Why People Hate GM Anyway (at least my reconing)

I was thinking recently over all the stories I had heard over the years why people chose Import brands (and if they were indeed imported, so much the better). And I counted nearly thirty different explanations, each one talking about a car they had five to twenty-five years ago that had something so wrong that they turned instead to the new car brand in town, or finally listened to that friend who had bragged about buying foreign (who would needle him mercilessly for a few weeks after buying the jap job). And there was always a reference to the “Union Workers Who Spent More Time Sleeping At Their Job Than Actually Putting The Cars Together(tm),” although usually it was added in as a slight extra justification.

So many stories, all with the idea of a single flaw (however big it may have been) being a reason to throw away a whole group and celebrate the sufferings of those who allied themselves with it. And every one of these stories came a wave of emotion. I never understood it.

Until now.

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Consider this: You spend a sizable amount of money on an item. An item that you expect will take you around everywhere you want to go. And something happens that makes it impossible, and you end up spending a lot of $$$ for something that couldn’t be fixed, or worse bring the item in only to learn that said it was built wrong and couldn’t be made right.

Meanwhile, a different version of that item is made elsewhere that not exceeds all expectations, and without being the high-end luxury item.

You’d feel one thing: BETRAYED.

And you’d turn against the company that made you the item that fell apart.

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Now: That company that has “betrayed” the buyers is GM/Ford/Chrysler/AMC.

After all, people have spent lots of money on cars only to find out they’ve bought a piece of junk. American cars for many years were built with 100,000 miles as the high-end, and everyone knows about the ten cents/car that GM chose over an item that would stabilize the Corvair, or the $2.40 that would have kept Pintos from exploding. Or the V-8/6/4 Caddy that had a thing for becoming a V-0, or the 200,000 mile Diesel V8 Oldsmobiles that seemed to confuse 100,000 as 200,000 miles and fell apart then. Or the Chrysler Trannies that can’t work well, or the Sebring that looks like a Edsel raped a Pinto and forced the Pinto to bring the pregnancy to full term. Or, for that matter, the Cobalts that can’t fit 6’4″ drivers within their driver spaces (while the import Aveo has no problem with head room).

And while they may have some problems with their latest Nissan Versa/Tilde or Honda Insight or Lexus XE, it’s not like the bad old days, when things went automatically wrong with the American cars and nothing was/could be done to fix them.

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Here’s the key point of the Betrayal: You can’t fix it right.

You can fix your cars so they come #1 on the JD Powers polls, make the most fuel-efficient fleet in the land and even win races regularly; the people betrayed will remember the betrayal and base their decisions on that. And while it seems irrational (considering everything that’s gone on since then), it’s the fact that they had to make a move and it was (or had become, in many instances) the wrong move that stays logically remembered.

No one likes their trust played with. And with lots of money involved in buying a new car, there’s no real room for a second chance. You’d be better off gambling on an unknown than going back to the bitch that ruined you before.

And that’s why people hate American Car Companies.


One thought on “Why People Hate GM Anyway (at least my reconing)

  1. I think your comments speak to the cold hard fact that it’s extremely challenging to change perception. Earning trust takes time. Losing trust takes a blink of an eye. Earning trust back takes an eternity. And in the automotive business, when purchasing a car is such a major investment, consumers are not likely to take chances on brands that have burned them before.

    Now, that said, what would you say that Big Three need to do to win consumers back? Let’s say you are the CEO of GM, what is your plan to win consumers back?


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