On US comeback trail? GM reportedly in negotiations for rights to relaunch Yugo (left) and digging up plans for “new” Corvair. (Credit: Rueters photos)
Thursday, May 22 2014
By Andrew Squibley
DETROIT, May 22 (Rueters) – General Motors Co, the largest US automaker, is abandoning the “piecemeal” approach it has long taken to getting its vehicles off American roads, announcing today it is recalling every single automobile and truck it has made — ever.
“We’ve been making and selling cars since 1908,” GM chief executive Mary Barra said in an extraordinary announcement released from corporate headquarters, “and we still haven’t got it right. All we’ve managed to do is maim and kill our customers. We’re no longer prepared to accept the liability that our products carry. We are therefore choosing the most prudent path and recalling any GM product any American is still driving. Bring ’em back to the dealers. Bring ’em all back.”
The historic recall covers an estimated 350 million automobiles and trucks sold by GM in the United States since the car maker’s founding in 1908, according to a company spokesman. “Of course we don’t expect that many vehicles to be brought back to dealerships. Our own studies show only about half of all GM products sold in the past six months are still on the road.”
The unprecedented product recall applies only to vehicles sold in the US, the company spokesman told Rueters. “Americans are the only customers willing to sue over every tiny, little, nitpicky defect. They’re impossible to please.”
According to Barra’s announcement, “The company’s piecemeal approach to recalling its vehicles is a giant distraction for everyone, customers, management, regulators, safety experts — everyone. Who can keep all the recalls straight? We might as well face facts and get these dangerous products off the roads once and for all.”
Earlier this week, GM said it was recalling more than 284,000 older Chevrolet small cars because of a potential fire hazard, bringing U.S. recalls at the automaker this year to 29 and a record number of vehicles. The recall with the highest profile was for cars with defective ignition switches linked to at least 13 deaths. The Detroit company has been criticized by safety advocates and fined by U.S. safety regulators for its delayed response in catching the faulty switch.
Before today’s historic announcement, GM also recalled another 2.6 million vehicles. GM targeted nearly 285,000 Chevrolet Aveo and Optra cars in the United States from model years 2004 to 2008. The problem with the cars stems from a faulty part in their daytime running lights that could overheat and cause a fire, according to documents filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
GM said it was aware of some fires related to the problem but did not say how many. It said there were no reports of injuries or fatalities because it has decided to stop monitoring such incidents. “Too depressing,” the company spokesman said.
Meanwhile, according to Rueters sources, Barra has opened negotiations with the Zastava Automobile Co of Serbia for rights to relaunch its popular Yugo subcompact automobile, sold in the US from 1985-1992, in time for the 2016 Detroit Auto Show next January. “We’re still a car company, after all,” a source told Rueters. “We’ve got to have something to show for our efforts. The dealers who know about this have told us they aren’t too happy with just the Yugo, so we’re coming up with something super special for them.”
Rumors are circulating around Motor City that Barra has decided to dust off schematics for the 1960 Corvair, install a GPS device into the rear-engine vehicle and “bet the farm it can save GM,” one industry insider was quoted as saying. “So the Corvair had a bad rep — unsafe at any speed, or something like that,” the insider said. “But did it kill more people that the Chevy Cobalt or Malibu or Cadillac Escalade? I don’t think so. In this market, you go with your best product. In hindsight, that was clearly the Corvair.”
Citing the famous consumer advocate who crusaded successfully for years against the Corvair and wrote a best seller called “Unsafe At Any Speed,” the insider told Rueters, “We think Ralph Nader, if he were alive today, would agree.”
Nader, 80, who lives in Connecticut and reportedly drives a 1992 Yugo, couldn’t be reached for comment.