General Watch: General forum
Subject: It began in 1968 - I was there
June 25, 2005
Mr. Jim Dollinger
Amazing. I stumbled upon Market Watch and found your bio and the wonderful PowerPoint presentation Market Share on Market Street III.
I am old enough to recall that Buick Division was slated for extinction shortly after 1995. OK Kelley, designer of the Dynaflow, was send from the GM Engineering Staff (GMES) to revive them. He also had to contend with sloppy dealers, too. By 1961, we could tell that Buick was making better cars than Cadillac.
I moved from GMES to Chevrolet in 1965 to assist the GM Legal Staff defending the lawsuits about 1960-64 Chevrolet Corvair. Working in the Structure and Suspension Department of the GMES, I had foreknowledge that the ordinal Corvair was indeed dangerous. Yet, I was a good soldier, defending the company against the evil ATLA lawyers.
To do that, I was assigned to collect everything that Ralph Nader, author of Unsafe at Any Speed had ever said about the Corvair or GM. I looked at everything Nader wrote. I also reviewed relevant Chevrolet and Proving Grounds test reports. The mission was to mark each document plus, zero or minus to indicate if it was helpful, neutral or harmful to our cause.
There was a problem I came to understand that Mr. Nader said that collisions (not accidents) are almost all caused by dumb driving. Of course we all knew that. But, Nader added in his book, the severity of the consequences was correlated to dangerous and unreasonably defective design. That statement is the foundation for the ATLA product liability section of personal injury lawsuits.
Nader blathered about the rear engine and the independent rear suspension and tuck-under. Fool. I knew of things far more dangerous than that almost all a result of putting the price ahead of a quality product. One was the solid steel shaft that ran from the gearbox located inches behind the left front bumper back to the steering wheel hub merely inches from the chest of the driver. There were scores of defective components that the designers protested and were told to ignore. We dont design cars to have accidents. If anyone gets hurt in a crash they deserve it because they are so dumb.
With that attitude in mind, I reviewed many cases. At a 1967 Christmas party, I foolishly said to those around me that I had at least two cases that GM should loose. In both, it was clear to me that if the driver had been in any other car, he would not have suffered the injury or death resulting from the spinout of the Corvair. Note I said spinout, not roll-over.
That ended my otherwise good career with GM. I was demoted to the lowest spot they could find. I asked for severance and got out.
I did feel like a good soldier defending the company that Alfred P. Sloan and Harlow Curtice (ex-Buick, you know) had built. I thought Ed Cole and John DeLorean were the heroes of the auto industry.
However, from those days on, anyone could see that Jim Roche and those who followed were unable to see what made GM once so great. Toyota and Mercedes-Benz have a real commitment to the product, the engineers, the factory workers, the suppliers and the dealers. Following all that, pleasing the customer is easy.
GM has made enemies of all them. GM destroyed GMs once proud safety engineering group by fighting so ferociously with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration beginning in 1968.
I believe GM started an unending downward spiral in 1968 when they began to stonewall everyone on that list above.
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