By on December 28, 2015

2012 Chevrolet Corvette. Photo courtesy wikipedia.org

Hat tip to my good friend Sam Strano, he of the approximately 400 SCCA Solo and ProSolo National Championships, who forwarded me a letter (click through the break). General Motors sent Sam, a 2007 Corvette Z06 owner, extremely specific instructions about what to do if he were ever to find himself stuck in his Corvette due to low battery voltage, complete with pictures and diagrams.

You might think that even Corvette owners would be able to figure out how to get out of their cars, especially the ones with removable roofs. But you’d be wrong.

Remember this poor guy? He basically cooked himself — and his poor dog, Leia — inside his own car this past summer.

Now, personally, there are lots of things to question about this: First of all, he was eating at Waffle House in the middle of the day. Secondly, his dog was named Leia. Thirdly, according to Sam (I’m not a C6 owner, so I had to ask), even without being able to lower the windows, he could have simply unlatched the roof and pushed it up.

“The windows do drop down slightly to get under the edge of the roof. But even when that doesn’t work you can open the doors no problem. So throwing the latches and pushing up on the roof it would have just come right out,” says Sam.

And then we have poor General Motors. Somebody dies in their car, and this time, it isn’t their fault. But they still have to send out tens of thousands of letters to C6 owners, explaining to them how to get out of their own cars. They just can’t win for losing.

So, if you have a Corvette, and you are stuck in your own car, never fear — help is on the way, in the form of this letter. Read it, comprehend it, and maybe even go practice.

Here’s the letter:

stranoletter

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65 Comments on “General Motors Is Here To Save You From Yourself...”


  • avatar
    six42

    TL;DR?

    RTFM.

  • avatar

    I don’t race Corvettes cause they skid out of control ALL OF THE TIME.

    Say what you want about HELLCAT but at least I can drive straight in a straight line at full throttle.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Sending a few thousand letters costs much less than a lawsuit.

  • avatar
    Travis

    The Grand Sport package was first available in 2010, when it replaced the Z51 option package. Minor quibbles…

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    Only GM is incompetent enough to design such a ridiculous & overly complicated door lock system in the first place.

    Complete & total idiots.

    • 0 avatar

      I honestly don’t like GM cars. There’s something about their products that feels OFF no matter how expensive they are.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        “There’s something about their products that feels OFF no matter how expensive they are.”

        I feel that way about FCA products and so does Consumer Reports and JD Power.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      There’s nothing particularly complicated about the C6 and C7 Corvette’s door lock system. Typically, the door lock on a modern car isn’t a physical door lock at all. But if the car is locked, the door handle is disconnected from the latch and essentially does nothing. All GM did was create an electronic system that does the same. If the car is locked, the electronic door button won’t do anything.

      But that means that it needs manual release handles, in case the electronics aren’t active. GM’s only failure was not making the location of those manual release handles clear.

  • avatar
    daviel

    Writing letters does not save a lawsuit. Did the cooked guy’s family sue GM? I’m surprised that new Corvettes don’t come with monster warning labels.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I question why he didn’t have a phone. Why he didn’t honk the horn or signal someone in the parking lot, or start kicking the window or roof if he felt trapped and too hot.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        I think the article itself stated that he had left his phone inside the restaurant.

        Good point about the horn, and rabbit-kicking the window if nothing else, as the article didn’t state anything about the entire car being dead. (Otherwise, he wouldn’t have been able to enter the vehicle.)

        Panic, or extreme emotion, affects folks differently, unfortunately. (Slightly O/T, but when my Dad was in a minor fender-bender this past summer, he was in such a state of shock (even though he knew he wasn’t at fault) that he didn’t call the police (rationalizing the action by thinking that the police only responded to injury-crackups. Perhaps the same thing applied to the cop who killed his family in that Lexus which started the whole Toyota floormat thing; you or I wouldn’t react that way, but Lord knows about someone who’s not a “car guy”; though his training should have “taught” him differently.)

  • avatar
    Chan

    The manual door release is fairly obvious in the cabin, an issue which has been beat to death in various discussions.

    The question I want to ask is: Why would anyone want an electronic door release located barely one foot away from the manual lever? It’s like offering power windows with a manual override hand crank right next to the window switch. Completely eradicates any aesthetic advantage provided by the fancy switch.

  • avatar
    JMII

    Is there something I am missing here? I assume (and pray) any interior door handle does not require power. For example what happens if you fly off the road and into water which kills the electrical system? Or in a car crash in which the battery becomes dislodged or disconnected? The doors MUST open without power or the vehicle is a death trap.

    My wife’s Volvo has a key hidden in the key FOB so you can open the door the old school way (insert metal thing and turn) when the FOB battery dies. About a month ago I had to remind her of this fact because she was “stuck” outside the car.

    • 0 avatar
      Chan

      There is a manual door release. It’s located on the floor right next to the door, a fairly obvious lever and marked in red.

      The old guy probably panicked.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      The door lock switches on my Golf SportWagen aren’t conventional lock tabs. They’re electronic buttons. Still, pulling the door handle (either once or twice) manually unlocks the doors. Most cars without lock tabs work the same.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        Do they give any resistance when pushed down like mechanical ones? I’m trying to compare what you’re describing with the locks as I remember them on my Mom’s MkIV Jetta, and my brother’s B5 Passat. I thought those had a mechanical component, signaling the rest of the locks through the CAN-Bus.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    What a horrendous, pointless design.

  • avatar
    b534202

    So even GM go with ‘left side vehicle door’ instead of calling it driver side or passenger side?

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    This guy deserves a Darwin Award but since the average age of Corvette owners is 59, the dude probably has tainted the gene pool.

  • avatar

    And why are we making fun of a 72 year old and his dog again? Oh yeah sorry, autoblog. Oh, wait…

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      I feel bad for the poor dog who had no choice in the matter.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      I genuinely feel deeply sorry the deceased and his family.

      Any vehicle, such as the subject one, that depends on a functioning, in-working-order electrical system to do something as basic as unlock a door from the interior (save for some bizarre, elaborate workaround that is anything but intuitive), is an inherent design defect, and more plainly, a complete & utter sh!tty design that could only be created, let alone green lighted for production, by an absolutely moronic company with no concern for quality of their products.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        I have to completely disagree with you on that, for reasons I explained above. I suppose it’s one of those things that puts form over function, but there’s nothing inherently stupid about it. There are manual overrides, in both the interior and the exterior. GM just should have made that clearer to owners is all.

        Meanwhile, what about the CTS Coupe? I believe it used the exact same electronic door-access system.

        • 0 avatar
          DeadWeight

          Kyree, I just think it’s overly complicated & counterintuitive, even assuming more Corvette buyers are statistically likely to be “enthusiasts.”

          GM isn’t alone in implementing such bad design (IMO), but it’s just so bizarre to not be able to use ones fingers to manually open the door closest to you while inside a vehicle should the need arise.

          I understand that you don’t agree, and that’s cool.

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            You can use your fingers to manually open the door. You just have to reach down in a weird place to do so. But yes, we can agree to disagree, haha.

            In all honesty, I geek out when it comes to warning labels on stuff, because it gives it that rough, engineering, post-apocalypse feel. In fact, I left that airbag warning label (the one they hang out of the glovebox) on my car for three months. If it were my decision, they would have kept the implementation that they used, but just made the emergency release handles really big and ostentatious, with big warning labels on the door panels, to point them out.

            Yeah, that’d be cool.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            GM didn’t explain the redundancies to customers because GM can’t afford to remind their victims that failure is to be expected.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          What’s dumb about it is that the emergency/ secondary method for opening the door isn’t located in the door itself, where one would expect to find it.

      • 0 avatar
        VolandoBajo

        My son-in-law, who admits he is not much of a car guy, but is doing well for himself, my stepdaughter and their daughter, as a third gen inside the Beltway family guy, just saw my Panther (GM LS 97) for the first time over the holidays, and I saw his new Cadillac for the first time also. He went for a 2014 SRX, acquired at a decent discount at the end of the model year.

        While his car has a nice, clean interior and decent lines, although it is 17 years new, it only gets marginally better mileage than my mod motor Mercury. And he was surprised to discover such amenities as power windows, power mirrors, keypad and keyfob entry, and a host of other features that were not clearly outdone by the Cadillac.

        The biggest difference, besides the fact that mine, with a minor chip tune on it seems to be a lot quicker to sixty, is that his cost several dozen times more than mine. And while his is comfortable, I find the seats in mine to be more so.

        Too bad I couldn’t have put him in touch with DeadWeight’s reviews before he pulled the trigger on the deal.

        But in short, while it has many nice things about it, at least at first appearance, there is nothing really outstanding about it. And the litany of well-known issues with the marque makes me wonder what his experience will be, especially post-warranty period.

        Meanwhile, God willing and the creek don’t rise, I still expect to be flogging my Panther down the highway. It pulled interstate speeds of 80 to 90 effortless on the open road. And knock on wood, the only imminent repair appears to be the need for a pair of front rotors to replace the cheapo ones the original owner installed a while back, that have the inherent warpage of an aluminum pie tin.

        The beast pulls out into traffic from on ramps and service areas like a racecar departing the pit area. And has NVH characteristics are as good as any car I have ever ridden in or driven.

        Yes, my mind understands why Ford stopped making Panthers. But my heart never will…

  • avatar
    jammyjo

    GM should send out a $10 Corvette branded glass break tool.

  • avatar
    Wheeljack

    I’m surprised they don’t use a design similar to the Viper. The Viper uses electric solenoids to release the door latches, which are activated by switches integrated into the interior door release handles. In the event of a power failure, just pull on the release handle more (to full travel/range of motion) and there is a backup cable that manually activates the latch and opens the door.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      There really doesn’t seem to be a point in using electronic solenoids on the Viper. Like you said, it already has door handles as the main interfaces, which are levers that already provide a mechanical “pulling” action on their own. They can simply be connected to a cable that releases the latch when pulled, which is how it’s done on most cars. Why have electronic solenoids at all, then? It’s just one more thing to break.

      GM chose the Corvette’s particular implementation because it wanted to use electronic buttons as the main interfaces for opening the doors, on both the interior and exterior. Those provide no mechanical action whatsoever, and so it’s necessary to then have a solenoid or an electronically-actuated cable that releases each latch. Of course, GM still needed to include some kind of mechanical backup in the event that the electronics stopped working (such as for a dead battery)…so the engineers included those physical release lever that function much like regular door handles. Each emergency release lever pulls on a cable, which mechanically releases the latch. But those release levers are just hidden…apparently hidden a little too well.

      • 0 avatar
        JMII

        “But those release levers are just hidden…apparently hidden a little too well.”

        OK now it makes sense. Pretty poor design then as door handles should be obvious and one would assume, actually located on the DOORS themselves.

      • 0 avatar
        anomaly149

        I think GM wanted to bury the door latch in the B-pillar. You can’t have a mechanical cable go from the door to a B-pillar mounted latch without it starting to look like some sort of 1940s flight control cable. (really bad for crash)

      • 0 avatar
        Wheeljack

        I think the reason why the Viper uses solenoids is due to the outside door “handles”. They are just switches integrated into a “trap door” flap that pushes out of the way to give you something to hold on to as you swing the door open. The flaps probably don’t have enough range of motion or mechanical advantage to actuate a conventional cable operated latch, hence the solenoid.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    OK, maybe not the best design, but then there’s this: when you open the door of a C6 ‘Vette, it’s obvious the thing doesn’t have a mechanical door release. You press a pad on the outside and hit a button on the inside.

    Now, wouldn’t a reasonably intelligent car buyer – and I’d say someone who can plunk down ‘Vette money most likely earned it via some kind of pursuit involving intellgence – ask the salesperson what happens if the system fails?

    At that point the salesperson points out the manual release. That, or maybe the buyer reads that silly owners’ manual thingie.

    Problem solved either way.

    I feel bad for this guy but he could have prevented this.

    And as far as GM is concerned, it designed the system with a manual release just in case. They did their due diligence. If the people who sell and buy their cars don’t take the 2.3 minutes necessary to find the manual release don’t want to do so, then that’s their problem.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      While I agree with you in concept, today we don’t expect our people to be able to operate neutral on their cars or hit the brakes hard enough when their leaning tower of floor mats jams the accelerator pedal at full throttle.

  • avatar
    daver277

    I got locked inside my BMW E34 once and the battery was not dead. They have an anti-smash and grab system.

  • avatar
    Spartan

    My 65 year old mother has a Corvette and knows how to get in and out of the car. She primarily uses the manual door latch on the floor anyway.

    For the life of me, I don’t understand how this guy cooked himself and the poor dog. Between this guy and the guy in the Lexus that wasn’t smart enough to put it in neutral to let it coast instead of continuing to accelerate, I fear for the human race. The majority of people are stupid. The fact that GM had to send these letters out is proof of that.

    And that’s why we have directions on shampoo. Warning, do not eat. Eye irritant.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      When our daughter was younger she had a bath seat that attached to the tub with suction cubs. The seat go recalled because, “Children left unattended in bath tub in this product may drown.” According to a children’s product safety group, infant bath seats have been linked to 103!!! deaths. 103 parents did not watch their infants in the bathtub leading to a product being recalled.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I think it’s Dial or perhaps another maker that says “Use as you would any other soap.” Always found that funny.

  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    I can’t have any sympathy for a Toilet Brush Dog getting barbecued – I hate those things, and I wish people would stop buying them. If you want a cuddly living ornament, get a cat. They, at least, are supposed to be small.

    But the bigger problem here is that manufacturers keep trying to move technology away from actual mechanical to purely electronic systems, probably because Computers are the current Big Thing and they don’t have any moving parts.

    The use of a purely mechanical control would’ve prevented that man’s death.

  • avatar

    I was surprised to received this letter (I own a 2008 C6) but immediately thought of the Texas case. It is odd that there is no reference in the letter to removing the targa top but the ZR1 model had a fixed roof (not sure about Z06s). The letter does note it is merely restating what is in the owner’s manual.

    The first time I opened the car door I noticed the lever next to the seat with the door symbol on it. There is also one in the luggage area. If your key fob battery runs out you can use the metal key and open it using the keyhole at the back; there are none on the doors.

    If we were so concerned about total safety we would let Mr. Google be driving us or maybe have no glass in our windows so we could escape after driving into a reservoir. GM can be criticized for plenty but these doors work fine. Incidentally, if you roll your scissor-door Lamborghini on its roof can you get out?

    I have never heard of an autopsy being done on the man in Texas, who was not a first-time Corvette owner. If he was incapacitated it would explain not being able to get out by using the roof, which is very simple to unlatch.

  • avatar
    anomaly149

    For some clarification, on the C6 the side door latch is not in the door, it’s buried inside the B-pillar. This provides some really cool advantages in crash performance and for packaging, but means that you can’t have a mechanical push/pull cable from the door handle release the latch. So you go electronic.

    That being said, it looks like the Corvette doesn’t have any backup batteries or special electronics to allow you to pop the door open if the main battery dies. So there’s some little lever you get to fish for on the floor of the car if you want out. (look at the top of the door on the i8 for another example of this. Several Porsches do this too)

    I’m surprised the Feds haven’t come up with some more regulations surrounding electronic latching, especially around releasing with the car’s battery dead. The visibility of that little emergency release, or the presence of some sort of backup electrical system, seems kinda important.

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    GM is trying to outsmart Darwin again I guess?
    I really don’t know who is more stupid. The company that makes a fully electrically opening door, then adds a mechanical lever right below it, because they realize it can fail, thereby also ruining the ‘coolness’ factor of the button completely.
    Or the guy who manages to get stuck in his car long enough to basically get cooked in it…
    Also, we are in the 21st f’in century. People in the past expected us to have flying cars by now , but we still can’t make decent car electrics…

  • avatar
    tjaguar888

    RIP Daddy. My Father and his dog were the ones who were trapped inside the 2007 Corvette and died 06/08/15. I was glad to see this letter has been sent to many owners in the US and Canada. If one life is saved by this letter, then they are helping create awareness of this terrible design. His death haunts me. He was a healthy well nourished male and died from hyperthermia, as stated in his autopsy. Found dead with owners manual out, but I’m sure passed out from heat before finding the tiny print on page 80 of 500 page manual about release while sweat pouring in his eyes. His life and Leia’s was ended too soon. Some things said are very hurtful but I move on, ignoring the insensitivity of people. I think of the day before he died, he came by and was so proud of his car. What creeps me out, is the thought of what if he would have tossed my teen daughter or I the keys and said take it for a spin and one of us would have drove away, battery cable come loose and it died on us? I would have not known how to get out either. In a panic, would I have thought to get owner manual out? In 92 degree temps in Texas in June, the interior heat gets very hot fast. Its a hypothetical thought but could have happened.
    PS All he wanted was to own a Corvette, sad he only got less than 3 weeks. Not a fan of corvettes anymore.

  • avatar
    carlisimo

    I’m crazy enough to always read the whole damn manual, and it’s getting harder as they get longer. 25 years ago you had to be lazy to not be able to do it. Now they’re several times larger and rather intimidating. The more necessary they become, the less they’ll get read.

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