Haughty Tesla Brought The PR Disaster Upon Itself

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The imbroglio surrounding Model S ball-joints and gag orders for Tesla customers could have been avoided, or at least drastically minimized, would Tesla not have emulated the worst trait of a certain few legacy automakers, namely their hubris and conceit.

Before the story that set the scandal in motion was published, Tesla and the NHTSA were asked by the Daily Kanban to respond to the questions that were raised in the story. Tesla ignored the request.

If Tesla would have responded, saying that it is aware of these allegations, and that according to its investigation, 37 out of 40 suspension complaints were bogus, and filed by a single guy in Australia, the story would have taken a different turn.

If Tesla would have responded with the statement that it is aware that the NDAs may cause unfortunate confusion, and that it already is in discussion with the NHTSA to change that language, the story would have turned out differently, or it may not have been written at all. If the answer would have been that all NDAs, useless and unenforceable as they are, would be expunged forthwith, Tesla would have been feted as a paragon of “the customer comes first.”

However, Tesla preferred to ignore the request. [Continue Reading]

Behind The Volkswagen Scandal, A “Car Cold War” Simmers

The still-unfolding Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal has earned the largest German automaker more than a week of public opprobrium in the US media, as American owners, regulators and commentators rush to condemn the most blatant case of regulatory evasion in recent automotive history. In Europe, however, the outrage at VW’s emissions manipulation is tempered by a certain amount of realpolitik. French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron has given voice to European suspicions by suggesting that American automakers are fueling the scandal for competitive purposes, and German officials have made it clear that they intend to “contain” the scandal. Grievances over auto industry issues have long been a source of friction between President Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and the Volkswagen scandal has brought tensions old and new spilling out into the open.

 

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GM Recall: Answers Hiding In Plain Sight?

And all the investigations, all of Lutz's men/ couldn't figure out who was in charge of things then.

And all the investigations, all of Lutz’s men, couldn’t figure out who was in charge of things then…

In the wake of General Motors’ and Mary Barra’s public lambasting last week, at the hands Congress and Comedy alike, a new sense of gravity now surrounds the still-unfolding scandal. Combined with the shocking facts surrounding the defect itself, Barra’s performance paints a picture of a GM unable to establish basic accountability without outside intervention. In a recent interview with New York Magazine, and sounding more like a corporate consultant than radical activist, Ralph Nader advises Barra to act relentlessly, arguing:

Look what it’s costing them: It’s already at $750 million and growing. What’s it cost them in lost sales? All kinds of stuff spills out, even if it’s not directly related to the ignition switch. She knows that it’s just going to get worse and worse. There are going to be whistle-blowers, and plain envelopes, especially when the press sees prizes — they see Polk Awards, Pulitzers, and so on — once they get into that realm, there’s no stopping it.

This has all the elements. It’s a cocktail that gets it going. It is very difficult to get the press into that realm — take it from someone who knows from over the years.

Ralph’s right: Barra’s unconvincing performance last week has stepped up pressure to find the answers she wouldn’t provide, and there’s no knowing where some tough digging could lead. After all, there are answers that Barra refused to give still hiding in (relatively) plain sight. With the help of a single book and internet access, anyone can find insight into the problems that are stumping Congress, the media and Mary Barra herself… Let’s not wait for the investigation, shall we?

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Niedermeyer Tackles GM Recall Regulation At Road & Track

Can it be saved? Or is there another way?

Can it be saved? Or is there another way?

In my last Bloomberg View column, I asked the question on everyones’ lips: how do you solve a problem like General Motors? I gloomily concluded that only creative destruction at the hands of consumers would truly “fix” a culture as broken as GM’s, in light of the firm’s nearly half-century of arrogance and failure. But with congressional hearings about to begin, Road & Track asked me to explore the regulatory side of the problem in a little more depth. Perhaps, one editor suggested, NHTSA’s ineptitude, underfunding or industry capture adds to the government’s responsibility for this mess.

Clearly this is the case. The shameful situation with David Strickland and Chrysler/Venable proves that Americans can’t trust NHTSA to serve their interests. But is there really evidence that NHTSA could have forced a GM recall any earlier than it did? Given that GM execs appear to have hid the problem from themselves, NHTSA would have to embed deep within every automaker to catch this type of problem. Instead of throwing more money and mandates at NHTSA, which clearly has its own culture issues, it’s time to take a different approach. Rather than trying to hold an entire corporation accountable, lawmakers should create criminal penalties and whistleblower protections that force every executive and engineer to personally weigh the consequences of cutting corners in vehicle safety. As my R&T piece concludes:

The first line of responsibility for the public’s safety lies with the engineers and executives who design and build the cars … just as individual motorists are the first line in terms of their personal safety. Only when they individually face penalties that are nearly as harsh as those consumers face at the hands of their defects will they truly take safety as seriously as we do.