Times have been tough at Government Motors. For a while there it looked like both Osama and GM were going to be dead after encountering the Obama regime. Just recently GM announced the recall of 8,200,000 vehicles over problems with faulty ignition switches. When added to earlier North American recalls, the total for 2014 is an astounding 29,000,000 cars and trucks.
This is almost three times the 9,710,000 vehicles GM managed to sell in 2013.
At this rate soon the only place to find GM cars will be in transportation museums. Total expenses so far for this year’s recall are $2.5 billion. So far the recalls have burned up almost two–thirds of the last year’s $3.8 billion profit. One or two more recalls and GM CEO Mary Barra will be waiting outside the Oval Office for another bail out.
But enough about GM, customers are being hit hard, too. It’s been decades since owning a Detroit car meant joint custody with the dealership’s service department. Buyers are accustomed to having their cars waiting in the driveway and not parked in the diagnostic center like a preemie, with various techs hovering about the machinery while anxious parents await a verdict.
That’s why I was encouraged to learn that GM intends to radically reshape the ownership experience so it will reflect modern Detroit manufacturing reality. Establishing realistic expectations on the part of the customer — expectations that GM knows it can meet or exceed — is an important part of reestablishing credibility with customers.
Details won’t be announced until next month, but a source inside the company has leaked this news release to me and I’ve pasted it below, with a few redactions for the sake of privacy.
EMBARGOED UNTIL AUGUST 1, 2014
Contact: XXXXXXX XXXXXXXXX
General Motors Media Relations Office
XXX–XXX–XXXX or email [email protected]
General Motors Announces New Foster Car™ Model for Automobile Ownership
(Detroit, MI) General Motors Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra announced today that GM is breaking away from the restrictive ‘ownership’ model of automobile sales and will instead establish a more ‘open’ customer/manufacturer relationship based on the foster care model.
“The recalls of the past few months have been hard on both General Motors and our loyal customer base,” Ms. Barra explained. “The tearful goodbyes as customers deliver their beloved GM products to the service bay, or watch as one of our GM Neighborhood Recall flatbed trucks loads the auto, are emotionally wrenching for both our loyal owners and GM service personnel.
“To say nothing of the occasional hurried calls to 9–1–1 as emotions got the best of some of our more impassioned customers. What’s more, the expenses associated with a nationwide network of grief counselors was becoming burdensome and has a sharp impact on the bottom line.
“That’s why I’m proud to announce today that General Motors is breaking the mold and instituting a new ‘Foster Car’ ™ program that will still provide mostly reliable GM transportation without the emotional commitment of actual ownership.”
In practice the only difference families will notice between foster care of a child and foster care of a car will be that instead of the government paying you to take the child into your home, the family will pay GM a monthly fee to have the car in their garage.
Foster care families are always aware that fostering a child is a temporary situation that can spiral out of control on very short notice, much like the ownership experience with a General Motors product. And the relationship is always subject to rapidly changing government rules and obscure regulations, unevenly enforced by bored bureaucrats.
Foster Car ™will be almost the same. Foster families will only pay GM during those months when they have full possession of the automobile. During a recall there will be no charge and when the car or truck is upgraded to generally prevailing government standards, it will be returned with a full tank of gas. *
Foster Car ™ will differ from a lease in that there is no specified duration for the arrangement. Variables regarding whether or not any one vehicle model will be recalled, how many times it will be recalled and when a Foster Car ™family will want a new vehicle are simply impossible to predict. This flexible model will also prevent families from forming an unnaturally strong bond with the vehicle.
R. E. Call, Vice President of Engineering, believes the Foster Car ™to be a forward–thinking response to GM manufacturing realities, “In the past we’ve avoided large recalls. We felt the tradeoff between inconveniencing millions of owners just to prevent something bad happening to an unlucky few, simply wasn’t worth it.”
That policy has been changed under CEO Barra.
For the customers who still own GM vehicles outright and are waiting for their number in the latest recall drive to come up, Call suggests taking precautions to make sure their ignition switch does not spontaneously shut down. He recommends drivers remove any extra weight from the key ring holding the ignition key. This includes charms, lucky coins, rings, flashlights, small knives, beer–bottle openers and key tags with barcodes.
GM recognizes that removing these items will leave the vast majority of Americans unable to take advantage of frequent buyer programs or identify themselves at grocery stores, drug stores, public libraries and bagel emporiums, but ‘Safety First!’™ is now a byword at General Motors.
*Customers participating in the program are cautioned to remove all personal items from a recalled vehicle. Due to the increasing size of GM recalls, the company does not commit to returning the same vehicle that was sent back.