AUTO INDUSTRY INSIDER
BY: William Phenn
Unsafe At Any Speed.
That was the title of a TV exposé of the Auto Industry a few years back.
But are we any safer today? Are the vehicles we entrust to carry our children and family members any safer now than they were back in the 70s? Maybe. When you finish reading this article, I leave it for you to judge.
H2 Hummer: Big, sturdy off road vehicle, or an accident waiting to happen?
Next time you see a Hummer at the grocery parking lot, look under the body. Notice how the frame starts off with a very beefy, heavy side rail at the front. But as you continue to follow it back, you will notice the last third of the frame narrows down. Down to a smaller section that is less than half the size of the original. And the worse part of this is the location where the two frame sections are joined. Right in front of the backseats! Isn’t that where the law says we are supposed to put our kids? Doesn’t the law state that we must buckle them in their little car seats, strapped safely in the backseat? Safely? Now there’s a misnomer, you have them in a H2 Hummer. What the ads on TV, in the papers and your dealership don’t tell you is that the vehicle is limited in what it can handle. The portion of the frame where it is joined is the weakest part of that frame. The manufacturer tells you (in the vehicle manual) that the vehicle is limited to what amounts to a 14 ft. Aluminum Boat hitched to it, that’s it! If you exceed that load, even once, it weakens the joint where the frame sections are welded. So consequently, every time you actually take it off road; you are putting yourself in danger. There is an enormous amount of stress put on any vehicle when taken off road. But the H2, with its (cost saving) frame design is a disaster. I use the term, Cost Saving in describing the frame design because I was given proof. Proof that shows the Original design was supposed to be Leaf Spring Suspension and not Coil. But because leaf springs were not a standard item for GM (General Motors prefers to use Coil Springs for that cushy GM ride), they elected to use Coil Springs. It only gets better from here. Since there was no off the shelf Coil Spring design that could handle the very heavy frame the H2 originally was designed with, they cheapened the frame. They did this by borrowing a rear frame section from an existing (very light e.g. Chevy S10) truck that was already in production. In this way they saved themselves thousands of dollars in development costs and more in tooling and production.
As a parting remark I’d just like to mention that this is not an unusual case. Our illustrious Auto Industry has been doing this since the first car came off Henry Ford’s assembly line. The difference between then and now is, I was not around then, I am now.
William Phenn has been in the Auto Industry for over thirty six years and will be writing his column in Daizzee's Drrt in every issue. He will be writing and exposing little known facts about Autos and the Auto Industry.