'New GM' Launched With Frank News Conference
The new General Motors -- the post-bankruptcy, largely government-owned, four-brands-instead-of-eight GM -- opened for business this morning and the company just held a news conference to describe the way forward.
A surprisingly frank news conference, it turns out.
It is standard operating procedure, when a company or person or organization is reinventing itself, to badmouth its old ways to show how much different things are going to be in the future.
But just listen to what GM chief executive Fritz Henderson said the New GM would be like, while implicitly telling us what the Old GM has been like for the past several decades.
How stupid do we feel now if we bought a GM vehicle anytime since, oh, about, 1960?
Henderson said at the New GM: "We're working to change, we must change, the culture at GM, with a focus on customers and products, speed, accountability and risk-taking."
In a public service, The Ticker parses Henderson's statement for you, telling you What He Said vs. What He Meant:
What He Said: "...a focus on customers..."
What He Meant: "Because we were the unchallenged global leader in vehicle sales for more than 70 years, we didn't have to listen too hard to consumer feedback. Then, that nasty gas crisis hit in the 1970s and the Japanese imports started streaming in. It's been all downhill since then."
What He Said: "...products..."
What He Meant: "In the 1990s, we fed the niche appetite for trucks and SUVs, which gave us our highest profits, and largely ignored our passenger cars, allowing them to sag in design and quality while the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry gave the American customers what they wanted."
What He Said: "...accountability..."
What He Meant: "When you're No. 1, you don't answer to anyone, baby!"
What He Said: "...and risk-taking."
What He Meant: "Also when you're No. 1, you have little incentive to rock the boat. Thus, we took on water and sank. Now you, the taxpayer, own 60 percent of us."
Henderson said that the executive ranks in the U.S. will be trimmed by a whopping 35 percent this year and average salaries will be cut by 20 percent.
That's more than a haircut.
GM veteran Bob Lutz will head up the company's marketing and communications. Lutz may be GM's best personnel asset, a truly sharp product guy and someone who can put a good face on the company. "We are unretiring Bob Lutz," Henderson said.
Henderson touted his company's "gorgeous" new cars, including the "smoking hot Chevrolet Camaro."
July 10, 2009; 10:41 AM ET
Categories: The Ticker | Tags: Fritz Henderson, General Motors
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