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Ernie Harwell went to bat for Pontiac

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Ernie Harwell went to bat for Pontiac

Automotive News -- May 10, 2010 - 12:01 am ET

Other than the most recent marketing shake-up at General Motors, the big people news in Detroit last week was the death of former baseball announcer Ernie Harwell.

Harwell, who called Detroit Tiger baseball games for nearly a half century, was practically the official voice of summer for a couple of generations of Detroit 3 honchos and workers -- not to mention suppliers, dealers and other fans in the Midwest.

Harwell also helped John DeLorean try to improve quality at GM's old Pontiac Motor Division.

In June 1965 when DeLorean became Pontiac general manager, the division still ran assembly plants. DeLorean wanted to improve Pontiac owner loyalty -- which was then about 70 percent -- and figured boosting quality was the way to do it.

So in December 1965, the division cut a promotional record exhorting all Pontiac employees to aim for zero defects.

The A side of the record, a rare 8-inch, 33 1/3 -rpm disc, was "Who Says Nobody's Perfect?" It opens with Harwell asking, "Who says nobody's perfect?'' Then he tells the story of New York Yankee pitcher Don Larsen's perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1956 World Series.

A couple of other voices chime in about more sports perfection, followed by a discourse on examples of manufacturing excellence -- "When was the last time you bought a pack of cigarettes with 19 or 21 smokes in a pack? The chances are almost zero."

Then DeLorean closes with a 90-second explanation that all Pontiac employees, including himself, need to show the world the kind of high-quality products they can design, build and sell.

The B side was "'Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah,' a musical interpretation of zero defects." The lyrics include "Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay; Zero defects is the Pontiac way."

OK, it was hokey -- even for back then.

But it was an early attempt to deal with nagging quality issues that eventually did cost GM millions of customers.

Who knew?

Read more: http://www.autonews.com/article/20100510/RETAIL03/305109963/-1#ixzz0nX8zKJqt

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