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Imagine committing to a companion based only on the carefully-edited profile and photo from a matchmaking website. Disappointment would be inevitable. Unless you didn’t have to live with the less-than-perfect reality:

As you probably know, ever since GM was founded, its execs have either been driven by a chauffeur or provided with carefully prepared and maintained examples of the company’s most expensive vehicles. Of course, there are times when the suits must sign off on the company’s more prosaic products. Since 1953, this intersection between high flyer and mass market occurred at GM’s Mesa, Arizona, Desert Proving Grounds (DPG). The execs would fly into Phoenix’s Sky Harbor airport, limo out to the DPG and drive the company’s latest models.

Our agent says that all the vehicles the execs drove were “ringers.” More specifically, the engineers would tweak the test vehicles to remove any hint of imperfection. “They use a rolling radius machine to choose the best tires, fix the headliner, tighten panel and interior gaps, remove shakes and rattles, repair bodywork—everything and anything.”

The execs never saw the real product, twenty pounds heavier, loose and lopsided. They only drove supermodels.

Test engineers would “airbrush” out the flaws to get new models approved for production. This suggests an opportunity for process improvement—pass the info to the factory so those flaws are not built into the cars. But that’s not how GM operates:

Well, did the DPG at least send a list of changes to the design and production teams? “The tweaks were never reported to anyone,” he says. “That would’ve been a sure way to kill your career . . . We’d see the cars come back to us after production with the exact same problems.”

H/T: Brian Dunbar