By on August 6, 2015

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Just like children who pledged allegiance to the flag before they started their school day, a number of grown adults are brand faithfuls who pledged their hard-earned dollars to a cause they believed is theirs to fight. For whatever reason, they are still steadfast in their belief that their brand is the best, their truck is better than all others and their car is the most reliable piece of transportation since God invented feet.

Yet, if there’s one thing that the last week, last month, last year, or even the last decade has taught us it’s that companies, specifically automakers, do not care about us. Not one bit.

Allow me to explain.

A piece published yesterday by Bloomberg called out Fiat Chrysler Automobiles on its failure to declare a defect in its highly embedded uConnect system found in 1.4 million cars and trucks to the NHTSA. While the defect itself, detailed by Wired late last month, thankfully wasn’t exploited between the time FCA first identified the issue and when they reported it (only after the Wired article went public), the situation is just one of many where a corporation chooses a financially advantageous route over that of the safety of its customers.

And FCA isn’t the only one.

Just this week, Ford was fingered for not putting reinforcing metal bars on regular and extended cab F-150 pickups — models that wouldn’t normally be tested by the IIHS — that are a primary component in Ford’s best-selling pickup truck taking home a “Good” crash-test rating. The IIHS only requests automakers provide their volume seller for testing. In the F-150’s case, the crew cab model is the best seller, the only cab configuration fitted with these particular reinforcement bars.

To say Ford went out of its way to game the IIHS crash test might be a leap too far, but to say Ford’s cost analysis of adding a part weighed against the possibility of a lawsuit when someone is seriously injured or killed in an accident is not far fetched. After all, if a person in a crash doesn’t even know their vehicle is missing something, how could they even think of suing?

Yet, these recent antics are, by far, not the worst safety-related shenanigans to hit our industry in recent years. Honestly, neither is the ignition switch debacle still being handled by GM.

No, the worst one I can remember — at least over the last few years — included GM and a little rental car agency called Enterprise.

Back in 2009, Enterprise purchased some 66,000 Impalas from General Motors without side airbags — the same side airbags that were standard equipment if you bought the car yourself from the showroom floor. Enterprise saved an estimated $11.5 million USD ($175 on each car) with that one change and General Motors was more than willing to oblige as they took a nice, big bite out of the fleet business pie. That move in itself isn’t noteworthy, but what the rental car company did with many of those Impalas after they reached their rental life spans is: They sold those airbag-less Impalas to unsuspecting customers advertised with equipment lists stating the cars did, in fact, have side airbags.

From CBS News:

“There’s definitely a glitch in the system,” Enterprise’s vice president for corporate communications told The Star after the paper asked about the Web postings. “We’ll make it right with our customers. … None of this is intentional.”

What did Enterprise do in the end? For the vehicles that eventually ended up as privately owned vehicles, the rental car company offered to buy them back for $750 more than the Kelley Blue Book price at the time. According to Enterprise, only 745 vehicles ended up in private hands. Doing some incredibly conservative math means Enterprise was still ahead by roughly $10 million.

If you ever wanted an example of a company weighing cost vs. customer safety, well, there it is.

Just like Enterprise and GM back in 2009, Ford and FCA see these problems as being non-issues … until they’re caught red handed.

FCA has recalled the 1.4 million affected cars — against their will, I might add — and will need to mail out patches or have customers visit local dealers. Remember, this is all happening as FCA looks at a record-setting $105 million infraction ticket for its historical recall performance, or lack thereof.

Ford has flooded the blogosphere today with news that the F-150 will now come with a sport button. Yes, that’s right, a fucking sport button. Try Googling “Ford F-150” today and it’s as if Crashgate never happened.

So, next time to pledge your donation to the My Favorite Brand club, remember this: You might care about them, but they only care about one thing from you — and it isn’t your life.

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118 Comments on “Automakers Are Companies and Don’t Care About You...”


  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    ““There’s definitely a glitch in the system,” Enterprise’s vice president for corporate communications told The Star”

    Bob Slydell: So we just went ahead and fixed the glitch.

    Additional: Nice editorial, I just had to get the glitch pun in though.

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    Car companies are just companies!? No! Really?

    They are not supposed to care about you.
    But this is not nearly as piss poor as the education system, especially the higher levels, in this country.
    Talk about pure crappola!
    Most universities give a damn about the individual student.
    Most don’t have advisers who ever listen to or…advise…students.
    They take the money, go through the motions, and then slap your ass as you pass by on the stage when you get your paper.

    The It’s All About The Children is all lies.

    These are the true cold corporate giants of America.

    • 0 avatar
      Advance_92

      And that’s why we have regulations. The market’s not as magic as it’s made out to be. I’m ignoring the education rant. I actually thought this article was going to be about the lack of options you see in our cars these days.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        Regulators are corrupt and/or incompetence and/or lazy.

        Look at the disparity with which they treated Toyota, FCA and GM in the last 4 years, with GM literally being allowed to get away with premeditated murder with a mere financial slap on the wrist.

      • 0 avatar
        TrailerTrash

        perhaps you are a teacher…or someone who has never had to guide and help children pay to go through the higher education “business”.

  • avatar
    GTL

    The most egregious example has to be when Ford decided to pay the lawsuits of burn victims of rear-ended Pintos because it would be cheaper than fixing the cars.

    Credit where it’s due, however. Ford did the right thing by replacing ‘defective’ defective Firestone tires on Explorers a while back.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Thank you for proving my point below.

      You know how many people roasted alive in Pintos due to accidents as proven by investigation.

      27

      That is the official number. Oh I know, the media tosses around all sorts of other numbers and Ford settled with more than that number but the official number is 27.

      You know the number of people roasted alive Jeep Grand Cherokees?

      Officially?

      75

      But hey, that’s OK – Ford was worse – we’ve learned since then.

      Bah

      And GM is the worst of all – look they settled with 124 people over ignition switches – even though the official number is lower. But, but, but I read in the media it was hundreds in Pintos, and hundreds in Cobalts, and well, the Jeep thing isn’t quite covered that much so I don’t know.

      At what point does the argument become who is exactly the worst dirtbag.

      They are all egregious. All of them. They only care about one thing – your money. Period. The sooner everyone figures it out and accepts it, the better off we will all be.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      “The most egregious example has to be when Ford decided to pay the lawsuits of burn victims of rear-ended Pintos because it would be cheaper than fixing the cars.”

      This was a legal practice at the time:
      http://users.wfu.edu/palmitar/Law&Valuation/Papers/1999/Leggett-pinto.html

      Every life has a legal monetary value, like it or not. If that value was infinite, every car, train, and plane maker would stop production today.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      I’m surprised no ones brought up the Pinto-ish issues from the Ford Crown Vic, and how Ford tried to dodge that for a while.

      But then again cuz Panther Love

  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    If Ford cares about Mark, they’ll build a Bronco again. He won’t even care if it has wheel blocking bars.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    Old news, and sadly, nothing has changed.

    Lesson one: Corvair camber compensator

    Lesson two: Ford Pinto fuel tank shields

    Auto (and all other) companies are in business to please shareholders, not customers. Nothing ever changes.

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    To paraphrase Nixon’s consultant Murray Chotiner after the 1960 loss to JFK, manufacturers cheat us fair and square.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Or Honda silencing their own engineers when they raised red flags on Takata Claymore mines in the steering wheels almost a decade ago.

    Or Toyota fixing know problems with pedal entrapment, gas pedal clearance and certain floor mats, while negotiating a free pass with the NHTSA. Hey – everyone does it so that somehow makes it OK.

    Hey, everyone games crash tests, that makes it OK.

    Hey, everyone pushes off recalls, that makes it OK.

    Ford knew the tire pressures were way out of spec on the Ford Explorers, who cares if we kill people from catastrophic tire failures caused by under inflation. We’ll blame the vendor, folks will eat it.

    Ford knew about the Texas Instrument relays, but dragged out the recall for years.

    Chrysler knew that the fuel tank design on the Jeep Grand Cherokee could have been better, but hey, it meets minimum specs – who cares.

    Look at all the corrosion recalls over the last decade from practically every automaker – but only in those states that generally use salt on the roads.

    Hey, you live in Key West, Florida no recall for you – even if you live in a damp salt encrusted environment. Hey, you lived in New York for five years but shuffled off to Texas to escape those liberal whack jobs in Albany – no recall for you buddy.

    But it’s OK – everyone does it.

    We don’t want side airbags in 66K rental cars. Hey, were going bankrupt, we need to move metal and somehow show viability – sure we’ll leave them out. Oh wait, we “forgot” to tell customers they don’t get side airbags. And really, how many Bob’s House of Used Cars when these go 3 and 4 owner old will reveal that? You may hate the Imapla but by 2009 the W-Body had reached a peak of cockroach grade survivability. Ancient platform built on proven mechanicals that basically have all the kinks worked out. You can use and abuse the power train and still eek out to 150K miles – fluid changes past oil be damned. Hey – it’s OK – we just forgot. But we’ll over $750 over book value on the horrifically depreciated Impala you bought from us. *golf clap*

    But it’s OK – everyone does it.

    Then after ranting about how Brand X does it but the brand I love doesn’t it, people complain about excessive regulations, safety requirements, NHTSA and oversight on auto manufacturing that makes FDA OTC drug approval look easy in comparison.

    Nothing to see here folks – go back to praising your horse in the race because the company I bought from cares about me – no – really the do.

    • 0 avatar

      Well said.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        Kudos to you, Mark.

        There’s little doubt that while many businesses act indifferently or recklessly when it comes to their own customers’/end users’ safety & well being, auto manufacturers are in the upper echelon in terms of malignant behavior in this regard.

        This fact based on a mountain of evidence (from Nader’s “Unsafe At Any Speed” to modern day) is incontrovertible.

        This is why punitive damages are absolutely essential in terms of filling in the gaps & pressuring automakers to NOT sin when regulators fail to do their jobs or are asleep at the wheel.

        You stated at the outset of your becoming EIC at TTAC that you would carry on a tradition of scrutinizing auto manufacturers in an objective manner (in stark contrast to much of the rest of automotive press-dom), and it’s good to see you following through on that pledge.

      • 0 avatar
        "scarey"

        “Well said”… Excep for the speling, that iz try spelchucker…

        P.S.- the whole world is crooked. They teach to the test. And the government agencies know that. They are no better.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Why you gt be up on dis spelin’ nd sh**?

          Seriously though he may have been using one of those touch devices which are difficult to type long conversations on correctly, IMO.

    • 0 avatar
      andyinatl

      “Hey, everyone games crash tests, that makes it OK.”

      Except Volvo. Whose 2003 models ace current regulations. Even if they didn’t need to at the time. Even if they spent more money on safety research and development, than others at that time. Even if so many people even to this day think that everyone else caught up to Volvo on safety. Recent news from Toyota, Ford, others failing small overlap test absolutely proves that most everyone else only cares about the bottom line at expense of actual safety.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I agree, and Volvo’s 2003 models debuted much earlier than this year (mostly P2 platform circa 1998 and the C70 is an improved 850 platform circa 1992).

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    Mark, I’m shocked. Are you sure?

  • avatar
    James2

    In other news, water is wet and the sky is blue.

    For all their talk about “we put XYZ through a million miles of testing”, yada, yada, we customers are still effectively beta testers for the car makers.

    Lawsuits are just a cost of doing business.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    You’ve proved the Big 3 are scumbags. Some of us already knew that.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Thank you for missing and proving Mark’s point all at the exact same time.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      And some of us are determinedly blind to ensure we only see the Big 3 as being scumbags. Try waking up. The foreign competition is no more saintly.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        GM & Ford are by far the worst perpetrators of attempting to conceal known, serious safety issues through lies, deceit & fraud (GM ignition switches, whereby GM knew of issue back in 2002, and had part changed via Delphi in 2005, instructing them not to change part number – great example of criminality that should result in mass, lengthy jail sentences).

        You’re delusional to claim there have been equivalent wrongs/frauds/torts/crimes perpetrated by Toyota (out of control acceleration was floor mat issue), Honda, BMW, Mercedes, VW or Audi (sudden acceleration was disproved).

        Cobalts, Ions, Cavaliers/Sunfires, Vegas, Pintos, Explorers, Broncos, Crown Vics, etc., oh my!

        • 0 avatar
          tresmonos

          I think you are mixing up negligence and hack engineering.

          My ex Japanese employer made me sign a non disclosure for some heavy shit that I was a part of. There is no good flag to wave and say ‘I’m the best and brightest’ here. They are all companies.

  • avatar
    qfrog

    His name is Tyler Durden.

    His job is to apply the formula.

    Narrator: A new car built by my company leaves somewhere traveling at 60 mph. The rear differential locks up. The car crashes and burns with everyone trapped inside. Now, should we initiate a recall? Take the number of vehicles in the field, A, multiply by the probable rate of failure, B, multiply by the average out-of-court settlement, C. A times B times C equals X. If X is less than the cost of a recall, we don’t do one.

    Business woman on plane: Are there a lot of these kinds of accidents?

    Narrator: You wouldn’t believe.

    Business woman on plane: Which car company do you work for?

    Narrator: A major one.

  • avatar
    Sjalabais

    Great text. But who’s surprised?

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I was a little surprised at Crashgate because I thought Ford of today had more integrity and also wouldn’t want to sully the name of its most important product (vs Gm and the W-impala and Chrysler just not testing software enough). But then again, they did build the Pinto.

      • 0 avatar

        I think Ford, at least amongst the Big 3, is the best at PR and media manipulation.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          Mark Stevenson – there is much truth to what you say.
          Someone else mentioned Mike Levine. He was the founder and owner of PickupTrucks.com. Running his own site and be exposed to blind-azzed fanboys on a daily basis and the fact that most do not search for facts would make him an ideal PR man for Ford.

          Corporations, governments, politicians et al spend billions understanding the mentality of the public and how to manipulate it. China for example spent considerable resources studying why communist states collapsed.
          You look at western society with 50% voter turn out one quickly realizes that all you need to do is feed the masses the crap they think they want and corporate/public life goes on.

          We all get assessed/processed through cost/profit ratio’s.

          • 0 avatar
            thornmark

            >> 50% voter turn out<<

            Perhaps 50% voter turnout is too much. In the US, 51% of Americans cannot even name one of their U.S. Senators and only 25% can name both. Forget about the House.

            A few days ago, a man who no one apparently knew much about won 79 of 83 counties in his state and a majority of the votes:
            http://www.clarionledger.com/story/news/2015/08/05/dems-wonder-happened-governor-primary/31189825/

            The push is now on to get mandatory voting, which in Kardashian world means the genuinely vapid will gain even more control. As bad as things are, forcing uninformed people to vote will marginalize informed voters.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

        ” But then again, they did build the Pinto.”

        And, Toyota built the Corolla and Nissan built the Datsun B210 (Nissan Sunny). You were more likely to die in a crash in one of these than if in a Pinto, statisticly speaking.

        I laugh when people bing up the Pinto as an example of this type of issue. Would I want go be in one when struck from the rear by a Chevy pickup going 50mph? Of course not, but the point is most compacts built in the same era were no more safe, and a great many of them were significantly less safe than Pinto. Not only that, but the famous “Pinto memo” that was supposed to prove Ford’s guilt was later found to be about something totally unrelated.

        Its not as if the Pinto was the pinacle of all horrific automotive-safety-gone-wrong instances, as was pointed out above, there are far worse examples in very recent memory: Takta exploding airbags, GM ignition switches (of which there is undeniable proof that they knew full and well there was a major problem way before any recall was issued, namely by ordering thousands of replacement switches months before the issue was made public, which literally cost people their lives), Jeep GC fuel tank issues (which they had claimed was fixed in earlier recalls when it was not), Toyota insisting there is no Sudden Acceleration issue while simutaniously finding and fixing the cause.

        I am dissapointed that Ford chose not to equip non-Super Crew models with the bar, and I hope they do what is right and fix the issue.

        One thing Im confused on though, if Enterprise bought 66,000 Impalas without airbags, and less than 800 supposedly made it into public hands, where are the rest of them? Theyre not still in service as rentals, yet they werent sold, so are they stacked in a warehouse in Brooklyn? Being used as artificial reefs off the coast of Florida? Parked in front of abandoned houses in Detroit? What happened to them? 65K+ cars dont just dissapear.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I’ll tell you what probably happened to those W-Impalas, they were sold at auction by Enterprise. The company stated 745 of them ended up in private hands… so how do they know that exact number? Because THEY sold them through their retail channel. The other 66K? Enterprise records would show they were sold at auction to various dealers. The only way to figure out who had them afterward would be to trace the title/VIN though either the auction or state registration. Enterprise isn’t going to be able to figure this out on their own, nor would they want too because it wasn’t they who sold them the 66K to retail customers. Since there was no NHSTA recall issued AFAIK, customers would never know they were missing the airbags or not.

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          The Pinto did get one safety item many imports were a little shy to.

          Usable bumpers

  • avatar
    tonycd

    Nice headline.

    Even though this is pretty obvious, a lot of us could use a reminder of this now and again. Like the poster who comes on here constantly to bash a certain large American maker and its luxury division, thereby implying that its competitors don’t deserve any similar wrath.

    All of this, industrywide, is in the bigger picture a microcosm of the kind of behavior that’s rewarded under the corporate form of ownership. Corporations were created for the benefit of society to allow the gathering of more capital for big jobs than would be practical for a private owner. Unlike privately held companies, they are structured specifically so that their owners are NOT accountable for any risk greater than the loss of their investment.

    Over time, those large entities we allowed for our own good have become so large that, like Hal the 2001 computer, they’ve taken on a mind of their own and are swallowing their creators. With Citizens United, they now are overpowering the last restraint on their power – the people’s elected governments. Google up “TPP tribunals” if you don’t believe me.

    The car industry is a symptom of all this. But it’s just one symptom among many, and not even one of the worst ones at that (search, for example, “Monsanto harvest of fear”). If people want more responsible corporations, in cars or any industry, they will have to start by actively insisting on a government that summons up the stones to rein in corporate power.

    • 0 avatar
      Master Baiter

      You can always walk to work.

      • 0 avatar
        qfrog

        Some of the world commutes by bicycle, some of the world by mass transit. This is ‘merica and those things aren’t ‘merican like putting mayo on fries or wasabi kitkat bars. Jus ain ‘merican. ‘merica didn’t invent the entity known as the corporation but we honed its killer instinct.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    I don’t believe all companies are the same in this regard. Companies that care about protecting the image of their brand don’t do stuff like this (or they do less of it.) I can tell by the crap products that GM, Ford and FCA put out that they don’t care about protecting their brand.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Ya. That’s it. It’s all Detroit’s fault.

      That’s why Honda silenced their own engineers almost a decade ago about Takata airbags.

      Apparently folks have forgotten about the 1995 Honda recall. You know the one about the seatbelt buckles that would crumble and fail, resulting in Honda customers not being able to take their seatbelts off at all. What could go wrong post accident with a locked belt that won’t unbuckle?

      Let’s recap the 2008 Corolla. Only recalled for pedal/floormat entrapment issues, then CTS gas pedals, then flaming windows switches, then bad ignition modules that cause engine stalls. All of those recalls in a 12 month period. Are you really going to look at the B&B with a straight face and say that was defending and caring for a hallowed brand like Toyota Corolla?

      Or how about Porsche telling their customers that disintegrating plastic/nylon manifolds are a completely normal part of the joy of Porsche ownership.

      Last I heard, Mitsubishi was a Japanese company, and they destroyed their US business by covering up defects and recalls – something they never recovered from.

      Oh yes, only Detroit holds the patent rights to caring about profits.

      That’s why Kia and Hyundai got taken to the woodshed for completing fudging their MPG findings. But hey, only in Detroit baby!

      That’s why Subbie’s headgasket problem was solved and replaced with an oil consumption problem. That’s why VWs solution to the US market was to offer us down market products (Jetta cough cough) and convincing a loyal fan base that burning a quart of oil every 1,000 miles and replacing ignition coils ever 30,000 miles is quite normal. Just part of the joy of experiencing the VW brand. Yes VW fans, quality has improved, somewhere between Detroit 1995 grade and Japanese 1981 grade.

      Or how about those Mercedes built vans and the rebadged Dodge Sprinters – you can just watch them rust on a sunny day – and that’s in Phoenix. But hey – only Detroit.

      Mercedes so cared about their reputation that they made a conscious decision to stop over engineering, and we got products like the 2000’s decade C-class, with plastic fantastic interiors, and Albanian grade reliability. Hey, that’s OK – only Detroit does stuff like this and Mercedes sure doesn’t care about their brand.

      I’m really glad that we’ve cleared up that all other auto makers not from Detroit, or Italy, are steeped in honesty and caring about their brand.

      Or lets put it another way – if you could drive a Chinese brand vehicle tomorrow as your daily drive – would you. Because I mean Shanghai apparently cares about you.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

        @ APaGttH: Spot on.

        By the way, the 90s C-class you mentioned, isnt that the one with front turnsignal/parking lamp housings that look exactly like the ones on the Ford Tempo that was introduced in ’87 as an ’88 model (long before that C body style)? Compare them, tell me Im wrong, lol.

        And, why did the first M-Class look like a swolen early Kia Sportage (only with worse reliability)?

        I remember reading in a magazine sometime in the mid-late 1990s that Kia was preparing a larger SUV based on a streched Sportage, and the first time I saw an M-class, I seriously though it was that vehicle they were talking about until I saw the badge.

      • 0 avatar
        Nick_515

        APaGttH, “Albanian grade reliability” – where did you get THAT from? I get jokes about “Kosovo style asphalt” and such referring to war, maybe drug / trafficking references, but they aren’t known for industrial production, which makes your reference a very curious one!

      • 0 avatar
        210delray

        Good response APaGttH, but you forgot that the 1995 Honda recall for defective seat belt buckles also affected other Japanese automakers. Those belt buckles were made by…wait for it… Takata!

      • 0 avatar

        Let’s not forget that MB had those S class in the early 2000’s that rusted quicker than a Mazda 3.

        There pretty much all guilty.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        Allow me to add a few:

        Oh yes and Volvo, known throughout for safety, began selling swift “sporty” 850s with regularly defective ABS brakes, peeling passenger side airbags, and even in some later models went cheap on brakes (tales have been told even a 240 will stop sooner than a C30).

        They also invented a great combination of timing belt and interference engine, from a company known for building very neglect-proof cars. Shoot, even the DIPSTICK had to be re-designed and recalled!

        They cared so much that they had to recall the jacks of all things!

        /rantover

      • 0 avatar
        mechaman

        Glad you chimed in. Had a Honda Accord hatchback (one of the last) that rusted so fast and so strangely I could hardly believe it. When the strut tower rusted through and hitting a bump PUSHED THE HOOD UP, I was finished.

  • avatar
    davefromcalgary

    Wait, you’re saying GM doesn’t care about me? The hell you say.

    • 0 avatar
      davefromcalgary

      As an aside, dealerships, while the OEM’s customers, are also business, and some go out of their way to make customers satisfied, regardless of the support or lack there of from their respective OEM, and the potential for loss.

      Hasn’t happened in my case yet, but I have seen it.

  • avatar
    notferris

    Thank you for the excellent post Mark.

    I apologize in advance for the following rant:
    I feel far too many consumers get “emotionally attached/invested/involved” with the brands that they buy/own.
    We see it in the posts here on TTAC and virtually every other enthusiast website for consumer products. The comments are often irrational/illogical and lacking in facts/objectivity.
    The “mine is better than yours” mentality strikes me as immature and reminds me of the arguments my kids used to have with their friends regarding Genesis vs. Super Nintendo.
    /end rant

    In terms of auto manufacturers and questionable ethics, thank you to the B&B for pointing out that Japanese corporations are just as apt to engage in said behaviors.
    In addition to Honda and Toyota, I think it would be fair to add Mitsubishi (recall scandals 2000 and 2004) and Subaru (recall scandal 1997 and the recent report by Reuters on their treatment of foreign workers) to the list.

    Edit: Since the Subaru recall scandal is relatively unknown, please see the link below (4th paragraph from the bottom)

    https://books.google.com/books?id=zz1L3nnNmMcC&pg=PA126&lpg=PA126&dq=1997+subaru+recall+scandal&source=bl&ots=ZV858BbsvY&sig=hNLI93CkdoOHf7cBpYlqtq1rSNY&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CDYQ6AEwA2oVChMIsdLk35-VxwIVizqICh2TUQtS#v=onepage&q=1997%20subaru%20recall%20scandal&f=false

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Subaru is from Detroit? ;-)

      • 0 avatar
        tonycd

        Actually, the recalli in question wasn’t Subaru, it was Mitsubishi. But, same basic point.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          notferris – this occurs because we haven’t evolved much beyond our caveman tribal roots. We are not hardwired to be part of a huge population base. We search for our small tribal groups and that becomes increasingly difficult in our alleged homogenous society. We therefore latch on to sports teams, products, famous actors etcetera in an attempt to be part of an identifiable group.
          We are hardwired to fiercely defend our tribe for survival sake. It made sense when an opposing tribe wanted your garden or hunting grounds but makes zero sense in regard to my Ford being better than your GM. The same primitive mechanisms kick in. That is no different than “flight or fight” reflexes. It worked when a Saber Toothed tiger saw you as lunch but not when your boss thinks you are out to lunch.

          • 0 avatar
            brandloyalty

            Impressively perceptive! NASCAR certainly exploited this dynamic. And ever website discussion seems to evolve into a small core group of “buds” controlling the conversation.

        • 0 avatar
          mechaman

          I remember the Mitsubishi response to complaints about their Eclipse engines failing: ‘Oh, they’ve modified those engines, so it’s not our fault.” Actually, I’m surprised, given the attitude a lot of Japanese companies have toward the public, that their car industry hasn’t been just as bad. I remember how Chisso acted when it came out that they’d been contaminating the sea for years, bringing their fellow men the ‘minamata’ problem.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        “The “mine is better than yours” mentality”

        Just sayin’ 9 times out of 10 I see this from Toyota owners, usually insulting GMs for no obvious reason.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    Personally I find the Ford issue more intentional than the Enterprise one. And trust me, I don’t like Enterprise.

    By the time the used rentals make it through the buying department, through the counters, and into sales, so many people have to look at it that details get lost.
    I’m sure someone in sales has to read the details about it, but they probably don’t. Or their selling avenues make it difficult to remove standard features, so they don’t bother. In that case, it’s more laziness than intentional underhanded cost cutting.

    It certainly doesn’t make it ok, but it rubs me a different way.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Agreed on the Enterprise assessment.

      I’m sure it occurred to no one that the cars were purchased without a standard feature, so they just went through the normal resale process.

      • 0 avatar

        Two corporations working together to shaft the safety of people renting, and eventually buying, their cars is pretty damn dirty.

        • 0 avatar
          Land Ark

          I see the ERAC part as less willful and more neglectful by the time it gets to the selling arm. It certainly doesn’t excuse them requesting cars with less safety equipment than standard though.

          And in any case GM shouldn’t be selling any cars without “standard” equipment, I’ll agree that’s pretty bad.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          Is leaving out a safety feature that is not required under the relevant federal and state safety standards “shafting the safety” of customers? I’m not totally convinced. Rental agencies are promising to rent you a car that meets all applicable legal standards. They’re not promising to rent you the safest car on the planet.

          This assessment could vary if there are other aspects of the Impala safety system that are specifically designed with side airbags in mind, such that the car *can’t* be expected to meet safety standards without them.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            dal20402 – leaving out a safety feature that is not legally required obviously isn’t wrong in the legal sense nor is it wrong in the financial sense but it is wrong when looked at morally and/or ethically.

  • avatar
    zerofoo

    This nonsense isn’t limited to the automotive industry. Telecoms, finance, healthcare, foodservice, technology and most of the fortune 500 exist to make money. None of these guys are your friends.

    If they happen to make a good product and customers happy – well, that is simply a side effect of their business.

    One would be well served to look at every product and service with a critical, distrusting eye.

  • avatar
    Rday

    Car companies are like politicians …they only care about themselves. I do think that the japanese are better companies only because they want to save face and not ‘screw up’ like the americans who don’t seem to give a damn.

  • avatar
    50merc

    OK, you say Detroit cares not a whit whether customers live or die. But Ford’s 1956 models touted “Lifeguard” features such as seat belts, padded dashes, recessed steering wheels and stronger door locks, even though this was way before federal safety standards. How do you explain that — temporary insanity?

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      It was a failed attempt to sell more cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      50merc- cost/benefit to the company tends to be the final filter. They care about the consumer’s life if it will cost them more to ignore it.

      When do you think car companies are told about future safety regulations?

      They know well in advance. A company beating the competition to releasing new “safety” features has a PR advantage and can stake out the “moral” high ground. That may yield a sales advantage.

      Ford started planning for the aluminum F150 in 2008/9. GM was ahead of Ford with their version of an aluminum pickup but the 2008 meltdown killed that plan. GM released the GMT K2XX platform instead. They now claim superiority with their steel trucks in advertising.

  • avatar
    charski

    I was in a wreck a year and a half ago, where a Dodge Ram 2500 Crew cab rear ended me at speed (I was doing 35ish, other driver between 65 and 75) hard enough to move every body panel forward far enough to splay out the front bumper, totaling my 2006 Malibu Maxx SS. My kids and wife were in the car at the time, and we all escaped without injury.

    Anecdotal, I know, but to this day I appreciate the engineering effort it took to transfer the energy of that huge truck around the passengers and not through them.

    I’m not saying this absolves them of squat, just relating my experience.

    Also, glad I wasn’t in a Pinto…

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I believe most people want to get into a car as cheaply as possible.

    So, you get what you pay for in the form of customer service/warranty, etc.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Exactly. This is one reason that – in the US – the Mitsubishi Mirage is outselling the Volvo S60 by 50%.

      • 0 avatar
        RideHeight

        But isn’t one of the cases here involving 35K+ pickups?

        • 0 avatar
          SCE to AUX

          Yes, but $35k is cheaper than $36k. Everybody’s looking for a deal.

          • 0 avatar
            RideHeight

            Ah… thanks for clarifying.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            Ford went with the deflection bars in the crewcab due to it being the volume seller. It helps game safety tests but also those trucks tend to be family vehicles. If a company regular cab truck gets wrecked with one adult male occupant the PR fallout is much less than that of a family of four. Crewcab trucks tend to have higher margins offsetting the additional cost.

            IIRC only 5% of Ford pickups sold are regular cab and 15% are extended cab. The odds of multiple injury claims in 20% of your product line is much less than the 80%. Company trucks tend to get abused so it is easier to deflect blame.
            The fleet market is also cost sensitive. If I can save 100 dollars per pickup on a 1,000 pickup purchase, I’m going to get a Christmas bonus from corporate head office. The rental car example points that out.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Ford could have offered the safety bar in some sort of optional package which would have paid for it and also allowed fleet etc to continue to save money by not ordering it.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            Ford clearly did what any scumbag company would; attempt to save $8 to $15 production cost per many trucks while installing said $8 to $15 safety device on trucks that they knew would be tested in the offset/overlap crash test, thereby attempting to game the crash test.

            Complete slimebag move, Ford.

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            If Ford wants to save money maybe they should’nt be throwing money at all the bizarre grilles, taillights, or whatever else they put on their trucks.

            And maybe not face-lift the Focus to look like a Fiesta, but clearly unnecessary face-lifts are worth more than safety.

    • 0 avatar
      brandloyalty

      No way I can agree with this. The basic models languish at the back of the lot while folks spend every penny they can scrape together to get the fanciest version possible, to impress the neighbors.

  • avatar
    MR2turbo4evr

    After buying 8 Toyotas and one Lexus (all used), I bought a basket case Honda Civic from a friend. Simple things like replacing the rear brake shoes are a PITA and took twice as long compared to my mom’s old Corolla. Replacing the timing belt on my cousin’s Acura EL was also significantly more time consuming than on said Corolla. Toyota may not care about me but I’ll keep buying their vehicles. They are reliable and a joy to work on compared to other makes.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      I would not conflate the serviceability of a four-cylinder Corolla with all Toyota products and I suspect that there is much scheduled maintenance on, say, the Camry V6 that you would find quite onerous. See again Mark Stevenson’s point about pledging one’s loyalty to xyz brand automaker ;)

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      “They are reliable and a joy to work on compared to other makes.”

      So all other makes are like the one Honda? I see

    • 0 avatar
      Giltibo

      Well… “Old” pretty much anything is a lot easier to service than pretty much any “New” anything.

      Hondas are still pretty straightforward to maintain (Regular maintenance)
      Try mainatining a Mazda! Now that’s a struggle! A task as simple as changing a cabin air filter takes 30-45 minutes (my wife’s Mazda5). Compare that to 3-4 minutes in my Accord, 8-10 on most US SUVs. (Toyotas don’t take very long either, from what I heard)

  • avatar
    TW5

    In general, human beings don’t really care about one another, particularly people they don’t know. As you age, you begin to realize that your own parents were often indifferent to your plight, following what was generally accepted as “good parenting” for their own sake, without really thinking about what they were doing.

    We live in a consumer society where people think they can just chuck a bag of dollars at someone, and suddenly the market is obliged to care about whether or not the payer exists. People aren’t really wired that way.

    Everyone must do their own risk analysis, and choose who to trust and who not to trust. If you want someone to look out for you like a parent, you have to do a lot more than just engage in a business transaction once every 5-10 years.

    • 0 avatar
      Advance_92

      So I have to buy a car, crash test it, then buy another if it’s good? Next it’s off the grocery store with my mobile lab, assuming I’ve verified the calibrations on the equipment and the Sprinter passes the crash test.

    • 0 avatar
      Thatkat09

      @TW5
      I’m sorry you have such a jaded view of other people and I hope one day you see how wrong you are.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    A “SPORT” button on the F150? This is what I would hear in my head before pressing said button in a ridiculously oversize Crewcab beast.

    Colonel Sandurz: Prepare ship for ludicrous speed! Fasten all seat belts, seal all entrances and exits, close all shops in the mall! Cancel the three ring circus! Secure all animals in the zoo–

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      “Buckle THIS!”

      :)

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      PrincipalDan – I’d like a “Sport” button if it disables nannies when I’m plowing through 2 feet of snow in the back country. In extreme conditions i.e. offroad, deep snow, mud, and deep sand those nannies cause more problems than they prevent. The Raptor has “kill nanny” settings so why can’t my F150? I’ll even sign a form releasing Ford from liability if I use it.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Most consumers don’t care.

    The puffed chests can cry ‘devil corporations’ all they want, but we still work for these companies and buy their products.

    I believe the Toyota unintended acceleration case got little traction because most people figure their safety is at least partially in their hands. They thought to themselves: “I’d just press the brakes harder”, or “I’d just turn off the car”, or “I’d just shift into neutral” – not knowing that these solutions weren’t always workable.

    Accidents and unreliability problems happen to other people.

    If people truly believed they’d need a car with 5-star safety, Mitsubishi wouldn’t have sold 10k Mirages this year so far. If people truly believed they’d be caught with a dead transmission at 62k miles, they wouldn’t buy Chrysler minivans like crazy.

    We often – very often – buy on price, convenience, and whim – and hope the problems happen to someone else. It’s human nature.

    As for the devil corporations, they’re not charities. Every bit of material and labor comes at a price, and all of them seek to maximize profits. Sometimes that results in superior products, and sometimes it doesn’t. The companies who produce universally-praised products aren’t doing it just to be nice; they do it because it’s profitable.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      SCE to AUX – humans are very poor at risk assessment in the modern age. We weren’t all that great at it millions of years ago either. That is why we breed like rabbits or more specifically breed better than rabbits. (No VW inference meant)

  • avatar
    readallover

    This reminds my of my Uncle shopping for a Ford after the C-6 Transmission debacle. Sitting with the salesman who assures my Uncle that the problem is fixed and with his hand over his heart he swears on his mother that it is now impossible for the transmission to slip out of gear. My Uncle says that`s great and wants the dealer to warranty the car against any damage if it occurs. The salesman recoiled in horror and said that they cannot do that. To which my uncle replied that `your word really isn`t worth a bottle of warm piss, then is it?`
    We were soon joined by the sales manager.
    No new Ford. My Uncle kept his Rambler.

  • avatar
    gasser

    How in the world did GM get aroung regulations for a 2009 model to be manufactured WITHOUT side air bags??
    In addition to the poor sucker who bought one of them used, thinking his had all relevant safety equipment, what about people like me who use Enterprise and ordinarily rent a larger car for the safety factor. How can Enterprise explain the lack of safety feature in the event of an accident???
    Is this omitting of safety equipment for special orders, still possible today??

    • 0 avatar
      anomaly149

      The legal minimum crash performance isn’t that hard to hit, and NHSTA minimums are a lot lower than IIHS minimums to pass. (just like an IIHS five star can be harder to achieve than an NHSTA 5 star)

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Real simple. Side airbags are not required by regulations. They aren’t required at all (at least as of 2013). Car makers providing 10+ airbags are doing it due to the pressure on IIHS testing.

      In a way, by omitting them, GM was equally guilty as Ford is for deleting the crash bars on new F-150 models. Buyers researching safety will see the side impact results, and not know they bought a car absent the airbags. The nuance is this was a special order request by a rental company, that they agreed to.

      However, no safety laws were violated. The violation came a resale. The renters of these cars did it assuming all safety gear in place. GM shouldn’t have taken the order, Enterprise should have never requested in the first place, and Enterprise should have disclosed at resale.

      The market value plus $750 buy back offer was total crap. All Enterprise would have done was reconditioned and sold at an even higher price than book value plus $750, and pocketed the profit twice.

      This is what corporatism looks like.

      https://www.cars.com/articles/2013/08/are-front-side-airbags-required-standard-equipment/

  • avatar
    anomaly149

    This is basically required reading every time one of these articles comes out:
    http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/05/04/the-engineers-lament

    The peanut gallery around recalls is hilarious.

  • avatar
    Funky

    Very nice editorial. It is truly sad that this is the way it has to be.

  • avatar
    MWolf

    Y some think it’s just the big American three? Oh no, no. Have you seen how rapidly some of these imports fail? Honda and Toyota have had publicised issues in recent history. High end German cars are EXPECTED to be gotten rid of before 100k, with gimmicky electronics that fail more than they should and astronomical maintenance costs for things only a dealer can do (God help you if you try to do any of it yourself). BMW made an engine with no dipstick to check the oil! Didn’t I read an article here on TTAC about a Porsche getting a $500+ oil change?

    Sorry, but no one is making a car for the customer. They are making cars for the money. Sure, some of them are pretty. But none are designed to be anything more than money makers in one way or another, whether it be shoddy workmanship, finicky, impractical electronics, or just plain cheap and unsafe products…

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    The disrespect car makers have for their customers in the area of safety is probably trivial compared to the real scope of the disrespect.

    Automakers spend something like $500 per vehicle on advertising. This money is spent creating ads that build story lines about each car that deliberately appeal to each person’s insecurities. BMW’s are for people successful in business, huge pickups are for tough guys, Mazdas are for sporty drivers etc. and on and on. Drama, theater and emotion used to sell industrial transportation products.

    So successful are they at this that their customers shell out vast amounts of their hard-earned cash, which could be put to far better uses, to buy cars that, as a result of the pervasive advertising, act as announcements to other people.

    Another feature of this disrespect is the proliferation of varying designs of every part. How many wheel designs does humanity need? Why do we now have headlight clusters that are no more complex than a kid’s toy dumptruck that cost $1000. What is the incredible cost to society of all this nonsense? (And then these same people complain about government waste.)

    Just the fact that modern cars are LOADED with vast amounts of software/digital-based controls, and yet have no way to display fault codes without external code readers, proves that the car makers, if anything, scorn their customers.

    The customers are the ones with the money. They could therefore control the automakers if they chose. And they do, to some extent, through government. But if the customers weren’t so gullible to begin with, the automakers wouldn’t be so thoroughly taking advantage of them.

    And that’s a few truths about cars and the people who make them.

  • avatar
    stuki

    An unusually wise man once stated “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.”

  • avatar
    Mikein08

    This piece is merely belaboring the obvious. ALL large organizations,
    with rare exception, behave this way. As a savvy consumer, your first
    loyalty is to yourself and your pocketbook. So is your second, and
    third, and fourth, and ….

  • avatar
    CarPerson

    Cruze “B” Pillar reinforcement omission reducing side crash protection.

    My original post on TTAC contains the following quote from Automotive Engineering, the SAE member publication. To my knowledge, GM has not universally put in the reinforcements as a corporate policy to reduce deaths and serious injuries in side crashes.

    “Not only will there be different powertrains in different markets, but the chassis itself will vary depending upon local crash-protection requirements to ensure a maximum score in each country’s test, Mertens explained.

    In particular, there will be reinforcements to the B-pillars and the rocker panel area of cars for some markets, but not for others. “We will add or delete those as local safety standards require,” Mertens said. -Peter Mertens, Global Vehicle Line Executive for Compact Cars.

    The above puts a name and a face to the totally abhorrent GM policy of totally discounting human death and suffering.

    To review, the Cruze initally failed the side crash test. The engineers determined that installing small patches of sheet metal to better tie the B pillar into the roof and floor structure was all that was required to achieve dramatically improved results.

    GM then decided that those jurisdictions that did not require such side impact protection would not get it. Screw ’em, the parts would be omitted with the cost savings to flow into GM coffers.

  • avatar
    nrd515

    These kinds of stories sadden me, but don’t shock me anymore. the nickel and diming amuses me, in a way. I see it in all kinds of products, from household appliances, cars, to the ham radios and scanners I use every day. Most of these cost cutting measures don’t pose any risks to one’s life or health. One of the things that kind of amuses me is the use of a really junk “forked” BNC connector in radios costing $300-400. The price difference is like a dime, compared to the lasts forever “Split ring” BNC connector. The junky keypads on almost all consumer grade radios is another thing that saves very little at the manufacturing level. They are usually the first thing that fails, with the junky BNC close behind, it depend on how hard you press the keys and if you have “acid hands”. Pushing 60, I’m long over any illusions/delusions that any companies care about their customers at all. Sure, there are some exceptions, but they are very rare, and a pleasant surprise.

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    Enterprise sold LEGALLY Safe cars without fully disclosing that they did not have side airbags. The LACK OF DISCLOSURE was fraudulent. Such lack of disclosure was morally bone headed. And Enterprise was held civilly accountable (to a degree). I’m surprised that in today’s Three Felonies a Day world that there was no criminal liability, but I’m no lawyer…

    That said, the holier than thou tone of this piece (and many comments) that focus on the Impalas’ zero side airbags is comical. And sad. And economically illiterate.

    We live in a world of risk. People can choose to legally drive motorcycles and convertibles and 1985 beater trucks. But it’s morally reprehensible for GM to sell Impalas without side air bags??? A driver in one of these Impalas is probably several times safer than a driver WITH A CRASH HELMET in a 2015 Corolla. Is Toyota reprehensible for selling 2015 Corollas???

    For most, the chance of getting into a wreck where side airbags prevent injury is laughably small. If the vehicle checked out and the price was right, I wouldn’t hesitate buying a vehicle with ZERO airbags.

    Today’s mandated safety insanity prices vehicles out of the reach of many poor and middle class families. It adds complexity and cost to repairs and maintenance. Prohibiting people from making safety choices in the marketplace is standard Progressive Thug paternalism.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    This is why I praise certain car models, but rarely praise manufacturers as a whole (let alone defend religiously), to them we’re walking wallets.

    Appreciate the products, dont get too attached to the company.

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    Such moralistic condemnation here; you’d think human beings were precious and vanishing. 3rd-worlders know better.

    What a blessed bubble we Boomers were gifted! But it’s made us stupid.

    • 0 avatar
      shaker

      Wait until the healthcare system gets backed up with all of us boomers, wanting “health” and “care”.
      We’ll get less of either, due to pure economics, and die waiting for our own doctors to decide whether we actually “need” that MRI or CT scan.
      Airbags or wheel-blockers will be the least of our worries.

      Economics will always determine life/death, as we’ve far outlived our historical life span, and there’s just too damn many of us; we’re already in the 95th percentile of life expectancy, and there isn’t enough money to keep us healthy/happy into our 90’s so we can watch HD TV in the nursing homes, showing advertisements for stuff that our old asses will never buy.

      (Drops microphone, then realizes that the audience left 10 minutes ago).

      • 0 avatar
        RideHeight

        Study your euthanasia options *now*. Be an ant, not a grasshopper.

        • 0 avatar
          shaker

          As I have been musing about my (all-too-near) future, the thought has crossed my mind more than once. The sad thing is I know I’m not alone.
          Very soon, Primary Care Physicians will be replaced by a website and and you’ll have to visit a “minute clinic” to get the medication prescribed to you.
          Your surgery will be performed by a robot receiving “suggested actions” from a remotely-located doctor, who will likely be “performing” two or more surgeries at the same time.

          Airbags, schmairbags.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Gaming the system for one’s own benefit is nothing new, and we shouldn’t be surprised or shocked at anything corporations or individuals do to make a buck.

    To believe otherwise and assume everyone is altruistic and honest and genuinely cares for one’s fellow man and his welfare is living in a dream world and is a fool in the wicked world we currently are stuck in. Sure, some do, but they are the exception and not the rule by any means!

    Always, buyer beware!

  • avatar
    Mr. Orange

    The IIHS most of the time buys their own vehicles for testing off of dealers lots. IIHS is not provided a vehicle by the manufacture normally. But if a manufacturer request additional testing then they will provide one for testing.

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