Will changed culture improve GM's vehicles?


Interesting brief article reflecting the culture change in process at GM. Just have to wonder how long it will take for that to translate into notably improved quality and reliability of GM products.

…still reading, still learning…

I don’t want to start a war here but I’ve never had a quality or reliability problem with most GM products. I have had a lot of problems with Ford and Chrysler products however. I will say that there are some GM products that I would never consider owning though. I do like the Ford Rangers and Dodge Dakotas as well as the Jeep Cherokee (not Grand) just to be fair.

Hopefully. But I doubt that I’ll live long enough to see the results.
The dress code thing is nice. But the real difference can only come in the design decision process. As long as the designers are dictatorially restricted to keeping everything “Chevy” and not allowed to stretch their wings, to correct problems and deficiencies, things won’t change.

I don’t remember the details of the story, but one CEO upon taking over brought a competitor’s much-heralded new car into his design facilities. He then had the entire car gone over and a “sticky note” put on every detail that his companies “design cue” mandate (a book of design “musts”) would have prohibited. The car was covered with sticky notes inside and out. Every manufacturer has one of these books. For a car with heralded designs, it keeps the new designs loaded with the good stuff. For GM (and others) it keeps the bad stuff in the new designs.

Until and unless GM changes this design philosophy, the cars won’t change. Sure, there’ll be tweaks, but nothing groundbreaking will emerge.

GM has a division, the Cadillac division, that has emerged from the ashes and produced some groundbreaking designs. And they seem to have allowed their designers to correct the technical issues… 'cause they aren’t showing up on the roads. Barra should take a close look at how the new Cadillac design process differs from Chevy’s… and then change Chevy’s.

Just one man’s opinion. Others will surely disagree.

@missleman: We’ve had mostly GM cars all my life, some quite reliable, some maintenance headaches.

@thesamemountainbike: You have addressed what I am wondering. In other words, how deep and functional is the corprate culture change and how long does it take for such a behemoth to change true course.

@mountainbike I agree that there is change taking place, but it’s too slow. Mary Barra was part of the old regime although she owes no favors to those remaining there.

Product quality has always meant different things at GM than at Toyota. GM components have to be “good enough” to meet the perceived needs and be produced at the lowest possible cost to maximize profits. The company used to be run by accountants and stylists/marketers. Toyota starts with the premise what is the best design, and how can it be made as EFFICIENTLY as possible, resulting in a low cost and high quality.

At least Mary Barra comes out of engineering. My first taste of the “new GM” was a friend of my wife getting her ignition key changed on her Olds. The process was tedious with 4 visits, and the key promptly broke off after a few days. So now we have crappy, but safe keys. Even the solution was a half-hearted effort.

Lee Iacocca made far more changes at Chrysler when he took over, although the product quality was not outstanding, at least the products were very popular.

The day that GM has the same design standards and thorough testing procedures as Toyota will be the day I’ll consider a GM product again.

The GM ones I had in the past, Chevelle Malibu, Impala, Caprice, were better cars that their corresponding Ford products, but that’s not saying much.

She’s a BSEE with an MBA and three years in manufacturing engineering among her other position. She has the right technical mix. We’ll see how much of her is technical and how much is politics. There’s hope.

Missileman Says, “I don’t want to start a war here but I’ve never had a quality or reliability problem with most GM products.”

I agree and I have owned many GM cars, currently 3 Chevrolets and 3 Pontiacs. In fact I have not had quality or reliability issues with most any GM products.

Additionally, I have owned many Chrysler (Dodge) products and currently have a Dodge Caravan and I have not had quality or reliability issues with it.

I have put hundreds of thousands of miles on more of these vehicles that can be counted on several hands, some were purchased new and many purchased used and I never got a bad one.

When people complain about the quality and reliability of these cars, I really have to wonder what they’re talking about. I understand that manufacturers of practically every product can have an occasional defective one.

Will changed culture improve GM’s vehicles?

This implies that they need improvement. My answer is,
“I really don’t care. I’m more than happy with their quality and reliability, now!”


The culture was changed by almost going under and abiding by the provisions of the bail out. If left on their own, they still would be selling out of date cars… Now, they may still be in the long run, but at least now they appear more up to date tecnology wise, and are testing out better in reviews. I had several cars from GM that were perfectly fine; a truck, two Chevy Novas and a Chevy Prism. They all said Chevy and they were all good cars. :wink:

When I first read @Marnet’s post, I immmediately thought about her Impala and the problems she had with it. I’ve owned 3 Fords and all had enough problems that I sold them to be rid of the repairs. Still, I know that these are only 3 cars over a period of 15 years and 10 cars. Of all those cars, the 3 GM cars were the most reliable. I base my decisions on what worked for me, even though I know there are many other reliable brands available.

I think Mary Bara may bring back the 1950s glory days of GM when it was run by engineers. The 1955 Chevrolet V-8 was quite innovative for its time. In 1955, each division had its own engine. Some divisions used the GM Hydramatic which had 4 speeds with a fluid coupling to the engine. Chevrolet and Buick had a torque converter with 2 forward speeds. There was real competition among the divisions. When the Buick, Oldsmobile and Pontiac became practically identical, the competition was gone and so ultimately were two divisions. While Oldsmobile and Pontiac will. never return, we .may see the day where there is a GMC brand between Chevrolet and Buick

Back in the day there was not a lot of competition. The Detroit 3 truly were the Big 3. Cars like the BMW 2002 were cult classics, but were not sold in large numbers. No European cars were, and Asian cars were either unavailable or sold but one model. GM has so much competition that the division’s can’t afford to compete against each other.

I’ve never really had a quality issue with GM either but design is something else. With the elimination of Pontiac and Olds, I think they really need to tone down that over-sized bow tie on their new cars. It is really hideous and screams cheap, cheap. I’m not about to ever buy a Caddy and I can’t get my wife to look at a Buick so where does that leave me? Need to come up with more impressive styling that could appeal to people that are old but still young at heart and don’t want the Buick baggage or the Chevy history. In my day you only bought a Chevy until you could afford an Olds or Pontiac.

I just got an email from Acura listing the RDX but one of the features is shutting down 3 of the 6 cylinders on the road when all six are not needed. It will save a whole 1 mpg. Wow. Brought back memories of the 80’s with Caddy’s 8-6-4 system that was tossed out after a few years. I really hope the Fed’s CAFE challenges is not fostering in a whole new level of crappola designs again.

Just my rantings. We’ll probably end up with another Acura but under warranty.

I think the competition among the GM divisions kept it strong. Back in the late 1950s through the early 1960s, American Motors gave the Big 3 plenty of competition. AMC in 1960 had the 3rd best selling product in the nation.

I Almost Hate Flashing Back This Far, But I Took Driver’s Training At My High School Parking Lot In Brand New AMC Cars (Dealer Donated). I Believe They Were 327s (Ambassadors?) And Would Frequently Overheat Idling Around The Asphalt In The Heat Of Summer.

Cars didn’t have those fancy electric radiator fans at that time and getting caught in bumper-to-bumper traffic in summer heat was a bad thing.


I’ve only bought two GMs. A '72 Vega, with which I h ad the usual problems, and a '93 Saturn, with which I had the usual problems.

The difference is that with the '72 Vega I didn’t know the difference. Then I bought my first Toyota and realized how bad the Vega’s quality had been. And as I puttered along in my '76 Corolla without any problems at all, I watched friends who’d bought GMs have the usual GM problems. By the time I bought the Saturn (the wife’s choice), I’d owned a number of Toyotas and Honda and the difference in quality was obvious.

Toyota isn’t perfect either, but they sure did elevate my expectations. Toyota’s massive growth in the world market and GM’s bankruptcy combine to suggest that I wasn’t the only one.

My 64 Ford drivers training car never over heated in July but I’m sure the brakes needed replacing.

So, particularly: what do you think ought be done with GM’s myriad divisions?

I never knew the era when Buick viewed their “competition” as Olds, etc; my memory was of “vestigial” brands, where the same dang car was produced with different grilles in an attempt to capture Chevy, Buick, etc “legacy” customers. To me, this seems non-sustainable, and fairly unnecessary as folks old enough to remember the days of “quasi-autonomous brands all owned by GM” begin to leave the driver’s seat.

I think getting rid of Olds and Pontiac were good first steps, especially Olds–what was its identity, exactly? I mean, Cadillac was “luxury”; Buick was “near luxury” (i.e. fancier versions of the cars everyone else had); Chevy was “workingman”; Pontiac was “sporty”; Olds was…“like Buick, but less stodgy???” or “the comfortable performance sedan?”

I think GM could be just fine as Cadillac and Chevy…sell the more-expensive Chevys as “Buicks” overseas.

I had a 2006 Chevrolet Uplander which we sold to our son. Since GM sent out of the minivan business, I bought a Toyota Sienna. I don’t see .much difference between the quality of the two minivans. The Uplander now has about 145,000 miles and has had no major problems. The Uplander came with tires that lasted longer. I had 60,000 on the GoodYear tires that came with the Uplander before they were worn out. The Firestone tires on the Sienna had to be replaced at 35.000. The battery in the Uplander lasted almost twice as long as the battery in the Sienna.

I’ve owned two GM vehicles: a '92 Olds Cutlass Ciera wagon, and my current '08 Cobalt.

The Olds…the less said, the better. Surprisingly good engine (3.3L V6); awful everything else. The Cobalt…no problems, really. It handles surprisingly well for a FWD; very nimble. Its chief drawback is that it is the most anonymous vehicle I have owned! Dark grey, sedan–it is the sort of vehicle that was born to be a rental car/government-issue vehicle (in fact, I got it at a PennDOT auction). I always said it’d be a great car if I were up to no good, because it doesn’t stand out anywhere, ever.

As has been noted many times in previous discussion threads, even the worst modern cars are safer and more reliable than cars of a generation and more ago.

Even with my Impala, I could easily have kept it and put additional money into it and had a quite drivable car. I chose not to for two basic reasons.

First was that when I had it thoroughly looked over by both the dealership service department and the independent shop I have mostly used in recent years I got a total consensus that I could keep it going but they were very concerned I would likely end up being stranded.

Secondly, the estimated total cost to keep and maintain the car over the next five years was more than what I would have to pay out for a new car minus sale or trade of the Impala. I added in normal maintenance costs (oil, tires, brakes, etc) insurance and taxes, etc for both keep old versus new in my calculations. I even looked at the five year difference in paying out X amount of big bucks for the new car up front versus what that would cost in lost investment income for doing so. The total money calculations slightly favored keeping the Impala and I almost did.

What tipped my choice toward replacement was personal safety. The independent shop pointed out that several developing problems were with systems already replaced once - intermediate steering shaft, shift interlock, power steering pump and rack - and several electrical / electronic components already replaced as much as three times. Obviously those systems were proving trouble prone and all out of warranty. Add in the transmission problem that I had made worse with a premature shift from reverse to drive without fully stopping the car between as well as a sudden almost overnight change from using no oil to going down one to two quarts every 500 miles with no sign of why and where…add it all up to lost confidence in the car.

The final kicker was twofold. The Chevy service department admitted they were seeing heavy warranty repairs on the new Chevy engines and electronics as well as a mountain of problems on my 2007 model. Add that all the mechanics at the independent said bluntly if, as a woman physically unable to do my own repair work, I were a member of their families they would get me out of that car into something more reliable.

So, I swallowed the financial hit and traded for the Camry.

Would I ever buy another GM car? Yes, if my research made me think it a good bet.

Make the best decision you can based on the information you have at the time, hope to make more good than bad choices, and learn from both good and bad outcomes.