ON SECOND THOUGHT

This is somewhat brief, as I am in Athens doing a "real estate tour." I have a single eight-to-ten hour period to find a place to live before making the 12-hour return drive home, and if you have never had to interact with a realtor (in the process of being trucked among a dozen or so residences, many of them radiant examples of shitholeitude) for that long in 95 degree heat, I cannot in good conscience recommend the experience.

Now that GM has finally gone bankrupt – an end which has been inevitable for 15 years, obvious to any rational observer, and painfully protracted – it is a fascinating intellectual exercise to put Roger & Me on the Netflix list and give it another viewing. Moore's primary point in that film was that an employer should not be demolishing factories and terminating employees while making record profits. The company responded that it needed to cut back its workforce and infrastructure in order to remain viable.

Looks like GM was right, weren't they? Of course, the reason that they needed to make cuts so deeply and so urgently was the overwhelming shittiness of their products. That infrastructure and those UAW contracts didn't seem so onerous when they were sitting on 40% of the domestic auto market. Even 30%. It was only when they became an afterthought in sales (despite saturating the market with product and dealers) that their prophecy was fulfilled.

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6 thoughts on “ON SECOND THOUGHT”

  • So does that mean you got a job? Congratulations, sir. I hope you make tenure without a hitch.

    Now that most of Wall Street and Detroit lies in ruins, it would be a good time for the progressives in this country to start questioning the desirability of laissez-faire capitalism a l'americaine. But they seem to be a bit slow on the uptake (maybe, like sufferers from Stockholm Syndrome, they've internalized Reagan's nonsense about gov't being the problem). I see the right is not wasting any time in revising history and framing the argument for the next debate: Wall Street didn't collapse, it was all Fannie Mae and Freddie's fault, whom Clinton had forced to give mortgages to darkies; and Detroit wouda been doin' jes' fine, had it not been for those greedy, inflexible UAW workers who wanted to keep their princely benefits and pensions indefinitely. Even high-minded outfits like The Economist occasionally succumbs to this myth.

  • Sorry, I forgot to close the italics in time. This page doesn't make editing easy for the hapless commenter.

  • Honestly, I am not sure how the "GM is bad quality" meme got started. Certainly they had bad models, as does every car manufacturer. However, their trucks and SUVs were good vehicles (in the quality sense). The bigger problem (at least as I see it) was desirability and market pressure.

    Whereas every car manufacturer has ten models of SUV, there are only a handful of low cost (and high quality) compact and subcompact family vehicles. It's a no-brainer. If you go into a market, even a very active one like the SUV market for 15 years up until The Great Gas Price Gouge, where there are so many options, you will lose. If you go into a less dominant, but still very active, market with only a handful of competitors, you stand a much better chance.

    Now, I don't mean to oversimplify the whole issue to just "if they just would have built car X and then PROFIT" but I do think it shows at least a small part of bigger problem of BAD business decisions that were not related to quality as much as desirability.

  • I was inside the N.A. auto industry for over 20 years. Were were always chasing Toyota on quality. We got better, they were better at getting better.

    But we got better, and GM (not where I worked) probably the most of any American car Co. Sure GM made some pretty sorry shit in the 70's, but that was a long time ago. As parrotlover suggested the meme is just that.

    GM, et al could have gone on surviving and maybe even improved a little, but the economic collapse that started in 2000 (don't be fooled by the ensuing jobless recovery) took down the industry. In very large measure, the financial debacle on recent years is a player.

    It's also true that auto industry management has sucked over the entire period. And the higher you get in the structure, the worse they are. Lousy management, wrong product mix, bad economy —> shitty result..

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