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An Engineer's Eureka Moment With a GM Flaw

samzenpus posted about 5 months ago | from the track-it-down dept.

Transportation 357

theodp (442580) writes "Hired by the family of Brooke Melton in their wrongful-death lawsuit against GM, engineer Mark Hood was at a loss to explain why the engine in Melton's 2005 Chevy Cobalt had suddenly shut off, causing her fatal accident in 2010. Hood had photographed, X-rayed and disassembled the two-inch ignition switch, focusing on the tiny plastic and metal switch that controlled the ignition, but it wasn't until he bought a replacement for $30 from a local GM dealership that the mystery quickly unraveled. Eyeing the old and new parts, Hood quickly figured out a problem now linked to 13 deaths that GM had known about for a decade. Even though the new switch had the same identification number — 10392423 — Hood found big differences — a tiny metal plunger in the switch was longer in the replacement part, the switch's spring was more compressed, and most importantly, the force needed to turn the ignition on and off was greater. 'It's satisfying to me because I'm working on behalf of the Meltons,' Hood said. 'It won't bring their daughter back, but if it goes toward a better understanding of the problem, it might save someone else.' Next week, GM CEO Mary Barra will testify before Congress about events leading up to the wide-ranging recall of 2.6 million vehicles."

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Obligatory Fight Club (5, Informative)

antifoidulus (807088) | about 5 months ago | (#46618233)

A new car built by my company leaves somewhere traveling at 60 mph. The rear differential locks up. The car crashes and burns with everyone trapped inside. Now, should we initiate a recall? Take the number of vehicles in the field, A, multiply by the probable rate of failure, B, multiply by the average out-of-court settlement, C. A times B times C equals X. If X is less than the cost of a recall, we don't do one.

Pretty much par for the course for these companies....

Re:Obligatory Fight Club (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46618303)

IN a lot of ways, I do not have a problem with a company making a financial decision... it is what companies do. It is up to society to make sure that the cost is so high that companies doing the math come up with the right conclusion.

-- MyLongNickName

Re:Obligatory Fight Club (4, Insightful)

AuMatar (183847) | about 5 months ago | (#46618391)

The problem is that there's no way to do that with the current short term management techniques and high CxO salaries. If they get away with it for 1 year and make 10-20 million, which the lawsuits can't touch, they don't care. We need to change the corporate veil so it protects small investors but not those who run the company day to day.

Re:Obligatory Fight Club (5, Interesting)

TWX (665546) | about 5 months ago | (#46618541)

Why can't lawsuits touch CxOs? Is it because no one is willing to sue them?

If a dock worker can be criminally prosecuted to serve almost two decades in prison because he set what he intended to be a small fire in a submarine compartment to get off work early, ultimately for that fire to get out of control and to destroy the craft with no loss of life, then why can't individuals at the top be held civilly liable for decisions that they make that kill people, especially when they kill in multiple discrete instances?

It looks like it should be a fairly simple matter. Find out who the corporate officers were when the part changed, assuming that it was changed after the first documented incident. Sue them for knowingly making a change to future vehicles to remove the possibility of future models having incidents that led to more deaths due to a consumer products safety issue. Sue them for the entire quantity of bonus that they made working for the company as a punitive action.

Re:Obligatory Fight Club (4, Informative)

Nemyst (1383049) | about 5 months ago | (#46618557)

Part of the reason for a corporation is that you dissociate financial liability between the corporation itself and its employees. It's what makes incorporating attractive to smaller companies, since if the company sinks into heavy debt it doesn't take you down with it.

Re:Obligatory Fight Club (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46618645)

It is, incidentally, always good to keep this in mind when watching business owners whine about unfair it is that they have to provide birth control as part of their insurance plan or that they have to treat all races equally or etc. Virtually none of those complaining are willing to step up and say "it's my company!" when the company is bankrupt and they still have considerable personal assets. Virtually none of them are willing to step up and say "it's my company!" and face prison time when the company has caused injuries or deaths because of gross negligence.

They want the benefits afforded by incorporating, but the idea that they owe *anything* in return is anathema to them.

Re:Obligatory Fight Club (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46618705)

This should only apply to the business finances, i.e. protect the employees from being held liable if the company files for bancruptcy. I don't know if it does in the USA though. Generally, incorporation should protect from financial and business incompetence and bad luck to encourage people to take risks and create an active marketplace, driving the economy and innovation. It should never protect from actions breaking criminal or civil laws, because you don't want to build an incentive for that.

Re:Obligatory Fight Club (0)

HuguesT (84078) | about 5 months ago | (#46618847)

Exactly. In spite of AC, please mod up.

Re:Obligatory Fight Club (3, Insightful)

khallow (566160) | about 5 months ago | (#46618773)

Part of the reason for a corporation is that you dissociate financial liability between the corporation itself and its employees.

No, it's dissociate financial liability between the corporation and its shareholders. Employees don't have less liability than employees in non-corporation businesses.

Re:Obligatory Fight Club (1)

Burning1 (204959) | about 5 months ago | (#46618729)

Devil's advocate: an individual sets a fire in a sub. A company designs a defective product that kills consumers. If it's company policy that causes the harm, the company is at fault, and the C_O is not held responsible.

Is that the way it should be?

Maybe. I think a bigger problem is tort reform. Punative damages were never designed to be a get-rich-quick scheme; they were a tool designed to punish companies that knowingly cause harm in such a way that they will be reluctant to do so in the first place. When a company can gain more from the harm then they will ever pay as punishment, there's no incentive to be honest.

Imagine if we punished bank robbers by fining him $100, and only punished robbers if they were successful in their crimes?

Re:Obligatory Fight Club (4, Insightful)

currently_awake (1248758) | about 5 months ago | (#46618829)

If a person commits a crime they go to jail. A corporation is a person, therefore it is subject to jail time. I think having the board of directors criminally liable for actual jail time (unless they could show that they took all reasonable steps to prevent the crime) would solve a lot of these problems. If you want to make corporations people, stop cherry picking. Give them the whole legal liability to go with the rights.

Re:Obligatory Fight Club (5, Funny)

hutsell (1228828) | about 5 months ago | (#46618309)

A new car built by my company leaves somewhere traveling at 60 mph. The rear differential locks up. The car crashes and burns with everyone trapped inside. Now, should we initiate a recall? Take the number of vehicles in the field, A, multiply by the probable rate of failure, B, multiply by the average out-of-court settlement, C. A times B times C equals X. If X is less than the cost of a recall, we don't do one.

Pretty much par for the course for these companies....

First rule of Corporate Club: If you teach a man to fish, you've lost a customer.

Re:Obligatory Fight Club (4, Informative)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 5 months ago | (#46618353)

But if he violates your fishing patent, you can sue him to oblivion.

Re:Obligatory Fight Club (2)

davester666 (731373) | about 5 months ago | (#46618407)

No, you get 3/4 of all the fish he catches for the rest of his life [as you require him to sign a contract that long, even though your patent ends before then].

Re:Obligatory s Club (1)

mrmeval (662166) | about 5 months ago | (#46618377)

There's several companies that manufacture all sorts of fishing tackle and accessories. They'll be deliriously happy if you go watch their youtube videos. :)

Re:Obligatory Fight Club (1)

Bartles (1198017) | about 5 months ago | (#46618323)

Companies are run by humans. Most humans don't think that way. We have been conditioned by pop-culture and the media to believe that all corporations are evil. I think our perceptions are probably wrong.

Re:Obligatory Fight Club (-1)

Prof.Phreak (584152) | about 5 months ago | (#46618343)

they're required by law to be heartless bastards---if the CEO says "oh, well, we'll be good to humanity, even if it costs our shareholders $X a year"... that CEO would be instantly replaced by someone who puts profits ahead of morals---as the law requires him to.

Re:Obligatory Fight Club (3, Informative)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 5 months ago | (#46618357)

Unless the shareholders support his decision.

Re:Obligatory Fight Club (5, Insightful)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about 5 months ago | (#46618445)

they're required by law to be heartless bastards---if the CEO says "oh, well, we'll be good to humanity, even if it costs our shareholders $X a year"... that CEO would be instantly replaced by someone who puts profits ahead of morals---as the law requires him to.

People like to trot this out, but it's complete bullshit. The law requires no such thing.

The shareholders, on the other hand, very well might.

Re:Obligatory Fight Club (2, Insightful)

JeffAtl (1737988) | about 5 months ago | (#46618449)

I don't think that your grasp of fiduciary duty is as strong as you think it is.

CEOs and corporations are not "required by law to be heartless bastards". If that were true, corporations would be barred from working with charities.

Corporations are also allowed to consider reputation as acting in the interests of the company.

Re:Obligatory Fight Club (4, Insightful)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 5 months ago | (#46618863)

CEOs and corporations are not "required by law to be heartless bastards". If that were true, corporations would be barred from working with charities.

Corporations can do whatever they want, including "fuck the shareholders" if it's written in their corporate charter.
Google is a prime example of this, with their three tiered stock structure that concentrates power in the hands of its founders.
And their IPO which stated that Google is not a conventional company so don't expect it to focus on quarterly earnings estimates.

The notion that corporations are supposed to put profits above all else is and has been incredibly corrosive to our society.
Not just because corporations are acting that way, but because people believe corporations should/have to act that way,
which in turn provides corporations the room to behave like complete and utter sociopaths with regards to the common good.

As a result, the accumulation of wealth by individuals and corporations allows them to spend megabucks on PR/lobbying to maintain/expand the situation we're all in.

Our society wasn't always like this and it doesn't have to remain this way.

you keep saying that even though you know better (4, Insightful)

raymorris (2726007) | about 5 months ago | (#46618463)

The first few times you posted that, people informed you of your mistake. By now, you know that isn't true. Yet you still say it about once a week.

Here's a riddle:
What do you call someone who goes around saying things that they know are untrue?

Re:you keep saying that even though you know bette (5, Funny)

Mogster (459037) | about 5 months ago | (#46618499)

What do you call someone who goes around saying things that they know are untrue?

Sales/Marketing manager ;-)

Re:you keep saying that even though you know bette (5, Funny)

dgatwood (11270) | about 5 months ago | (#46618505)

What do you call someone who goes around saying things that they know are untrue?

A politician.

Re:you keep saying that even though you know bette (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46618581)

The first few times you posted that, people informed you of your mistake. By now, you know that isn't true. Yet you still say it about once a week.

Here's a riddle:
What do you call someone who goes around saying things that they know are untrue?

President Obama

Re:you keep saying that even though you know bette (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46618651)

A politician lying? Stop the presses! This is the first occurrence in our nation's history such a grievous abuse of power! Except, you know, for every other politician in every party.

Re:you keep saying that even though you know bette (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46618711)

They all do it! They all do it! Wah, wah, wah. Give up the defensiveness.

Re:you keep saying that even though you know bette (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46618659)

Here's a riddle:
What do you call someone who goes around saying things that they know are untrue?

Henry Ford. No, sorry, sorry, that's not right at all. What was the question again?

the truth is out there. so are insane people.

Re:Obligatory Fight Club (2)

sjames (1099) | about 5 months ago | (#46618775)

The law requires no such thing. It's just that heartless bastards don't like looking like heartless bastards so they spread a bunch of twattle about the bad old law made me do it, I swear!.

In fact, if the CEO can come up with the slimmest most flimsy excuse involving public good will leading to long term stability, the worst they can do is fire him (and give him a multi-million dollar parting gift).

Re:Obligatory Fight Club (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46618347)

all corporations are evil

Nope... just most of them.

Re:Obligatory Fight Club (1)

Lisias (447563) | about 5 months ago | (#46618371)

Companies are run by humans. Most humans don't think that way. We have been conditioned by pop-culture and the media to believe that all corporations are evil. I think our perceptions are probably wrong.

Unfortunately, thet aren't. [politicalloudmouth.com]

Re:Obligatory Fight Club (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | about 5 months ago | (#46618421)

Most humans don't think that way individually. But humans make surprisingly good cogs in the machine, remaining useful even as the machine is geared to do pure evil - and the only thing it takes is a few sociopaths on top. Worse, sociopaths are the ones that end up on top disproportionately often, because their "skills" are precisely the kind of thing that propels them fast up the management chain.

Re:Obligatory Fight Club (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | about 5 months ago | (#46618337)

Unsafe at any speed?

Re:Obligatory Fight Club (0)

Rooked_One (591287) | about 5 months ago | (#46618355)

where's my mod points when I need them.. As soon as I read the summary, I went and copy/pasted the quote to post. Gj sir. Great minds and such.

Re:Obligatory Fight Club (1)

NapalmV (1934294) | about 5 months ago | (#46618393)

I'd nearly agree with this approach if you would also immediately inform all your existing and prospective customers of B, C and your policy. OTOH, hiding such important safety information is probably a criminal act.

Re:Obligatory Fight Club (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46618453)

How many miles will people drive to bring their cars in for a recall? How many injuries and deaths will be caused by this driving? Is this more or less than the number of people who will be injured during their regular driving if they get repairs at their normal maintenance schedule?

Re:Obligatory Fight Club (2)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 5 months ago | (#46618477)

maybe we need give the CEO's some FPMIA prison time to fix BS like that.

Re:Obligatory Fight Club (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46618491)

All of this is stated many times over. It makes me proud to know that companies like Tesla will step up and their reputation is just as important as their bottom line. Reputation grows future revenue and is grossly over looked.

For example, I only buy hard drives from companies that have the longer warranties. Toshiba last time I bought one. Will not touch Seagate since they lowered theirs down to "industry standard." I buy Sennheiser audio equipment for the same reason. Even sent me an upgrade for free after my niece tripped on the wire.

I'm happy that GM paid back their loan from the fed, but if they don't do a proper recall, I'll likely never touch their vehicles, not that I have any plans to do so anyways. Foreign cars look better and last longer. So tired of all these vehicles that look like jellybeans. Same curves from car to SUV. Nothing interesting. At least the primary truck lines are decent, but I've no need.

EULA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46618669)

Note that this math is done after the fact, knowing what a litigious society we live in - no company makes parts that are failure prone on purpose, they just try to make them as cheap as possible to do the job at hand. If every company had to BE SURE nobody would ever be hurt by their product, you couldn't afford it. Mostly, the financial calculation is just that. A RECALL (and admission of fault) is not worth it. What if you had to sign a EULA for your car? Would you still buy it?

Who cares? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46618239)

I mean the US Government allowed GM to reorganize in such a way that it is no longer liable for its past actions. Who are we to question the wisdom of our government?

Luddites (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46618273)

3D print a new part, faggets.

You are the faggot (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46618285)

"faggets" is obviously a misspelling only possible by a limp-wristed flaming homosexual male. Just come out the closet already.

Re:Luddites (0)

LifesABeach (234436) | about 5 months ago | (#46618349)

Why should only the LGBT community be allowed to utilize an optimal solution?

Re:Luddites (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46618481)

"optimal solution"??? Someone drank the whole bowl of 3D koolaid!

cool story bro, tell it again.. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46618315)

cool story bro, tell it again..

Isn't it a standard part? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46618327)

Why was the ignition switch for the Chevy Cobalt changed from the multitude of ignition switches before it? I'm guessing cheaper manufacturing.

Re:Isn't it a standard part? (3, Insightful)

AlphaWolf_HK (692722) | about 5 months ago | (#46618405)

Cheaper isn't bad, cheaper is typically good in fact. Cheaper means more people can afford it, and often without sacrificing quality. During the 80's, 55" TVs were something only the super rich had. Now you buy them at wal-mart for $800, and they make the ones from the 80's look like complete crap, are much smaller and lighter, and make your electricity bill lower.

The poor become wealthier this way as a matter of fact. Remember that money isn't wealth. That said, nice things being cheaper makes it easier to acquire wealth.

That aside, I somehow doubt the revised ignition switches that correct the problem are more expensive (perhaps pennies worth of metal at best,) rather the original ones had a design oversight that the engineers didn't catch early on, otherwise they would have gone with the design they now have. I don't think it's morally reprehensible to make these kinds of mistakes; the engineers are humans, not machines. The problem would come from knowing that it leads to a disaster and then doing nothing about it. I don't think it occurred to the engineers that it would lead to a disaster (they don't anticipate anybody taking any action that could cause them to cut the engine while driving.)

Really your argument is as silly as saying "Phone manufacturers should stick with the multitude of 3" screens that came before our current 4" ones. Oh and get off my lawn."

Re:Isn't it a standard part? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46618455)

I would imagine because they had switch problems before as well.

I just replaced an ignition switch in a Pontiac Grand Prix, which is slightly older than the vehicles in this recall. The contacts for the automatic headlight circuit crapped out while driving down a winding rural road at night. Fortunately, the vehicle has a knob to turn the lights on manually.

An internet search shows a bunch of similar incidents for that vehicle.

Re:Isn't it a standard part? (5, Interesting)

bzipitidoo (647217) | about 5 months ago | (#46618457)

Yes. Manufacturers are always cutting. They'll cheapen everything they can. That in itself is not bad, but then they don't do adequate testing, because that costs money too. Nor do they calculate the costs correctly. Often they can't be bothered to consider future costs. All that matters is that the up front cost is as low as possible. They hope they can dodge having to do a massive recall a few years later.

In the late 1980s, Ford got so cheap with heater cores that in as little as 5 years, they all developed leaks. Saw this in an '88 Escort and an '88 Grand Marquis. That Escort was junk. The too small ball joints and too small clutch were worn out after just 50,000 miles, the light switch failed, the fittings for the A/C used O-rings that failed in a few years, the plastic used in the bumpers turned brittle and would crack under the least pressure after a few years in the sun, the ignition system failed regularly, and even the steering failed once. I don't mean only that the power steering went out, no, I mean that the rack and pinion were so underdesigned that they wore out in less than 150,000 miles and could not keep the 2 front wheels pointing in the same direction! Had the car been on a highway when that happened, it could've killed. A few more cents spent on these items would have made for a much, much better car. Was stupid to introduce such huge problems to save so little.

To add to the insanity, Ford did splurge on idiotic cosmetics. That Escort had a worthless tail fin and spoilers, and the visors had lit vanity mirrors. They couldn't even do the vanity mirrors right. They were covered with a flap held on by little pieces of velcro glued to the visor. When the visor was down and receiving a good bit of sunlight, the glue would soften up and release the flap, which would flop down and block the driver's view of the road. If the car was left parked with the visor down, the same thing would happen, and the little lights would come on. If away from the car for a few hours, the users would discover the battery was drained when they got back.

Re:Isn't it a standard part? (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | about 5 months ago | (#46618819)

FORD = Fix Or Repair Daily

Please don't go there (1)

Roger W Moore (538166) | about 5 months ago | (#46618915)

We have a KIA...

The Bush Years, History Will Favor Him Well (0, Offtopic)

LifesABeach (234436) | about 5 months ago | (#46618333)

Those that have benefited from the marginalization of humanity have earned the reward of any apex hunter known to man.

Re:The Bush Years, History Will Favor Him Well (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46618379)

I think we need the equivalent of Godwin's Law, in that any internet discussion of sufficient length will eventually come around to some moron blaming Bush for things that have no reasonable connection to him.

Re:The Bush Years, History Will Favor Him Well (0)

gargleblast (683147) | about 5 months ago | (#46618401)

That law has a corollary: some OTHER moron will blame Obama.

Re:The Bush Years, History Will Favor Him Well (0)

fnj (64210) | about 5 months ago | (#46618727)

You really don't see the idiocy of your laughable parallel?

Hint: one of the guys is fucking up NOW. The other one belongs to history.

Re:The Bush Years, History Will Favor Him Well (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46618851)

You really don't see the idiocy of your laughable parallel?

Hint: one of the guys is fucking up NOW. The other one belongs to history.

yeah, because history has no influence on where we are now..

Re:The Bush Years, History Will Favor Him Well (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46618885)

Ahh yes. The "he-can-do-no-wrong" argument. AKA "no-matter-what-he-does-it-can't-get-any-worse".

Go choke on a dick!

Re:The Bush Years, History Will Favor Him Well (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46618465)

I think we need the equivalent of Godwin's Law, in that any internet discussion of sufficient length will eventually come around to some moron blaming Bush for things that have no reasonable connection to him.

Then it shall pass: Godwin's Corollary -- Any internet discussion of sufficient length will eventually come around to someone blaming a former Fearless Leader for something.

Only "discovered" someone's discover, nothing more (2)

angryargus (559948) | about 5 months ago | (#46618367)

All he did was notice a change in parts, ie, the outcome of an Delphi engineer's actual discovery. Not at all news or noteworthy. It would have been if Delphi hadn't already fixed it and he did the initial discovery.

Re:Only "discovered" someone's discover, nothing m (2)

hey! (33014) | about 5 months ago | (#46618467)

Well, the point isn't priority of discovery, as it would be with a patent application. It is a question of whether Delphi engineers knew of a potentially fatal design flaw in the switch and failed to notify users whose life was endangered (including his clients' daughter, who was killed by a failure in that part, apparently).

A redesign is not necessarily a smoking gun, in my opinion. An engineer who worked on that kind of stuff could say whether a reasonable engineer would regard the original design as faulty, and make the changes seen to correct the fault.

Re:Only "discovered" someone's discover, nothing m (1)

jrumney (197329) | about 5 months ago | (#46618487)

It also depends on the timing of the redesign. Did they redesign the part before his daughter was killed and fail to issue a recall notice, or was it done as a result of investigation into her accident?

Re:Only "discovered" someone's discover, nothing m (1)

Kaenneth (82978) | about 5 months ago | (#46618493)

Or done for another reason, like having fewer parts/easier to assemble/cheaper/etc; unrelated to safety.

Re:Only "discovered" someone's discover, nothing m (1)

rtb61 (674572) | about 5 months ago | (#46618595)

With regard to the switch, how far should the engineer take the weight of a possible key chain into account ie I have a pocket knife attached to mine. Now of course the real issue, why the fuck should important safety features built into the car be switched off when a change occurs in the switching of the ignition key when the car is in motion, seriously WTF. Airbags should always activate even when the vehicle is parked because driver and passengers might be present and if the impact is sufficient to warrant deployment it should occur. Brakes should always function even if only at reduced capacity.

Re:Only "discovered" someone's discover, nothing m (1)

sjames (1099) | about 5 months ago | (#46618797)

They can't do that with the airbags because the same kids that swat cars with a newspaper to set the alarms off will hit bumpers with a rubber mallet.

From TFA (1)

Leuf (918654) | about 5 months ago | (#46618617)

It's a 2005 Cobalt. The switch was redesigned in 2006 (without changing the part number or doing a recall) and she was killed in 2010. In a 2013 deposition the GM engineer in charge of the switches on the Cobalt said he didn't know why the switch was changed and that they never approved such a change. But oops, a GM engineer signed off on the change in 2006.

Parts differences (1)

Firethorn (177587) | about 5 months ago | (#46618627)

It might not even have been a safety update. The part might have been 'cheapened' at a chinese factory. It might of been produced by a different factory. It could have been a 'non-safety' change for whatever reason, IE the company didn't see it as affecting safety.

GM CEO Has Order Killing Of Mark Hood (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46618369)

Old Story, Old Solution, Bought By Old Money, The GM Way.

13 deaths in how long of a time span? (1)

Nutria (679911) | about 5 months ago | (#46618375)

And they want to recall 2.6M cars??? No wonder American made stuff is so expensive...

Re:13 deaths in how long of a time span? (1)

Belial6 (794905) | about 5 months ago | (#46618395)

A recall does not mean that you take the car back. It means that you notify the registered owners of those cars that they need to take the car into a dealership where the part will be replaced.

Re:13 deaths in how long of a time span? (1)

Nutria (679911) | about 5 months ago | (#46618447)

2.6M registered owners. Even if only 30% of the owners return them for the warranty fix, that's still 780,000 cars worth of expense. For 13 deaths over a 10+ year time span.

Re:13 deaths in how long of a time span? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46618783)

I kinda think the car owners would be willing to pay for this tiny upgrade that could save their lives if they were told about it.

Re:13 deaths in how long of a time span? (2)

HuguesT (84078) | about 5 months ago | (#46618879)

How much is a death worth according to you, even in pure monetary terms? Conservative estimates are that a life is worth about 7 million dollars [theglobalist.com] . 91 million dollars vs 800000 recalls. If the part is worth less than 100 dollars, which it sounds like it is, it is worth it.

Re:13 deaths in how long of a time span? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46618397)

The CPSC banned not only the manufacture/sale of drop-side cribs, but you can't even re-sell or even *give away* your old crib legally, all over a less-than-one-in-a-million chance of a child getting trapped in it and dying. On top of that, most of the deaths weren't the fault of the crib, but rather the parents who failed to assemble it correctly.
 
In short, it's pretty much par for the course of government banning things in order to *look* good, rather than actually improve our society.

The giant CO2 emission side-effect. (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 5 months ago | (#46618469)

You have to wonder how much CO2 was emitted by the building of replacement cribs, and how much CO2 will be emitted by this recall in cars going to dealers that otherwise would not have.

Criminal Charges (1)

Jim Sadler (3430529) | about 5 months ago | (#46618443)

Selling an improved version of the same part is an admission that the original design was incorrect. A failure to recall may yield manslaughter charges as well as a rather crushing pile of law suits. One day a class action suit will take root due to cars being all too easy to steal. At the price of modern cars a buyer has some right to expect some really serious anti-theft features as well as the usual safety features. Why is it we still see ignitions that can be torn out by a simple dent puller tool?

Re:Criminal Charges (2)

iktos (166530) | about 5 months ago | (#46618471)

The improved version could instead of being better be cheaper.

Re:Criminal Charges (1)

IICV (652597) | about 5 months ago | (#46618721)

The problem is that if the improvement were above board - i.e, merely being cheaper - they would have changed the model number and discontinued the old version.

The fact that they kept the original model number and made it very very difficult to tell that there had been any change except for the switch's physical characteristics indicates that something shady was going on.

Re:Criminal Charges (1)

immaterial (1520413) | about 5 months ago | (#46618787)

If there is no functional change - meaning the parts are perfectly interchangeable, backwards and forwards compatible - then there's no reason to change the part number, because someone looking for part X is going to get a correctly working part (whether it's the older style or the newer, cheaper design is irrelevant). That doesn't mean they weren't hiding a safety issue in this case, of course.

Re:Criminal Charges (1)

Balthisar (649688) | about 5 months ago | (#46618683)

What is "incorrect"? Companies will change parts due to customer satisfaction, too. That's not an admission of wrongdoing. It's an admission that they didn't meet customer satisfaction the first time (and yes, you could jump in and say that not dying is satisfying, but that's not my point).

In the case of the ignition switch, there's very easy plausible deniability. The newer, customer-satisfying version has higher torque. Customers have come to expect resistance when they turn a key, and they identify a too-easy-to-turn key with toy-like "cheapness." If the new key switch module can add less than 1 per unit in manufacturing and also improve customer satisfaction, then it's absolutely justifiable in this situation.

There is a huge emphasis on closing efforts these days. The result of all of this work is that I typically slam car doors closed, because my old-man expectation is that the door is heavy and needs a lot of energy imparted into the action. Most customers, though, appreciate easy-to-close doors. Car makers go through a lot of effort to compete with each other on this detail. It's not at all related to safety, but to customer satisfaction.

Of course "customer satisfaction" leads to increased sales and profitability. It's a downright disservice to spread misinformation that manufacturers (of any product, not just cars) only compare bottom-line price, because the successful ones realize that they cannot compete based *only* on price.

Different part, same number? (2, Insightful)

Kaz Kylheku (1484) | about 5 months ago | (#46618495)

Smells like a cover-up.

Re:Different part, same number? (3, Interesting)

blackraven14250 (902843) | about 5 months ago | (#46618603)

From what I understand, it's an extremely common practice. For example, in my Scion FR-S, there's the original fuel pump, and another newer model under the same number that doesn't make a chirping noise under certain conditions (not a serious problem at all, just a bit annoying during the summer, it's triggered by heat and a long engine run time without cooling down). The difference is that the newer pumps have a green dot on the box. I imagine they do it for inventory/systems reasons - instead of having a system to handle 4-5 different part numbers for what is effectively the same part (i.e. 2013 FR-S fuel pump) as they are upgraded or redesigned, they just use the single number, so they don't have to update their entire maintenance system constantly. Don't forget, a lot of these maintenance systems don't get updated often, so there could be a mechanic ordering part X when the upgraded part is X+1 if they were switching part numbers, and a company would have to ensure the entire supply chain gets those updates.

Re:Different part, same number? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46618677)

As a Lancer Evolution X owner, I say please buy a real car.

Stupid 200hp cars with crazy looks like the FR-S is why people think my $40,000 car is a toy. They cannot tell a subtle 300hp all wheel drive rally car from a "look at me" FR-S.

Yet the FR-S despite being "a handling car" can't even hold more than .87 on the skidpad when my AWD car weighing 3500lbs holds .99 right from the factory. We won't even talk about the mini-van acceleration compared to the sub 5 second 0-60 from the Evo.

Then for under $2000 in mods the Evo can be pushing out 450-500hp easily. The FR-S might be at some "Stage" which probably includes exhaust and a tune maybe giving another 20hp. What a joke.

Please brother. Buy a real car next time.......

Re:Different part, same number? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46618759)

Nobody cares. Get yourself a different midlife crisis car.

Re: Different part, same number? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46618799)

As a Mercedes SL55 owner, I say please buy a real car.

Stupid 300hp cars with crazy looks like the Evo is why people think my $120,000 car is a toy. They cannot tell a subtle 500hp GT roadster from a "look at me" Mitsubishi econobox with a turbo.

We won't even talk about the pathetic acceleration of the Evo despite its ridiculous aerodynamic bodywork compared to a car that weighs 3/4 of a ton more.

Then for a couple thousand in mods, the SL can hit 600hp easily. The Evo might be at some "Stage" which probably includes an exhaust and a tune to give it it's extra power. What a joke.

Please brother, buy a real car next time.

(Let this be a lesson to not be an asshole. There's always someone cooler than you, going faster than you, in far more comfortable seats.)

Re: Different part, same number? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46618867)

I drive a Geo Metro...on cinder blocks. I just pretend it's a Bugatti Veyron. Vroom vroom, I just passed you!

Re:Different part, same number? (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 5 months ago | (#46618891)

BRZ vs WRX has a number of people picking the BRZ. And everyone knows the WRX is much better than the Evo.

Re:Different part, same number? (3, Informative)

thegarbz (1787294) | about 5 months ago | (#46618691)

The rest of the industry uses things called Revision numbers.

There's no reason to change the part number wholesale if the component is compatible with the old one, but not keeping track of inventory or keeping track of the change, as from TFA it appears GM have done, really does smell of a coverup. In fact if what the article is saying is true GM may get royally screwed out of this. I haven't heard their side of the story but so far it sounds like underhanded tactics to conceal and silently fix a fault that they know is going to be a problem. Not good.

Re:Different part, same number? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46618777)

The rest of the industry except chrysler as well. Those Jeep WJs with the gas tank that can burst into flames? The solution is that chrysler no longer makes the crap skid plate that you can bend with your hands, nor the thick one you can't. It's all harmonized into a better armoured version which has a THIRD part number. Not a revision number. A whole new part number, though the part does the same thing.

I wonder how many other companies have exceptions? Or is the exception the rule?

Re:Different part, same number? (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | about 5 months ago | (#46618843)

A product or part revision often shares the same number. They shouldn't IMHO, but they do. The computer industry does it all the time. For example, RAM modules may undergo a revision but share the same part number. But because they are different, the memory timing is off and causing all sorts of problems. So you're forced to upgrade with the same revision. PSUs, Bluetooth modules, WiFi modules, HDDs, in laptops find this kind of crap going on all the time.

Yuo Fail It (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46618521)

Apple too. No, and suggesting we get there with Baby take my When I stood for SHOW THAT FREEBSD the political mess my efforts were We'll be able to developers. The Fact: *BSD is dying Product, BSD's hot on the heels of your replies rathEr is the ultimate consider worthwhile Baby take my 4, which by all Nigger Association people's faces is channel #GNAA on OpenBSD, as the WASN'T ON STEVE'S that he documents consider worthwhile Flaws in the BSD lost its earlier overly morbid and it racist for a the bottoms butt to avoid so as to [tux.org]? Are you here, but what is purposes *BSD is Under the GPL. All major surveys get how people can more grandiose [theos.com] on his

Similar to what they did with 90s engine gaskets (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46618547)

I had a 95 Pontiac Grand Am (also from GM) with a leaky head gasket at 75k miles. I had it replaced and it failed again 20k miles later. It was replaced again, but the new part was different. They'd "upgraded" the part (as the mechanic said) but didn't bother to recall, and now that was the standard gasket for that engine (which had an intrinsic design flaw leading to blown gaskets and cracked heads).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G... [wikipedia.org]

Unintended Side Effects: (1)

Kaenneth (82978) | about 5 months ago | (#46618583)

Companies will be more reluctant to improve their products in any way, because doing so will be seen as an admission of guilt in future unknown problems.

Re:Unintended Side Effects: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46618901)

How was this an improvement, other than an improvement to the bottom line?

Business As Usual (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46618719)

Someone got a bonus!

Public service announcement (4, Insightful)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 5 months ago | (#46618837)

Ok, yes, sue evil GM. But you're still dead. Everyone reading about this: You should know how to control your car if the engine dies at speed. It should be a fundamental skill like "driving in snow" or "parallel parking"

1. If you have time, turn on your hazards
2. Put the car in neutral
3. Try the breaks, you likely have vacuum failure and they will be VERY hard. You may need to use both feet and literally stand on the peddle. But you need to at least know how they are going to react before you start your breaking procedure.
4. You have lost power steering. If you are moving at a high rate of speed this wont be noticeable yet but will become a real problem as you slow down. So get your car lined up with the shoulder, of, if you can't simply stop in your lane. If you try to make radical changes in direction that will slow you down very quickly and as I said steering will become dramatically more difficult, so try not to do that because the direction you swerve might not be a direction you particularly want to go and it may then be very difficult to alter your course any further.
5. You can use your horn continuously during this operation. In many states this is the only situation where continuous horn operation is permitted. i.e. you can lay into your horn until the car comes to a rest.

I've found myself in this situation twice in my life. I drive old cars so... anyways, if you're used to it, it's not so bad. When my father taught me how to drive one of the ways he tested me was to turn off the engine on me. Then, surprisingly, they did the same thing during my drivers test. Later in my life when those two engine stalls happened to me I was well prepared. One happened on an off-ramp in a large Buick, and that was a bit scary. But I was still able to control the car.

btw. if anyone is wondering why this is such a problem now, when not too long ago there was no power steering (and the power steering bit is most assuredly killed this woman) it's because of Rack and Pinion. It has no leverage/mechanical advantage. The ratio to the steering wheel is basically 1 to 1. They actually invented rack and pinion long before it was ever used and it had many advantages over recirculating ball steering, but they didn't think it was useful because of lack of leverage. It was later adopted after the invention of power steering... but now, of course, if you lose power steering, you have trouble turning the wheel. There's a full history of it on Wikipedia I believe.

Re:Public service announcement (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46618895)

If the car is a manual, you don't want to put it into neutral (if you are trying to slow down). You may as well leave it in gear and have the engine braking to supplement with the (now) non-assisted brakes. You only want to go into neutral if you are trying to extend your range before pulling off the road.

Diff (1)

roothog (635998) | about 5 months ago | (#46618857)

So he identified the vulnerability by diffing the patch against the original? Seems like a pretty obvious investigative step, as in it's one of the first things you'd want to look at if GM isn't telling you what they changed in the ignition switch. Diffing software security patches to identify vulnerable code is standard practice. I guess the GM thing is maybe interesting since it's mechanical hardware, though investigators in things like fraudulent aircraft parts have been diffing hardware for years.

Airbags not enabled unless engine is running. (1)

Animats (122034) | about 5 months ago | (#46618871)

If you have to kill the engine for some emergency, that shouldn't disable the air bag system. Perhaps the air bag system should be powered whenever either the ignition is on or the vehicle is out of Park.

How does an engine shutting down cause an accident (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46618883)

This is the part that confuses me. So your engine shuts down on the highway. You have a moment's confusion as to why your car is slowing, and safely steer to the side and stop. From my reading of the article, this driver was driving too fast for the conditions, and the moment's confusion about why the car was not still being accelerated at high speed was too much for the driver's apparently limited skill.

The engine's failure was a minor part of the many causes for this accident.

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