"Let's Talk About GM Quality"

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

GM’s North American VP for quality, Rick Spina, latches on to the latest JD Power IQS with a blog post at Fastlane titled “What Quality Gap?” and a webchat inviting every pissed-off GM owner to bitch about their quality problems.

For all the naysayers out there … get this … in the J.D. Power & Associates 2009 Initial Quality Study, Cadillac, our flagship brand, improved by 19 percent since last year’s study and comes in third, just behind Lexus and Porsche. That’s pretty darn good considering brands typically improve around 5 percent a year. And Chevy, our volume leader, eliminates the quality gap to join company with very competitive import brands like Honda and Toyota. Simply put, the quality gap is history.

Oh really?

The obvious retort is that “initial quality” is a meaningless category and that JDP tends to favor firms that hire it for consulting duties. And the point comes up early in the Spina-hosted webchat: “When will GM stop using ‘Initial quality’ as a benchmark for their vehicles? How about ‘Best long term reliability and quality,'” asks commenter “Nate.”

We’re never going to stop because it’s one important measure, but using initial quality is not our only measure of quality. Just several months ago, we had good response to rolling out a JD Power dependability study; customer feedback on vehicles that are 3-years-old. In fact, one of our four core brands Buick was atop the study. We pay just as much attention to long term dependability as we do initial quality.

Besides, isn’t quality an issue only in the mind of the beholder? Spina spins it that way.

personally I don’t see door closing sound as highly important, but I respect that it’s an important indicator to you and other customers, so we work hard on it. What’s important to you is important to us.

Which contrasts nicely with GM’s “our products are desireable, dammit” talking points. Lacking an internal compass to distinguish what constitutes a good door-closing sound, or other desireable qualities, GM has no choice but paint itself as a good listener. As if focus group mania hadn’t done enough damage ’round Ren Cen way in the past. Besides, GM’s long history of questionable product quality isn’t the only thing that makes consumers wary of the General.

By lavishing PR praise on decades of sub-par products, GM has lost the credibility necessary to simply tell consumers that quality has improved. Only a spontaneous rediscovery of GM’s product desirability will be enough to change consumer opinion. And if that were happening, GM would be able to point to sales, rather than a meaningless “initial quality” survey.

Edward Niedermeyer
Edward Niedermeyer

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  • Jaje Jaje on Jun 24, 2009

    Bonneville - there's no doubting that GM builds a class leading v8 whether in their trucks or the Corvette. GM has really put a lot of engineering in develping it's v8 engines technology and has done well but still has the stigma of OHV hanging over its head. Look at GM's OHV v6s have almost finally gone by the wayside and outside of those who love those engines they have never been anything special. Frankly the standard Ecotec engine is really a non factor compared to most other inline 4 engines - this is in NVH, power, economy, engine noise, etc. Really the only way the Ecotec engine is laudible for any credit is when you add forced induction. But then you have to consider the competitions other 4 cylinder forced fed engines (these include: Evo IX, A4 2.0T, Neon SRT-4, Mazdaspeed 2.3T, Saab T4, WRX boxer turbo - just to name a few). The US built Ariel Atoms orginially came with Ecotec NA and forced fed 4's but now they are sold with the Honda CTR engine that they originally were designed for back in the UK. I've yet to drive a CTS with the new v6 - only have driven the CTS V (fun car) - so can't comment on that one.

  • Nevets248 Nevets248 on Jun 25, 2009

    dealership experience-HA! Piston slap issue-"They all do it" Dexclog clunk in steering rack-"lube up the I-shaft" The GM 100K warranty-brought to you by the letters N,P, and F. (No Problem Found)

  • Zipper69 I'm sure it will sell just fine at all trim levels.I'd only note that IMHO the dashboard is a bit of a busy mess.
  • MaintenanceCosts Why do you have to accept two fewer cylinders in your gas engine to get an electric motor? (This question also applies to the CX-90.)
  • Zipper69 Do they have unique technology that might interest another manufacturer?
  • Ger65690267 The reason for not keeping the Hemi is two fold, one is the emissions is too high, it would need a complete redesign to make it comply. The other is a need for a strong modern 6 cylinder within Stellantis portfolio of vehicles moving forward.They decided they rather invest in a I6 turbo which is designed to incorporate future electrification systems and not also updating their V8 engine. Unlike both GM & Ford, a brand constantly pushing smaller displacement turbo engines has decided to still keep V8s in their truck line up, because they know it's important to their core customers.GM has invested billions for their next gen small block V8s and Ford has already updated their 5.0L V8. However, Dodge and RAM which is a brand built on the Hemi name and having a V8 has decided to drop it. I think it's clearly a strategic misstep for RAM not to do the same for their trucks, Chargers/Challengers going forward.Stellantis relies heavily on the profits from their NA operations, I think they may not fully understood how important the Hemi was in their 1500 class trucks. On a side note, no one in the media seems to be noting that while the Hurricane S.O. puts out more hp/torque to the outgoing Hemi, that for some reason has lost both towing and payload capability.  
  • Ajla I'm going to whine about it. It should have a V8 available. Preferably a new one but at least offering the old one as a mid-level option. That this brand new engine outperforms something introduced 2003 and last updated in 2009 doesn't impress me. Also, journalists seem to be unaware that it is possible to add forced induction to a V8.
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