once and did not have the service done and the Jeep promptly had brake failure(in a life threatening situation) on the road and wouldn’t start.

    A comparison to the 75 Civic and the various Toyotas that I have owned over the years demonstrates regular service only, no expensive repairs at all – for 7 vehicles.

    Sensible consumer behaviour on my part is very simple – no more American cars in my driveway. Any business that sold product like this – including bad dealer behaviour – will not get repeat customers.

    Customers do not generally remain loyal when their life has been threatened by a product.

    I do agree that other manufacturers have problems with quality from time to time. I had a problem with a Lexus that I owned and was awestruck by the intensity/speed of the response from the dealer, the open ended courtesy car, etc. I received a written apology for the length of time it took to repair the Lexus – since it wasn’t fixed the same day, but the next day!

  • avatar
    Johnny Canada

    Wow, this brings back so many 70’s-80’s GM memories. I recall friends installing a chain from the engine block to the passenger side frame rail as a fail safe to a potential broken motor mount.

    Does anyone remember the “soft camshaft” problems? Many generations of GM camshafts were not heat treated correctly allowing the lifters to wipe out the lobe profile.

    GM,The Mark of Excellence.

  • avatar
    Jimal

    bts :

    “There is something fundamentally flawed with the culture of America. No one has any moral sense anymore and it’s now the norm to screw over your neighbor. And at the same time everyone is too ignorant to realize it comes at their own expense.

    GM, Ford, and Chrysler have all improved and we need to give credit where credit is due. There are many desirable domestic vehicles and whenever possible we should be buying them.”

    This has been the fall-back strategy with the U.S. automakers for years: it is our moral imperative as Americans to buy American cars. Rubbish. Ironically these are the same people who scream about letting the market decide when the Feds tinker with the CAFE standards. Which is it? Because the market has been and continues to decide, to the detriment of the Detroit 3. I’d love to buy a domestic car, but unfortunately the nice ones are out of my price range.

  • avatar
    DweezilSFV

    Add Dex-Cool, piston slap, bum ignition switches, intermediate steering shaft problems, the CV trans used by Saturn in 03-04,the leaking plastic intake manifolds and on and on.And these are just problems in the recent past.

    GM just “got it” a couple of years ago, if they got it at all.

  • avatar
    nino

    I accept the argument that it isn’t only the cars from the domestic manufacturers that have problems. But it isn’t whether you have a problem or not, it’s HOW that problem is HANDLED that makes the difference.

    I have to say that me and my immediate family are unusual in that we’ve bought around 200 cars, new and used, over the last 25 years. Invariably, any of our cars that had problems, it was always the GM dealerships that would give us a hard time about it. I include the Caddy dealerships as well.

    When you spend a good amount of money on a new car, you don’t expect there to be a problem with it. But it gets very disheartening when not only do you experience a problem, the dealership that took your money, now comes up with every excuse in the book why it’s your fault/they can’t fix it/it’s normal you have to get used to it.

    A particular experience I had with a 2000 Grand Prix GTP with regards to the front suspension. The first week I drove the car, the handling seemed off. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but it seemed sloppy. I mentioned it to the dealer who basically insulted me by telling me I wasn’t used to such a “high performance” car. A few more weeks went by where upon I took the car to my private shop to discover that many bushings were missing from the sway bars and that bolts weren’t tightened to spec. Needless to say the transformation was drastic.

    I had other problems with this car in the three years I owned it. Was I ever stranded? No, but I will tell you that the experience was more than just annoying.

  • avatar
    nino

    On the subject of buying American;

    Why is it our moral imperative to do so when the American car companies feel free to outsource parts, labor, and manufacture of their products to other countries? The argument that the “profits” stay in America just doesn’t hold water.

    And since the Big Three are allowed to shop for the best deals for their parts and labor even if that means a loss of US jobs, are we consumers not allowed the same choice?

  • avatar
    brettc

    I’ve written about my GM experiences on here, but to sum it up again, it all boils down to my parent’s 1987 Chevy Celebrity. They bought it new in 1987, and it was the biggest POS I’ve ever seen. From day 1 it had severe electrical problems that the stealer could never fix. And the 4 speed automatic transmission failed in the mid 90s so it had to be replaced.

    On the other hand, I’ve owned Volkswagen diesels since 1998 when I first started buying cars. I’ve rarely had a problem with them. The only time I got stranded was when I was about 2 minutes from home, but it was because of improperly winterized diesel.

    I might consider buying a GM product if they can prove that they can consistently build reliable, long lasting *cars*. As it is, they need about 10 years more to prove that. Their trucks seem pretty decent, but they need to practice building decent cars.

  • avatar
    nino

    If I listed all the problems from all the GM cars we’ve had in my family, the server would shut down.

    Even though we’ve had problems with GM cars, many in my family (especially my dad) feel that we should buy American.

    But that attitude has changed over the years where now we just buy the best we can.

  • avatar

    Then, all hell broke loose, with numerous a/c, suspension, and starter/alternator/water pump failures and leaks.

    This reminds me of people who buy a new car when the old one starts to “nickle and dime” them, as though the cost of a rebuilt starter is more than a car payment.

    All of the examples above, a/c, suspension, and engine ancillaries, are considered wearable parts. That’s why you can get compressors/driers, shocks/struts/ball joints, and rebuilt starters, alternators and water pumps at your local Murray’s Pep Boys or NAPA, and that’s why those aftermarket autoparts companies stock parts for Toyotas and Hondas as well.

  • avatar
    Power6

    Let’s not forget the GM metric thm 200; this underpowered transmission “powered” the Grand National. On the positive side, we had the bulletproof thm 400 (3sp) auto. Great trans! The thm 350 was also very reliable.

    I did love the Buick Grand National and the GMC Typhoon. I’m not going to say they were reliable, but wow! Were they fassssssssssst.

    Boy does this bring back memories! I had more than a couple cars with the old 200-4R Trans. They were OK with the 140hp OLDS 307, not enough power to kill them. Those were the days when GM was trying to lighten everything up for better fuel economy and cheaper manufacturing.

    I had the Turbo Regal too. The Turbo 3.8 was pretty strong for a basic 2-bolt main iron v6, and pretty trick with port injection, distributorless ignition, stainless tubular headers, etc. The secret to the 200-4R in those was the special “BRF” code trans. It had some trick parts and shifted a little stronger than your average Buick. Many people runnng 11s and even 10s in the 1/4 on that trans. Thing is they did not give the BRF tranny any special part numbers other than the valve body. The previous owner of my Regal had his tranny changed out at an AAMCO. They put the regular old Caddy trans in. He blew it out in 3 days. Had to take it to a Turbo Regal shop to search out a real BRF trans.

    And the Typhoon, I had a friend with one of those, such a great truck, but they really threw them together…Astro AWD system, Corvette shifter, Sunbird Turbo ECU and guages. And the 700-R4 wasn’t rated for the monster torque of the turbo 4.3, I recall they got it through because the torque at the shift point was below the rating of the trans.

    I still beleive in GM. I only hope they’ll still be around, somehow.

  • avatar
    esg

    You would think that GM/Ford/Chrysler could have improved quality over the last 50 to 80 years. They have not kept up with the foreign companies. The management, engineers, etc. are all at fault. Oh yeah, the unions have contributed more to the problems than anyone. Greedy, head in the sand SOB’s. Screw them all along with their “jobs bank”. They are all at fault. I hate American car companies. Of the three, I hope only Ford survives. They have the most opportunity to succeed.

  • avatar

    I mean, look at the defenders— even in a post of a first hand account of the vast quality problems they had that were “commercially acceptable”, some people are still trying to act like its the public’s fault they won’t consider GM now.

    When consumers act irrationally (and the advertising industry is all about getting people to make emotional rather than rational decisions), yeah, they are at fault. If I let my experience from 30 years ago color my perception of reality today, that may be normal human behavior, but it’s hardly rational. Yesterday I saw someone say that because of a badly made 1970s vintage GM product that they’ll never patronize “those people” again. Hint: those people retired a long time ago. Hell, Rick Wagoner’s one of GM’s longest term employees and he’s only been there for 30 years (and certainly didn’t have any decision making roles the first few years he was there). Nobody builds cars the same way they did 10 years ago, let alone 30 years ago.

    Can you name another consumer product where people will carry a grudge for 30 years? Does anyone not shop at Sears now because of a crappy vacuum cleaner in 1985?

    Ask any business owner. They’ll tell you that if a business screws up (and nobody’s perfect, everybody makes mistakes) a significant percentage of customers will use that as an excuse to exaggerate or lie about the company. If a company takes two weeks to ship a product, many customers will say that it took a month. Now that it’s open season on Detroit, it just encourages that kind of behavior.

    I don’t see any logical reason why poor product or customer service three decades ago should affect my consumer purchases today, beyond emotional reasons. PerhapsI shouldn’t buy an Apple Mac today because the Apple III and Lisa computers were poorly executed in the early 1980s.

  • avatar
    esg

    Ronnie, perhaps people like me carry 30 plus year grudges against American Car Company Crap due to the fact an automobile is the second largest purchase most of us make in our lifetime? I think a lifetime grudge is applicable.

  • avatar

    It is also interesting posters defending the Detroit 2.5 seem a lot more concerned and know more about about sludge, transmission and other problems in Japanese nameplates, than those of us who drive them are.

    But the opinion on the domestics’ quality of those who haven’t owned or driven a Detroit product in 20 years is relevant? Okee, dokee.

  • avatar

    esg,

    I suppose that someone who was the victim of medical malpractice 30 years ago should now never trust any doctor, ever, right? I mean, a car might be the second largest purchase people make, but it’s not someone’s health or life we’re talking about. Well, unless the dealer tells you that you need work on your braking system but you ignore them because you’re too cheap to get the repairs done, and too ignorant a consumer to find an independent shop that will do the work at a more reasonable price.

  • avatar
    esg

    Ronnie, it has nothing to do with being cheap. It has to do with the domestic companies being unable to provide quality vehicles and excellent customer service. That’s all. I’m 47 and will never purchase an American car. Ever. I am in an ever growing majority. This will not change until GM/Chrysler/Ford management is replaced and also the unions are dissolved forever. Perhaps of the Big 3, maybe one quality company will result from the ashes of crap!! Actually, I would like to see Mulally survive at Ford. He is not part of the “old guard” management. He seems to “get it”. I don’t think he has been given enough time to root out all of the Ford family mentality.

  • avatar
    wmba

    Mr Schreiber:

    I resent being called a fool by a Detroit apologist such as yourself.

    You haven’t a clue what you’re nattering on about.
    Sorry. Talk to my neigbor saddled with an awesome piece of shit called a Malibu, previous edition. This is a modern GM car with apparently not 10 cents worth of engineering in it. Four of those goddam useless plastic intake manifolds at $800 a pop. They didn’t get intake manifolds wrong in 1926, for crissake. Google Chevy intake manifolds and see the thousands of poor saps stuck with these turds. And since 1998, when this sorry excuse for a manufactured product appeared, not a penny has been spent on improving an OBVIOUS fault. It’s criminal, and GM just lost a $40 million lawsuit here in Canada on this very issue.

    I’m a mechanical engineer myself, and I refute your apologism. Take today’s Malibu (please). What guarantee do I or does anyone else have that it is not a complete piece of crap? Recent history would suggest some part of it will turn out to be subpar. And it’s recent history you are saying is different. I beg to disagree.

    Then there’s the dealer experience. Uniformly bad for the domestics. Drive one of our new ones, you and Lutz whine, you’ll love it. Screw that. Why bother? Because even if it was the bestest car in the whole wide world, you get to meet steely-eyed Anna, the know-nothing service writer at the GM dealership, where with no knowledge to back up her claim, you will be blamed for whatever ails your vehicle. You want me to indulge in self-torture? My neighbor shakes with rage at the way he’s been treated. Tell him to try a new one ’cause he’ll like it. Just don’t do it to his face or you’d better know how to run fast.

    When I came to Canada at the tender age of 11, way back in 1959, I couldn’t understand how every US car had chrome strips that did not align from fender to door. The doors sagged or misaligned with their neighboring parts. They looked like backyard specials, thrown together by people wearing winter gloves. Any import was better made in terms of fit and finish, and I mean ANY. And that includes the butt of all jokes here, British Leyland. Since I cannot imagine their workers were any better than Detroit’s, but that the doors, fenders and hoods fitted properly, I’ll have to lay the blame on poor body engineering at the Big 3. Or just a complete lack of professionalism. Anyone care to dispute this?

    Apparently even basic assembly design/skills were beyond Detroit. They just didn’t care, and I’m not convinced they are any better today. Back then and through the years, only Ford seemed to have some grasp on assembly quality.

    Today, when I examine new cars, I’d have to say that Chrysler’s crap-driving cars (I’ve driven rentals, god) have very good panel fit. Has anyone else noted this? That’s what I look for-details.

    All I see from you is criticism of other folks point-of-view, and a distinct unwillingness to listen. You’ve already admitted in your earlier posts that you are far smarter than average. Act like it.

    I for one am fed up with your attitude. I’ve been a car nut since the age of eight, have some experience in the last 45 years, and you are trying to convince me that the leopard is changing its spots. This does not seem very likely, frankly, particularly after the incredibly poor performances of the various CEOs in the Senate hearings. Absolute stumblebums. This gets translated down to every nook and cranny in their organizations.

    And now, with our government here ready to step up to the plate to give $3 billion to these utter incompetents, I now have to pay for more of this rubbish to be made, stored in empty fields — (there’s one full of GM crap not 3 miles from where I live), as well as pay for my own vehicle and the necessities of life. These are cars NOT a soul wants, and we’re going to pay taxes to make more of them? It’s utter insanity.

    It’s been said a thousand times on this blog that receivership would wake up what’s left of this trashpile, and maybe then you’d start to see some solid engineering like you get in so many other American products. This site is supposed to be the truth about cars, and revisionism is neither needed or required, thanks all the same.

  • avatar
    Power6

    I don’t see any logical reason why poor product or customer service three decades ago should affect my consumer purchases today, beyond emotional reasons.

    @Ronnie Schreiber
    You are right, it’s irrational. Not logical. But where does that argument go? It doesn’t do GM any good to insult their customers by claiming they are irrational. Hopefully their marketing department will figure that out soon.

    Seems to me before it was import vs. domestic, or even still to this day if you talk to many pickup truck owners, there is GM vs. Ford vs. Dodge, and there is nothing at all logical about the differences between one cheap steel frame with decades old technology and another one. Did GM ever need a Chevy 454 and a Buick 455 and a Pontiac 455 in the late 60’s, all installed in the same basic mid-size frame? Certainly not logical, but go to any classic car show and you will hear about how much “better” one was over the other.

    I don’t hear about GM marketing working to “get out the word” that any old pickup truck will get the job done. Of course they aren’t because they aren’t actually concerned with what is “logical” they are only concerned with what serves GM. And that is fine, nothing wrong with it. Just don’t get sucked into thinking the car biz is at all “logical”

    Truthfully the entire car market is illogical and based on emotion. Logically we should all be driving around in one of a few different sized generic boxes. But instead we have a plethora of sometimes near identical products with a whole lot of marketing behind them to make you think there is a difference, and that those small differences matter.

    The logical thing for you to do is buy the GM car that you think gets a bad rap. You should be able to get a good deal since most people have sworn off GM. Then you drive it around and your friends, family, neighbors etc. will see that it is a good car, not like they remember. And slowly their minds may change. Or not. But that is the only way out for GM. Biting the hand that feeds one is rarely the logical thing to do.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    I suppose that someone who was the victim of medical malpractice 30 years ago should now never trust any doctor, ever, right?

    That’s a really awful analogy. Obviously, these angry, jaded consumers are avoiding the same clinic that hosed them, not the entire medical system. They didn’t trade in their Vegas for bus passes, they are buying cars from other companies.

    A lot of people have negative first- and second-hand experience with the domestics. The statistical data, such as Consumer Reports and JD Power, support the ongoing contention that the domestics generally lag the best of the Asian imports and transplants in reliability. People would need good reasons to go back, and a lot of them just don’t have any.

    It’s frankly disgraceful that GM and Chrysler find themselves at the end of their ropes, yet the defenders still refuse to see it. Even this moment of desperation provides no epiphany or sense of clarity, at the moment when it most needed.

    This is one reason why I believe that Chapter 11 would fail, because it would not purge enough of the failure mentality that exists within these companies to ever fix them. Unless the businesses are entrusted to new operators who start with a clean management slate at the upper and middle tiers, along with a great culling of much of the rest of the white collar workforce, they will fail anyway. The necessary purging would be bloody and take many years to complete, and there just isn’t enough time or money for that under a standard Chapter 11 reorganization.

  • avatar
    fxsx24

    i find it funny how many people say gm are junk

    my 91 s10 that i got from my grandpa, the thing ran great. did ok on gas. i dont think i ever had a issue with that truck, except the rust (been in ny all its life)

    my 91 gmc sonoma 4wd that i got for a few hundred bucks, i took the motor from the now wrecked s10 and it lives on (the motor in it suffered a head gasket failure, the “mechanic” who fixed it royalf FUBAR ED the thing to the point of scraping the motor), in the time i drove it , there were once again no issues (except really bad rust previous owners didnt take care of it at all)

    my 94 s10 with the 2.2, i got it for $300. motor was blown since the owner got it low on oil and killed it. got a motor from another friend and ran it for a summer till that motor went (he didnt replace valve cover gasket lost oil, i forgot about it, but for $100 i cant go wrong). now that truck has a 1967 283 under the hood. no issues with any remaining stock components. the front end is a little loose but that is going to be replaced with my air suspension and its components. this truck has minimal rust on it.

    now my 98 jimmy. this suffered from the pre-revised intake gasket and killed the motor (could have been prevented but it was too late for the owner). replaced that motor. the truck needed wheel bearings (160k). i also replaced all the front end components while i was there. balljoints were gone but the rest was ok, once again i was there so i changed it anyways). the only issue have with this truck is the s series interior squeeks. i did replace the starter but i caused it to break. u-joints are next, once again 160k and they are factory so normal expected replacement. this truck has a tiny ammount of rust on it. it may have more under the cladding on the doors but i dont know

    i am happy with my gm experience, and will keep getting them unless something BIG happens and i get really unhappy. (like if i got a new camaro and the motor went after waranty, but those LS motors are the best motor gm has ever made so i wont worry)

    i understand that gm got serious too late. but sometimes it is not easy to get things the way it needs to be. but they can climb out if they really try to, and the new products that they are planing/finalizing , if they come out as expected (good quality, good mileage, and a good all around car) then they can be profitable

    congress is yelling at them about balancing a budget, look at the hole they made in the countrys budgets over the years. it is way more horrid than the automakers

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    DelRay, the six cylinders from the late 1990’s (1997 and onwards) were far more susceptible to engine sludge. There were many four cylinder models with the same issue but the 6’s were far more prevalent.

  • avatar
    Maxb49

    Did GM ever need a Chevy 454 and a Buick 455 and a Pontiac 455 in the late 60’s, all installed in the same basic mid-size frame? Certainly not logical, but go to any classic car show and you will hear about how much “better” one was over the other.

    Not everyone want to buy a puny little V6 engine which you, Kiichiro Toyoda, and lukewarm Greenpeace members try toshove down everyone else’s throats with the zeal of fundamentalist Muslims embodied in a religion whose doctrine holds that divine revelation commands all engines to have six cylinders or fewer. It makes me want to puke.

    General Motors was responding to a market segment demand for big block engines which, at the time, was the most cost effective way of producing lots of torque. Advanced computer assisted designed cylinder heads sold today for both small block and big block applications are only recent additions to the market. In days past power was primarily a function of displacement unless you had a machine shop and knew about cylinder head porting. Forced induction was too expensive to be an option.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Ronnie Schreiber: “I suppose that someone who was the victim of medical malpractice 30 years ago should now never trust any doctor, ever, right?”

    No. But I guess I’d question his sanity if he went back to the same doctor.

    Ronnie Schreiber: “Does anyone not shop at Sears now because of a crappy vacuum cleaner in 1985?”

    Actually, we did stop buying vacuums at Sears for a long time. In the interim, we had two Panasonics that weren’t much better. Of course, it’s only a $150 purchase, and the Panasonics weren’t an improvement, so Sears eventually got another chance. The new Sears vacuum seems OK.

    I no longer buy Craftsman lawn mowers at Sears, my original ’83 was too troublesome; I switched to Lawn Boys and they’ve been working satisfactorily.

    I am always dissatisfied with the local Burger King. But they have a compelling product (flame-broiled burger, rather than pan fried), so I go back there about once a year, to risk $5 and see if they’ve improved. So far, no luck. However, in another 6 months or so, they get another try. Why not? It’s only $5.

    Risk $20K on a GM when my experience with something else is perfectly satisfactory? Why would I do that? Risk $20K on a Ford when Ford treated us so very shabbily and we are happy with something else? Why would I do that?

    The “community” card (or “patriotism” card or whatever you like to call it) is played out for Detroit. If we were having this conversation 10 or 15 years ago… there’d be more sympathy for the “community” argument.

    But it’s 2008, not 1998, and Detroit let their market share slide, unrelentingly, for 30 years, in the pursuit of a quick buck against competition that was willing to bust their butts to provide long-term value.

    There was only one way this could go.

    Game over.

    Now, it’s going to be more profitable to talk about how to rationally resuscitate Detroit. Given that no one trusts their product to the point where they’ve driven themselves out of business, what should be done to try and preserve jobs and economic activity?

  • avatar
    counting cars

    i drive a 1994 gmc, well over 300000 on it, runs great, and no rust. other than 1 fuel pump, no major problems..just the regular tires and brakes..etc.
    i dont see the crappy. ???

  • avatar
    ronin

    >>” I suppose that someone who was the victim of medical malpractice 30 years ago should now never trust any doctor, ever, right?”

    Good point. A doctor that mistreated me 30 years and that I had to consequently fire will never see my business again. He violated an essential trust, and there are too many other, good, doctors out there for me to ever need to go back to that loser.

  • avatar

    I’ve sold over 20,000 new GM vehicles and never experienced anything anywhere near the scale as described in this article. I say Hogwash.

  • avatar
    210delray

    But Buickman, you were in sales, not service. Would you have the same kind of insight as someone who was in the service end of the business? (I realize that some dissatisfied customers may have complained to their salespeople.)

  • avatar
    CarmaoKid

    The Grand Nation NEVER came with a 200 transmission… The 200 was a POS but it was a 3 speed POS… ALL GN’s came with 200-4R transmissions and these are a COMPLETELY different animal… and these were plenty strong… many had no trouble going 10 second quarters…. And the Typhoon came with NEITHER the 200 or the 200-4R

    And you note that the 700R4 replaced it in the 90’s… WTF more made up crap… the 700R4 was first used in the early 80’s and it was replaced by 1992…

    For the record the 700R4 was a “Chevy” tranny and was bolted behind “Chevy” bell-housing patterns… Most of the 200-4R were universal pattern trannys and were mostly bolted behind 3.8 Olds 307’s and the odd SBC.

    And with all the complaining about transmissions that you couldn’t fix (putting 200 parts in a 200-R4 would be your first clue) you missed the POS 7.5″ rear differential that would explode with 4 cylinder torque.

    And you also missed the 96/97/98 Northstar Engines that would dissolve their own head gaskets and were “unrepairable” without taking the whole car apart.

    GM’s problem was not that they made some dogs… GM’s problem was that they never stood behind their products… They just let the customers hang.

  • avatar
    210delray

    Ronnie Schreiber:

    I see you’ve joined the Phil Ressler brigade.

    You quoted me with respect to my Mercury Sable experience by saying, “Then, all hell broke loose, with numerous a/c, suspension, and starter/alternator/water pump failures and leaks.”

    Then you responded:

    This reminds me of people who buy a new car when the old one starts to “nickle and dime” them, as though the cost of a rebuilt starter is more than a car payment.

    All of the examples above, a/c, suspension, and engine ancillaries, are considered wearable parts. That’s why you can get compressors/driers, shocks/struts/ball joints, and rebuilt starters, alternators and water pumps at your local Murray’s Pep Boys or NAPA, and that’s why those aftermarket autoparts companies stock parts for Toyotas and Hondas as well.

    Umm…NO! I don’t consider these items “wearable parts” like brake pads, batteries, and tires, at least for cars in the 65K – 85K mile range. You also conveniently omitted my statement about needing transmission replacement at 93K miles.

    I spent probably a total of $1,000 on the a/c repairs alone, including a compressor, numerous lines, freon, and the poorly engineered O-rings. Notice I said repairs (plural) because once one item was fixed, another would fail not too long afterward.

    I DID buy replacement alternators at Advance Auto due to the cost savings (so I thought), but these turned out to be crap parts and had to be replaced very frequently, racking up labor costs each time, although the part warranty was always honored.

    I was SO proud of myself for installing the last aftermarket alternator myself, only to have the battery warning light turn on immediately — turned out yet another alternator was crap. So I finally cried “uncle” and coughed up the $290 for the Ford OEM replacement and had it installed by my favorite local indie shop.

    The original water pump gave out while my family and I were on vacation at the beach — there was a terrible grinding sound from the engine, apparently from the bearings tearing themselves up. A service station installed a NAPA replacement, and guess what — that failed too not long afterward. My local shop honored the parts warranty on the pump (they used NAPA parts frequently), but of course not the labor.

    Now my former 1980 Volvo 240 makes a nice comparison: I bought the car used with 31K miles in 1982 and sold it 21 years later at about 245K miles. I had the a/c installed by a Volvo dealer in the summer of ’84 (all lowline 240s of the time came without factory a/c).

    I had the system recharged once in 1986 (no leak found) and “topped up” in 1994 or so at work, where we scavenged freon from cars going to salvage. There were no further problems until the summer of 2002, when it no longer blew cold air. An attempt at a recharge at work held only briefly, so it was clear there was now a leak, which I never fixed (car was sold the following June).

    I replaced the alternator twice and the water pump once. Never had to touch the starter. Also the presumably original clutch made it to 220K miles. Even one replacement DieHard battery lasted 2 months short of 10 years — 1985-95!

    As for replacing the Sable after being “nickle and dimed” as you put it, I only considered it when the transmission went south. However, I wasn’t prepared financially at the time to buy a new car, and I figured with regard to a used car, it was better to stick with the devil I knew.

    So I kept the Sable for 10 years and 135K miles. On the day before I sold it, I replaced the headlight switch because a few days before I discovered I had only headlights, but no parking lights or taillights! The switch was partly melted on the backside.

    Oh, and on the ’97 Camry that I had for 111K miles, I never touched the starter, alternator, a/c, struts, tie rod ends, water pump, or transmission (other than changing the antifreeze and ATF). The “wearable” front brake pads made it to 109K miles!

  • avatar
    Bunter1

    To all of those who think GM has acheived parity in quality.
    First drop the anecdotes. They are meaningless.

    Look at ALL of the data. From top to bottom.
    Yes they have some reliable vehicles. Some.
    Go to JDP VDS or CR or True Delta. GM shows some good vehicles in each.
    Most of their models run mediocre to below average in each survey.
    Some are among the worst in the industry regardless of which survey you look at.
    In each survey GM’s average is below the industries.
    Coincidense? Conspirecy? Give Ollie Stone a call.

    Honda and Toyota rarely put a vehicle below the average in any survey.

    Honda transmissions? Yes, they had problems with some V6 models, the current CR data indicates that has been delt with. They actually fix things. What an idea.

    Toyota sludge?
    Actual complaints seem to be a few hunderd (out of 3-4 million potential units). Less than one in 10k. 0.01%. Ya’, I’d worry about that one.
    Yawn.

    Toyota Camry and Tundra launches? Funny, isn’t it, how people who dismiss CR scores about GM vehicles accept them at face value if they hit a Toyota.
    Well, accept this at face value then-the latest CR data shows they got the mess cleaned up. Fast.

    The same data set (if valid for Toyota problems…) shows GM let’s problems run for a decade.

    Ford has improved their scores lately. A lot.
    So has Hyundia. A lot.

    The trend line on GM reliability may actually be losing ground on the industry average.

    GM is still trying to , IMHO, figure out what the minimum amount of reliability that the public will accept is.

    The only acceptable answer is to shoot for excellence. GM doesn’t get this.

    And frankly that isn’t very patriotic.

    GM is found death the old-fashioned way…they’ve earned it.

    Quit whining and get a Ford if you need to wave a flag at people.

    Just some thoughts.

    Bunter

  • avatar
    DeanMTL

    I had a 1989 Buick Century that was an epic failure. The number of things that went wrong was just astonishing, totally mindblowing.

    8 years later I bought a brand new 1998 Cavalier Z24, which was a gem of a ride for the first few thousand miles. Then it was the Buick Century all over again.

    It doesn’t take much to sour your opinion. I will never risk another dollar on GM as long as I live. The same is starting to go for Chrysler; I’m on my 3rd Jeep Wrangler, and the busted U-joints and suspension failures are pissing me off. My next car will be German.

  • avatar
    kristjan

    Two words:

    Oldsmobile diesel

    5.7 L LF9 – worst ever, piston failures, cylinder heads failed. After two engine rebuilds in one year car was returned to the dealer. Last American car I have purchased.

  • avatar
    dastanley

    I’m joining this thread late, so I’m not sure if everyone’s already moved on.

    Ronnie Schreiber: You’re analogy of comparing a vacuum cleaner and a vehicle are flawed. A vacuum cleaner costs only $100 – $300, depending on model, etc. Obviously a car’s more expensive, and as pointed out in a previous post, is the next largest purchase behind a house that most people will make. A crappy vacuum is merely an annoyance. A crappy/unsafe car can kill someone, or at the very least thoroughly screw-up their week. Just the inconvenience factor alone can cause headaches with trying to find a ride to and from work, etc. That’s assuming the crappy car didn’t break down on the way TO work and now you’re facing disciplinary measures for being late/absent. And being stranded out in the middle of the desert with a car that broke down doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in buying another of the same. I won’t even mention the money to fix the POS involved, nor potential lost wages from missing work, etc.

    So sure, 30 years later, I’m going to remember the sense of betrayal and lost trust at being taken for a sucker by GM or any car company that treats me that way. The vacuum? Maybe 30 days, then I get a different one.

    ****

    I own 2 Toyotas, an ’05 and an ’06 (Toyota’s earned my business, one car at a time. GM has squandered my business, one POS at a time). The dealership is a Toyota/Chevy/Caddy store. Most of the Toyotas that are in line for the service department are for preventive maintenance – for owners that don’t like getting their hands dirty changing their own oil, etc. Most of the GM vehicles I see in line are for warranty/repair issues. I don’t have any data to back that up – just my empirical observations. The service and parts department at this dealership always seems slightly impatient and contemptuous towards the customers, especially towards the women, the elderly, and the Navajos (the town is a rez border town). They’re not outright rude – it’s a subtle thing, but still there nonetheless. I don’t get it – being nice to the customer doesn’t cost anything. A smile, some common courtesy, and patience is free. Yet being an a##hole to the customer can cost dearly.

    Clearly this mostly GM dealership hasn’t “gotten” it yet. I’m sure Toyota’s carrying their new car business for now.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    CR has a rather nasty habit of recommending vehicles that are truly POS’s at the auctions and beyond.

    The entire VW line during the 1990’s was absolutely terrible. We’re talking ‘Kia’ league. The overwhelming majority of the ones I see at the sales have any combination of bad trannies, bad engines (especially the 1.8T and VR6), missing exterior and interior door handles, screwed up electronics, and melting engine plastics that make check engine lights standard equipment.

    All the while CR saw fit to recommend them. No offense, but CR has experienced a very rough road when it came to ascertaining the long-term reliability of automobiles.

    If you want to see results that matter, I would suggest web sites that actually give qualitative feedback from the actual owners as well as Mike Karesh’s TrueDelta site… which is becoming more statistically valuable by the day.

    Oh, every automaker (Toyota & Honda included) under-report their failure rates. It’s pretty much been a standard practice in the industry for as long as I can remember.

  • avatar
    esg

    buickman wrote: “I’ve sold over 20,000 new GM vehicles and never experienced anything anywhere near the scale as described in this article. I say Hogwash”.

    Now that’s funny! Hogwash to what? Selling the cars is the easy part. Dealing with crappy cars after the sale is what everyone is talking about. You’re a funny guy!!

  • avatar
    Power6

    @Maxb49 :

    “Did GM ever need a Chevy 454 and a Buick 455 and a Pontiac 455 in the late 60’s, all installed in the same basic mid-size frame? Certainly not logical, but go to any classic car show and you will hear about how much “better” one was over the other.”

    Not everyone want to buy a puny little V6 engine which you, Kiichiro Toyoda, and lukewarm Greenpeace members…fundamentalist Muslims embodied…It makes me want to puke.

    General Motors was responding to a market segment demand for big block engines which…Forced induction was too expensive to be an option.

    Holy crap dude, when did I say I wanted you to drive a V6? fundamentalist Muslim? Resepctfully kind sir, please feel free to discuss your own religious issues but do not put words in my mouth!

    My point, which was completely missed by you, was that the big blocks were great (and if GM could make money on all 3 of them them much the better!) but there wasn’t much difference between them, just like there isn’t much difference between a Camry and a Malibu today, it’s just that people seem to be ingrained for whatever reason to beleive that there is some compelling reason to purchase on over the other. Isn’t that what this whole thread seems to be about?

    Believe me I would be happy with a GSX Stage 1 or an LS6 Chevelle SS either way is just fine with me!!

  • avatar
    210delray

    Steven Lang:

    I’m no defender of VW (had 2 Rabbits in the 70s that were lousy cars), but I think you’re off-base with respect to CR consistently recommending them in the 90s.

    VWs generally tested out very well in CR’s regimen, but their reliability on the CR surveys was borderline throughout the 90s as I recall. Therefore, CR would recommend only specific models with specific engines that earned an “average” reliability score or better. If the reliability sunk to worse than average, then the car came off the “recommended” list.

  • avatar
    Canucknucklehead

    I worked in a GM service department for 3 LONG years until with the greatest mercy the place went belly up. Everybody in the ogranisation, from top to bottom, knew GM cars were crap, absolute junk. They made the Chrysler I worked on for the 17 years before that seem to be paragons of reliability. And they were crap, too. Imagine some guy bringing his pride and joy in and you KNEW that not one of the retards in the shop could fix it or didn’t want to because it paid warranty rate.

    Anybody who works for GM will be the first to tell you to buy a Honda. Their cars are so awful they deserve to get tossed onto the ash heap of history as a lesson for all time.

  • avatar
    Bunter1

    Steven Lang-Please note that I refered to data from True Delta as well as CR and JDP.

    And the CR data comes from owners like it does from TD.

    Fail to see your point. ALL the surveys indicate that GM’s average is below the industries and far below Toyota and Honda.

    They are not perfect, but they are quantitatively, demonstrably better.

    Regards,

    Bunter

  • avatar
    nevets248

    as a former service parts engineer for GM, I can ssay that the rapid knee jerk reaction to problems in the field is grossly ignored.
    CCase in point, in the late 90’s the seat belt rretractor button that kept the buckle from ssliding down on all GM N-cars (Grand AM, Alero, Cutalss, Malibu) would often crack and fall off.
    One would think that the button would be set up as
    a service part. But NOOOOOO, you had to oder a complete retractor assembly. Of course if you had a tan interior, those parts would go on back-order status, and GM would ship the dealership a black colored unit. the $2 button was being serviced by a $60 seat belt retractor!
    I could go on and on, but this was the “tip of tthe iceberg” to many of the BS policies of SPO ((Super Profit Organization).

  • avatar
    nino

    If you guys would like a more recent example of GM’s quality issues:

    My dad’s 2006 Cadillac STS has gone in for repairs of the climate control panel three times. The dealer refuses to just replace it and instead has opted to try and “troubleshoot” it. My dad had to finally get ugly for them to replace the panel. This is how GM treats a good, loyal customer buying one of their premium products?

    This car represents the 10th new Cadillac my dad has gotten over the last 18 years. Out of all these cars, 6 have had absolutely no warranty issues. That still makes 4 premium priced cars that have had problems inside the warranty period.

    My dad still likes these cars and won’t change, although he recently drove an Acura TL that seemed to impress him.

    On a side note:

    The “courtesy car” he was given while his STS was in for service was a Chevy Cobalt. You can imagine the impression that made.

  • avatar
    geeber

    Ronnie Schreiber: Let’s face it, the agrarian culture of the South has never really “gotten it” when it comes to industry.

    Unfortunately, neither have many domestic plants located in the Midwest, judging by the quality of their products.

    Ronnie Schreiber: When consumers act irrationally (and the advertising industry is all about getting people to make emotional rather than rational decisions), yeah, they are at fault. If I let my experience from 30 years ago color my perception of reality today, that may be normal human behavior, but it’s hardly rational.

    Sorry, but many of the people I talk to who were burned by GM cars weren’t burned 30 years ago, but within the last 10 years.

    I remember being interested in an Oldsmobile Intrigue when it debuted. A friend bought one of the first ones in the area in the summer of 1997. We went out to look at it in the company parking lot…and discovered that she couldn’t even get the car started because of a problem with the car alarm system. The ownership experience went downhill from there…

  • avatar
    tigeraid

    The plain and simple truth is, and you realize this when you work IN the auto industry, instead of just being a car owner: EVERY MANUFACTURER HAS BAD CARS AND GOOD CARS.

    That goes for Honda, Toyota, GM, Ford, everyone. To swear off one brand because of a bad experience is simple ignorance. Or at least close-mindedness.

    The absolute, most reliable, toughest, longest-lasting, most badass car I’ve owned since I started driving was my ’94 Caprice 9C1 (police package)… I bought it at 320,000 km and solid it at 465,000 km. During that three year period it saw one opti-spark distributor (of course), and one water pump. That’s it. Period.

    The absolute, most unreliable, worst piece of crap I’ve ever owned was a 1988 Honda Accord. Everything broke on it. Everything. Twice.

    Does this mean I think GM only builds gold, and Honda only builds crap? Of course not.

    There’s a difference between quality and reliability–the two are not related. I will agree with anyone whole-heartedly that GM’s build quality from about 1974 through 1994ish was absolute trash–but reliable? Very, actually.

    My ’96 Cavalier is a complete piece of crap–as most winter beaters should be. Its job is to get me to and from work during winter months while my Roadmaster Estate sits under a tarp. The Cavalier has rattles and squeeks everywhere, the door panels are falling off, there’s several lights lit on the dash that mean nothing, and it rides like a chuckwagon. But you know what? Other than a leaky power steering line and a leaky fuel injector, I haven’t had to put a DIME into it. Mechanically, the 2.2 L and 3 spd auto are dead reliable. Boring and awful, but reliable.

    My second-most reliable vehicle was an ’89 Dodge Caravan cargo that saw duty most of its life as a painter’s van. When I bought it for $150, it had over 450,000 km on it, and when I finally junked it, it was near 600,000 km. And I only junked it because it finally started burning out 2nd gear when the tranny warmed up. It served me faithfully.

    My ’91 B13 Nissan Sentra was also awesome, and dead reliable, and fun to drive.

    My dad’s 1980 GMC 3/4 ton van, with a 350, which towed our racecar and a back full of tools for most of its life, was finally retired after an accident with 550,000 km on it, and he changed the oil once a year. The only thing that ever went wrong with it was a rear main seal leak (which all smallblocks have…)

    As far as one of the first commenters mentioned yes, owning a Chevy means dirt-cheap parts, and that IS important to me, as a guy who does all his own work. I’m a parts counter clerk–no matter how many close-minded importers want to THINK that some Honda and Toyota parts are “affordable” these days, they really aren’t.

    These are only my personal driving experiences, never mind the hundreds of cars I’ve repaired or upgraded in the last 14 years. For every piece of crap Ford/Dodge/GM with reliability and quality problems, I can name you one Honda/Nissan/VW/Toyota with their own problems. For every Ford/Dodge/GM you name that you had a bad experience with, I can name TEN that ran forever without the slightest problem.

    People need to get over this mindless bashing crap. Bash GM/Ford/Chrysler for running their businesses into the ground thanks to piss-poor management and unyielding unions, not their overall products. EVERY manufacturer makes good cars and bad cars.

    Which is why, btw, the original poster here said he still drove nothing but GMs his whole life–as a tech, he knew which cars were good and reliable, and which were not, and drove what he knew worked. And got dirt-cheap parts while he was at it.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    tigeraid, Most people don’t swear off a brand because of ONE bad experience. Did you read the earlier posts? Or the other posts on this site?

    tigeraid: “the original poster here said he still drove nothing but GMs his whole life–as a tech, he knew which cars were good and reliable, and which were not, and drove what he knew worked. And got dirt-cheap parts while he was at it.”

    If we all worked for Mr. GoodWrench, then I guess we’d all be able to pick out the gems and we’d all be able to fix them ourselves, on the weekends in a nice, dry shop, and we’d all get dirt-cheap parts to do it, too.

    I work in IT. I have performed various repairs on my cars, over the years (alternators, radiators, some other easy stuff). But I don’t enjoy it and I don’t want to do it.

    I have no idea how to fix an intake manifold. I don’t particularly want to know how to fix an intake manifold. In fact, if I worked in GM’s IT department, I’d still probably have no idea how to fix an intake manifold. Although, I might be able to look at parts consumption and warranty service rates and determine which cars were good and which were trouble.

    Hey, GM could just publish those numbers. Then we’d all know. Hmmmm… I wonder why GM doesn’t do that?

    When it comes to intake manifolds, I just don’t want the part to fail. Come to think of it, I just want to turn the key and go. I don’t want to think about the parts at all.

    So my workaround to compensate for my inability and disinclination to swiftly and accurately repair all kinds of problems in GM cars is to buy other brands of cars that don’t seem to need repairs very often. So far, with the 4 currently in my driveway, none have been necessary at an average age of 9 model years. I strongly suspect others have seized on a similar strategy.

    For some strange reason, this is not working to GM’s advantage.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    To swear off one brand because of a bad experience is simple ignorance.

    That’s a strawman argument. The discontent is due largely to many bad experiences, both first- and second-hand, plus quantitative data that supports the hesitance, cynicism and avoidance.

    It is simply not possible to look at the data objectively and believe that the domestics are as trustworthy. Surveys such as Consumer Reports, which are based upon hundreds of thousands of responses each year, make it clear that they aren’t equal.

    If anything, the data shows that people are slow to respond to the information available to them. If consumers were as data driven as they should be, they would have abandoned most of the domestics 25 years ago, instead of being so slow to react.

    It can take awhile for consumers to change, but when they do, they are difficult to win back. The process of losing them was time consuming, and so will be the process of winning them back. Expecting consumers to spend a good deal of effort avoiding 90% of the product line is not realistic.

  • avatar
    tigeraid

    As many a technician and mechanic will tell you, Consumer Reports is in no way imperical evidence, because it does not take into account The Average Consumer (read: moron) who doesn’t understand the first thing about basic automotive maintenence, car care, or even simple common sense (“ball joint failed on my Park Avenue–of course, I bang it off curbs eight times a day, and haven’t had the front end checked in three years…”)

    Getting imperical evidence of actual automotive reliability is incredibly difficult…

    Are there any surveys that use a significant amount of the population, under controlled circumstances, several people each with a given kind of car, who ARE properly versed in basic car care, and will report results with basic knowledge and intelligence? If so, that would be your accurate survey.

    Until then, I’ll take the vast array of mechanics, technicians, enthusiasts and parts people who see the reliability for what it is. “Fords warp rotors really bad all the time” doesn’t count when the guy hasn’t changed his brake pads in three years.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Are there any surveys that use a significant amount of the population, under controlled circumstances, several people each with a given kind of car, who ARE properly versed in basic car care, and will report results with basic knowledge and intelligence? If so, that would be your accurate survey.

    So you are apparently claiming that people who are ignorant of vehicle maintenance are more likely to buy domestics. Because if you are correct, that’s what the data would suggest.

    This would bolster the reasons to buy a transplant. If people don’t know much about auto repair, they are better off buying vehicles that require fewer repairs. Most of those don’t come from Detroit, according to you.

  • avatar
    rx8totheendoftime

    “counting cars :
    December 14th, 2008 at 5:30 pm

    i drive a 1994 gmc, well over 300000 on it, runs great, and no rust. other than 1 fuel pump, no major problems..just the regular tires and brakes..etc.
    i dont see the crappy. ???”

    Know what you mean, know what you mean, say no more, say no more, nudge, nudge, wink, wink…I don’t see the crappy GMs either…unless I put my glasses on…

    To some of the others here, GM is the proverbial ‘dead parrot’…remember?:”It’s not dead, it’s sleeping.”

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