Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Lets Talk Business for a Change !

So What Happened to General Motors?

  • Over 30,000 employees to be laid off in USA
  • Over 3900 in Canada
  • Dozens of plant closures
  • Stock in the Toilet
  • Investors screwed out of billions of dollars
  • Ripple effect in industrial sector to cost thousands of more jobs
Well what did happen to The General?
In a nutshell arrogance. Call it any other name you care to. I think terms like hubris, pride, blind intransigence all apply to the corporate culture of the American Industrial Icon called General Motors.

Arrogance that allowed the senior executives of the company to continue for decades to skirt the issues of competition. Arrogance in relying on the so called tried and true business practices that to any carefull observer had been eating away at the soul of the company for decades. Arrogance in refusing to admit that their products were not matching the competitions offerings in quality, value and most of all in innovation. Arrogance in never admitting that they were wrong in their judgement of the market and economic conditions in general. Arrogance most of all in understanding (failing to understand or acknowledge) the increasing sophistiction of the car buyer.

Number one problem at GM is product. The only good products that are made by the General are Pickup Trucks, top end SUV's, the Corvette. Every other product has missed the market expectation in quality, price, value, design aesthetics, fuel economy, performance and consumer friendly innovation. In most cases not all of these sins have been committed but some or most of them are part of every vehicle that GM produces.

My assessment of GM products I've seen and driven:
  • Un-inspired design; souless and either un-aesthetic or just un-original and un-appealing with many vehicles or styling ques taken from competitors offerings
  • With the exception of the V8 engines; Vibration and lack smooth response from all 4 and 6 cylinder engines( oh yeah the I5 cylinder too ), gas guzzling in all discplacement ranges and less sophisticated performance if not just less horsepower.
  • Noisier Driving; more tire noise, more wind noise, more engine/exhaust noise, more drive train noise and more body resonance than competition in each price range.
  • Poor Suspension; while GM has come light years ahead of where they were in the 70's they are still lagging and always have lagged behind the competition in ride quality and overall handling
  • Seat belts; there is no reason for GM seatbelts to be as un-userfriendly as they were 30 years ago and yet they are. Fit and finish, mechanisms and pieces are all cheap,clunky and uncomfortable.
  • Substandard tires; all factory fitted tires on GM vehicles are crap.
  • Accessories and controls are generally cheap and poorly designed. there are still some parts in GM cars that look like they came from my '82 buick wagon.
  • Lack of thought and concern for driver convenience ergonomics; better than 30 years ago but not nearly as well done as any of the competition. Steering wheel size and position, control pedal size and position, control feel and feedback are all less than ideal
  • Allways one step behind the competition in car electronics and allways overly complicated when they do get new stuff in the car.
  • Every GM vehicle I've driven or seen gives me the feeling that every last aspect of the vehicle was a compromise decided on by a committee.....And I hate that feeling!
  • There is nothing to love about any GM vehicle!
Can GM be repaired? Oh yeah! Rick Wagoner CEO of the company should release all divisions to act as business units with one goal. That would be to build better cars. Fire the entire marketing oraganization for incompetence. Fire all the business analysts and all consultants they have been using. Fire the design and product development organizations. He can finish the job by hiring someone with the vision and leadership capabilities of a Lee Iacocca to replace himself and fire himself as a final act of managerial diligence.

GM management have allowed arrogance to prevent them from seeing the deficiencies in their business practices and in their products. Take some humble pills and get someone in the house to fix the problems.


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