GM’s Fuel Economy “Misprint” Somehow Shows Up At EPA Website

The correct fuel economy rating for this vehicle, from the EPA's website today.

The correct fuel economy rating for this vehicle, from the EPA’s website today.

GM has told its US dealerships to stop selling 2016 model-year large crossovers while it replaces Monroney stickers that show incorrect fuel economy ratings, according to a huge Automotive News [sub] scoop.  The stop-sale documents obtained by AN call the mislabeling an “inadvertent error,” and a GM spokesman tells them “an ‘inadvertent data transmission’ was responsible for the mistake.” This excuse would be thin under any circumstances, but two factors make it seem especially implausible. The first is the timing: GM was just caught using an apparent “defeat device” in Europe after months of allegations of emissions cheating. The second is the nature of the misprint: the incorrect ratings were just 1-2 MPG better than the correct numbers, strongly indicating GM was trying to get away with slightly too-good-to-be-true numbers.

But there’s even more direct evidence that GM’s “misprint” story isn’t true: a Daily Kanban review of the EPA website using the archive.org Wayback Machine shows that those (higher) incorrect numbers were displayed on the EPA website before being changed sometime this year. In other words, the fuel economy ratings that GM says were a “misprint” were submitted to the EPA and listed as the official rating before being changed to the new, lower rating.

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NHTSA Shrugged

There's a new sheriff in town... and he's big on self-enforcement.

There’s a new sheriff in town… and he’s big on self-enforcement.

As the GM ignition switch scandal snowballed over the last year, there has been much debate about just how much blame NHTSA bears for not catching the decade-old defect. The House Committee on Energy and Commerce staff report [PDF] analyzes NHTSA’s failure to prevent the deaths of 84 Americans (and counting), and concluded that a number of factors prevented NHTSA from detecting patterns that GM’s own top executives claim to never have known about. With headings like “information silos ” and “organizational tunnel vision,” the failures identified in the report are strikingly similar to the culture problems blamed for GM’s malfeasance; there’s even a “NHTSA shrug” to match the “GM shrug” identified in GM’s Valukas Report.  But the report’s final page gives the ultimate version of what we might as well start calling the “American shrug”:

There are no simple solutions to the failures exposed by this recall.

Which is true enough, as far as it goes. Again, if GM’s own leadership couldn’t identify the problem amid ten years of evidence it’s fair to say NHTSA didn’t have a chance. So rather than wondering why NHTSA isn’t capable of catching the worst-case nightmare scenario, perhaps we should be setting the bar a little lower. For example, let’s ask if NHTSA can at least ensure recalled cars don’t get sold before being repaired and if it can apply its efforts consistently. Because apparently even these modest standards are too much to ask…

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Tata Motors on Bolt vs. Bolt

Like a bolt from the blue?

Like a bolt from the blue?

When TransportEvolved pointed out that Tata Motors has a five-door hatchback called “Bolt” and suggested that this might be a problem for Chevrolet’s planned Bolt EV, we thought we would reach out to the Indian automaker for comment on the matter. Today, a Tata Motors spokesman made the following statement to DailyKanban:

“Bolt is currently a brand name registered by Tata Motors for the Indian market and we are in the process of registering it for some of our key international markets as relevant. However, we do not presently anticipate any concerns about the GM vehicle as both of these products are focused on very different markets”.

GM has assiduously avoided saying what markets outside the United States it might sell the Bolt in, and has even said it may reconsider the name Bolt altogether. Losing out on the Bolt name in India may not be a deciding factor, but, depending on what other markets Tata registers the Bolt name in, this could potentially become more of an issue. Tata may not “presently anticipate any concerns” with the name-sharing, but if GM has global ambitions for Bolt it may need to reach into its bag of brands to avoid overlap with Tata’s Bolt.

Michigan Chevy dealer turns recall-profiteer: “Let your problem be our problem.”

GM has, at last count, recalled 15.4 million units globally this year, 13.6 million of them in the U.S. alone. By the time you read this, this number is likely outdated, news of fresh GM recalls have become as routine as the morning sunrise. This hasn’t impacted GM’s sales in an appreciative way. Some dealers even try turning GM’s misery into increased sales, offering allegedly extra trade-in allowances to owners of recalled cars, thereby fostering the impression that lemons are highly valued at a Chevy dealer.

Subscribing to the axiom that there is no such thing as bad publicity, and that a car dealer should know no shame, Davison, Michigan Hank Graff Chevrolet runs this TV ad: [Continue Reading]

The Great Auto Safety Crash, Or, Why You Need To Be A Lawyer To Do An Automotive Journalist’s Work

GMCobaltNHTSA

I'm not an automotive journalist, but I played one on TV in the 1960's...

I’m not an automotive journalist, but I played one on TV in the 1960’s…

Of all the automotive sector topics covered by the business media, defect recalls are consistently one of the most tricky to cover. Most defects are the inevitable products of immensely complex supply chains and constant price pressure, and recalls for them are ultimately a sign of a company responding to the problem. And with some 22 million vehicles recalled from the US market in 2013, consumers can hardly be expected to know which ones represent grounds for real concern.

Because automakers control all the information about the products they make, reporters on the automotive safety beat have little choice but rely on the company line for their stories. Only the threat of investigation by the National Highway Transit Safety Administration compels automakers to fully reveal their dirty laundry, and only NHTSA’s complaint database gives the public an opportunity to compare their experiences with the company line. No wonder the first real auto safety journalist (and the inspiration for NHTSA’s founding) was a lawyer.

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Government Motors 2.0: The Re-Politicization Of GM (From The Left)

 

Once more... with progress!

Once more… with progress!

To hear any General Motors exec since bankruptcy explain it, the post-bailout politicization of “Government  Motors” was the worst thing to happen to the firm since the Pontiac Aztek. After all, the post-rescue  partisan point-scoring was more than just bad PR: it threatened to undercut support with the conservative-leaning truck buyers who are the source of a huge percentage of GM’s global profits. And with the US Treasury selling the last of its GM stock in December, officially bringing the auto bailout to a final close,  GM finally had the opportunity to leave the “Government Motors” era behind and become just another automaker.  2014 was shaping up to be the year GM became just another car company.

Instead, GM opened 2014 with its freshly-appointed first female CEO enjoying a shout-out from the President at the State of the Union… followed by a wave of stories questioning whether said female CEO’s pay was on par with her predecessor Dan Akerson’s. GM has since “corrected misperceptions” about Barra’s total compensation ($14.4m, more than Akerson), but the wave of feminist blowback had already turned GM’s PR slam-dunk into an extended faceplant. Long used to playing the victim of partisan attacks, GM and the auto media establishment clucked at the “irresponsible” and “premature” “speculation” about Barra’s pay, blowing off left-wing concerns just as brusquely as they’d blown off perceived right-wing complaints about bailout policy for years. Just when it had a chance to truly start fresh, GM’s PR ineptitude and ingrained victim mentality seem bent on keeping  “Government Motors” on the political football field… this time, being tackled by the left.

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As the world spins: The mystery of the missing sales

Inside the truck wars black ops...

Inside the truck wars black ops…

Spend enough time looking at anything, and patterns eventually emerge; stare hard enough at auto industry news, and you can discern the movings of the PR teams who craft the messages that drive 95% of all auto media content. Spend enough time reading and a sweeping drama emerges: one side probes a competitor at a point of perceived weakness, the defender digs in or counter-attacks, a problem appears from nowhere while another problem fades away, yesterday’s non sequitor becomes today’s news.

In the polite world of the auto media, the journalist’s role on this battlefield is to be the straight man: to merely repeat each feint and parry in this informational melee as if they were the weather, or stock prices. Even the combatants themselves will back away from any direct confrontation when pressed, caught between the pull to ruthlessly compete and the inherently conservative culture of all large corporate communications departments.

But the battle for reality is constantly being waged in the auto industry… and the action is always most exciting when the stakes are highest. Which is what makes GM’s new truck launch the perfect case study.

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