or decades, the automobile industry was, and to some degree still is, the backbone of the United States economy. Much more than transportation, the automobile represented jobs and ingenuity with companies like Ford and General Motors (GM) being the staples of American manufacturing.
It was just a few years ago when the American automobile hit rock bottom, a period where Americans finally tired of the inefficient and faulty cars that were being produced by the companies that were once so valued. Americans turned to foreign made vehicles, and after a long downward spiral, American automobile manufacturers were finally bailed out by tax payers in hope that they would finally turn some of their business practices around.
While the American automobile still has a long way to go in regaining the status it once had, recent years since the bailout have seen improvement. Unfortunately, just when Americans have been starting to regain trust in these companies, GM may have set that progress back significantly.
GM has recently recalled several cars for having a faulty ignition switch that could accidently be turned off if bumped by one’s knee or weighed down by a hefty keychain for example. This defect would cause certain GM models to shutoff in motion, possibly causing deaths and injuries to several people.
If that wasn’t bad enough, recent information has come to light that implies that GM knew about the defect and did nothing to replace it due to concerns over the expense to do so. The faulty ignition switch has been found in various GM models from 2003 all the way to 2011.
The American auto industry was criticized over the past decade for making low quality automobiles. While GM has since rededicated themselves to making a better quality product, this latest scandal could be a disturbing indicator that GM has yet to fully live up to the lofty expectations they set for themselves.
Other trends could be just as disturbing depending on how you interpret them. The automotive industry collectively could very well surpass the record of recalls ever in a year. In fact, Robert Duffer of the Chicago Tribune reported that “in 2013, more cars were recalled than were sold by nearly 45 percent,” an astounding figure.
Many of these recalls can be tied to the greater sophistication of the modern car. More features mean more parts, which could allow for more error. Many companies have tried to use these recalls as a positive sign that they are dedicated to safety, which could indeed be the case.
Even if that is true, we need to trust the cars we drive. If cars are constantly being recalled, and controversies like the recent one with GM keep arising, that trust will not be established. If that is the case, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the American automotive industry head into dark times once again.
GM will need to start valuing consumer well-being over profits if they truly want to start rebuilding the reputation they once had. The company had knowledge of a defect for years, and did not spread awareness of any sort towards the issue. They deserve every bit of criticism they’ve received, and until they completely rededicate themselves to becoming a better company, then Americans should look elsewhere when buying a new vehicle.