In the past, GM management got to drive the shiny new car models home as it was seen as a perk or job benefit. But in the car business, is that really wise? Looking at this old practice a bit closer brings a question to mind – how is a company supposed to understand what it is up against if management is always driving the newest cars in their fleet?
I am happy to hear that management has changed its ways to some degree, as it is driving the competition at least once a week. Fridays are usually “drive day” at GM and many spend that afternoon driving a competitor’s vehicle. This is important because you obviously need to know your competition if you want to compete. But is GM management driving old high mileage cars from the competition? No. Are they driving high mileage GM cars? Again – no – but why should they?
It’s the small stuff I wonder about – rattles, creaks and long term wear. Not only will they not show up when management is driving a new car but they will also not show up in a J.D. Power and Associates Quality survey – something that measures vehicle quality after only 90 days of ownership. 90 days! Heck – even a brand new Trabant should score high marks after 90 days. The only way true quality can really be measured is to evaluate a vehicle after years, not months, of ownership.
I recently received communications from Leanne Wandoff, with GM Communications, supporting Quality. She stated to me that “initial quality is an early indicator of long term reliability, as they strongly correlate.” I found that comment to be bizarre since it is impossible to determine how long a car part (or any part) will last based on using it for just 90 days. If anything, it’s the exact opposite – long term testing results will strongly correlate to short term reliability. I asked her to consider a regular process where all management drive a five year-old GM vehicle with high mileage at least once a month for a few days. Why? Because it will tell those in power a tale which they have yet to experience, and therefore completely understand. It’s a tale which most of my readers live everyday – the daily driver.
Many of us live with less than perfect vehicles. You know what I’m talking about – worn seat foam and/or material, slow power window motors/regulators that need replacing, dash gauges that don’t work accurately, electrical shorts from wires chaffing, as well as the usual rattles and noises. Are these to be expected in a vehicle that has 200,000 miles of steady use? My answer is a resounding NO!
For example, in college my buddy had a 1979 Toyota Corolla. It was rusty and almost as ugly as an Aztec but the thing just wouldn’t die. We beat the crap out of it and it was rattle free and never failed. The interior (though boring) never wore out. My brother still owns a 1983 BMW 320i that is rattle free, solid and reliable. Even my father has a 12 year-old Volvo that drives like it is only a year old. There’s an old wise tail that Volvo will buy your car back after you’ve reached a million miles. Well that’s far from the truth, but it does have a recognition program that congratulates owners who have put high miles on their cars. This type of program can only exist if quality is engineered into the car for long term usage from the get-go.
Truth is, a well-used GM vehicle feels older than it actually is. Perhaps this was designed to encourage loyal GM customers to trade in their vehicles, but for every customer that did that, two went elsewhere. That is exactly what GM has to stop doing, and addressing long-term reliability and quality is just one aspect that will get GM back to the top.