GM, Deadly Ignition Switches & the Destructive Power of Big Government

Progressives think everything’s better with a taxpayer funded technocrat in charge

Cobalt Obama

Two takedowns and one detective story today.

Takedown 1:

Jim Geraghty, Remember When Obama Touted the Now-Recalled Chevy Cobalt?:

President Obama, speaking at a GM plant in Lordstown, Ohio, September 15, 2009: “That program was good for automakers, consumers, and our environment,” Obama said of the Cash for Clunkers programs, “and the Chevy Cobalt that you build here was one of GM’s most sought-after cars under that program. Dealers across the country started running out of it and needed you to build more.”

All Chevy Cobalts from 2005 to 2010 are being recalled because of fears the “ignition switch may move out of the “run” position, resulting in a partial loss of electrical power and turning off the engine. This risk increases if your key ring is carrying added weight… or your vehicle experiences rough road conditions or other jarring or impact related events. If the ignition switch is not in the run position, the air bags may not deploy if the vehicle is involved in a crash, increasing the risk of injury or fatality.”

Takedown 2:

Geoffrey Norman, Cobalts for Clunker: How We Roll:

First he draws the parallel—

The new CEO of the new General Motors testified yesterday before Congress and said that she is “deeply sorry” about the company’s negligence in selling cars that came standard with a flaw that could kill you. The company knew. A government regulatory agency knew. And if the administration of President Obama did not know, then one is inclined to wonder why not and go to the only possible explanation, which is incompetence. The administration rescued the company from bankruptcy, after all, using billions of taxpayer dollars. Should it not have taken a careful look at what the money was buying?

The administration considers the GM bailout a success story of the sort it celebrated yesterday when the sign-up period for the Affordable Care Act ended and some seven million people had enrolled. There had been a lot of patch jobs put in place along the way. The employer mandate was dropped. First, it turned out that “you can keep your plan” wasn’t true and then … well, we’ll make some exceptions. All in all, a vast and ongoing jury-rig.

Which is the way of big government.  It makes it up as it goes. Tries a little of this and some of that. Uses force when, as usual, the right tool isn’t handy. Or doesn’t exist. Or perhaps because force is just government’s tool of choice.

Then he talks about Obama’s vaunted Cash for Clunkers program—

There were a lot of moving parts in the administration’s intricate exercise of state capitalism. If GM was to be rescued, then people were going to have to buy the cars it was making. So, a plan was needed that would get consumers out of the cars they were already driving. The Washington brains are good with plans and big programs and came up with something called, cleverly, “Cash for Clunkers.”  You brought your old car in to a dealer who poured sodium silicate into the crankcase and then ran the engine until it seized up.  The car, which might have been running fine and good for another 100,000 miles was now junk. You got some very lavish price credits toward the purchase of a new car.

Some 700,000 vehicles were destroyed by this program. It might have been good, temporarily, for GM but it was bad for people who needed good transportation but couldn’t afford the price a new GM product, for mechanics who worked on old cars, and others in what had always been a robust used-car market.

As Car & Driver reported some of the 700,000 destroyed vehicles were pretty cool rides to include some made by BMW and Mercedes. It was, in short, a massive exercise in the destruction of wealth.

Still, when the dust settled, lots of people were driving around in brand new Chevy Cobalts and the president declared this a good thing when he visited a plant where the Cobalts were made and touted Cash for Clunkers as:

… good for automakers, consumers, and our environment, and the Chevy Cobalt that you build here was one of GM’s most sought-after cars under that program. Dealers across the country started running out of it and needed you to build more.

Well, those Cobalts are now being recalled in legions.

How often does the progressive vision actually achieve the results it promises?

How often, as in Obamacare, the GM bailout, and Cash for Clunkers, does the progressive vision actually destroy?

I’m 61 years old. I have lived through a lot of history, and I’ve studied even more.

The War on Poverty not only has never fulfilled its promises, the people it claimed to help are worse off now than they ever were before.

What about No Child Left Behind or Race to the Top—or, before that, Head Start? Now we’re looking at universal (government-mandated) preschool. Common Core.

The ability of the progressive mind to dream up programs promising Nirvana while crushing the poor and helpless is apparently endless.

The Engineering Detective:

Bill Vlasic, An Engineer’s Eureka Moment With a G.M. Flaw

This is how we came to even know about the deadly ignition switch.

Somewhere inside the two-inch ignition switch from the 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt was the clue that Mark Hood was seeking.

Mr. Hood, an engineer in Florida, had photographed, X-rayed and disassembled the device in the fall of 2012, focusing on the tiny plastic and metal switch that controlled the ignition. But even after hours of testing, Mr. Hood was at a loss to explain why the engine in Brooke Melton’s Cobalt had suddenly shut off, causing her fatal accident in 2010 in Georgia.

It was no small matter to her family, which had hired Mr. Hood for their lawsuit against General Motors.

Then he bought a replacement for $30 from a local G.M. dealership, and the mystery quickly unraveled. For the first time, someone outside G.M., even by the company’s own account, had figured out a problem that it had known about for a decade, and is now linked to 13 deaths.

The discovery was at once subtle and significant: Even though the new switch had the same identification number — 10392423 — Mr. Hood found big differences. A tiny metal plunger in the switch was longer in the replacement part. And the switch’s spring was more compressed. And most important, the force needed to turn the ignition on and off was greater.

“There was a substantial increase in the torque of the switch,” Mr. Hood said. “We took measurements. And they were very different.”

So began the discovery that would set in motion G.M.’s worldwide recall of 2.6 million Cobalts and other cars, and one of the gravest safety crises in the company’s history.

Mr. Hood came to realize that G.M., and the supplier that made the part, Delphi, had quietly changed the switch sometime in 2006 or early 2007, making it less likely that an unsuspecting driver could bump the ignition key and cause the car to cut off engine power and deactivate its air bags. The change was made so quietly that G.M. hired outside consultants last year to help identify which Cobalt model years contained the original switch.

Now, the details behind the change have become critical issues in determining whether the automaker intentionally concealed a safety defect.

It is a sickening story of the deadly consequences of corporate—and government—cover-up. It’s also an impressive example one guy’s ability to see into machinery and processes and sherlock his way to the truth behind the tragedy. Read the rest here.

Most press coverage and analysis of these programs these days consistently begs the question:

Why should we trust progressivism’s solutions to anything?

Why is government, especially the federal government, ever seen as the answer to anything that has to do with taking care of the helpless and uncared for?

Related: See Fournier’s Obamacare Follow-Up: Let’s Talk About Number 8.


One thought on “GM, Deadly Ignition Switches & the Destructive Power of Big Government”

  1. I drive one of these cars. The worst part is they did not tell me. I could easily spend $40.00 to replace the switch or take the key off the key ring.


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