Inside General Motors' Top Secret Extreme Vehicle Tests


The now leaner, meaner, post-bailout GM believes its tests are working, so much so that this summer the company staked everything on an unprecedented money-back campaign. "If you're not happy with your new Chevy, return it," the company's commercials, played endlessly during the Olympics, boasted.

But despite its vigorous testing, General Motors just last month recalled over 40,000 vehicles over potential fuel leak concerns, according to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report.

And Consumer Reports ranked GM 12 out of 13 car companies for reliability in its most recent list, noting that models designed by the "old GM" are dragging the automaker's score down. So "Nightline" pressed GM about that.

Chris Perry, GM's vice president of U.S. marketing, said the company's process is improving.

"We believe in the products we're developing," he said. "[And] we're saying 'hey, you know what, we recognize the ills of our past, but do yourself a favor and compare us again.'"

A bright spot: GM's crash test results are far better now than they were in the past, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which has named some GM vehicles as "Top Picks" for safety.

GM now conducts more than 50 different crashes before releasing a new model, including frontal collision, t-bone crash and a roll-over crash tests. Nightline was on hand for one such test so secret we were only allowed to film it from select angles, because the vehicle has not even been released yet.

In total, "Nightline" was allowed to film eight tests, an incredible series of splashes and crashes. But for the new GM, the true test is whether more people will buy its cars and that test is just beginning.

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