I’m not saying cars that can potentially kill their passengers are actually good — definitely not. Cost saving in the face of preserving human life is a bad look, no matter who you are. However, the suite of small vehicles GM fitted with those bad ignition switches were indeed good, if you overlook the whole, you know, deadly crashes thing.
How did I come to this conclusion? Simple — these vehicles were some of the last small, affordable sedans available not just from the General, but from any American brand. The Saturns, Chevrolet Cobalts, Pontiacs and others in the staggering amount of recalled cars were the kinds of vehicles that once set up young customers as loyal brand standard bearers. But there’s more money in SUVs and light trucks. GM has followed Ford in mostly banishing affordable small vehicles from their line up and that is a damn shame.
I personally owned a 2004 Saturn Ion (yup, I’ve owned both an ignition switch vehicle and a cheater diesel.) It was perfect for a poor college student and ran like a tank for eight years before a fuel pump problem proved too costly to fix for what the car was worth. Still, that car was bullet proof all those years. Sure, it was trying to kill me the whole time, but what’s a little mechanical failure between friends?
Were these cars sexy and exciting? Hell no, but at least they were accessible to lower income folks and didn’t perpetuate all of the problems an SUV-filled world causes. That’s not much comfort, however, to the 124 people killed by these faulty ignitions, or their families. Neither is the $594 Million GM had to pay up in lawsuit settlements.