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Op-Ed: Assessing Detroit’s Brand Addiction

Why the good cop/bad cop game isn’t working anymore.

by on Jun.30, 2014

A 2007 Chevrolet Cobalt, one of the GM vehicles covered by the maker's ignition switch recall.

Does the game of good cop/bad cop still work in Detroit?  What happens when the bad cop (General Motors) keeps making bad decisions, and the good cop (Chevrolet) has no authority and no voice of its own?

In mid-March, the bad cop tried to dig out of its hole as new GM CEO Mary Barra met with reporters to discuss recent product recalls.  “I want to start by saying how sorry personally and how sorry General Motors is for what has happened,” she said in reference to the accidents linked to faulty ignition switches.

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I think we can all agree with Barra’s framing: this is a GM problem.  Specifically, the inability of the company’s bureaucracy to deal with the ignition switch issue that was uncovered as early as 2001.  One can study many things in this case, from GM’s internal crisis response to product quality to governance issues.  What leapt to mind for me was GM’s devotion to being a “house of brands” that tries to isolate crises to a specific marque, or to the corporate level when the problem is found in multiple brands.

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GM Recalling Over 300,000 Impalas

Blames seatbelt problem.

by on Oct.15, 2010

More than 300,000 late-model Impalas are affected by the recall involving potentially defective seatbelts.

Problems with the front seatbelts in 2009 and 2010 model-year sedans has led General Motors to announce the recall of 303,100 Chevrolet Impalas.

The problem has been under investigation since mid-2009, the automaker announced, though GM says it has no reports of deaths or injuries related to the problem.

According to an announcement from the maker, the “front safety belt webbing may not have been properly secured to the lap belt anchor pretensioner mounted to the side of the seat nearest the door. As a result, the safety belt may not restrain the occupant as intended during a crash.”

There have been 32 reports of problems involving the belts requiring warranty repairs.

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A letter will go out to owners later this month.  In all, 192,922 Chevrolet Impalas from the 2009 model-year will be impacted by the recall, along with 110,178 from the 2010 model-year.

In addition, the recall will affect 19,000 vehicle sold in Canada.

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