America’s a wonderful place, isn’t it? It’s the sort of wonderland where everyone can have opportunities, where paupers can become industrious princes at the tip of their soot-ridden caps. It’s a country where even those who admit to knowing nothing about the car industry whatsoever can lead a semi-nationalized beheamouth known as General Motors.
“A business is a business, and I think I can learn about cars. I’m not that old, and I think the business principles are the same,” Edward E. Whitacre Jr. said, and he certainly has the acumen to back up his assertion that effective corporate leadership is not necessarily synonymous with a limitless knowledge of the products they’re creating.
"We sell cars? Oh. And the one that's going to save us might look like THIS?"
A successful 43-year stint at AT&T may show that he can manage effectively, which is something that General Motors has been lacking for decades, but now that the company is mostly held up by the federal government, and thereby a public venture, just how are people going to react when they see that the Chairman of the Board of the company they just bailed out is in the dark as to how the car industry works?
This begs the question of why Whitacre would even admit to such a thing. Though he can be granted some kudos for being honest, why he would seek out to dismantle public trust of his credentials is unknown to me. Pleading ignorance may work when you’re a kid and you knock over a vase, sprinting into the next room and telling your mom that you have no idea what happened. But when you’re going to be the chairman of a gigantic ticking time bomb of a company that now is gobbling billions of taxpayer dollars, acting like Gomer Pyle might not be the best course of action.
It makes perfect sense now that I think about it…if GM is failing at making cars that people want to use, then of course it should venture into the highly goofy market of personal transportation vehicles and team up with Segway. The bizarre child of a joint effort between GM and Segway Inc., the PUMA (which of course stands for Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility, though it riding an actual puma would also be an inexpensive alternative to a car) looks like an escape pod with wheels.
Needless to say, most people will look at the vehicle and wonder just who the heck would buy such a thing, even if it can go 35 mph, runs on battery power and is estimated to cost about a fourth as much as a car. Just look at it! A bunch of schoolchildren could push it over. This country has to get serious about an alternative to our current method of vehicular transport, but the prevailing tastes are going to be hard to change, especially with such a creature as this…
Here's the PUMA, as for some of its counterparts...
And here's the escape capsule for a B-58 Hustler, a plane that should have no problem with PUMAs or COUGARs.
And here's personal transportation that this nation can really get behind.
Wagoner displaying the number of GM cars sold last year.
Rick Wagoner, the former CEO of General Motors, is on the outs. This should come to little surprise, given his general ineptitude and the general failure of GM to do much of anything successful. The company’s market share has been dwindling for years, and there was little indication, given Wagoner’s track record from his previous nine years as CEO, that he would be able to change this.
This comes as a shock for two reasons. One being that someone high up in the hierarchy of a multinational corporation is facing such an inglorious end as a result of failure (the indignity!) and the other being that he was fired by President Obama.
Sure, Obama won’t be handing Wagoner the pink slip, he’s far too busy preparing for his appearance on “Ellen” or something. But his administration has effectively pressured and apparently blatantly requested Wagoner’s departure.
Tomorrow, Obama will be announcing his plans for the auto industry, which hopefully won’t include a series of bailouts similar to the banking industry. Then on Tuesday, GM and Chrysler are scheduled to prove to the government that they can be eventually profitable, and if not, the $13.4 and $4 billion already respectively loaned to them will be retracted.
Right now, big government fanboys and Ayn Rand acolytes should be chomping at their bits. Dreams of government involvement in or dismissal of the auto industry will be flourishing during their sleep tonight. Whichever wins will signal a huge shift in U.S. policy, one that will shape the relationship between private industry and governmental policy for years to come.