I sent the article to my husband who loves cars and has written letter after letter for years trying to get the American car manufacturers to "wake up," so what is happening didn't happen.
This is Steve's response to the advertisement, excuse me, op-ed piece in the NY Times today.
I'm a firm believer that GM should be saved, if possible through reasonable incentives and loans. At the same time, this puff piece on Wagoner is fundamentally air. During Wagoner's tenure, they managed to take the one brand they had given a reputation, Saturn and turn it into the next Oldsmobile. They built a "halo" car, the Pontiac Solstice/Saturn Sky to compete with the Mazda Miata (introduced in 1989). The car arrived in the market place weighing nearly 400 pounds (like 16%) more than the current Miata (now MX-5) and with a convertible top mechanism so clumsy that when in open mode, there is zero space for luggage. As the dollar was falling against other world currencies, and there was a war in the Middle East, they invested billions in *brand new SUV designs*, which then went to market with cash on the hood of every one. They took brands with real trade value and turned them into "buy our car/truck, please" via constant overproduction. At the introduction of the Prius, GM executives stated that hybrid technology was an unmarketable dead end, although it was apparent at the time that it was a means to understand how batteries operated in a real-world environment. They took the decent Australian-built Holden Monaro and turned it into a "Pontiac GTO" which was so bland in its styling that no one would buy it. The excellent Cadillac CTS was introduced as their "BMW fighter", yet given a face so ugly even mangled BMW styling looked handsome by comparison. And as they were bleeding money, Wagoner kept pulling eight-digit compensation for his "achievements".
Miraculously, some guys at Chevrolet managed to put together a remarkable Corvette and introduce the new Malibu, GM's truly competitive automobile.
Wagoner, true to the lineage of idiots who have run GM since Roger Smith, has presided over what was the world's largest car company and made it so attractive in the investment market that only massive government assistance will keep it afloat.
It is true that the company is better today than it was ten years ago and the quality has improved dramatically. Unfortunately, the gains that were made were in typical GM fashion and economized to be "just good enough" but not enough to be able to sell what they manufacture for anything near MSRP. Every brand they have has been tarnished through rebates and resale values are terrible as a result.
Bill Ford realized that the "good enough" philosophy of the good ol' boys in Detroit wasn't going to hack it and hired a new gunslinger, Alan Mullaly, to take over. Mr. Mullaly has positioned Ford so that of the D3, it has a reasonable chance for survival and profitability even at a dramatically reduced market share. Without bailout money, Ford can survive the current crisis, although they will be tarnished significantly by the failure of GM and Chrysler, and this failure could sufficiently damage their suppliers that they might also fail.
I follow the car business as a hobby, because I happen to like cars. Each time I have bought a new car in the last forty years, I have diligently cross-shopped my purchase with American cars. I bought one, a 1986 Taurus, that was a pretty decent car which needed only the kind of matter-of-fact refinement which is standard at Toyota to sustain its place as the top selling automobile in the U.S. I was so taken by the Taurus that I wrote to the then Ford President to encourage them to tackle the niggling details which kept it from taking huge chunks out of Camry and Accord sales. Ford introduced the "near miss" Lincoln LS and again, with some attention to niggling details this car could have become an American BMW, generating profits similar to BMW's. I remain convinced that worldwide competition has given us an automobile marketplace of simply stunning products. Wagoner's contribution to this marketplace has been to try to "market" largely inferior products in the same old GM manner.
Read what Robert Farago has to say about the NY Times op-ed piece in The Truth About Cars.