Ladies and gents, how many situations like this do we have now in the Navy, and how do we kill them before they get this bad?
As you probably know, ever since GM was founded, its execs have either been driven by a chauffeur or provided with carefully prepared and maintained examples of the company’s most expensive vehicles. Of course, there are times when the suits must sign off on the company’s more prosaic products. Since 1953, this intersection between high flyer and mass market occurred at GM’s Mesa, Arizona, Desert Proving Grounds (DPG). The execs would fly into Phoenix’s Sky Harbor airport, limo out to the DPG and drive the company’s latest models.
Our agent says that all the vehicles the execs drove were “ringers.” More specifically, the engineers would tweak the test vehicles to remove any hint of imperfection. “They use a rolling radius machine to choose the best tires, fix the headliner, tighten panel and interior gaps, remove shakes and rattles, repair bodywork—everything and anything.”
Did the execs know this? “Nope. And nobody was going to tell them . . . As far as they knew, the cars were exactly as they would be coming off the line. That’s why Bob Lutz thinks GM’s products are world-class. The ones he’s driven are.”
I asked Agent X if the GM execs would ever drive the cars again. Did he know if Wagoner or Lutz dropped in at a dealership to test drive a random sample off the lot? He found the idea amusing.
Well, did the DPG at least send a list of changes to the design and production teams? “The tweaks were never reported to anyone,” he says. “That would’ve been a sure way to kill your career . . . We’d see the cars come back to us after production with the exact same problems.”
This is why I think INSURV results have to be not only unclassified but public; only embarrassment will fix some problems. Classification, especially the insidious “unclassified but special” categories we invented after 9/11, can invite overcontrol of information, improper use and worse. Special places to go look at stuff invite special tweaking. Every boat I knew at one point took the exercise equipment out of the engine room for the inspection, then put it right back in afterward…and everyone knew it, and so did the inspectors. This example is silly, not dangerous; however, there are dangerous ones out there. What are they and how do we correct them?
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