By on June 22, 2015

QOTD-RalphNader

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!
QOTD-RalphNader2

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.

QOTD-RalphNader3

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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89 Comments on “Question of the Day: Ralph Nader, Angel or Demon?...”


  • avatar
    RideHeight

    He ain’t done so bad for the son of Lebanese immigrants. A secular monk, wholly devoted to putting his life where his mouth is. I admire him no end. And I love Corvairs.

  • avatar
    319583076

    Gee, Mr. Martin, you make it sound as if the American Corporation – the pinnacle and realization of man’s greatest potential – is out to rip me off…for my money?! Say it ain’t so!

    • 0 avatar
      econobiker

      The Corporation wants to make the most money available from you without you actually going bankrupt and reneging on those obligations. Oh, wait, the Corporations got the bankruptcy laws changed too so you still have to pay.
      Never mind….

  • avatar
    HerrKaLeun

    “gigantic bureaucracy devoted to the subject. So, overall, do you think the revolution that Nader started was a net win or loss”

    not sure how one could see it as a loss. Cars today are very safe (unlike drivers!) and adjusted for inflation and features/power cheaper than back then.

    Sure the government may have added inefficient bureaucracy (think of CAFE), but that isn’t Nader’s fault (after all, he didn’t win in 2000, so we have to blame others for the shortcomings of government).
    Even with all the government oversight, GM still trying to pull off the same things. I’m sure if it was 1960’s that ignition switch would not have been in anyone’s mind since it would be covered up.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Hero. Not that he was the only one rattling the cage, but he was the loudest. As a result we have far safer, efficient cars.

    • 0 avatar
      RideHeight

      Efficiency is not safety. Today, CAFE has made fuel efficiency the antagonist of safety (squashed roofs, DLO reduction), and certainly of comfort which can be a component of safety.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        Cars have never been safer.

        • 0 avatar
          RideHeight

          And each safety improvement adds weight which is inimical to fuel efficiency. The two goals are antagonistic and something has to give, which ends up being safety in the form of visibility and ergonomics.

          Yes, cars are safer than ever in the event of a collision. I’d just like to see well enough to avoid those in the first place and I’ll gladly buy more gas if need be to have that.

          • 0 avatar
            jmo

            “And each safety improvement adds weight which is inimical to fuel efficiency. ”

            Then why have cars never been safer or more fuel efficient?

          • 0 avatar
            RideHeight

            They’re only more fuel efficient because of literally crushing aerodynamic compliance and increasingly highly stressed small engines.

            I’m fine with getting more out of less engine capacity, but the epidemic reduction in visibility (and attendant ergonomic squishing) is clearly killing the sedan segment.

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    He was one of the first to recognize that it was unwise to turn Corporate America into a religion. For that, he was often crucified as being a heretic. It’s a very old human story. In the history books, he’ll eventually be lionized for being the lonely voice that spoke the truth.

  • avatar
    Luke42

    The poll needs an “it’s complicated”.

    Like Richard Stallman, the guy is annoying, but sticks to his values. Also like Richard Stallman, he helped get on important ball rolling at a key point in engineering history.

    It doesn’t mean I wouldn’t end up in a screaming match with the guy over dinner.

    Respecting someone’s contributions to an important cause doesn’t make them an angel, or even a likely friend. But I do respect what Nader managed to achieve by pushing the right buttons at the right time while pointing out severe lapses in institutional-engineering judgement. Both GM and every driver in the world in bettor off for it.

    I would take an hour of my time to hear Nader speak if he were to give a talk in my university town, but I’m unlikely to vote for him. I’m also not voting in the poll on this page, mecaine the choices are needlessly polarizing.

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      Well stated.

    • 0 avatar
      wumpus

      Just because they are out to get you doesn’t mean you aren’t paranoid.

      The diference between Richard Stallman and Ralph Nader is that while Richard Stallman will go into screaming fury with anyone who isn’t 100% commited to his ideals, he hasn’t been actively interfereing with the Open Source (not 100% pure “free software”) movement. Ralph Nader, on the other hand, specifically interferes with any attempt to reduce corruption in DC that includes any concession to reality. His success in putting W. Bush in office was part of specific plan to damage the US to the point that America would realize that we need to follow Ralph’s vision of purity (while you certainly need a large amount of Hubris to run for that office, this is … impressive).

      Seriously. Read “Unsafe at any Speed” sometime. You will come to two conclusions:
      US car makers were killing people at alarming rates and the system was set up to continue indefitely.
      Ralph Nader sees conspiracies everywhere.

      A better question is why in the world it took Ralph Nader to get auto manufacturers to make safer cars? Death rates weren’t enough. Putting spikes* on steering wheels that effectively impale the driver on impact weren’t enough. A nut ranting about drive-killing conspiracies was what it took. While I understand that by 1965 (when it was published), the US had already put the corporations back in charge, the whole idea that it takes a nut** to change anything should make us seriously question why the government is of the corporations, by the corporations and for the corporations.

      * likely apocryphal. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a picture of one, just people claiming it existed.
      ** I understand that fighting the biggest industry in the world requires a certain level of craziness. The problem was that the people only followed someone with such obvious issues.

      • 0 avatar
        CRConrad

        I don’t know if there’s ever been talk, apocryphal or not, of an actual spike _on top of_ the steering wheel; my interpretation of that has always been that what is meant is the steering column behind it, which in the bad old days of solid rods enclosed in very solid pipes worked _in effect_ as a very dangerous spike hidden _behind_ the wheel. People were apparently quite literally impaled on those.

        Maybe that interpretation has been conflated with the idea I’ve sometimes seen mentioned, that one efficient safety measure _would be_ to actually install a visible spike continuing the steering column out of the wheel towards the driver’s chest — which would be a very convincing incentive to drive more safely.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      I agree with you Luke. I also didn’t vote because it’s not so simple. He’s done good, and not so good. I at least respect him for staying consistent. I think this is the biggest issue in the US. Everything get’s turned into a simple yes or now, good vs. bad, 1 or 0. Do you support healthcare reform? Do you support immigration reform? Should we have s strong defense department? Issues that are way more complicated then simple yes or no answers, but that’s what the polls ask.

  • avatar
    redav

    Nothing is as good or as bad as advertised. That includes people. Nader is neither an angel nor a demon.

  • avatar
    Eliyahu

    I thought he unfairly killed the Corvair, which I’m pretty sure had its rollover problem fixed with an independent rear suspension when the book came out. Not that I read the book.

    The problem with Ralph Nadar is that he doesn’t love cars. I don’t even think he owns one. Still, he has had a great impact in consumer safety.

    I believe that the organization he started, the Center for Auto Safety, still publishes THE CAR BOOK, a consumer guide to the best and worst cars. Let’s just say that the guide’s priorities might be slightly different from the average TTAC reader, but more closed to the mythical TTAC appliance buyer, aka, the American public.

    • 0 avatar
      tonyola

      Actually, GM stopped development of the Corvair in spring 1965, even before Nader’s book came out. The only changes allowed after that point were those necessary to meet federal requirements. The funds were diverted to development of the Camaro – GM’s true Mustang fighter – and the Corvair was allowed to slowly wither away.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Well, I don’t agree 100% on this – they introduced any number of new mechanical features too – but you’re right, GM pretty much gave up on the model.

        Too bad, because the second-gen ’65 coupe and convertible were drop dead beautiful cars.

        • 0 avatar
          geeber

          GM initially thought that the second-generation Corvair would handle the Mustang. GM management viewed the Mustang as a rehashed Falcon, so they thought it wouldn’t be a serious threat. Remember that the Corvair Monza had essentially invented the sporty compact market, and the Mustang was developed to tap the market segment that the Monza had uncovered.

          GM management did order development stopped on the Corvair after the Mustang proved to be a huge success. That was after the debut of the second-generation model. Corvair sales fell rapidly after the 1965 model year.

          The second-generation model is beautiful – particularly the hardtop coupe. Interestingly, the first-generation Corvair was hugely influential from a styling standpoint in Europe and Japan. It was even copied by a Soviet manufacturer! The second-generation model, while critically praised here, didn’t have the same global impact as its predecessor.

          • 0 avatar
            RideHeight

            Great comment, geeber. The take-rate on first gen Monzas attest to their invention of the sporty compact market. So does Chevy’s decision to introduce the Chevy II to better address the general compact market that had been going to Falcons.

            And the second gen Corvair is one of the most elegant designs ever fielded.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve Biro

      “I thought he unfairly killed the Corvair, which I’m pretty sure had its rollover problem fixed with an independent rear suspension when the book came out. Not that I read the book.”

      You’re right about the rollover problem being fixed by the 1965 model. In fact, Nadar accounts for this in the book. He points out that the camber compensator added to the 1964 Corvair helped quite a bit and that, for the 1965 redesign, GM allowed its engineers to give the Corvair the kind of rear suspension they knew it needed all along. That’s close to a quote but not quite. Nadar doesn’t blame any of the Corvair’s problems on engineers. It’s the bean counters he takes to task.

      BTW, there’s something about the Mustang in the book as well – about how the concept called for the Mustang to include every safety feature Ford could put into production at the time. But by the time the Mustang came out, every one of those features was axed to save money.

    • 0 avatar
      AthensSlim

      The book effectively states that the ’65 model had no issue with handling. The bigger point was that GM knew a problem existed with the ’60-’63 models (partially fixed in the ’64 by a camber compensator) but didn’t fix it in order to keep costs down.

      The book also (briefly) points out that other manufacturers (VW, specifically) were also making rear heavy cars with swing axles with similar results. I imagine GM was made the example because they were GM.

  • avatar
    Drzhivago138

    A sinful human being, just like you and me.

  • avatar
    Jeff Weimer

    Angel? Demon?

    No. Puritan.

  • avatar
    Boxerman

    Its not an either or. 100 years ago we needed unions, somewhere by the 70s they had completed a great job and arguably become destructive.

    Would corporations have given us safer cars? what about fuel econonmy, maybe, emissions unlikely.

    So gov regulation did a lot of good. But like all things it can be taken too far. Detroit partialy got killed in the 70s by tech forcing on emissions, ie the tech as not ready. Remember the cali ev mandate, talk about a bridge too far.

    Now as much as we think maybe cafe will go too far, the latest regs have undoubtably brought in significant fuel economy gains in all vehicles. But this time the tech is ready sow e have decent vehicles.

    Nader is a crusader of messionic zeal, thats an important voice, but its a voice not a set rule.

    Do we want robo cars forced on us, de we want v2v forced on us, 24/7 monitoring of driving? Mt guess is not, so things which start at a good pleace and resolve a need can and do get taken too far.

  • avatar
    JT

    Was “poorly informed Messianic smacked-ass” an option?

    • 0 avatar
      wumpus

      “poorly informed”? Hardly. His facts were pretty good (don’t blame him for pointing out the deficiencies of earlier cars, publishing on dead trees isn’t instantaneous now and was worse then). His facts were strong, his conclusions not so much.

      Messianic? Always has been and getting worse. Hopefully with less attention.

  • avatar
    STRATOS

    We have reached a point where safety standards are having a negative effects on fuel economy and vehicle cost.No matter how safe you make your vehicle you cannot change the laws of physics.Most accident fatalities are pedestrians. You could save more lives just by eliminating workplace accidents and imposing jail terms for people who cause serious accidents.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    As an automotive safety advocate, definitely more angel than demon, and the Corvair story helped illustrate the penny-wise, safety-poor mind-set of many corporations very clearly for Americans. I wish I could say that stopped it, but the Pinto, and incidents like the Alaska Airlines crash (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alaska_Airlines_Flight_261), Colgan Air 3407, the BP oil spill, the GM ignition scandal, and many others indicate to me that this hasn’t changed all that much.

    As for the rest, including his role in getting the Nameless One elected…epic, epic, epic, epic fail.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      In fairness to Nader, the 2000 election was Gore’s to lose, not his (Nader’s) to spoil. Bush wasn’t remotely a strong candidate, and it really took some work for Gore to flub it; I wouldn’t have thought you could run a worse campaign.

      Kerry, of course, managed to flub it even worse in 2004.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I don’t think we can paint anybody as a demon who has the courage to speak out on the -truth- of a matter. Going against the grain and exposing these cheap and dishonest tricks by car manufacturers can only help the consumer – even if the result is greater legislation and regulation.

    Generally I’m against “big government involvement” as it were, but there are some things which must be forced upon companies, lest they take continual advantage. Better brakes, impact bumpers, seat belts, interior buttons which aren’t metal spears – all improvements mandated by legislation at one point or another. It saved lives then, and continues to do so today.

    Companies which hide their dirty tricks deserve to fear their own exposure at any given time; might just keep them more honest.

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    His most profound achievement/legacy is the tipping of the 2000 election to Mr. Bush Jr.

    • 0 avatar
      Master Baiter

      He’s not a junior. Different middle names.

    • 0 avatar
      econobiker

      Maybe, maybe not on the 2000 election – there may have been a “man in the middle” computer exploit for Ohio results. Without paper voting record tallies we’ll never know about then and the future.

      The main problem is the 2 party money control of various media and political venues.
      Example: most political reporters do not cover the fact that the “presidential debates” are more corporate sponsored infomercial than actual debate now.

    • 0 avatar
      carlisimo

      Gore’s fault for not conceding and giving Nader his votes.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    He told TTAC; he’s a hero. Years ago I would have said otherwise.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Why’s that? I’m always interested in hearing when people have had a complete change of opinion/heart.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        I used to be completely on the side of de-regulation, but I’ve come to realize that some regulation is not only wise – it’s what we really want.

        One could argue that market forces would propel corporations to view safety as a value-add feature rather than a burden, but they often don’t. In the car world, a few mfrs have been able to ‘sell’ safety (Volvo, Subaru, Mercedes), but most others have simply been forced to produce what we now take for granted – largely thanks to the early efforts of Ralph Nader.

        However, we’ve arrived at a point where it’s possible the safety nannies could actually hurt us – airbags and autonomous cars being a couple examples. The Takata airbag victims would have been better off with no airbag at all, and the specter of a self-driving car killing its occupants or pedestrians makes us wonder about the quality control of the products which are supposed to help us.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Thanks.

          The frog is long cooked in the pot now though, too late to hand it a towel. :)

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          SCE, true, the Takata airbags were more harmful than good, but didn’t happen because of regulations – it happened because of the company’s incompetence and greed.

          And without regulations, how could the problem have been addressed? I mean, the government had to drag this into fixing the problem it caused, and the company was pretty much kicking and screaming all the way. No way this would have been resolved otherwise, you know?

          • 0 avatar
            SCE to AUX

            Agreed. This is why I mentioned the issue is with the quality control at the suppliers. QC of course needs to be integrated from concept through design, prototype, test, production, and documentation.

            Some industries require proof of decent QC (medical and safety-related products). Regulating/forcing this may be the next step for auto suppliers (making it a legal issue rather than just an economic one), but a time-based problem like Takata encountered is harder to manage.

  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    Guys like Nader helped to create and popularize a defining concept of the Modern World – the idea that technological advance can be accomplished without risk, and that if the inherent risk of a particular activity can’t be entirely removed, then it’s just not worth doing.

    It’s an attitude that short-circuits technological innovation, which is dangerous because the world NEEDS technological innovation.

    Sometimes you just gotta strap your ass to the rocket, light the fuse and hope you carried the two.

    • 0 avatar
      MPAVictoria

      “Sometimes you just gotta strap your ass to the rocket, light the fuse and hope you carried the two.”

      “Which is why family sedans carrying children back and forth to daycare don’t need any of your LIBERAL, NAMBY BAMBY, “safety” devices. Back in my day we died when we got in car wrecks and thats the way we liked it! P.S. I am not a crank.”

      *Shakes Fist at Passing Cloud

      • 0 avatar
        OneAlpha

        “Shakes Fist at Passing Cloud”

        Interesting that you should put it that way, because railing against the concept of risk, which is a natural aspect of life, is very much like shaking your fist at the rain – metaphorically speaking, of course.

        • 0 avatar
          MPAVictoria

          “because railing against the concept of risk, which is a natural aspect of life”

          Oh. So you have a philosophical objection to taking action to reduce risk? Given up looking both ways when crossing the street have you? Taken up jogging at night while wearing an all black unitard?

          Well at least its an ethos….

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          One Alpha, yes, there’s risk, but how do you assess it? The only way is to know what the risks are 100% going in.

          And the only way companies will disclose that is through regulation.

          So, you should be appluading regulation, as it gives you the information you need to make good decisions.

          Otherwise, you “trust the market,” and that’s all well and good…until you find out that someone sold you a product they knew full well was faulty or dangerous, and you or someone you love gets hurt. In that case, the libertarian ideal that somehow, some way, “the market will weed out that loser” is not going to be much comfort to you.

          I just see too much of that garbage coming from corporations to buy into letting them police themselves. They won’t do it, and when they fail, people who had no idea they were taking their lives in their hands end up dead. Sorry, I won’t go along with that.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      It’s not the risk that the problem.

      The problems that come up in the automotive industry are usually risks then we know how to mitigate for a modest price, as we boldly go down paved reois where thousands of people have gone before lunch.

      I’m all for boldly going where no one has gone before. I’m just not it favor embracing risks that we already know how to make go away. I’d jump at a chance to take a risky flight to space, but I’d demand that the engineers who built it not be blown off with “but that will reduce our per unit margins my 2%!”

      The real problems with manned space flight are the bureaucratic organizations doing it without a budget. Get some good rocket scientists together with managers from Silicon Valley, and you can build a real space program. That would be Space-X, and they’re 90% of the way to building the reusable rocket that The Space Shuttle was supposed to be.

  • avatar
    TW5

    I admire his conviction, but fire-and-brimstone prophecy about corporate apocalypse is just his vocation and his cultural schtick.

    He’s not good or bad, he just is.

  • avatar
    geeber

    Ralph Nader brought up an important point – that accidents are a natural part of driving, and safety therefore has to be designed into a car.

    In that case he was ahead of the curve. He was also ahead of 99 percent of new-car buyers of the time. While he was correct that customers were going to spooked by a vehicle they perceived to be unsafe, his adversaries – managers of automobile companies – were also correct. Most buyers simply placed a low priority on safety in the 1960s, and viewed accidents as something that happened to “other people.” Given the choice between paying for safety belts and other various safety items, and paying for a vinyl roof and air conditioning, most customers would have chosen the latter in the 1960s. The question really was whether companies have an obligation to sell safety or simply give customers what they want (and let some customers pay extra for safety devices and features if they want them). Nader’s view ultimately won.

    Many buyers in the 1960s had survived the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918, two world wars, the Great Depression, the Korean War and the polio scourge, so they didn’t view auto accidents as the biggest threat to life and limb. That view changed when the Baby Boomers, raised in relative safety and affluence, began hitting the market in large numbers in the late 1970s and early 1980s. That is when states began cracking down on drunk drivers (a movement Nader didn’t initially enthusiastically endorse) and passing mandatory seat belt laws.

    Nader’s problem was that he didn’t know when to quit, and, like many people, he can’t admit when he is wrong. His squawking like Chicken Little when the federal government repealed the national speed limit completely in late 1995 made him look silly and out-of-touch with a new generation of drivers.

    • 0 avatar
      econobiker

      There was perverse happiness in my family when sections of the Rep. Jim Howard Hightway named I-195 in NJ were finally allowed to be increased to 65mph. (Howard was the primary sponsor of the 55 mph law.)

      Also mandatory seat belt laws were the insurance industry’s doing do reduce payouts. The US public never saw any corresponding reductions in car insurance rates though…

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        Mandatory seat belt laws were pushed by the automobile companies as a substitute for the mandatory installation of air bags.

        People forget that air bags were initially promoted by Nader and Joan Claybrook as a substitute for safety belts. They argued that air bags were necessary because people were not buckling up behind the wheel. The automobile companies argued – correctly – that air bags without safety belts could be dangerous, particularly to children and shorter drivers.

        In the late 1980s, Lee Iacocca decided to install air bags on cars to gain a competitive advantage over the Japanese, GM and Ford. By 1987, Chrysler Corporation’s K-car based line-up was looking quite stale. The corporation got a ton of free publicity – virtually all of it favorable – when it decided to begin making air bags standard equipment.

        By that point, virtually every state had passed a mandatory safety belt law, so it became a moot point as to whether air bags were safe if the driver or passenger weren’t wearing safety belts.

    • 0 avatar
      OneAlpha

      Good point.

      The fact that Americans get frothing-at-the-mouth, self-righteously angry about things like drunk driving just shows how few real problems we have to deal with.

      • 0 avatar
        RideHeight

        “frothing-at-the-mouth, self-righteously angry about things like drunk driving”

        How many DUIs have you had?

      • 0 avatar
        MPAVictoria

        “The fact that Americans get frothing-at-the-mouth, self-righteously angry about things like drunk driving just shows how few real problems we have to deal with.”

        Wow…

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Don’t worry, fellas, if God forbid some drunken a-hole takes out ol’ Alpha’s family, I’m sure he’ll live by his “we have better things to deal with” principles and just shrug it off. Better to do that than have the big bad gummint in our face about not driving a car when we’re too blitzed to see straight.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          Alpha is working overtime to prove that human intelligence is a hoax.

        • 0 avatar
          OneAlpha

          Give the government the power to “solve problems,” and sooner or later it’s gonna decide that YOU’RE the next problem it needs to solve.

          Better the deaths of individuals due to abuses of freedom by other individuals, than the death of an entire civilization due to abuses of power by the State.

          You may think I’m a monster for saying that, but I think you’d rather to live in my world than the one the do-gooders would impose on you.

  • avatar
    7402

    I’m a fan. I read the book as a teenager out of deeply personal interest. I was driving a 1963 Corvair Spyder Turbo at the time and frequently drove through the very intersection where the Corvair accident Nader covers in the book occurred. I always carried a couple of cinder blocks in the nose to help keep the front down at freeway speeds.

    The modern automobile is much safer because of Nader’s efforts.

  • avatar
    jdmcomp

    Neither Nader nor GM can claim fame here, both were horrible in their own way.

    • 0 avatar
      skor

      Who killed more people, GM or Nader? Fact is that for decades GM’s official position on auto safety was their cars were never at fault, all injuries or deaths were the result of operator error. How do Nader’s actions rise to the same level of rottenness?

      • 0 avatar
        CRConrad

        @skor: “Who killed more people, GM or Nader?”

        Well, given that one could argue: Nader “spoiling” 2000 election –> Bush presidency –> Iraq war –> ~3,500(?) Americans + ~60,000+ Iraqis –> ~65,000 people, from a certain perspective, those war dead might be put at Nader’s feet… Beats even GM, I think.

        (Not that I’m saying this line of reasoning is valid, in fact I’d say it isn’t, but I don’t have any 100% foolproof logical evidence against it.)

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      One guy wanted to make car safer and took on most of the American industrial establishment in the process.

      The other guys went so far as to try hire hookers to entrap him in a scandal.

      That should tell you all you need to know about who had the moral high ground, and who felt guilty and had skeletons in the closet.

  • avatar
    econobiker

    Credit the insurance industry for picking up some of the flack for safey before Nader arrived on the scene.

    It hates paying out claims enough to pay for the Insurnance Institue for Highway Safey starting in 1959!

    Review the 2009 crash between a 1959 Impala and 2009 Chevrolet Malibu which they put on for the IIHS 50th aniversary for the difference in car safety then and now.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Nader is a tedious megalomaniac who resides in a political bubble. And his efforts to improve auto safety have saved perhaps hundreds of thousands of lives in the US alone. He has done some good work, but I wouldn’t want to have a beer with him.

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      This is a good summation of my feelings on Nader. I would vote if there were a “human” button. A calm rational person would have done a lot less good. A less evil industry wouldn’t have driven him so far off the rails. I’m glad he was there, but I’d walk away from a really good beer if it had to stay in the same room Ralph was in.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        The auto industry wasn’t “evil.” Most people simply were not interested in automobile safety in the early 1960s. And that $15 per-car cost of a front stabilizer bar may not seem like much today, but in 1960, that was a fair amount of money for buyers, virtually all of whom had been through the Great Depression. That cost differential could be a deal breaker when the Ford dealer down the street was selling Falcons with the engine in the proper place for less.

        GM’s ultimate mistake was its failure to realize what it had in the Corvair. It thought the Corvair should be a cheap, economical car, because management thought that people only bought small cars to save money.

        The Corvair Monza, with its sporty looks, upscale trim and bucket seats, showed that buyers were willing to pay more for a well-trimmed, handsome small car. The tightwad buyers went to the Ford dealer or Rambler dealer for a Falcon or an American, respectively. The 1962 Chevy II was GM’s vehicle for those buyers.

        • 0 avatar
          VolandoBajo

          And those who liked to hoon in HS in one of those new compact cars went for the Valiant. At the time it was the quickest of the bunch, easily shutting down both Corvairs and Falcons. Some limited edition models might have been quicker, but for the average models in most parents’ driveways in the sixties, the Valiant was the sleeper of the bunch.

          And I had many a good time in one back in the day, at many different speeds, including parked. My HS GF had a white one, a 61 IIRC.

          It had enough interior room to be practical. Let’s leave it at that. Puts me in the mind of a Bob Seeger song…Night Moves.

          Our paths went different ways, mostly due to my wandering feet and unwillingness to settle down young, but I still have fond memories of her. She was a far better person than I was at that time. Not that I was a bad person, just one whose goals were much more varied than just being true to one I loved.

          Being a teenager in love is like playing with an invisible loaded gun…someone is going to get hurt sooner or later, almost all the time.

          But the Valiant made it a pleasant journey while it lasted.

  • avatar
    carguy

    Murilee,
    This type of snap-judgement poll belongs on sites such as Buzzfeed but not TTAC. Most here are well aware that no person is either all angel or all demon and that no life can be judged by a simple up or down vote.

    Ralph Nader was essential to the process of raising the public profile of auto safety in the US. But he also had a lot really silly ideas too.

    So he is much like all of us: Mostly useful but with some quirks and occasional mistakes.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      “This type of snap-judgement poll belongs on sites such as Buzzfeed but not TTAC”

      TTAC has been very, very bad about this as of late. I wasn’t a huge fan of the editorial direction post-Farago, but at least it tended to be insightful.

      The last several weeks have been a bit too heavy on the clickbait. I’m rather saddened to see Murilee doing a Doug De Muro impression; it was bad enough to have two (the EIC, and Doug himself; three if you count Jack and Bark’s occasional work) contributors who do this.

  • avatar
    El Hombre

    Robert McNamara tried to sell safety in the ’56 Fords;
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lifeguard_(automobile_safety).

    Deep dish steering wheel, better door locks to keep the doors shut in an accident, optional were seat belts and a padded dash. Saint Ralph and Claybrook claimed it was wildly popular, which was of course a lie. If the take rate was high, then Ford was making more money and wouldn’t have dropped it. But the market wasn’t interested in safety 60 years ago; at least most weren’t.

    Saint Ralph was testifying before Congress and claimed the Corvair was the most dangerous car in the country; one of the elected ones asked Saint Ralph what were the second, third, fourth, and fifth most dangerous cars in the country? Saint Ralph dropped his pen on the floor and spent the next ten minutes under the table looking for it….not really. But if he had thought of it, he would have done it.

    A friend of Saint Ralph said that when Saint Ralph bites into a hotdog, he only tastes the sodium nitrates and not the fat soluble elements that to the rest of us, tastes good.

    Thumbs up for Florida voters back in 2000. Kind of payback for Perot in ’92.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Yeah, except Clinton turned out to be a decent president, perenially open fly notwithstanding. And I give him about a zero percent chance of making the galactically dumb decision to invade Iraq.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        And let who among us (of the male of the species) that does not enjoy a properly done bj cast the first stone.

        • 0 avatar
          VolandoBajo

          Only two things wrong with your viewpoint, Principal Dan. I am as much of an aficionado of the art, but first, Clinton was in a supervisory (chain of command superior) role to Miss Lewinsky, and she was 18 years old, to William J’s late thirties or forties.

          I believe in some states that might have constituted at least a misdemeanor. And I am sure that Ms. Lewinsky’s parents expected better guidance in loco parentis from her boss than she received, and they had a right to expect it, as well.

          After all, she was in a vulnerable position regardless of how much she might have been excited by the idea, and he had no problem taking advantage of a young gullible girl about the age of his own daughter.

          I like catching and eating fish, too, but I don’t believe in shooting them in a barrel.

          And while fantasizing about an eighteen year old hardbody (or plump body in this case) might be mental fodder for a fantasy, in real life it is hardly either an honorable thing to do, or the best place to go shopping for “properly done”.

          It was nothing more or less than a power trip by a powerful man, taking advantage of a vulnerable young girl, whose name will forever be linked in the public’s mind with WJC and with BJ’s.

          And for that, I can say I am without sin, and cast the first stone. It was a despicable move by an amoral man, and he is lucky that her father did not react as many fathers might have, given the circumstances.

          As to enjoying properly done technique with the proper woman, no, I cannot even pick up a stone or pass one to someone else.

          “If my mind thoughts could be seen, they’d put my head in a guillotine…” — Bob Dylan

          I plead nolo contendere and/or the 5th Amendment. I admit nothing…except that a fortyish male shouldn’t be hitting on an eighteen year old female, regardless of the level of her morals.

    • 0 avatar
      VolandoBajo

      And Saint Joan of Claybrook, while the head of NHTSA, campaigned to make seat belt use mandatory for motorcyclists, both riders and passengers.

      Yeah, that’s safety…get your bike knocked out from under you, and then go flying down the road strapped to it, with a fifty-fifty chance of it landing on top of you instead of the other way around.

      REALLY much safer than being thrown clear, according to St. Joan.

      Thank God that idea never got off the runway.

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    It’s difficult to think of anyone who (intentionally) did more to make our lives safer than Ralph Nader. Even if you don’t agree with how he did it–or his “giving” the 2000 presidency to George W. Bush–IMHO, we all owe him a debt of gratitude.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Nils Bohlin, FTW. Nader can GFH.

      “Nils Bohlin, the Swedish engineer and inventor responsible for the three-point lap and shoulder seatbelt–considered one of the most important innovations in automobile safety”

      “At the time of Bohlin’s death in September 2002, Volvo estimated that the seat belt had saved more than one million lives in the four decades since it was introduced. ”

      http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/three-point-seatbelt-inventor-nils-bohlin-born

  • avatar
    runs_on_h8raide

    Pinto

  • avatar
    hawox

    it was a total loss.
    also GM should have given a prize to Nader.

    look the facts:

    -the corvair was an innovative vehicle, obviously had some flaws but i don’t think european rear engined cars of the days were better.

    -back in the days it needed years to improove on a new car

    -Nader scandal helped gm to return to produce old dinosaurs

    -a medium car from the ’70s or even ’80s wasn’t much different from one buildt in the ’60s

    so car makers could save 20 years of expensive research, up to the day in wich someone started to do crash tests. we had to wait 92-93 before we could have light cars with reasonable crash protection.

    the guy of the seat belts, the guys from iihs… they changed things

  • avatar
    fishiftstick

    While Nader has had some positive results, he is largely responsible for the public hysteria safety movement, which has created a completely irrational approach to risk.
    For example, an unbelted car driver is twice as likely to die in a collision. So driving unbelted is just awful, and we ban it. Yet a motorcyclist is a staggering 35 times as likely to die as a car driver, and we’re fine with that.
    Another example: drunk driving is dangerous and deadly. But driving while texting is equally dangerous, as are driving while tired, or with a car full of screaming kids. Yet the first is a criminal offense, the second is a moving violation, and the last two are completely legal.
    Or the spectacle of security theatre at our airports, where 90% of TSA agents couldn’t find a bomb with both hands, a flashlight and an X-ray machine, but are great at strip-searching grannies.
    Or how all the nuclear accidents ever have killed less people than those who die every single year because of emissions from burning coal for power generation.
    Or how irradiating food could end food-borne illness, except that the safety organ grinders have trained us, their monkeys, to run screaming at the sound of the word “radiation.” (No, irradiating food does not make it radioactive; it just kills bacteria.)
    Or the hysteria about GMOs, as if everything we eat has not been genetically modified by farmers for thousands of years. Or the endless torrent of bullshit about things “natural” and “organic.”
    All this may seem pretty far afield from Nader and car safety. But the fact is that it was Nader who taught the world to manufacture mass hysteria abut safety, and his lessons have been well learned by the FUD industry.

    • 0 avatar
      VolandoBajo

      You are right about nuclear safety, fishiftstick.

      More people died in Ted Kennedy’s car than have died in nuclear accidents in America.

      It happens to be the truth, and the truth is often inconvenient, but it is still the truth, wherever it resides.

  • avatar
    ClayT

    On the subject of how well our government is protecting us from the demon car manufacturers and their product, thanks to Nader:

    http://jalopnik.com/scathing-audit-reveals-nhtsa-is-a-five-star-government-1713128651

  • avatar
    v8corvairpickup

    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.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    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: http://www.snopes.com/POLITICS/graphics/laura.jpg

    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 http://www.snopes.com/POLITICS/bush/laura.asp#22EsWii1JJ703Pqg.99

    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.

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