Question of the Day: Ralph Nader, Angel or Demon?

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
question of the day ralph nader angel or demon

It’s Monday, so let’s start it off by ignoring the demands of your cruel overseers in The Man’s salt mines and turning to a subject that’s sure to get all automotive enthusiasts riled up: Ralph Nader!

First of all, we’re going to add the requirement that you don’t get to talk about the contents of Unsafe At Any Speed unless you’ve read the damn book first (if you do, you’ll find that the book has just one short chapter about the Corvair, sales of which were already in the toilet when the book came out in 1965 — mostly thanks to the American car-buying public’s preference for a more traditional compact Chevy). Second of all, this is about Ralph Nader as his activities relate to the automotive industry, so if you’re pissed off about those 97,421 Nader votes in Florida in 2000, too bad — you’ll need to tamp down your rage over Bush’s win and stick to car-related discussion here.

Nader — who likely would have have languished in obscurity had General Motors not attempted to smear him (in classic clumsy GM fashion) with all manner of Nixonian dirty tricks — pointed out many of Detroit’s shady practices in his book, including odometers set to read fast (to get cars out of warranty more quickly), and made the case that only government regulation could fix the problems of dangerous vehicles and janky consumer-ripoff business practices. Now we have plenty of such regulation on vehicles and a gigantic bureaucracy devoted to the subject. So, overall, do you think the revolution that Nader started was a net win or loss when it comes to what we drive today? Feel free to deliver table-pounding tirades and withering jeremiads, but keep in mind that anybody making personal attacks on other commenters — even those you know to be dangerously wrong — will be impaled on a ’59 Cadillac fin and banned, not necessarily in that order.

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  • V8corvairpickup V8corvairpickup on Jun 22, 2015

    Yes, I think he had an impact on the safety of the motorist and I think he's an arrogant jerk. I suspect that many of the changes to the auto industry would have happened without his direct influence but it may have taken a few years longer. Ultimately, the dollars were spent on safety improvements.

  • MRF 95 T-Bird MRF 95 T-Bird on Jun 23, 2015

    The victim/boyfriend of Laura Bush's car accident happened to be driving a Corvair. In May 2000, a two-page police report pertaining to a fatal accident that had taken place near Midland, Texas, in 1963 was made public. It image: Laura Bush contained the information that 17-year-old Laura Welch had run a stop sign, causing the death of the sole occupant of the vehicle hers had struck. According to that report, the future First Lady had been driving her Chevrolet sedan to a local drive-in theater on a clear night shortly after 8 p.m. on 6 November 1963 when she entered an intersection without heeding the stop sign and there collided with the Corvair sedan driven by 17-year-old Michael Douglas. Also in the car with Laura Welch was her friend, 17-year-old Judy Dykes. Read more at It was the Consumer Rights movement led by Nader that have improved most household products and enhanced government and corporate accountability. Sensible regulation is not the Nanny state. However prior to the publication of Unsafe at any Speed in the late 50's there was a series of articles on auto safety by Daniel Patrick Moynahan in the Nation magazine that also had a impact on getting the feds to address auto safety and pass NHSTA in 1967. Autos have vastly improved and death rats have fallen. I say this as a big fan of the Corvair who helped friends restore them back in the late 70's. If only GM did the proposed 70 redesign, it would be their 911/Carrera. My grandparents owned two. A 62 Monza 4 dr 80 hp 3 speed in brown and a 65 500 series 4 dr 95 hp 3 speed in blue. They loved them but some relatives would occasionally nag them 'Read the Nader book!" They later upgraded to more modern GM products.

  • Inside Looking Out You should care. With GM will die America. All signs are there. How about the Arsenal of Democracy? Toyota?
  • DenverMike What else did anyone think, when GM was losing tens of billions a year, year after year?
  • Bill Wade GM says they're killing Android Auto and Apple Carplay. Any company that makes decisions like that is doomed to die.
  • Jeff S I don't believe gm will die but that it will continue to shrink in product and market share and it will probably be acquired by a foreign manufacturer. I doubt gm lacks funds as it did in 2008 and that they have more than enough cash at hand but gm will not expand as it did in the past and the emphasis is more on profitability and cutting costs to the bone. Making gm a more attractive takeover target and cut costs at the expense of more desirable and reliable products. At the time of Farago's article I was in favor of the Government bailout more to save jobs and suppliers but today I would not be in favor of the bailout. My opinions on gm have changed since 2008 and 2009 and now I really don't care if gm survives or not.
  • Kwik_Shift I was a GM fan boy until it ended in 2013 when I traded in my Avalanche to go over to Nissan.