The Seals Have It—or Don’t

April 19, 2006

Look at some of GM’ sedans very closely. Check out the back doors of the Buick LaCrosse, Saturn Aura and Buick Lucerne, for example. Does your eye, like mine, go straight to the ugly window gasket that stares back at you? The gaskets round the corners of the upper left and right parts of the window. It’s the automotive design version of walking around with toilet paper stuck to your shoe.

At the Saturn party in New York during Auto Show week, I listened in while GM’s design chief explained the problem to a reporter. Welburn said it was too expensive to fix, that the company put its money elsewhere, such as the leather insets in the back seats of the Aura. He also said that it was a tricky manufacturing job to clean it up.

Too much money? I thought this was the type of thing that drove Bob Lutz nuts. When you go up to a car to open the door, as a vehicle owner will every day, the eye is right on this ugly and sloppy job of packaging. It will be reinforced every time the car owner goes to open his or her door.

I walked around the show floor looking for anything like it, done as badly. I didn’t check out every car, of course. But I was struck by the fact that not only did I not see the same sloppy door/window treatment on Toyotas and Fords, but I also didn’t see it on Kias. I stopped and asked Kia marketing chief Ian Beavis about it. “If it was expensive to do it this way, we wouldn’t be doing it.” There must be another reason for the GM lapse. Mr. Lutz?—Jim Burt

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