GM “Autopsy” Teams Do Forensic Research on the Chevrolet Cruze


New technology and advanced engineering and research from big car makers have given us items like collision warning systems, blind spot monitors and advanced braking technology, as well as airbags and other driver and passenger protections. But that’s not the only kind of research that large auto makers are doing to bring the best possible results to their customers. While you might not think that forensic science has any place in the R&D department of a car company, recent news from General Motors shows GM staffers crawling around the frames of Chevrolet Cruze vehicles like the bloodhounds on Dexter, bringing the same sharp eye to automotive decay that old hands in city police departments bring to a fresh crime scene.

Simply put, the frantic researchers at GM are looking for rust. After subjecting vehicles to advanced wear and tear in labs and off-road tracks, teams take the cars apart, hunting for any traces of corrosion, doing thousands of individual spot welds and carefully examining parts of the car that would never be visible to buyers of used models down the road. According to General Motors, it takes researchers a full two weeks to go over these cars with a fine toothed comb.

So what does this mean for General Motors customers?  Although advanced research on rust may not make a difference to some buyers, there’s a good chance that it will save others a good deal of money when their aging GM or Chevrolet vehicles are going through those annual state inspections, where even a small amount of rust on the body can cause the car’s owner quite a bit of money. While we’ve often stressed the primary importance of the best transaction price and financing deal for new and late model cars, it’s also necessary to look at the costs of ownership, and one of those major costs is the amounts that vehicle owners need to pay to their mechanic shops each year when specific wear issues cause their cars to fail the test, and drivers are forced to pay up, or take the vehicle off of the road. The bottom line is that knowing more about what auto makers are doing to improve vehicle design can help you make better choices at the lot, whether you are shelling out for a new car or taking on the maintenance burden of a much older one.