Automakers Are Companies and Don't Care About You

Mark Stevenson
by Mark Stevenson
automakers are companies and don t care about you

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.

Join the conversation
2 of 118 comments
  • Zackman Zackman on Aug 07, 2015

    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!

  • Mr. Orange Mr. Orange on Aug 07, 2015

    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.

  • Surferjoe Still have a 2013 RDX, naturally aspirated V6, just can't get behind a 4 banger turbo.Also gloriously absent, ESS, lane departure warnings, etc.
  • ToolGuy Is it a genuine Top Hand? Oh, I forgot, I don't care. 🙂
  • ToolGuy I did truck things with my truck this past week, twenty-odd miles from home (farther than usual). Recall that the interior bed space of my (modified) truck is 98" x 74". On the ride home yesterday the bed carried a 20 foot extension ladder (10 feet long, flagged 14 inches past the rear bumper), two other ladders, a smallish air compressor, a largish shop vac, three large bins, some materials, some scrap, and a slew of tool cases/bags. It was pretty full, is what I'm saying.The range of the Cybertruck would have been just fine. Nothing I carried had any substantial weight to it, in truck terms. The frunk would have been extremely useful (lock the tool cases there, out of the way of the Bed Stuff, away from prying eyes and grasping fingers -- you say I can charge my cordless tools there? bonus). Stainless steel plus no paint is a plus.Apparently the Cybertruck bed will be 78" long (but over 96" with the tailgate folded down) and 60-65" wide. And then Tesla promises "100 cubic feet of exterior, lockable storage — including the under-bed, frunk and sail pillars." Underbed storage requires the bed to be clear of other stuff, but bottom line everything would have fit, especially when we consider the second row of seats (tools and some materials out of the weather).Some days I was hauling mostly air on one leg of the trip. There were several store runs involved, some for 8-foot stock. One day I bummed a ride in a Roush Mustang. Three separate times other drivers tried to run into my truck (stainless steel panels, yes please). The fuel savings would be large enough for me to notice and to care.TL;DR: This truck would work for me, as a truck. Sample size = 1.
  • Ed That has to be a joke.
  • SCE to AUX One data point: my rental '23 Model 3 had good build quality, but still not as good as my Hyundais.Test mule aside, perhaps the build quality of the CT will be good in 2027.