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The Mind Boggles


To say General Motors is having a few problems is to bask in understatement.  I’ve written about this before:

[O]f all the US manufacturers GM most slavisly reflects Bushian economic philosophy: spend your money lobbying Congress not to legislate fuel efficiency rather than voluntarily adopting it yourself, reward yourself and other top level employees lavishly, pin the blame for your poor decision making on the unions and expect the working class to pick up the tab while you wrestle Oprah for $6,000 handbags at Hermes.

The comparisons to BushCo. still seem apt:

One Wall Streeter deeply familiar with the company recently stated the challenge starkly: "I would say that turning GM around is a harder logistical and managerial task than the invasion of Iraq."

This same Wall Streeter is not kind to the GM generals charged with the rescue job. Describing the company as a "sclerotic bureaucracy," he says a good remedy might be firing the top five people and replacing them with outsiders. A less acid form of criticism has been laid on by the camp of Kirk Kerkorian, whose Tracinda Corp. owns just under 10% of GM’s stock. In January, Kerkorian’s advisor Jerry York, a turnaround veteran himself (at Iacocca’s Chrysler and Lou Gerstner’s IBM), gave a long luncheon speech at the Detroit auto show that accused GM’s executives of lacking "urgency" and "sense of purpose." 


In product design, it lost the magic long ago. "They need irresistibility and head-turners," says one car buff, "and they haven’t had them." The man now on that case is product-development boss Bob Lutz, 74, who, after retiring from Chrysler, was hired by Wagoner in 2001. Tall, elegantly dressed, and outspoken, he is treated like a rock star at auto shows, often attracting more attention than his cars. At the Detroit show in January, touring GM’s space with reporters, he was pleased to point out classy-looking car interiors–"some of GM’s used to be grotesque," he said–and a level of fit and finishes that he judged superb. A reporter needled him: "Bob, I miss those bad fits, those gaps, that you had a while back. I used to store my quarters for tolls in those."

This is the management group, after all, that brought you the Aztec:

The penny-pinchers demanded that costs be kept low by putting the concept car on an existing minivan platform. That destroyed the original proportions and produced the vehicle’s bizarre, pushed-up back end. But the designers kept telling themselves it was good enough.

“By the time it was done, it came out as this horrible, least-common-denominator vehicle where everyone said, ‘How could you put that on the road?’ ” the official said.

Sales never reached the 30,000 level needed to make money on the Aztek, so it abruptly went out of production last year. The tongue-in-cheek hosts of National Public Radio’s “Car Talk” named it the ugliest car of 2005. “It looks the way Montezuma’s revenge feels,” one listener quipped.

And now they have hired as their spokesperson:  Sean Hannity.

Let the drain circle continue. 

(image courtesy

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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