Death To The Bean Counters

Here is a puff piece written about The Volt, GM’s last gasp effort to regain their perch atop the automotive industry.  I don’t agree with the writer’s assessment of the EV1 fiasco…the car was loved by everybody that leased one, (you couldn’t buy it) but when California failed to pass zero emission laws, GM tried to bury or buy the technologies that made that car a reality.

I’m of two minds here.  Part of me loves the fact that Toyota is outselling GM.  Toyota, (and to a lesser extent, Honda) deserve every bit of the market share they have.  While GM moved at a glacier-like pace, they were nimble about producing fuel efficient, dependable cars and making them affordable.  Even when Toyota and Honda were catering to America’s love affair with bigger and bigger vehicles, they still invested heavily in their smaller cars, and made them a little better every model year.  I HATE that they mimicked the American business model for selling their cars…but thats a post for another day.

On the other hand…I want GM to succeed.  There are so many American families dependent on it’s success, and though I don’t know the details (yet) it seems there was a “landmark labor agreement” struck recently.  If they can pay a union level wage, keep their pension agreements AND build this car on schedule, it will be the greatest thing to happen in my lifetime.  In the article I linked to…there was this phrase that likely got missed by most readers.  Yet, it may very well be the key to the Volt’s success:

Engineers, designers, and executives were told to trust their instincts and make decisions on the spot.

What?  No nod to the accounting Gods?  Blasphemy!  GM is a HUGE bureaucracy, for years V.P.s and managers were fiercely territorial, ( jockeying for funding) usually at the expense of innovation, and eventually, profitability.  One need only look at the Cadillac Division and the acquisition of Hummer for proof.  Seriously…Hummer?  I left GM for dead after that.  I applauded Saturn, even when they sacrificed Oldsmobile to prop it up.  I expected Buick to go next….yet, they continue to build and market cars that only appeal to the near incontinent.  They spent millions trying to get successful women to buy Cadillac, hows that working out?  Do any of you know a woman that drives one?  They drive Lexus, BMW, even Acura, but certainly not Cadillac.

I’m sure the guys that stare at ledger sheets are sweating the Volt project.  If it succeeds, maybe other companies will relegate these soul-less wing-tipped score-keepers back to a basement office where they belong.   YEA, I know there has to be someone watching the money, but it seems to me that more and more, business in America has been driven by actuaries and comptrollers, which resulted in an orgy of cost-cutting for cost-cuttings sake.  Maybe a little recklessness is in order.  Perhaps the engineers and tool-makers can shout down the Harvard MBAs in the next meeting.  I keep hoping.

I’m excited by the Volt project.  Its likely that Toyota or Honda or maybe even Tesla will do it first, or do it better, but all in all its great for the American car buyer, and for future generations of Americans that would like to travel this country by car.  Even future accountants.

20 Comments

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20 responses to “Death To The Bean Counters

  1. Did you see that Mercedes is phasing out all petroleum based cars by 2015?

    Also, we both know that GM’s main problem with the Cadillac is that they have no idea how to embrace its main market. There are people buying Cadillacs and there are a ton of people who want to buy Cadillacs. They just aren’t the people who give a shit about Led Zeppelin in a commercial or proving that they’re better than the boys in the office.

  2. Well, I don’t agree that there are a ton of people wanting to buy Cadillacs. There is a residual “status symbol” appeal..but even that is about gone.

    Its an expensive car to own, like Lincolns.

    But yup, those commercials were so bad I was embarrassed for them.

  3. democommie

    Mack:

    Wasn’t there another GM program that went like that? The name escapes me but I think they’re in Smyrna, TN. They didn’t answer to the bean counters and they made great cars utilizing innovative technology. And then they became sorta, I don’t know, mature? and they shitcanned a lot of those “radical” ideas and started doing things the same way as dear old dad.

    Do you think that the Volt project won’t have the same fate if it’s successful. GM’s former chirman (Sloan) said that what was good for GM was good for America–we’ll see.

  4. Demo, yup…but really, they weren’t great cars. The best saturn couldn’t touch the base model civics or corollas, and the consumers, despite loving the customer first environment at Saturn, jumped through the hoops required to buy them.

  5. Well, this would be sure be nice.

    In the meantime, I would hold my breath.

  6. *won’t hold my breath

  7. But you have such nice breath.

  8. Well, just to correct a technicality, Saturns are produced in Spring Hill, Tennessee in Williamson County, and Nissans are produced in Smyrna (Rutherford County).

    I have owned two Saturns. My ex has the first one…he has 230,000 miles on his, and I have 227,000 on mine, and it’s still going strong. I get around 30 miles to the gallon on the highway, which I consider excellent. Runs great. My only complaint has been some cheap gaskets and connections. No, it isn’t glamorous, but it gets the job done.

    I’m curious, Mack as to why you are dogging on the Saturn?

  9. Well, they aren’t Pintos or anything, but the are still nowhere near the Civics or Corollas, imo.

    Resale value is usually a good indicator, and Saturns bring next to nothing come trade in time.

  10. Oh, I agree totally on that…if I had a choice between a Saturn or a Honda or Toyota, I’d go with a Honda.

    Resale value is definitely important…but as you know, I run my cars until they die, so I hardly ever take that into consideration.

  11. democommie

    GingerSnaps:

    My bad, sorry.

    Mack:

    Agreed, I should have qualified my statement by saying that compared to other stuff GM was building at the time Saturn started up that they were better, which I think they were. As little as I like to dicker over prices, that whole, “no haggle pricing” thing always struck me as b.s.

  12. heartbreaktown

    Mr. Wonderful has a 2001 Toyota Camry, 5 speed, original clutch, original everything – miles = 323 k +

  13. heartbreaktown

    American made in KY.

  14. We had two saturns and they were good but not great. Saturn had potential but the bean counters of GM took it over and ended the experiment. The second one had leather upholstery that wore through at 90K miles. The Infiniti we replaced it with has good leather at 200K.

  15. The Infiniti we replaced it with has good leather at 200K.

    Elitist.

  16. democommie

    My Ranger has original floormats at 140K!!

  17. Elitist.

    damn right, pass the arugula. it had butt warmers. i love butt warmers on a cold morning.

  18. If that chick who does the Mercury ads get layed off, she can some stay with me.

    I had high hopes for Saturn until I test drove one. I felt like the thing was going to fall apart once I got above 40 mph.

    I’d driven Nissans for years, now a Toyota. GM can go pound sand. I’m not paying $2500 into a lower quality, more expensive car so some union screw turner can get a golden retirement benefit.

  19. democommie

    Exador:

    Union screw turners do not set company policy nor determine marketing “strategy”. They leave that up to your “free market” heroes.

  20. Pingback: Saturn: My planet & my car « GingerSnaps

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