Did GM “betray” America?

BY STEVE MAICH

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This morning marks a watershed moment in the history of GM: It has decided to dispense with spin and throw itself on the mercy of the North American People. A new full-page ad appearing in several newspapers, acknowledges that it has disappointed consumers and even violated their trust with shoddy quality and “lackluster” design. It itemizes a few other mistakes too, like having too many brands, troo many dealers, and focusing too much on SUVs and pick-ups.

It amounts to an “it’s all my fault” apology/beg for public money. I suppose when the American (and Canadian) taxpayer
is about to hand over billions to save your bacon, they expect abject humility from the recipient. But, I gotta say…I don’t see how they betrayed anybody. They ran the business badly, sure. But some of their mistakes were pretty populist in nature. For example, one of their key mistakes was handing over industry-leading, and incredibly generous salaries and benefits to their workforce. Those decisions now threaten to kill the company. But at the time, they were simply dealing openly and generously with their unionized workforce. The alternative would have been to hold firm and watch them go out on strike…all while listening to labour leaders say how they were “betraying” the workforce.

Same goes for the product mix. They focused on SUVs and pick ups because they were profitable and popular. Now they aren’t and GM is in trouble. Tough break, but hardly a betrayal. Quality was pretty bad in the past, but for the past decade or so it’s been pretty good and getting better.

Whatever it takes to get the billions, I suppose. But the price of a bailout seems to be Rick Wagoner’s pride (and possibly his job).




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