General Motors yesterday announced a recall of over 200,000 compact Chevy Aveo models due to a possible fire from the daytime running light feature, or DRLs.
A spokesman for the company admitted that GM intended for the DRL failure to create minor annoyances, hopefully resulting in the customer's intent to upgrade to a larger vehicle in the GM portfolio, such as the Chevy Cobalt. However, after months of investigations and lawsuits around deaths resulting from Cobalt crashes traced to inferior ignition parts, the company is in a difficult position. To compound these problems, numerous other GM models have come under scrutiny since the Cobalt fiasco began, creating hundreds of thousands of recalled vehicles.
GM CEO Mary Barra stated to Congress last month that she was "basically just a secretary right before this promotion" and that she "spent most of the past three decades barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen." However, many auto industry insiders feel Barra is obscuring here own role in potentially decades of corporate malfeasance.
When pressed under oath, Barra reluctantly admitted that GM's customer lifecycle algorithms continued to result in the same outcome: One-time buyers defecting to other brands for subsequent vehicle purchases. To help combat this, she continued, GM "devised a plan to 'change the game' by killing some customers before they could defect."
GM's alleged "Operation Jive Turnkey" would create a myriad of small-scale problems, primarily in the Chevy Cobalt and related vehicles, resulting in either minor annoyances or terrifying death for drivers. GM says they key to this strategy is striking the correct balance of the two results. They also hoped to avoid recalls and class action lawsuits by focusing on the consumers least likely to complain or sue, such as single African-American mothers.
"These [customers] have a full plate – they lead incredibly busy, active lives, often with multiple jobs and children to juggle. For them, the key is finding an affordable car that will be reliable for a few years until they decide to lower their payment by trading for another GM vehicle. Or, in some cases, by perishing. "
GM's interpretation of the traditional industry-wide plan to start customers in entry-level vehicles and slowly move them upmarket was turned on its head by the news.
Ford CEO Alan Mulally responded with a statement that "All of [Ford's] previous efforts to execute this ingenious strategy through Focus fires and recalls resulted in nothing but bad PR, so we ultimately decided to stop trying to kill our customers." Mr. Mulally also noted that his previous employer, Boeing, has enjoyed a good deal of success with a similar plan with the 787 Dreamliner, a project that began during his tenure.
Mulally continued, "I initially proposed we call it the 'Deathliner,' but Marketing has the final say on decisions like that. We parted ways amicably and I learned a lot from my time there."