General Motors Not Giving a Damn in Three Photos

It wasn’t long ago that the Detroit Three were fending off the Japanese on home soil as the Land of the Rising Sun cranked out reliable car after reliable car for the American masses. Then came the Koreans — Kia and Hyundai — who brought over cheap metal to win market share but quickly turned around their quality and reliability woes and produced some of the best products in the industry.

So why is it that, after 108 years of building automobiles, General Motors still manufactures abysmal garbage?

I’ve driven the first-generation Cruze, and while I never warmed to its exterior design, its interior accoutrements were on par with its competitors — inexpensive without being cheap, comfortable without being luxurious, functional without being spartan.

But this … thing … is something else entirely.

What you see above is the second-generation 2017 Chevrolet Cruze, now available in hatchback form, in base-for-hatchback LT trim.

First, let me applaud GM for building a compact hatchback for the first time in decades. I’d say it takes courage to do so if nearly every other automaker hadn’t clued into the coming popularity for hatchbacks first. Still, the new Cruze is a handsome car on the outside that ditches the ungainly headlights and other odd design features of its predecessor.

I even like the way it drives, but more on that at a later date. Today I’m going to rant instead.

Here are three photos that show “new GM” has already given up on building good cars, ranked by least to most severe.

The hood latch release lever on the Cruze looks like a paddle with a single, flimsy arm connecting it to a release cable. That arm can twist and turn and move in all sorts of directions. Don’t believe me?

This is awful. Guess that car!

— Mark Stevenson (@MarkTTAC) February 21, 2017

Sure, a hood latch release lever isn’t something that gets daily use, but can you imagine the stress put on this part by a hamfisted quick-lube grunt who’s trying to perform an oil change every 10 minutes so he doesn’t get fired?

Move to the center of the interior and the Cruze welcomes you to plug your many devices into this smartphone gulag of sorts.

There’s a reason why Kia interiors these days look a helluva lot better than they did just a couple of years ago: the Koreans figured out you can hide the seams between panels — out of sight, out of mind. Instead, GM presents us these seams on a platter. This would be fine if the panels fit together well, were engineered properly, and you could nerd out over GM’s manufacturing prowess. But no, we’re presented with cheap, hard, sharp plastic panels that fit together worse than a Chinese child’s toy.

But the worst has yet to come: the door trim panels, and there are many of them all joining at one point on both front doors.

Again, look at many Korean vehicles today and you’ll find some well-crafted, well-engineered door panels. The Cruze? Not a chance!

The photo above is of the driver’s side door, and it shows seven panels all coming together at the front of the arm rest. There’s actually one more very small panel here that you can’t see, which brings the total to eight cheap, garbage, badly engineered pieces of plastic coming together. Collectively, those panels shout, “Should’ve bought a Civic!”

You might be thinking, “So what? Why are you ranting about interiors?” And I’ll tell you why: General Motors knows how to build an interior that isn’t the automotive equivalent of Fresh Kills. These issues aren’t due to slip ups in manufacturing or mistakes with tooling; they’re baked into the design of the parts and/or made by discount tools by the lowest bidding supplier. And it’s all done for one reason and one reason only: pennies of profit.

Mary Barra has steered GM’s ship toward profitability, but she’s listening more and more to the beancounters as the corporate machine ekes out every last nth of profit margin from every single vehicle rolling off the assembly line. Old GM did this kind of cost-cutting years ago, and the results were predictably disastrous: the buying public, who aren’t all dumb, started clueing into this rampant beancounting and more often started going across the street to Honda, Toyota, Hyundai, and Kia. This corner-cutting is a short-term solution that creates massive long-term quality problems. And those quality problems are a lot easier to create than erase from the buying public’s consciousness. Just ask FCA.

But, this actually angers me. This shows the contempt General Motors has for its customers and the people who funded its bailout. You can see this same contempt in the way General Motors hides behind its bankruptcy when someone sues it for serious issues regarding its products. It’s the same contempt GM showed when Firenzas started setting themselves alight and it told customers to get bent. It’s the same contempt GM expressed towards its workers in Flint in the ’80s and Oshawa today.

And on top of it all, that contempt for the customer is so often mixed with hubris. I’m certain someone from GM will call me after reading this to say their company builds the best cars in the world while machine-gun mentioning GM’s many quality awards in recent years.

I don’t care about your awards. You need to do better, GM. This is garbage and it isn’t acceptable anymore.

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