January 05, 2009
Bailing Out of GM

After selling my business in 1977, I tried buying a Cadillac from a dealer in Plattsburgh, NY. I picked out a car, tested it, liked it. I told the dealer I would take it with no trade, pay cash and pay his asking price — about $20,000.

I only asked one small thing: “I live in the mountains and can only get adequate reception with a Sony. So please take out the radio in it now and install the Sony that’s in my old wagon.”

He thought for a while and said, “I can’t do that. What would I do with the Delco that is in the Caddy?”

“I’ll take that one off your hands,” I said, “and give it to a friend.”

He said, “We can’t make that swap in our shop,” explaining that I’d have to have a specialty shop do it, and pay them for the swapping the radios.

I said, “Goodbye,” and departed.

Later I spent a year in Michigan and bought an expensive, new Oldsmobile wagon. It was a diesel — the newest thing in big Oldsmobiles, and, I was soon to learn, not quite the best thing. Popular Mechanics was later to brand it one of the 10 worst cars in GM history.

It could barely climb the Adirondack Mountains on the way home. Winter came and the car would not start, and when it did start it wheezed. An employee of mine joked, “You’ll need a tow truck to get around in that car.”

I kept taking it to the Oldsmobile dealer for warranty work, but it never ran correctly, and the dealer was not able to to fix it. Later I learned that GM had issued what the dealer called a “silent recall.” That is when a car is flagged with a problem and GM warns its dealers but fails to tell the customer and refuses to offer any remedy. The dealer told me the diesel motors never worked, but GM refused to take the car back. I traded it quickly and took a terrible bath.

When the foreign cars came in with the Volkswagen, I bought three in a row, and I bought a fleet of Datsun trucks for my business. Since my experience with GM I have done my best to avoid purchasing any domestic cars.

Popular Mechanics in a recent article contends GM is currently making several excellent cars, but the company cannot live down its past of making junk, palming it off on the customer, failing to tell the customer, and then refusing to make restitution.

My experience with the US automakers’ arrogance, stupidity, cheating and lousy quality resulted in their losing about 30 new auto sales to my business and family. Needless to say I oppose bailing the bastards out with my money until they refund the $22,000 in 1978 dollars GM stole from me.



Posted by Bill Doolittle at January 05, 2009 11:12 AM
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I had an `80 Cutlass (gas) v-8, it wasn't worth a hoot either; never ran right. Just imagine how many people they've screwed over the years...lying liars. Where's the justice? Where is our advocate?

Posted by: mickey on January 5, 2009 1:42 PM

Funny stories, but I can't say I understand why you would expect the dealer to install a used radio into a brand new car. Why would that keep you from buying the car.It's not so simple as it sounds. I would have preferred an audio shop regardless.

Caddies of that vintage were decent cars if overpriced.

So you went out and bought a 78'Olds diesel. Wow.
Suppose it could have been worse, you might have gone for the Toranado diesel.

Sounds like you learned from the experience though.

You don't say what you drive now.

Posted by: lefty27 on January 5, 2009 1:50 PM

Pat Humphrey's folk song "Buy this American" car come to mind. I think this is the only link to it on the net:


A sample:

This car was assembled in part,
right here on American soil.
Suspending your kin on some cheap foreign import
makes General Motor's oil boil.
Components were carefully gathered
from factories foreign and far,
then assembled right here by American robots.
Hey! That's an American car.

Buy, buy, this American car.
It has waited so long, it has traveled so far.
Buy this American car.

Go take a listen of a sample at the link.

But I've had better luck than you, primarily because I usually take the hand me downs from someone in the family who got the "itch" to get a new car. So I know before I get them how much trouble they've caused.

Posted by: Buck on January 5, 2009 3:17 PM

I would have done the same thing, Lefty. The point isn't the radio. The point is that the dealer was so dumb that he wouldn't eat a $20 or so installation charge to make a $20,000 sale. What kind of post-purchase customer service could you expect from a guy like that? He plainly doesn't have enough brains to pound sand.

Posted by: Furber on January 5, 2009 7:14 PM

I'm driving an Opel Agila, a Minivan with ample space and a fuel consumption of about 6 litres per 100 kilometers.

It's proved to be a very reliable and cheap car, as far as repairs and spare parts are concerned. We bought it second hand five years ago, when it was two and a half years old and had a mileage of 30.000 km, for 5.200 EUR. The dealer offered to include a new set of winter tires.

Opel is GM. So this seems to be not a problem of GM, but GM/US.

Posted by: Peter on January 6, 2009 11:16 AM

You Doolittle boys are on a roll!

Posted by: nolierob on January 6, 2009 3:56 PM
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