GM recalls 1.5 million cars. Can it recall its image?

Talk about bad timing. Right when General Motors is trying to deflect the bad press about a possible bankruptcy filing, the company has a massive recall. GM said it will recall 1.5 million cars made between 1997 and 2003 for possible engine fires. To critics who have eschewed the idea of government help for GM, this will no doubt conjure up images of the bad old days when big embarrassing recalls were far more common. GM’s quality has improved since the ‘80s and even since the cars in the current recall were built. But what a lousy image problem to deal with. To be fair, Toyota has had some big recalls in recent years, too.

But I can’t cut GM much slack on this one. Sure most of the models in question—they are the Oldsmobile Intrigue, Chevy Lumina, Monte Carlo and Impala, the Pontiac Grand Prix and Buick Regal—aren’t even made anymore. But there’s no excuse. GM has made that 3.8-liter V-6 engine for decades. It has been tweaked and improved over the years, but by 1997 that motor should have been flawless. In any case, just as GM is trying to make the case that it’s worth saving, a big recall is just one more smudge on the company’s sullied image.

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