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.