I received a recall letter for my wife Christine’s vehicle, a 2009 Chevrolet Cobalt. The General Motors letter is printed below with slightly dramatic modifications:
You have received this letter because we are conducting a mass recall on your vehicle and several vehicles like it that we have manufactured. Some of these defective vehicles have killed people.
How many people? That’s a tricky question. Thirteen that we will actually admit to. However, an independent consumer watchdog group claims we are responsible for as many as 303 motorist deaths. That might sound like a large number, but it isn’t. It’s barely enough for the federal government to force us to recall our faulty vehicles.
These recalls replace ignition switches, ignition cylinders, keys and — you know what? It might actually be easier to list the things this recall isn’t replacing.
Long story short, we are conducting this massive recall of 1.6 million vehicles — some tax-funded thanks to the auto bailout — because they kill people. Not a lot of people, just an incredibly small number of people. We would love to hear from that small percentage of people, but unfortunately at least 13 to possibly 303 of them are dead. But hey, you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet, right?
We conducted 80 tests on these flawed automobiles after people started dying. At first we didn’t really seem to care. Recalls are expensive, though not as expensive as the billions and billions of dollars handed to us by the federal government for the automobile bailout. We tried our best to act like the vehicles weren’t defective, but more people kept dying. Well isn’t that a kick in the teeth?
These recall tests we conducted involved driving our shoddy vehicles at high speeds on rough roads, across railroad crossings, river rocks, potholes, cobblestones and last but not least, the American middle class, figuratively speaking of course.
Luckily during these tests, none of our stunt drivers died.
The conclusion of these rigorous tests, mixed with bureaucratic pressures from Washington and crybaby relatives of dead family members, forced us to concede that our “defective death machines” are extremely, well how do I put this? We are terrible at admitting fault and providing apologetic sentiments. We are sorry our vehicles are extremely — hey, quick, look over there!
This next part is tough. We acknowledge that our vehicles have faulty ignition switches that can disable our automobiles’ safety systems. Some of our vehicles just shut off while a motorist is driving; leaving said motorists blissfully unaware they are about to either die or endure a near-death experience. Not to beat a dead horse (or a dead motorist), but yeah, some of our airbags don’t deploy correctly, or deploy at all. Let’s not make this a big deal.
Oh, I should also mention that it’s also possible to remove the ignition key while the engine is running, making it probable for a vehicle to rollaway and careen into anything in its path, from itty-bitty dogs to bicycling children.
In order to get your vehicle fixed as soon as possible, give your local GM dealership a call. Once connected, we will make it painfully difficult for you to speak to a live human being. Even when you do, one of our customer service representatives will politely ask for your patience because it will take months before we have enough parts to fix every car. So expect a long wait.
In the meantime, just keep driving your automobile. There is a very good chance that you won’t die due to our defective murder-mobiles.
We know these recalls may have worried and inconvenienced you. On behalf of everyone at GM, we are working to retain your trust after killing so many people. We are confident that, in the future, we can learn from this and become a better company.
Alan Batey, president of General Motors, North America division
To contact Will E. Sanders email him at email@example.com.