Home » Here Are Five Times GM Developed Some Pioneering And Important Innovation Only To Fumble It And Have To Catch Up Later Like A Chump

Here Are Five Times GM Developed Some Pioneering And Important Innovation Only To Fumble It And Have To Catch Up Later Like A Chump

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General Motors is really a fascinating company. They’ve been one of the largest automakers in the world for decades, and yet sometimes they feel like they’re just coasting along, cranking out forgettable pedestrian cars to people whose main automotive dream is to not be a pedestrian. But that’s not really seeing GM for what it is: It’s an absolute engineering powerhouse, the likes of which almost no other carmaker on Earth can really match, at least not when GM really decides to flex its engineering might. But all this engineering prowess is tempered by a quality that GM has that is also unmatched in the automotive world: the ability to develop something amazing, and then completely screw up every single action after that point.

It seems that GM has managed feats of stepping on its own corporate genitals more often and with greater impact than almost any other automaker, and while other companies have also done zero with some important innovations, I think it’s worth considering some of the General’s regrettable missteps, because they’re big ones. I’ve picked five times that GM has engineered some sort of incredibly significant automotive development — something that legitimately changed the entire industry, and then somehow GM-fumbled everything, leaving the company to effectively play catch up years later.

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Look at this list we have here: each of these is a huge deal, and GM had it to market first, and yet still somehow couldn’t play it into any sort of advantage for itself, because, again, that’s what GM does. Let’s dive in:

Turbocharging

Turbos

Yes, turbocharging! An absolute staple of the modern turbo four-cylinder two-liter-ish engines that seem to be near default for the vast majority of cars you see on the roads, and GM was the first to bring a mass-produced turbo car to market. In fact, The General had two in 1962, the Oldsmobile Jetfire and the Corvair Monza. These first turbos were primarily used for performance boosts, with the turbo on the Corvair’s air-cooled flat-six engine making a damn good 150 hp and the Olds’ making 215 hp from its 3.5-liter V8, letting it get to 100 mph a full 10 seconds faster than the normally-aspirated V8.

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Unfortunately for the Oldsmobile version at least, to get the bolt-on Garret turbocharger to work, GM had to include a separate tank with a cocktail made of methyl alcohol and water, to act as an anti-knock Martini for the engine. Of course, this is too much to ask of American car owners, so there were complaints and problems, and even though the Corvair turbo setup was free of this issue and kept going a few more years and with even better power, GM lost interest in turbochargers until 1978 3.8-liter Buicks, but long after cars like the BMW 2002 picked up the idea around 1970, and by the 1980s, when the world was gripped with Turbomania, GM was just an also-ran in the turbo game, even though they pioneered the whole damn thing decades before.

What if GM stuck with it, and had turbo four cylinder Impalas in the late ’60s that got the same power as V8s but used half the gas? Think how much better prepared they’d have been for the 1973 Oil Crisis! They’d have dominated everyone, and perhaps even kept the influx of Japanese cars at bay, at least for a while longer! But, no, this is GM. That’s not how they do things.

Modern Electric Cars

Ev1

Yeah, I said it: modern electric cars. I know Tesla tends to get the credit for re-invigorating electric vehicles and dragging them from embarrassing golf carts that gave Ed Begley, Jr. erections into sleek, fast, comfortable, desirable rides. But the truth is that Tesla was beaten to the punch by GM, because when The Biggest Of The Big Three introduced the GM EV1 in 1996, it was an absolute revelation — the first time the public had gotten a glimpse of a serious, desirable, and usable electric car.

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The EV1 was a sleek two-seater that looked like the future. It was as fast as most mainstream cars were in the era with its 137 hp motor, and had better acceleration than most, because that’s how electric motors work. Early lead acid-battery versions only got about 55 miles of range – still vastly better than most of the Crap Era EVs that came before – and later nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) battery ones got a respectable and usable 105 miles of range. Those are numbers that beat the first Nissan Leaf, which was introduced to the market a decade and a half later, in 2010.

I talked about how the EV1 ushered in this Tesla-dominated era we’re in now a while back, if you’d like to endure that:

GM built close to 1,100 EV1s, and then, in a spectacularly GM-ish act of self-sabotage, took them all back and crushed them, despite lots of public outcry from owners, because, again, this is what GM does! They pioneer something amazing, go through all the effort of development and engineering and then don’t just not follow through on a promising start, they actually destroy all evidence that their good idea existed at all. Why? This isn’t just an act of stepping on one’s own [toe], this is going out and buying a new set of golf shoes just so you can really stomp on your own [toe], and make it hurt.

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Oh, and, even better! If this wasn’t enough, almost a decade later, in 2003, GM showed the world a revolutionary new hydrogen fuel cell EV concept called Hy-Wire:

Hywire

While hydrogen fuel cells really haven’t caught on, you know what did? GM’s revolutionary skateboard chassis design for EVs. Replace those hydrogen tanks with batteries and you effectively have the platform that all modern EVs – from Volkswagen to Rivian to Ford to Hyundai to Tesla to whomever – use today. And guess what GM did with it?

Jack. Jack feces.

It did spend a lot of money on it, though, as the LA Times notes in its 2003 article titled “GM Takes a Radical Turn With Its Hy-Wire Hydrogen-Powered Car“:

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GM has spent almost $1 billion on fuel-cell development over the last few years and says it spent more than that developing its now-canceled EV1 battery electric car.

“But spending is just part of it,” Cole noted. “Outsmarting the opposition is another part.” Indeed, Toyota, Honda and DaimlerChrysler are seen as fierce rivals to GM for fuel-cell supremacy over the long haul.

Oh, and the best quote from that article?:

But some experts say that of all the automakers, GM is racing out ahead, developing cars that not only use hydrogen instead of gasoline but also replace old-fashioned hydraulic and mechanical parts, including brakes and steering systems, with high-tech electronics.

In fact, the company has vowed to become the first carmaker to sell a million fuel-cell vehicles and expects to start putting them on the market in 2010 — five to 10 years sooner than the timetable cited by most of its competitors.

Classic GM.

Electric Pick-Up Trucks

S10ev

I’m including this one as an example of a major automotive milestone that’s happening right around us, as we speak, this very moment. We all know about the massive hype surrounding the Tesla Cybertruck and EV trucks like the Ford F-150 Lightning, but the truth is when it comes to a major OEM building and selling an electric pickup truck right from the factory, GM was first, with its Chevy S-10 Electric, built and sold between 1997 and 1998.

The S-10 Electric used the same basic tech as the GM EV1, and had a 114 hp motor driven by, at first, a lead-acid battery pack that gave a meager 45-ish miles of range, but later was upgraded to a nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) battery pack that allowed for a respectable 72 miles of range.

Under 500 were actually built, but these things were used in fleets and while it was something of an experiment, it was still a real, all-electric pickup truck from a major OEM, a solid three and a half decades before anything from Ford or Rivian or Tesla.

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Touchscreens

Touchscreen

You know what pretty much every modern car has inside it? A touchscreen. A big, full-color touchscreen on the center stack that controls most aspects of the car. They’re ubiquitous. These started getting common around, oh, 2010 or so, but, as always, GM was there way, way before everyone else, and then, you guessed it, gave up on it, only to watch the concept come back in a huge way, with them no longer at the vanguard. Yes, GM had touchscreens in their cars as early as 1986, starting with the Buick Riviera and then ending up in the Buick Reatta.

These were green-phosphor CRTs, like what you’d have looked at while playing Oregon Trail on an Apple II in your middle school. But they worked effectively just like modern in-dash touch screens, with different modes for different functions, all activated by your fingers poking words and images on a screen.

GM never standardized these touch screens across their lines of cars, never put them on more cars than the Riviera or Reatta, never continued to develop them, move them to LCD displays, nothing. They never did anything with them, really, even though they were a solid 30 years ahead of everybody else, and could have leapfrogged the whole industry, and made everyone else scramble to catch up to GM, since next to this, all those old knobs and dials and buttons would have looked archaic. Again, that’s just not the GM way.

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Airbags

Airbags

Airbags. Yes, airbags. How many lives have these saved over the years? Countless, because I can’t count them. And the first car that came with them right from the factory wasn’t some safety-humping V0lvo or Saab, it was an Oldsmobile Toronado, in 1973, followed the next year by Buicks and Chevrolets — all GM brands. Here’s a dealer training video about these airbags, which GM called the Air Cushion Restraint System:

At the time, these weren’t even thought of as something to be used with seat belts, but something that would work instead of seat belts, since Americans had so much stubborn resistance to wearing seat belts, which it seems, every single person hated until we all collectively changed our minds in the mid to late 1980s in the biggest mass shifting of behavior since the Great Vowel Shift.

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GM offered airbags for all of three years, getting rid of the option in 1976. About two decades later, airbags were made mandatory by the government, and once again GM was no longer a pioneer, just another automaker grudgingly adding these revolutionary safety devices to their cars, devices that they had available before anyone else, and, again, didn’t realize how important they would be.

Damn, I’m getting worked up just writing this – how does GM do this over and over again, about such massive things? We’re not talking about how it came up with seat massagers or digital clocks in 1953 — these are all significant automotive developments, and every single time they squandered their considerable lead.

Oh, GM. You’re incredible — you really are. You big brilliant idiot.

 

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notoriousDUG
notoriousDUG
8 months ago

Let us not forget to credit them for making consumers cast a doubtful eye on diesel passenger cars for years after the 5.7l diesel disaster.
Or how the 6.2 was an ahead of its time design used in the wrong application…

Racer Esq.
Racer Esq.
8 months ago
Reply to  notoriousDUG

Good, America missed the 40 years of soot-covered buildings and lung cancer that Europe had to endure.

notoriousDUG
notoriousDUG
8 months ago
Reply to  Racer Esq.

I cannot roll hard enough at this luke-warm take

Danny Zabolotny
Danny Zabolotny
8 months ago

That’s just what happens when engineers collide with the bean counters. Anything that isn’t immediately profitable as heck is killed off. That’s the kind of short-term thinking that holds so many companies back.

JDE
JDE
8 months ago

well also problematic, Chrysler famously tried electronic Fuel injection in the 60’s and it was just not ready for prime time as the basic electronic components were not up to the task, Same in the 81 Imperials I believe. also you have to remember that rurbo cars were not as nice to live with pre VVT. They often had no power down low because of boost lag, and with out decent fuel and timing controls the result was a seemingly slow car until the boost kicked in, so the auto trans was not ideal for these cars, yet everyone even then seemed to want to go that route. you also had to let them idle for a while after driving them to get the hot oil cooled down. And then there was the issue with Fuel economy because of the turbo. the SVO mustang vs the 5.0 is a good example. Combined Fuel economy of an SVO was rated at 20MPG, the same year 5.0 was 18MPG. not drastic enough to really consider the really similar performance otherwise to be worth the hassle.

Kurt Hahn
Kurt Hahn
8 months ago
Reply to  JDE

Letting it idle before switching it off isn’t to let the oil cool down (even though that’s a good thing if you’ve driven your car hard, turbo or NA). With a turbo car, the idea is to let it idle until the turbo has slowed down, since it would keep spinning longer without lubrication if you switch the motor off immediately on arrival.

Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
8 months ago

I’ll see that and raise with three letters. IBM
Which brings me to the four letter biggie. BELL

Feckless waste of incredible inventions or ideas is not really unique to GM. In fact, I think it may be endemic to any large organization. The sheer inertia simply becomes too much to overcome. I think it’s also possible that a knock on effect may be the patent system which in some cases may stifle break out of new inventions after such an organization patents their inventions but sits on them. Something for economists and sociologists to study (which I’m sure they have).

Great article though.

Data
Data
8 months ago
Reply to  Crank Shaft

I’ll see your IBM and BELL and raise you Xerox PARC. A complete failure to understand the potential of all the innovations they developed that are now commonplace.

SecrtAgnt
SecrtAgnt
8 months ago

I know it’s easy to rag on GM about the EV1. And the narrative usually goes the way it’s described in this story. “GM had a viable, modern EV and then decided to just scrap it. They destroyed them all and moved on. Then years later they had to play catch up.”

Here’s the thing, though. That isn’t what happened. GM did not destroy all of the EV1s. In fact they kept at least two of them for years at their EV and battery research center in Honeyoye Falls just outside of Rochester, NY. They continued to develop and evolve the battery technology and drivetrains of their EV1s. They put 10,000s of miles on those EV1s (in all different weather conditions). And, what they learned was incorporated directly into the Volt and the Bolt.

Living in the greater Rochester area, I would often see one of those test EV1s cruising down the highway well into the late aughts.

As well as the EV1 was received, the technology just wasn’t ready in the mid to late 90s. It was to expensive and there were issues in high and low temperatures. So, GM pulled the cars of the market, but continued to develop the technology until it was viable.

Lokki
Lokki
8 months ago
Reply to  SecrtAgnt

As well as the EV1 was received, the technology just wasn’t ready in the mid to late 90s. It was to expensive and there were issues in high and low temperatures”

I would also like to add that perhaps GM did EV’s a favor by not pushing them onto the market before they were ready….as they unfortunately did with diesel engines. They might have killed the entire electric car market just as they did with their diesel cars.

Data
Data
8 months ago
Reply to  SecrtAgnt

And we see how well GM treated Voltec, it’s in everything they make….oh wait, that’s a different Earth in the multiverse.

Scoutdude
Scoutdude
8 months ago
Reply to  SecrtAgnt

Yeah as released the EV1 wasn’t really a viable car as it was way too expensive and mass producing them wouldn’t have brought it to a reasonable price point.

Anthony Magagnoli
Anthony Magagnoli
8 months ago
Reply to  SecrtAgnt

Hey, SecrtAgnt. I grew up in Webster and went to RIT. I didn’t think I would leave Rochester, but Delphi wasn’t big enough to employ all the RIT grads that wanted to work in the auto industry. So, I left for Toyota, then moved to MI for FCA, and now at Ford. My family is still mostly around Rochester, so I still get back frequently.
I recall listening to a talk at RIT from an ex-Kodak employee who recounted all the technologies that they’d developed and not capitalized on. A palm pilot like device in the 80’s, digital cameras in the 90’s (which they actively did not pursue to protect their film division), and others that I don’t remember. I have a fondness for Kodak, not only as an icon of Rochester, but a couple of my uncles’ careers were served out there.

Subarado
Subarado
8 months ago

I know they didn’t pioneer it, but my ’99 base Silverado has auto-headlights hooked up to an ambient light sensor in the dash. I’ve driven lots of modern cars, including some from GM, that don’t have auto lights, despite being at a higher trim levels

Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
8 months ago
Reply to  Subarado

I’m pretty sure they had those or automatic high beams back in the late fifties or early sixties. Both nice features that should be ubiquitous.

Griznant
Griznant
8 months ago
Reply to  Crank Shaft

The Autronic Eye.

Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
8 months ago
Reply to  Griznant

Yes! Thank you, as I was too lazy to look it up. Amazing product name. Now I want to start a robot company by said name. Just about perfect. Or maybe a really invasive surveillance company. Yeah, that sounds sinister enough..

Occam's Shaving Cream
Occam's Shaving Cream
8 months ago
Reply to  Crank Shaft

Twilight Sentinel
From Wikipedia:
“Twilight Sentinel was first offered on the 1964 Cadillac lineup and was later expanded to other GM makes”

Autronic Eye was for auto-dimming

GreatFallsGreen
GreatFallsGreen
8 months ago
Reply to  Subarado

Which newer GMs did you drive that didn’t have auto lights? That’s surprising.

I think they first pushed auto lights because of complaints that daytime running lights, which they had made standard a couple years prior to your Silverado, confused people into thinking their lights were on when they were unfamiliar with the vehicle such as rental cars, or even just the green DRL indicator that some had in the IP meant their lights were on. So they would drive around without full headlights on.

Another more recent battle for some brands is wiper activated headlights, people used to their lights coming on automatically may not switch them on in the rain in daylight conditions. GM’s had those for most for a while, and most other brands have it now, though Toyota has still been particularly bad there from what I can tell.

Subarado
Subarado
8 months ago

2021ish Trailblazer, mid 2010s Buick Encore, 2010ish Impala (not sure on this one but I think it was manual). It may be that these were exceptions, especially since the Buick and Trailblazer are based on global platforms

GreatFallsGreen
GreatFallsGreen
8 months ago
Reply to  Subarado

Interesting, wonder if they had that as a feature delete too for something like fleets – they did for OnStar after they made that standard across the board, for example.

Subarado
Subarado
8 months ago

Might be it – they were all rentals

Boulevard_Yachtsman
Boulevard_Yachtsman
8 months ago
Reply to  Subarado

Twilight Sentinel – first offered on the ’64 Cadillac. My ’68 Coupe deVille had it along with the Autotronic Eye. The Sentinel worked okay, but the auto-dimming was buggy. Sometimes it was set off by random reflections or worse, go into strobe-mode after a car passed where it would just go from bright to dim as fast as it could until I shut the lights all the way off, turned them back on, and hit the bright-switch with my foot. Such a fun thing to figure out while on a two-lane road in the dark.

The Dude
The Dude
8 months ago

How does GM screw up after pioneering in so many areas?

MBAs, that’s why. They’re good at screwing up companies.

Lew Schiller
Lew Schiller
8 months ago
Reply to  The Dude

A friend suggests that had they been around in Shakespear’s time he would have advocated killing MBA’s ahead of Lawyers.

T Mill
T Mill
8 months ago

Jason – imagine if GM had committed to the small displacement turbo in the early 60’s, so that by the time the Vega was being developed, GM had a good, small engine to put in it.

Also…

Fuel economy!
GM has had a number of drivetrains, Buick’s 3.8l V6 being the exemplary example, that were able to deliver superior fuel economy almost as an afterthought – and yet they never exploited that as a selling point!

Arch Duke Maxyenko
Arch Duke Maxyenko
8 months ago

They also invented the mechanical open heart surgery pump in 1952.

Paint-Drinking Thundercock Harvey Park
Paint-Drinking Thundercock Harvey Park
8 months ago

Tragically it was coupled to their cylinder deactivation technology.

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
8 months ago

While I’m still salty about the squandering of the EV1, Texas A&M had a S10 EV to use as a parts hauler for the engineering department while I was there. It was crap. While it used the EV1 drivetrain, it used a detuned version that struggled with the weight and aerodynamics of the S10 platform. To add insult to injury, hauling heavy items around campus not only further stressed the underpowered drivetrain, but being FWD meant very awkward driving dynamics when the bed had weight in it and the front end became lighter. It became a common sight to see the truck melting the right front tire when trying to make a right turn from a stop. It was also virtually impossible to make it up the gentle hill next to Zachry building if the road was at all damp. I still remember watching someone load (overload, honestly) the S10 up with scaffold and then like eight other people had to push the truck to get it moving before it could get traction.

Don’t get me wrong, the S10 EV was a neat idea, but also a crap execution – it was the very essence of GM.

Thomas Ogle
Thomas Ogle
8 months ago
Reply to  Squirrelmaster

I love the weird things I learn on this website. Now a dive down the Electric S10 FWD rabbit hole.

Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
8 months ago

That S10 EV was FWD, wasn’t it? Or was that the Ranger EV?

But yeah, GM needs to be run by engineers. You’d never know that some of the executives are engineers without looking them up on google/wikipedia. They don’t make it obvious enough.

Honda and Toyota are better at letting engineers run the company.

How do you spell engineer in Michigan? CPA

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
8 months ago
Reply to  Dogisbadob

The S10 EV shared large portions of the drivetrain with the EV1, so it was FWD just as the EV1 was.

Jason Masters
Jason Masters
8 months ago

and that list goes on and on. what about cylinder deactivation? the tech in the V8-6-4 is something entirely commonplace now, but in the early 80s they just didnt have fast enough computers to handle it. so, of course GM scrapped the whole idea after releasing it to a bunch of beta testers, i mean cadillac customers.

Shop-Teacher
Shop-Teacher
8 months ago

GM also made the CRT an option the Oldsmobile Tornado, which was the same platform as the Riviera. I assume it was also available in the Eldorado that shared the platform as well.

Zelda Bumperthumper
Zelda Bumperthumper
8 months ago

I really love the thoughtful takes Autopian has about GM. I see GM the same way I see my favorite people: flawed, but they also do some awesome things. The presence of flaws doesn’t prevent something from being great, and conversely, the absence of flaws doesn’t make something great or even good. You guys really seem to get that.

Last edited 8 months ago by Zelda Bumperthumper
Diana Slyter
Diana Slyter
8 months ago

Corvair
Fiero
Saturn

Pupmeow
Pupmeow
8 months ago
Reply to  Diana Slyter

Saab

Paint-Drinking Thundercock Harvey Park
Paint-Drinking Thundercock Harvey Park
8 months ago
Reply to  Pupmeow

Buick Regal TourX

Racer Esq.
Racer Esq.
8 months ago
Reply to  Diana Slyter

As cool as the Corvair is rear-engine cars do not make sense. If anything GM could be given credit for abandoning something that does not work in the mass market much more quickly than VW.

As for the Fiero, mid-engine is the optimal sports/performance car engine location, and the current C8 Fiero is getting very positive reviews.

Chronometric
Chronometric
8 months ago
Reply to  Racer Esq.

As a Corvair and Fiat 500 owner, I appreciate air-cooled rear engine designs. I also realize they would never work as a mainstream technology in the modern world. Once you add water cooling, the engine might as well be in the front. The tradeoffs in space and cost only work in impractical sports cars.

OrigamiSensei
OrigamiSensei
8 months ago

I am one of those strange ducks who thinks that Reattas still look pretty cool to this day. I wouldn’t kick one out of my garage.

Paint-Drinking Thundercock Harvey Park
Paint-Drinking Thundercock Harvey Park
8 months ago
Reply to  OrigamiSensei

I saw one the other day and thought, ok, of course it can’t touch the R107 it was up against, but on its own merits it’s a pretty good looking car.

Chronometric
Chronometric
8 months ago

In the early 80s, I worked for a defense contractor that made heads-up displays for fighter aircraft. GM hired us to design a display for the upcoming 3rd Gen Firebird. We put many extra hours into a great implementation but it never made it to production. A few years later they put a similar system of their “own” design into a Cadillac.

Last edited 8 months ago by Chronometric
Richard O
Richard O
8 months ago

GM’s actual problem was they had the resources to try things out too soon. All of them required some other enabling condition for them to be viable. Turbos needed electronic fuel injection. BEVs needed better battery chemistries. Airbags needed a change in social conditions. (If you think people were resistant to seat belts and cruise control, you should have been around for the outright disdain people had for balloons exploding in their faces.) Of course for touchscreens, it was likely simply cost for the immature technology.

T Mill
T Mill
8 months ago
Reply to  Richard O

To be fair, the early air bags, and their rare, but occasional, decapitations were rightfully things to have some concern about.
IIRC, some smart guy said something about tech being enabled too soon…

SonOfLP500
SonOfLP500
8 months ago

When GM and Boeing engineered and made the Lunar Rover, it was the most advanced car made by anyone anywhere by a factor of massive. Small and light enough to fold up and be carried to the Moon on the Lunar Module, big enough to carry two astronauts in bulky spacesuits, electric power, AWD, independent suspension, electric 4-wheel steering, wire mesh Moon tyres, a camera that could be controlled remotely from earth etc. etc. and so on.
Based on that experience, GM bravely moved forward into the 1970s with production cars based on 1940s technology.

Last edited 8 months ago by SonOfLP500
Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
8 months ago
Reply to  SonOfLP500

Hey, they had the Vega.

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
8 months ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

Ouch.

Et tu, Canopysaurus?

Last edited 8 months ago by StillNotATony
SonOfLP500
SonOfLP500
8 months ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus
OFFLINE
OFFLINE
8 months ago

GM has a fantastic engineering force that has been chained to one of the worse product management (dis) functions I’ve ever seen. The amazing thing is how consistently they’ve managed to screw up over a large amount of time — this has to be some kind of poison in the corporate culture.

Pupmeow
Pupmeow
8 months ago
Reply to  OFFLINE

In my opinion, it’s a culture of executives who are disconnected from their own people and yet think they need to approve every minute decision. Before the decision gets to the execs, it has to go through 17 layers of hierarchy. At each level, the powerpoint decks need to be fully redone to suit the preferences of the highest ranking person viewing it. At each level, the lower level working team is left further and further behind. A couple of years later, when the decision point finally makes it to the right level, the former-McKinsey/BCG-consultant-turned-executive’s options are to act (risky!! time-consuming!!) or not act (safe!! easy!!).
Just my experience between working at places like GM versus more decentralized organizations.

Data
Data
8 months ago
Reply to  Pupmeow

I use to enjoy reading Dilbert. Then I begin working in a corporate environment and realized Dilbert is a documentary.

Chronometric
Chronometric
8 months ago
Reply to  OFFLINE

I have also seen engineers fall in love with a particular solution and refuse to realize there is a better way to do something. That is the genius of someone like Steve Jobs. He saw the best way for a product to perform and forced the engineers to make it and the marketing people to find a way to sell it.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
8 months ago

The airbags one reminds me of Ford on the opposite end of the spectrum – Robert McNamara, at the end of his life even, maintained that his proudest achievement at Ford was standard seatbelts. Despite a ton of people telling him safety didn’t sell and just look at how GM does things, he persevered.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
8 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

This was the same Robert McNamara who “engineered” the Vietnam War.

Austin Vail
Austin Vail
8 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

His standard seatbelts didn’t age that great unfortunately, the one on the drivers side of my ’66 T-bird is all worn out and comes unlatched super easily if it so much as sits on your lap wrong. I appreciate the thought of seatbelts, but don’t think it’d actually do much in a crash.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
8 months ago
Reply to  Austin Vail

IIRC, McNamara was also the guy who ended the two-seater T-bird setup – do you like yours with the backseats, or do ever wish it had just the original 2?

Austin Vail
Austin Vail
8 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

My T-bird has the coolest back seat. Peak interior design. The back wraps around to the sides of the car, and it has chrome trim around the perimeter so it’s just as big a part of the styling of the interior as the dashboard, and the dashboard is plenty flashy in its own right. Plus the sales material and owners manual refer to the back seat as “the lounge,” which is just awesome.

I don’t mind at all that it has a back seat, as it is the sexiest back seat ever put into a production car. I’ve also made use of the extra space provided by having a back seat by being able to have friends come along for the ride, and stuffing large things back there during times I’ve used that car as practically a truck.

I have nothing against two-seaters or the original T-bird, and my other car is a Miata so very much a two-seater. But IMO the Thunderbird doesn’t need to be a two-seater, it’s still a very stylish coupe. Even the later four-door T-birds were plenty stylish and interesting due to having suicide doors in the back.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
8 months ago
Reply to  Austin Vail

Great description and I’m glad to see my own non-owner views validated – I prefer the ’60s ‘birds myself for their clean, sleek jet-age lines, and I’ve never really understood what’s wrong with backseats in American cars. Always seemed appropriate to me (Corvette aside) given how we use our cars, like you point out.

LTDScott
LTDScott
8 months ago

-Buick famously turbocharged their 3.8L V6 starting in the late ’70s, not a 3.5L. For a while the Grand National and GNX 3.8L was probably the most famous turbocharged American engine.

-That’s Ed Begley, Jr., not Begeley.

-You forgot that Ford also offered a Ranger EV pickup from 1998-2002, longer than Chevy made the S-10 EV. Interestingly they were RWD but used a 4WD chassis. I actually saw one still running last year.

-You didn’t mention that Kramer’s Chevy on Seinfeld was one of the very rare airbag equipped cars!

Autonerdery
Autonerdery
8 months ago
Reply to  LTDScott

While we’re picking nits, the turbo Corvair was the Monza Spyder. If it was just a non-arachnyd (that’s how you spell that, right?) Monza, it was naturally aspirated. In 1965-66 the turbo model was the Corsa, though that was also available with a naturally aspirated (factory quad-carb!) engine.

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
8 months ago
Reply to  LTDScott

There’s a Ranger EV still running around here in the Colorado front range. I’m not sure what it has taken to keep it running, but it looks to be in really good shape. I have to assume the batteries have been replaced with something more modern, but I’ve never been in a spot where I can ask the driver about it.

3WiperB
3WiperB
8 months ago

The PHEV with a useful range. See Chevy Volt.

OverlandingSprinter
OverlandingSprinter
8 months ago

No. 6: Hybrid full-sized trucks. In 2004 GM offered the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra as hybrids, which was a $1,500 option at the time.

Rippstik
Rippstik
8 months ago

I still see these from time to time driving around.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
8 months ago

The crazy thing about GM’s ACRS is that it actually worked extremely well, right out of the gate. Usually, with brand new technology, especially brand new GM technology, you can expect teething problems after it goes from lab to real world, but, nope, they had actually put in the time and the money and the resources to thoroughly test and validate everything and released it to the market bug-free. GM had perfectly functioning, reliable airbags that worked exactly the way they were supposed to in 1973, then walked away from them a few years later due to overwhelming lack of consumer interest.

Also fuel injection – GM had that in 1957, dropped it in 1965, and hung onto carburetors well into the 1980s

Marc Fuhrman
Marc Fuhrman
8 months ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

For most of their products yes. But Cadillacs started offering EFI in ’75 with the Seville, with the full size models following afterwards (though it was only an option). The Chevy Vega Cosworth also had EFI.

Chris Stevenson
Chris Stevenson
8 months ago

An air cushion to the face sounds a lot more pleasant than an air bag to the face.

UnseenCat
UnseenCat
8 months ago

Yeah, that was a triumph of marketing-speak right there. 🙂

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