GM rebirth slowed by executive ‘sticker shock’

Wednesday, July 15, 2009 at 12:00am

GM has emerged from the pain of bankruptcy after only 40 days with the new CEO, Fritz Henderson, a second-generation GM man, touting the miraculous rebirth.

The new General Motors will not play ball like the old, sluggish giant, said the federally anointed CEO. The 2.0 version will do its best to listen and be more responsive to the general public.

That would seem appropriate considering the American public owns 60.8 percent of the common stock, purchased with a $50 billion dollar bailout. That’s a price so high that the stock would have to rise to unprecedented levels in order for taxpayers to break even on their investment. That’s unlikely in the foreseeable future.

So far, the new corporate communication toolbox has amounted to a new button on the Web site called, Tell Fritz, that lets the public tell their new pal, Fritz what’s up in their world. Apparently, all of these years all that was needed was a little tweak. GM’s 50 percent share of the American auto-buying market that eroded down to 20 percent and their reputation for quality workmanship that slipped even further got there from the lack of an email.

Countless focus groups, editorials, sales figures and letters just weren’t making it all the way to the executive suite. But we can relax now because there’s a button that fixed all that. Yeah, tell the folks in Spring Hill that.

Forbes recently came out with a list of cars that aren’t worth the sticker price before they’re purchased and one of the leading criteria used was consumer satisfaction. Care was taken to make sure that the results would be a fair reflection. The data came from sources such as J.D. Power's 2008 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) survey results, from Vincentric, an auto industry group that looks at monthly marketplace inventory, demand, rebates and incentives, and from Consumer Report’s Owner Satisfaction results.

Every car or truck on the overpriced list came from Detroit’s Big Three. Surveys showed that a big part of the reason consumers in large numbers won’t open their wallets at a GM lot were because they don’t feel anyone’s listening, even now. Tactics like a passive button on a Web site probably won’t do much to change their opinions.

Here’s a different kind of idea that might make it possible for the GM suits to change all of that.

The newly slimmed down executive committee, which is made up of the same, remaining executives who drove GM into the ground, should hit the road and actually meet the potential consumers who made it possible for them to still have a job.

Go out there and have a few town meetings but without screened questions and carefully vetted audiences that make sure everyone voices the right opinions.

Let all of the guarded walls that buried an American institution fall down and invite the criticism on a much grander scale. Don’t answer back with tired clichés or vague promises.

Let everyone kick the tires and get the details about the inner workings. Give back accountability and actually practice transparency. Set an example of leadership rather than just make references to it. Empty showrooms from the dealers who got the pink slip can be used for the meetings.

If GM stays on the current track they will most likely survive all of their past grievances but a price will still be paid. A short list includes the taxpayers who paid for all of this but can’t get universal health care, the bond holders who were left with a diminished return, the 35 percent of the management level that was laid off, the creditors who will have to fight over scraps to get legitimate bills to GM paid and the dealers who believed in brands like the discontinued Saturn and bet their life’s savings on it.

However, if GM executives were to invite a series of open discussions that we can all watch, then we’d know it’s not just business as usual.

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4 Comments on this post:

By: idgaf on 7/15/09 at 5:01

They don't have to sell cars , thanks to barry they have unlimited government funds to produce the cars he wants produced.

By: TH on 7/15/09 at 5:59

Oh, they will sell the cars all right, but to get people to buy them the net price will be down to 5000-7000 -- of course, only for those within certain income or other categories who were likely to have voted for Barry.
We don't need all these meetings to figure out what to produce. Free Enterprise means each dollar everyone spends is a vote for a particular product. Ultimate democracy, really. Too bad Barry decided for us we all want Fiat microcars.

By: sidneyames on 7/15/09 at 6:48

I'm so sick of people like O'man telling us what is good and what is not. He's a crock of crap. He has never been in the boy scouts, unless you count the Muslim militia; he has never run a business unless you count his big business of selling poorly written books to people who read 3rd grade level (most Americans); and he smokes in the white house while putting people in the tobacco industry out of business. I bet he has 10 years worth of cigs stored up in a bunker some where.

By: Airwulf on 7/15/09 at 7:53

GM will never make it because they still have working some of the same idiots who drove them
into the ground in the first place. Fire the whole management team and start over with
people who will be directly accountable to the American public. Either make progress or hit the road Jack. Sadly, I doubl if I will ever buy another American car. The industry is full of greed and incompetence. They say they will give you a 40% discount on price.
What about all the years they screwed the American carbuyer with taking that 40%. They
definitely do not have your best interests at heart on a daily basis. They just blew out a
large dealer that had been in the business 80 years. Man is that every taking care of your neighbor and biting the hand that fed you for 8 decades. We American taxpayers
can sleep well tonight knowing that you have ownership in a company that is destined
to fail through their own stupidity and greed.