14th Apr 2005, 10:18

RUDE? Sorry, but just stating what I know and feel from my experiences so far. But really, it's not very polite to SHOUT either, is it? I'm very happy that you have GM products that you are satisfied with.. Perhaps you can share your experience on what the good ones are (but also include any problems that you have had) so the rest of us are educated on what the good ones are?

I come from Oshawa, ON where our plants build the most GM products in North America. Like the second commenter, I also like to support the local economy, so my last 5 vehicles have all been GM products including the Saturn Ion and an SL2, an Alero and 2 GMC Safari mini vans.

As the second commenter also noted, ALL vehicles (domestic and import) have their share of problems, and I agree. Of all these vehicles, I have been "happiest' with the Safaris, even though with my current one I've had to replace oil cooler lines, intake manifold gaskets and power window motors with only 70,000 Km on the van (pretty major mechanical work for such low mileage?).

Overall though, these vehicles are poorly designed, use cheap interior parts, and have very poor tolerances as far as overall quality in fit and finish. That's not slander, or a generalization, it's just fact.

My biggest concern though is with GM's small car market (the vehicles that I have driven everyday to work for the last 15 years). Why does GM need to design, engineer and produce so many multiple products that are all basically the same, and all end up below par? Case in point: the current Saturn Ion, Chevrolet Cobalt and Optra and Pontiac Pursuit. Or historically, the Cavalier/Sunfire or Corsica/Tempest. Instead of having so many average or below average products, why not just have one or two high quality products and concentrate ALL your efforts into them? Not that I'm endorsing them, but that is how import manufacturers do it - less products with more emphasis on the few products that they make. Unfortunately, we all know the downside of that - it results in a higher vehicle price, which is why GM had found so much success with the Cavalier/Sunfires.

So, again sorry to offend - that wasn't the intent. However, I stand by the review of my Ion - it's a terrible vehicle that I would never recommend - with design problems that GM is not correcting (and are now using the same platform for the Cobalt and Pursuit). However - being the North American and GM Oshawa supporter that I am, I think I'll move up for my next vehicle and try a Buick Regal, because I'm sick of the small car quality. So how about it, those of you that are happy with your GMs? Is the Regal a car I'll be happy with?


14th Apr 2005, 23:22

Second commenter here:

Thank you for your detailed response. You obviously put a lot of thought into your post, and have clearly articulated your opinion. As you correctly picked up on, your subject line hit a nerve with me, albeit I was not the commenter who SHOUTED. Reading your thoughts behind your review though, I can see that you are not deserved of being characterized the way I implied by my comment. I thought your review might have been based purely on preconceived notions, with no real thought put into it. Obviously, this does not apply in your case, so I apologize if I offended you.

To answer your question (s), I do base my beliefs on personal experience with GM, and cars in general. My experiences with GM have by far been mostly positive, but I would be naive to say that the company has not had its share of problems. I work as an electrical engineer now, but I was formerly (until 1997) a GM factory trained/certified technician. In that position, I saw the good and the bad first hand.

I have owned many cars, which have been a mix of GM and non-GM. With the GM's, I experienced two inexcusable defects resulting from poor design (I am telling you everything, as you requested). The first problem was a very prominent problem on GM vehicles (which should have been caught and corrected) throughout the 1980's and into the 1990's. GM alternators were garbage, and I had to replace the alternator on every GM car I owned up until (not including) my current one. The alternator defect/problem has now finally been corrected.

From working at the dealership, I basically new that the alternators were faulty going into my purchases, and that I would have to replace them. The alternators going bad were really the only problem I ever had with any of my GM vehicles, until I bought the absolute disaster vehicle of my life, a '93 Saturn SL2.

Like clockwork, the SL2 alternator blew. If that was the only problem the car ever had, I would have been made in the shade. But, to my surprise that I did not know at the time, the 1.9L engine in the SL's had notoriously bad rings, and were oil guzzlers. Believe me, you are dealing with someone here, who meticulously maintains their cars, and drives very easy, so the engine problems were not remotely my fault.

The 1.9L Saturn engine defect (not the new 2.2L ECOTEC, which is a fantastic engine... more on that later) is now a well-known problem. The fact that GM could have let that happen, by any standards, was inexcusable. Believe it or not, I actually swore off GM for several years after that, even to the extent of going over to the dark side, and buying a Nissan.

Needless to say, I eventually came back, but I will never forget my experience with that SL2. I reviewed it accordingly on this site, because I do not want GM to ever forget what they did to customers like me by letting that disaster of a car go to market. I hope for your sake, you had much better luck with your SL2 than I had with mine.

I returned to buying GM, because I saw that they were taking bad models and components (the Saturn SL series, the faulty alternators of days gone by, etc.) off the market, and once again starting to make quality a priority. With the exception of the 1.9 Saturn I4, and some mishaps here and there that were the exception, not the rule, the engines have typically always been quality. The dealership I worked at was a Buick dealership, and we used to see 3.8L V6's, 3.3L V6's, 2.5L (Iron Duke) I4's, and 5.0 and 5.7L V8's routinely roll in with 200K+ miles, running like brand new. GM was, and remains an industry leader in electronic fuel injection, and was far ahead of most other car companies for many years. With the exception of the mid to late 1990's 4.3L motors (which had faulty fuel system designs, but the problem was realized and quickly eradicated), the injection systems were seamless from the late 1980's, up through and including today. They run great.

That 3.8 V6, which you are considering for your Regal purchase, is probably as close to bullet proof in an engine as you can get. I would encourage you to go for that one, without reservation. We used to get the old Circa 80's Supercharged Regal Grand Nationals in the dealership with over 200K miles, running (and often times looking) like they just rolled out of the showroom. It was unbelievable how nice those things sounded too, considering they were V6's.

The 4.3L V6 engines themselves, which you are familiar with in your Safari's, are legendary for their durability. I had one in an S10, which I sold at 150K miles, running like a top, with the compression of a brand new engine. My brother worked for a delivery company with a fleet of S10's, an overwhelming majority of which had over 200K and some 300K miles on the original engines. They were all beaten unmercifully, and all ran great. My brother now works as a police officer, and many of the old LT1 Caprice's are still on the road, running great with 200K+ miles of police service.

The GM vehicle I drive now is a '03 Chevrolet Cavalier. It is a very basic car, but that is the way I like to have it... nice and simple. Like your ION, my Cavalier has the new ECOTEC engine. This engine is a refined machine. It has undergone more durability testing than any other engine GM has ever produced. The engine is/was a joint effort between GM and its corporate partners Saab and Opel. The engine is has great power to displacement characteristics, is a smooth runner, and is built to endure the long haul. The ECOTEC on my Cavalier actually came with a stainless steel exhaust, which is typically unheard of in small cars. In my view, touches like that are a testament to GM's renewed commitment to quality.

You mentioned that some of the body panels might be poor fitting (which I actually have not noticed on my Cavalier), but do not forget that those body panels are two sided thick galvanized steel. I think few people would argue that the sheet metal on North American cars is superior to that of imports. I view it as a trade-off, and would by far opt for the better sheet metal. The internal/mechanical tolerances of the drive components (engine, trans, etc.) are what I feel are a lot more important. Those, I believe, are right on, as is evidenced by the GM drivelines achieving such high mileage, and my own measurement of many of those tolerances in my former days as a technician.

What I am afraid is going to be GM's downfall, which I share your sentiments on, is their business strategy of having so many divisions (Chevy, Pontiac, Saturn, etc.). The models are essentially similar (although the Saturn Ion having plastic body panels is very unique, and in that respect I would substantially differentiate it from the Colbalt). They would be so much more profitable if they dropped some divisions, and just focused on just a few models, and hitting those out of the park.

GM, I believe, has some great products out this model year, all of which I feel very well engineered, and will good long term reliability. There is not any model they are offering now, that I feel I would not be able to trust. GM has made some mistakes, but I believe they have learned from them. The auto industry today is just too competitive to have it any other way. If GM had a good business strategy, they would be unstoppable, but I am afraid I am not too optimistic about the company in that respect.

So, that's basically the abridged version of how I arrived at my comments, and my general thoughts on GM. I guess I am a certified car enthusiast (or nut) for writing all this. But, I felt you deserved me to clarify my remarks, since you graciously clarified yours. Good luck with your car related endeavors, I would again encourage you to take a look at that Regal. It is a solid machine.