By on December 20, 2006

img0004222.jpgGary Cowger recently sat down with Wards Automotive for a good old kvetch. GM’s group Vice President of Global Manufacturing and Labor Relations complained that news of his employer's financial woes was overshadowing their brilliant new products. Gary blamed excessive media coverage and speculation. “There’s a lot of noise in the system, and that’s because we live in an age of transparency like the world has never seen before… It’s almost too much information out there.” As you might expect from such a staunch defender of bridled free speech, Cowger has taken steps to rectify the situation– at least in-house.

In 1999, Cowger installed a “communicator” in every GM plant and office. He's charged these management mouthpieces with explaining GM's hopes, dreams and schemes to their co-workers. Gary’s convinced that his network of [dis]information specialists has already delivered big dividends. “I think the open communication with people at all levels helped facilitate our ultimate health-care deal, because everyone was convinced there was a problem and everyone was willing to work to solve it.”

At the risk of bringing the noise, note Gary’s unintended irony. Deploying a bunch of company stooges "communicators" to “convince” employees to rubber stamp a bogus health care deal window-dressed by both management and the UAW doesn’t sound like the definition of “open communication” to me. Yes, but– you gotta give Gary credit for holding his nose and dipping his e-toes into the “new media.” His department now conducts regular on-line chats with 40 GM employees from around the world.

Cowger proudly asserts that participants in his electronic confabs aren’t required to reveal their identity– at least not to each other. (Cowger selects the group.) Gary assured Wards that these “what’s up with that?” cyber chats stimulate the proverbial frank and open exchange of ideas. “They will tell you honestly and in volumes what we should be doing,” Cowger revealed. “I think it’s great for not only cutting through the clutter and getting to the heart of things, but it’s a way of building a better GM.”

A better GM. If only. In all probability, Gary’s electronic forums do nothing more than give a small group of inherently disgruntled employees a chance to blow off some steam– and raise expectations that won’t be fulfilled. Although Wards didn’t press him on this (or any other) issue, can Mr. Cowger point to a single important change in GM’s process or products that stems from his twisted take on electronic Glasnost?

While I have no doubt that ramming a faux health care concession down employees’ throats constitutes a victory of some sort ($3b health care VEBA anyone?), the methodology involved indicates that GM’s culture of paranoia, unaccountability and corporate constipation continues unabated.

In fact, I reckon nothing significant has changed over at RenCen since we began this chronicle of GM’s declining fortunes. Factories are closed. Departing workers have been paid off. Output has declined. New products have been launched. And? GM is still staggering around under the weight of the same old stodgy leadership, cannibalistic dealers, obstreperous unions, half-baked products, marketing misfires, "not an incentive really" fire-sales, Bacchinalian auto shows (how much is that Carmen in the window?), backdraft cash burn, etc.

These days, the company talks-up global platform development as The Big Change. But GM NA still consists of eight increasingly nonsensical brands– and their attendant fiefdoms– all fighting for corporate resources. The fact that they’re going to do it on an international basis isn’t a game changer. Saturn now sells an Opel-derived car alongside a rebadged Pontiac. So?

According to turnaround specialist Gregory Charleston, any business experiencing a rapid, seemingly endless decline in its market share must make radical changes. The Managing Director of Conway MacKenzie & Dunleavy says that companies facing flagging income must cut deep, across the board. While big old companies like GM are reluctant to prune their pals in middle management, prune they must.

“If you have to do things in a new way, you need new people– or less people– to do it.” So how’s that particular part of the program going over at GM? “My sense is that there’s still a LOT of room there.” 

Charleston’s focus on GM’s stultified middle management reflects his belief in the overriding importance of corporate culture. Charleston says members of GM’s entrenched bureaucracy should be pushed out the door, and fresh blood brought in. So where does that leave CEO Rick Wagoner, a man who never worked a day of his life outside GM?

“I’m always leery of corporate executives who grew up within an organization… Can Wagoner turn around GM’s corporate culture when he’s known nothing else?  I imagine that’s a question that GM’s Board of Directors has been grappling with for years.”

Or not. Maybe Gary Cowger should recruit a random sampling of blue and white collar workers and put them online with GM’s Board of Bystanders. They could discuss Rabid Rick’s ability to lead a cultural revolution within GM. Or would that be too much information?

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110 Comments on “General Motors Death Watch 104: TMI?...”


  • avatar

    In fact, nothing significant has changed over at RenCen since we began this chronicle of GM’s declining fortunes.

    Making a minor course change, much less turning around a leviathan the size of GM is tough, especially when the lines of communications from the bridge to the engine room are so convoluted and distorted as this!

    My bet is on the iceberg, not the ship. Damn both the officers on deck and the coal shovellers down below as far as I’m concerned.

    –chuck

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    Saturn now sells an Opel-derived car alongside a rebadged Pontiac. So?

    Translation: two Auras sitting next to each other in the showroom. Until the Astra shows up.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    I think that in the Soviet Union the people with job’s like Cowger’s “communicators” were called Political Directors and could be found in army units, factories, local government offices and the like.

  • avatar
    mike frederick

    In all probability, Gary’s electronic forums do nothing more than give a small group of inherently disgruntled employees a chance to blow off a little steam– and raise expectations that won’t be fulfilled.

    I think this could be one of the better programs to take place in any company of any size.If such forums are held constructively,not a bitch session,then both upper/lower management & worker comm. could result in change…maybe…

    My meeting with Tim Lee of G.M. did alot of good.But it did fall short when I asked when to expect an El camino with a 350 small block.

  • avatar
    KingElvis

    The online forums are probably a great thing: I believe what Cowger says is true, and that he believes it is true.

    The problem is that it might be too little too late.

  • avatar

    The medium is not always the message.

  • avatar
    CliffG

    How about if Rabid Rick had an online forum with, oh say, 40 random customers at the local Toyota dealership? Maybe 40 folks at the local Elks club to ask them why most of them don’t buy American cars anymore? Maybe 40 Hispanics (actually almost anybody come to think of it) why they will pay outrageous prices for clapped out Hondas? Maybe 40 guys at the Hertz counter driving all those domestic mid-line cars? 40 housewives at the local mall about their last time at a Chevy dealership (ooh, you’ll be amazed what kind of language those little ladies know…)?

    Sigh. Turning a battleship ain’t easy but doesn’t it start when the captain says to turn the damn thing? Well?

  • avatar

    CliffG:

    Someday, that’s exactly the kind of thing that will happen. Obviously not for Rick or GM. But the ones who make it through vapor lock will get it. For sure.

  • avatar
    willjames2000

    CliffG:

    As for dealership experience, the latest JD Powers Sales Satisfaction report suggests that Toyota & Honda might be well served by asking GM customers why they liked the experience at their selling (GM) stores better than their own customers. You see ALL GM divisions ranked better than industry average, while both Toyota and Honda ranked worse. Maybe its just that dumb ‘mericans can’t do the job. Prolly should import Japanese salespeople too.

    2) Cadillac
    6) Saturn
    7) Buick
    11) Hummer
    16) Chevrolet
    17) GMC
    20) SAAB
    21) Pontiac
    23) INDUSRY AVERAGE
    25) Honda
    29) Toyota

    Source: J.D. Power and Associates 2006 Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI) StudySM

  • avatar
    Terry Parkhurst

    Gary Cowger and his “communicators” reminds me of those “town meeting” forums that President Bush had, across America, in 2005. As everyone heard who read the papers or the Internet, the people in the audience were reportedly carefully screened. But somehow, there was a college professor, in North Carolina as I recall, who wasn’t screened too carefully, and took the president to task. That’s what Mr. Cowger needs, methinks; as the president has (sadly) found out, you don’t make the necessary change in course, or thinking, by surrounding oneself with yes-men (or yes-women). It’s too bad that GM didn’t allow Carlos Ghosn to take them over; of course, asking Renault/Nissan to pay a premium to take them over, wasn’t the worst the idea the General ever had, but close.

  • avatar
    jerry weber

    I now believe the domestic three have the identical structural problems. Your see, ford, gm and chrysler can't be very much different. They have the same focus, employee types, management types and best of all pattern union contracts. The union made the three american companies near clones and it is now evident that the downhill spiral is a shared thing as well.I have said before in these blogs the day honda got to set up Marysville Ohio (25-30 years ago?) non-union was the beginning of the end for detroit. In Europe everyone is union, thus no one is ahead of the game in any quantum way. However, with the uaw unable to unionize any of the transplants here in the states, the differential in mfg. costs becomes the 800 lb gorilla in the room. This is not just wages, it is work rules, fringes, total legacy costs of a smaller younger work force, even sunbelt locations in states that have bid millions for these new plants. A typical foreign plant coming here gets: tax abatement, job training, access roads and other site work, mortgage money and an unwritten promise that the nasty old yankee union won't make it here around the new plant. This is what Iacocca never envisioned when he said let's level the field and make the foreigners build here. There is more; with maybe 20-25% as many dealers, each outlet is selling like toyota 1oo+ a month new. These dealers are strong, well financed and located. Many small towns don't have any foreign dealers and they still sell well from major population hubs. Look at mini. A few dealers per state, and no discounts, little advertising, no overstocking and a rating of the highest resale in the US. They limit the us to about 30,000 minis a year and are proof that you can make money in small cars.

  • avatar
    TriBlack987S

    Look at what vehicle Cowger is poised in front of in the photo. Doesn’t that say it all? What did they call that discontinued POS? I can’t even remember and I’m a car guy. Corvette is the only thing GM has going for it IMHO. At least Ford has some product, albeit few and far between. The Focus was pretty good in 2000…..though long in the tooth now, and the Fusion and its derivitives aren’t bad currently. Go drive a Mazda 3 and it tells the story of what’s wrong with American Car Companies. They just don’t get it!

  • avatar
    Rastus

    This will probably go down as the least commented on GMDW.

    But that’s quite OK….Death IS a-knocking.

    For Whom the Bell Tolls this Holiday Season…why, GM of course!!

    I wish this jackass Cowger would be forced to drive a GM vehicle non-stop for 5 years…only then would he have a true understanding of the crap GM continues to this day to produce. And furthermore, he should be forced to pay out of his pockets for repairs, upkeep, etc. Forget the “executive” annual new car…make him keep the damn thing…so he can truly replicate the hell everyone else goes through.

    At that point, there is no need for these ridiculous communications. When he has to pay $1200 for some illiterate grease-monkey at GM to replace his transmission…then maybe he’ll wake up! Or better yet, offer his $4000 trade-in for his $30,000 joy on wheels.

    Cowger, please ….PLEASE let me provide you some much-needed “customer” feedback. Hell, better yet, come buy the POS from me…I’ll be more than happy to drop the thing off at your doorstep…assuming it will last the journey.

    Hyundai…you are my next purchase. GM, you’ve succumbed to third-tier status behind the Koreans…by a long shot.

    Merry Christmas and a nappy New Year to you and your thugs at GM.

    Fight the Power…and never, I repeat NEVER settle for the crap GM has the nerve to call “product”.

  • avatar
    HawaiiJim

    A few thoughts, RF, on your editorial:

    It is very difficult to determine the level of trust and quality of communication within an organization like GM without being inside the organization. When you say that the selected communicators in GM are “[dis]information specialists” or hint that they are “company stooges,” do you know that for a fact?

    One of the central tenets of good management is to inform employees of the company’s dreams and visions. That’s what Cowger claims he is doing. Are you simply speculating that the “communicator” system is not working…or can you prove your conclusion?

    I bet I’m not the only loyal TTAC reader who wants you to continue to strive constantly to set a sky-high standard for your site’s commentary. As a former management analyst, I learned how important is the “tone at the top” of an organization. You set the tone, and the rest of us will follow with comments that will never require you to delete a post for failing to adhere to your standard.

  • avatar
    Luther

    I now believe the domestic three have the identical structural problems. Your see, ford, gm and chrysler can’t be very much different.

    Right. The 1935 Wagner Act transfered control of companies from the rightful owners (Shareholders) to Labor Unions (Non-owning Employees). The UAW controls Ford, GM, Chrysler so hence they are run very similarly. If you think about this then you will come to the conclusion that Ron “The Middle” Gettelfinger (The real Political Director?) ultimately calls the shots at 2.5. Wagoner, Lasorda, Mulally work for Gettelfinger. Unionization also stifles technological advancement and creativity while encouraging conformity/mediocrity (Solidarity) across the entire industry. The Airline industry is in the same mess sans Southwest.

  • avatar
    CAHIBOstep

    Part of me thinks that the GM chat sessions are a good idea, and part of me thinks that they are pathetic. I don’t understand why GM doesn’t hear the extremely loud feedback coming from the most important person in the equation: the consumer.

    Many are actively looking for a reason to buy GM, and not enough find an answer. Even with huge incentives! GM has more going for it than just the Corvette: it has the Northstar engine, the Corvette, the H-1, the Bonneville V-8, the Suburban, the Corvette…the company has a lot of particularly excellent, albeit mostly impractical vehicles and designs. And then a lot of $%@& in between.

    It is inevitable that gas prices will become an issue for car owners again. No matter what happens in the Middle East in the foreseeable future, it will affect gas prices. 16 MPG in the city just doesn’t do it.

    I think that any chance there is for some muckety-muck at GM to hear the truth from someone in the trenches, the better. But GM is so far out of touch, it seems like they purposely want to be that way.

    Actually, what they want is to live by the sword, and die by the sword. I respect that, but it doesn’t fly in our economy right now.

  • avatar
    tms1999

    communicator, management mouthpiece, I experienced that (in a totally different industry): it promotes distrust and cynicism.

    The last thing you need is an internal shill for corporate propaganda. Corporate culture always comes from the top and is always imposed by example. Acting in a certain way allows your ‘subordinates’ to act that way too.

    The boss is a grinch: everyone is a grinch. The boss listens to you, accept criticism, applies and rewards your good ideas, explains truthfully the reason for his decisions: you are in good shape.

    Employees can’t be manipulated (for too long), almost everyone reads between the lines. If we (i.e. Robert Farago, lots of commenters) can pinpoint all GM’s problems, so can GM’s management. They’re not dumb. They are not dumb at all. They are just unable to change. Unable too see the writing on the wall because their nose is stuck on the wall.

    1. Build competitive products with *one* winning point (best mileage, best acceleration, best styling, best choices of color) just pick one and make it the best in its class. Note to self: hold the accountants at bay. Reward your engineers. Promote engineers to management, not mbas.

    2. Build just enough of them. Maybe a smidgen not enough. Listen to what people want. Don’t forcefeed option packages. But by all means, don’t build without orders. Note to self: need flexible production.

    3. Rental companies can kiss my ass. Unless they pay full price for well equiped vehicles, no production alotment for rentals. They can buy Sebrings for all I care. Rentals are killing resale value. Resale value is *very* important.

    4. Engineer flexible platforms. Make a compact-midsize FWD/AWD transversal platform. Use Holden’s RWD as is. You’ve been selling a RWD Lumina with a 6L v8 for years in the middle east, what made you think it would not sell here? 300c? 3 years later and still nothing? Maybe 2008?

    And that’s just the main points. And I’m just a guy. And nothing I wrote is that outrageous.

    Personally I hope GM survives. I would be happier if they would survive by changing themselves, but I have little hope for that.

  • avatar
    HEATHROI

    My meeting with Tim Lee of G.M. did alot of good.But it did fall short when I asked when to expect an El Camino with a 350 small block.

    you mean like this?

    http://www.holdencampaign.com.au/thunder/content.html

  • avatar
    HawaiiJim

    tms1999:

    Of the many right-on-target ideas in your commentary, the one about promoting engineers, not mbas, to management causes me ask a question: Do we know whether the Asian and European auto companies do that? Or do they simply listen to their engineers more? I’m curious, because an engineer may or may not be a good manager.

  • avatar

    HawaiiJim:

    Obviously, I’m not the best judge of my own work. Which is one reason TTAC has a comments section. I read every comment on every post. And if I miss something, Frank Williams has got my back.

    There have been two occasions when I’ve withdrawn one of my own posts because commentators convinced me it was, um, poorly argued. And Frank’s got no problem stabbing me in my figurative back as and when needed.

    Anyway, rest assured I have eyes and ears throughout Detroit; people who CAN read the writing on the wall and/or want to tell the truth.

  • avatar
    Queensmet

    Normally, I understand what is said in the GMDW The opinions are based on information readily available to all and are therefore, informed. Whether they are misguided or not reamoins to be seen.

    However, this time I have an issue. It appears that the majority of posters to this editorial believe that that this “communicator” is just an arm of the GM Politburo. . In the old days these people were called PR people. and everyone had someone doing this. Since when did PR become anti-American.

  • avatar
    Sid Vicious

    We’re not talking PR – Public Relations. These are internal relations. Shoveling the B.S. like the guys shoveling coal in the belly of the Titanic.

    My experience is not GM, but I can tell you that the people invited to “skip-level” meetings in the domestic industry are hand picked suck-asses (industry term.) This was my first impression of the Bush town hall meetings as well. The Republicans don’t invite Democrats to have dinner with the Pres. And vice-versa.

    And the people that work for Cowger are of course top of their graduating class suck-asses. I believe the old school term is “yes men.” Disagreement, dissention and open honest dialogue are strongly discouraged. Otherwise how would they get promoted?

  • avatar
    rodster205

    I do have to stick up for the some of the dealers here. For the first time in years I spent time in domestic dealers as well as Honda & Toyota. The domestic guys were falling all over themselves to be as pleasant and helpful as possible. It was clear… JUST BUY OUR CAR PLEEEASE! I did find one Chry/Dog/Geep snake pit though, but two others were great. In the Honda and Toyota shops they could care less. They would wander out and go through the motions but didn't really care. You could tell from the questions they were trying to figure out if you were buying TODAY and were ready to cut and run to the next guy (who was probably buying today) as soon as you gave any indication you were just looking. Bottom line… if your product is **** and you are on commission you HAVE to give great service or you will STARVE!

  • avatar
    UnclePete

    tms1999 said: Use Holden’s RWD as is. You’ve been selling a RWD Lumina with a 6L v8 for years in the middle east, what made you think it would not sell here?
    Well, they did sell the Lumina SS here as the Pontiac GTO but (as we all know) made a hash of it. GM gave it a name that offended the purists and then never really marketed the car. It was built as a stopgap/halo car, but they never really put their heart into it.

    I own a GTO and love it. I’ve given rides to so many people who go “This is a Pontiac? I didn’t think they could build something so nice.” It is not perfect for sure but a damn sight better than almost all of the General’s current US cars. I can assure you I would have bought nothing else in the Pontiac lot.

  • avatar
    ejacobs

    Maybe GM should simplify:

    Chevy: Keep the Corvette, take the new Saturns (and Sky) by making the rest of the cars Opels, keep the trucks (obviously)…
    Saturn: kill
    Pontiac: please kill
    Buick: (for God’s sake) kill
    Hummer: keep as Jeep alternative (or kill)
    Caddy: keep
    Saab: give back to the Swedes or (have mercy) kill
    GMC: please kill

  • avatar
    mikey

    RF You nailed it in paragraph 6,7 and 8.I can safely say in the last 2 yrs I have seen no change at all in the climate or culture at GM
    I do believe we are making a better product.I think that some of the dealers are finally getting the message.
    In my plant we have hand picked comunicaters[we have other names for them but its not fit for TTAC]
    When they are not comunicating they have other asingments.
    One of thier duties,I am not making this up they keep the plant managers,and his 3 flunkys company vehicles washed and full of gas.
    I work in a small plant by GM standards,We have 9 hourly people to every salary person you could easily axe 1/2 of the salary work force and you wouldn’t notice.
    Any way good D.W I hope the shareholders read it

  • avatar
    nino

    As for dealership experience, the latest JD Powers Sales Satisfaction report suggests that Toyota & Honda might be well served by asking GM customers why they liked the experience at their selling (GM) stores better than their own customers. You see ALL GM divisions ranked better than industry average, while both Toyota and Honda ranked worse. Maybe its just that dumb ‘mericans can’t do the job. Prolly should import Japanese salespeople too.

    2) Cadillac
    6) Saturn
    7) Buick
    11) Hummer
    16) Chevrolet
    17) GMC
    20) SAAB
    21) Pontiac
    23) INDUSRY AVERAGE
    25) Honda
    29) Toyota

    Source: J.D. Power and Associates 2006 Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI) StudySM

    Does this take into account the after sales experience at these dealers?

    With all due respect, many of the domestic dealers have a LONG way to go and that includes Cadillac.

    That reminds me of the “special kink in the frame for better handling” story.

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    Just another example of GM's wasteful nature . Just another way to say, see we're really doing something, without really doing anything. These are the new age feel good sort of things that get floated in the government sector, but serve no real purpose because nothing constructive ever comes of them. I also agree that anybody who has worked for one particular company (or the government) has no ability to make real changes in the way things are done. I work for a government agency at this time, but that isn't how its always been for me. I have a pretty good idea from working in the private sector just how a "this is the way we do it" attitude will not only result in poorer service/production but will also demoralize the people who have to try to work in that type of atmosphere, particularly the ones who know there is a better way. The people that I work with who have never worked outside the government just can't seem to see that there are other ways, better ways, of operating, that its all right to question a rule. As I've said before, I've got a relative who works for Delphi, and the roadblocks against change that he tells me about remind me all too much of what I see in the government. I can't see any real change coming from within at GM. In my opinion, the only thing that could turn them around would be some sort of takeover or possibly bringing in someone from outside the company and giving them the power to change the way GM does business, including reorginization of the management structure and elimination of redundant or unneeded managers.

  • avatar
    willjames2000

    rodster205: "Bottom line… if your product is crap and you are on commission you HAVE to give great service or you will STARVE! " Rastus: "Fight the Power…and never, I repeat NEVER settle for the crap GM has the nerve to call “product”. Both old, tired arguments, hardly based in the "truth" According to the latest JD Powers surveys: Initial Quality: There is difference of just over 1 "problem" per vehicle from top (Porsche & Lexus) to bottom (Isuzu & Land Rover). Take out these highs and the lows, and the difference shrinks to .89 "problems" per vehicle. But who cares about Initial Quality? How about longer-term? 3-Year Vehicle Dependability: A top (Lexus) to bottom (Land Rover) difference of about 3 "problems" per vehicle over three years. Without them, the difference shrinks to 1.7 "problems" per vehicle over three years. But perception is reality. JD Powers APEAL survey (measures how "gratifying" a new vehicle is to own and drive) finds almost no relationship between a model’s overall APEAL score and its IQS design score.

  • avatar
    finger

    “I wish this jackass Cowger would be forced to drive a GM vehicle non-stop for 5 years…only then would he have a true understanding of the crap GM continues to this day to produce. And furthermore, he should be forced to pay out of his pockets for repairs, upkeep, etc. Forget the “executive” annual new car…make him keep the damn thing…so he can truly replicate the hell everyone else goes through.”

    Obviously, this is a smear job by an uninformed person. How did he get a computer?

  • avatar
    Luther

    I wish this jackass Cowger would be forced to drive a GM vehicle non-stop for 5 years

    Agreed finger. I think DCX Shareholders should force Lasorda/Gettelfinger to drive a Sebring as well. Perhaps alternate days between an Accord and a Sebring.

    JD Power is getting real “nit-picky” these days. Automobiles are becoming so good that the difference between 1st and last place is becoming negligible. JD Power is working themselves out of their jobs.

  • avatar
    dhathewa

    “JD Power… blah… blah… blah dealer satisfaction … blah blah blah… Toyota and Honda at the bottom.” – Luther

    Maybe Toyota and Honda owners have really high standards. If I’d never owned my Volvos, I would have given my Fords and Chevvys OK marks for reliability, etc. If I’d never owned my Toyotas, I’d have given my Volvos HIGH marks for reliability, etc. As it is, I now consider Volvos to be of mediocre reliability. Toyota raised the bar for us in that regard. Maybe it’s that way with the dealerships.

  • avatar
    willjames2000

    And how long has it been since you owned your fords/chevys/volvos?? Early asian imports were not of high quality, yet they improved, learned, and earned (for the most part) their current reputation vs the domestic and euopeans. But times do change. Or do you still have your liesure suit?

    My point is that perception is much harder to turn around than the reality of the overall improvement in quality seen by (most) all manufacturers. And it is fact that domestics have come farther (and they had farther to come). Maybe they haven’t totally caught up, but NEVER is a long time.

  • avatar

    On October 14th, it was widely reported that Chrysler’s top 250 execs were test driving three-year-old vehicles in a LaSorda ordered reality check.

    First, 250 execs? Jesus! Talk about top heavy. Second, the test only consisted of two 10-day loans. Third, the vehicles involved were the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Chrysler Town and Country minivan, Dodge Caravan minivan, Chrysler Pacifica crossover and Dodge Ram pickup. No competitor’s products.

    That’s about as good (bad?) as it gets in Detroit. Why would the new media– or anything else– ruin GM’s Gulfstream insularity?

  • avatar
    GMrefugee

    As you point out, a big issue facing GM to change is the lack of new blood coming into the company. Most of the outsiders hired back around 1998 for the brand management debacle and in 1999 for the eGM experiment have all either been forced out or left in one of the buyout waves. Most of the replacement employees have been contract. How much change do you think they intend to drive? As for the folks “left” at GM, they made it this far, why rock the boat now?

  • avatar
    John

    ‘Cause how ya gonna make some time
    When all you got is one thin dime?
    And one thin dime won’t even shine your shoes

    All the REAL cures for domestic automakers take lots of money. REAL design and REAL development are expensive and previous DW’s have covered it. Apparently, GM is looking for solutions involving free coffee mugs.

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    In my plant we have hand picked comunicaters[we have other names for them but its not fit for TTAC]

    Judas?
    Monica Lewinsky?
    Benedict Arnold?
    Quisling?

    Inquiring minds want to know!

  • avatar
    willjames2000

    If you bought a Japanese import in the first few years they were offered in the US you probably were not impressed with any aspect other than low initial cost. They learned, improved, and (mostly) earned their reputation. They continue to improve, but so does (mostly) the whole industry. And it seems that the domstics, including GM have come farther (and had farther to come). Are they there yet? Maybe not quite, but in many ways, yes. Statistically anyhow.

  • avatar
    mikey

    To answer starlightmica Monica L would be the closest I dare say. Lets say these guyS share many of Monicas talents.

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    I found this quote instructive:

    “There’s a lot of noise in the system, and that’s because we live in an age of transparency like the world has never seen before… It’s almost too much information out there.” – Gary Cowger

    What’s he saying, that we’re not smart enough as consumers? That we are too stupid to sort things out for ourselves and that we’re too easily confused by all of that wild and rampant information?

    What arrogance! Boy oh boy, have I got some bad language and a few gestures for him!

  • avatar
    Luther

    Maybe Chris Paine should make himself useful to humanity by starting an electric car company. Dontcha just love the monday-morning, couch-sitting, quarterback types in the broadcast media? Its like watching a really bad/obnoxious Monty Python movie.

    3 cheers for Ernest Bastien.

    A business has but one purpose: To satisfy consumer demand and therefor make profits for its Shareholders.
    If consumers demanded Camel Crap Sandwiches then Subway would produce them. Subway does not produce said sandwhich and demand that consumers demand them. This is something the granola-munching/change-the-world/anti-business/collectivist twits in the broadcast media cant (wont?) understand.

  • avatar
    Ar-Pharazon

    ZoomZoom,

    Posters here notwithstanding, the fact is that many (most?) consumers are too stupid to sort through things on their own. Remember, as a literate, internet savvy computer user with the wherewithall to post on a blog, you are probably in a very small minority of people in this country. Perhaps his comment is arrogant, but it’s not far off the mark.

    To paraphrase Agent Kay in Men In Black . . . “a person may be smart . . . but people are stupid.”

  • avatar
    CliffG

    WJ2000. My comment on folk at the Toyota dealership wasn’t a reference to the dealership itself, it was why were those folks at the Toyota dealership in the first place (in my area there are two Toyota dealerships literally within 7 miles of each other, one is fantastic and the other I wouldn’t send enemies to…). My first experience with Toyota was a 1967 Corolla, I was astonished at how well that thing was put together. A ’73 Civic was atrocious, but my ’77 Accord probably sold at least 15 Hondas to friends and relatives over the last almost 30 years. When was the last time you bought a domestic that friends/relatives lined up to buy (and thanked you afterwards)?

    Given the horrifying relationships between management and workers at GM over the last 6 decades, these little powwows can’t hurt, even if everyone pretends the gorilla in the room (the UAW) isn’t there. My point is that the problem with GM is no longer merely labor, it is their competition and people’s experiences with GM products over the last 30 years. And JD Powers is like Consumer Reports. It may be accurate, it may also be total bullshit. Think of exit polling….

  • avatar
    dhathewa

    One of the basics of customer retention is customer satisfaction. Part of what made my GM and Ford experience miserable was their “tough luck” attitude. A Ford rep as much as told me that they didn’t care if I ever bought another Ford. How many sales did crappy gaskets cost GM? What would it have been worth in long-term customer relationships to do whatever was necessary to “make it right?”

    For this, we can not hold Wagoner directly accountable, GM is paying for the sins of former CEOs. But, for many of us, Wagoner’s new 5/100 warranty is seen not as reassurance but as a gambit. Wagoner’s betting that few enough of us will put 100K miles on the cars that it’s essentially a 5/60 warranty.

  • avatar
    finger

    “But, for many of us, Wagoner’s new 5/100 warranty is seen not as reassurance but as a gambit. Wagoner’s betting that few enough of us will put 100K miles on the cars that it’s essentially a 5/60 warranty.”

    I guess that “us” would be those that say the glass is half empty…

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    finger: depends on how you define crap. Anyway, it’s largely irrelevant if GM products are really crap or not, because it’s the perception that counts. And if you examine GM’s sales and market share trend over the past 24 months or 24 years, the picture is crystal clear.

  • avatar
    ucanthandlethetruth

    “But, for many of us, Wagoner’s new 5/100 warranty is seen not as reassurance but as a gambit. Wagoner’s betting that few enough of us will put 100K miles on the cars that it’s essentially a 5/60 warranty.”

    And for mnay of us that drive 15k/year a 36 month /36,000 warranty is actually only a 30 month warranty. Too good of a warranty, another great excuse to kick the General.

    If Toyota did it you’d say it was genius. Heck, they’re so well built they could offer 5 years or 100,000 miles, whichever comes LAST. That way all driving habits would be covered.

    Funny thing is my local Toyota dealers service department always seems quite busy. I wonder if that’s because owners love paying high-dollar for routine maintenance, or maybe sometimes the damn things actually break?

  • avatar
    finger

    I agree, perception is reality. Market share over the last 24 years? How much of a factor was Hyundai, Lexus, Scion, Infiniti, Kia etc back in 1982?

  • avatar
    finger

    From consumeraffairs.com …

    Is Toyota’s quality slipping? The company lost ground in an annual vehicle value survey. While many consumers still give the Japanese automaker high marks, some analysts are suggesting the auto giant is growing too fast in its pursuit of General Motors.

    San Diego-based Strategic Vision surveyed more than 64,000 people who purchased new vehicles from October 2005 to March 2006. Consumers were surveyed after 90 days of ownership and asked if they thought they got their money?s worth.

    Toyota, which had seven segment winners in 2005, took only three categories in the new study and has been moving slower than other brands when it comes to innovation, according to an auto industry analyst.

    Can I now say that all Toyotas are junk?

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    finger: you can say anything you want. It neither makes it the truth or relevant. Are you seeing a drop in Toyota’s sales? Are we seeing increase in Big 2.5 sales? That’s the final truth.

    The real reason Kia, Hyundai, etc. are investing in the US, and succeeding is because they know the Big 2.5 are vulnerable, and that their own products are competitive. Do you see the Big 2.5 investing/competing in Japan? Korea? Europe? No. They tried (feebly), and got nowhere. China, yes, because it was a wide open market without competition.

  • avatar
    finger

    Do you think that maybe the recent foreign competition saw a fertile US market that had become quite import friendly? Do you think they saw an opportunity to make money? Of course part of their planning most likely identified that the American car companies had become complacent and had a much higher overhead to deal with. As far as the “real” reason, it is to make money!

  • avatar
    ucanthandlethetruth

    “But, for many of us, Wagoner’s new 5/100 warranty is seen not as reassurance but as a gambit. Wagoner’s betting that few enough of us will put 100K miles on the cars that it’s essentially a 5/60 warranty.” And for many of us that drive 15k or more a year a 36 month/36,000 mile warranty is really just 30 months or less. In your hands a great warranty becomes a gambit. I'll bet if Toyota or Honda offered 60/100 you'd call it genius. Hey the cars are so bullet-proof they should offer 60 months or 100,000 miles, whichever comes LAST. Funny thing though, my local Toyota dealers service bays always seem busy. Is that because the lemmings owners love paying way too much for routine maintenance, or do the damn things actually break?

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    All for-profit companies exist to make money. Except that’s often harder than it looks. Did Renault come to the US to lose money? Peugeot? Alfa-Romeo? Fiat? Lancia? MG? they were all here 24 years ago.

  • avatar
    finger

    “Did Renault come to the US to lose money? Peugeot? Alfa-Romeo? Fiat? Lancia? MG? they were all here 24 years ago. ”

    Yes. But they were all junk.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    finger: Now you’re starting to make sense. Perhaps there was some correlation between those European cars sales success in the US and your statement “they were all junk”

    But there’s no correlation with your earlier statement about Toyotas all being junk and Toyota’s sales.

  • avatar
    finger

    Dr. Niedermayer,

    Do you propose that Fiat and Peugot, Fiat are only junk because it is merely my perception?

  • avatar
    Rastus

    Look at the trend lines! It's kind of like that lone, quiet type in high-school…who eventually went on to make something of himself, simply because he was willing to do what everyone else would not bother to do: hard work, be it physical and/or mental. And do *I* personally know GM vehicles suck? Absolutely!! Head gaskets and associated milling? Transmissions?….you know…the "little" things. $700 here, $1000 there… Honest to God, I actually admire Hyundai way more than I do GM. At least they burned the midnight oil…and it shows. Lest you think I'm some joker…I climb behind the wheel each and every day of a GM vehicle. Trash…without a doubt, Trash. If a current customer says that…are you calling me a liar??? Am I just some lunatic who loves to mouth off? Sometimes the truth just hurts…coming from the GM family that I come from. I've been screwed so many times by supposed "loyal" family…I've given up on them. >…or more importantly, they've given up on ME as a customer. Goodbye GM…looks like the battle of the OK Corral is about to come due…as Ford has all but given up No. 2. This next year should be a real Doozie!!! :D (How much is my "family" discount worth again???)….exactly, just as I thought: Nada!!

  • avatar
    ucanthandlethetruth

    And maybe a little reality check is in order. Go get that Hyundai. Enjoy the experience. I wish you well, at least you'll be covered by a wonderfull warranty (that won't cover your $450 starter motor, or your $350 wiper motor or your $800 A/C compressor- don't ask me how I know)

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    finger: Dr. Niedermeyer has another patient waiting and needs to go. But there’s truth to your statement. Peugeots weren’t junk, up until possibly their last US model, the 604. I owned six 404’s and a 403. Superb quality cars. The reasons Peugeot failed in the US was because they weren’t committed to make cars Americans wanted. They were pushing cars the French wanted. Why do you think Toyota invented the Camry, which is designed for the US, and essentially only sold here. Most of the successful Japanese and Koreans design and sell different cars to the US than in the rest of the world, and they focus on quality. Quality alone is not enough, as Peugeot found out.

  • avatar
    Rastus

    Just remember:

    When people at the office used to tell me how badly they have been screwed by the domestics…

    …I was the guy always saying “No!…they really aren’t all that bad! Trust me.”

    That’s the wonderful thing about the truth…it may take awhile, but the truth DOES get out.

    On that pleasant thought, Merry Christmas everyone. Just because someone dislikes being screwed does not make him/her a bad or disloyal American. People work hard…well, at least Most do. Sincerely, GM has squandered away a bright future…and well, the grey clouds are of their own making.

    12 plant closures? Hey…don’t blame me. It takes the collective purchase power of thousands upon thousands to accomplish that wonderful deed.

  • avatar
    Johnson

    willjames2000, You seem to have left out the fact that Lexus was #5 on that survey. Also, it makes sense why domestic dealers would have to try extra hard, seeing as they’re fighting a perception battle amongst American consumers. They trip over themselves trying to nice, friendly, and offer great service because they are fighting an uphill battle, and are desperate for every sale they get.

    Toyota and Honda have recognized some of the problems with their dealers, and are specifically working with dealers to improve sales satisfaction. Toyota put a ridiculous amount of time and money into dealer training and emphasis on sales satisfaction for the new Tundra.

    And the SSI survey makes no mention of exactly how many vehicles are sold per dealership. Per dealer, Toyota on average sells significantly more cars than Chrysler, GM, or Ford.

    And as noted by other TTAC posters, after-sales dealer experience is even more important than satisfaction during the sale. And in after-sales dealer experience, the domestics still have a long long way to go.

    As for GM’s problems, it’s quite simple. They need a radical change in their corporate culture, and Wagoner and Lutz are not the people to do it.

  • avatar
    Ar-Pharazon

    Seems like we’re back to the “American Idol must be the bestest show on TV, because the most people watch it” argument again. That same argument that pushed the Camry right off the TWAT candidate list, in spite of its many, many nominations.

    Argument 1 . . . GM and Ford don’t make crap cars anymore, but people act on their perceptions because it’s easier than actually finding out the facts. Please see the “haven’t driven one in a decade, never will” posts for confirmation.

    Argument 2 . . . But Toyota has been selling more and more cars, while GM/Ford have been selling less. Thus, they must be crap . . . the people have spoken!

    Sorry, but I pick A1.

    Every time there’s a quantitative measure posted that supports the domestics coming to parity with the imports, some here either discount the data as being obviously flawed, or fall back on other, “surprisingly” unmeasured metrics . . . if the survey measures purchase experience, then of course the important thing is followup experiences; if it measures initial quality or 90 day quality, then of course the important thing is 3 year quality; if Consumer Reports recommends it, boy, they publish some screwey things; if buff mags like it, well you know they’re bought and paid for; if all else fails, then listen to my anecdotal sob story (from 1982).

    Also . . . please don’t say you’re seriously asking why the Big 3 aren’t investing in Japan and Korea! If ever two markets were artificially closed to gaijin intrusion, it’s those two. And anyway . . . I suspect that their citizens still understand the concept of loyalty, and would not be caught dead in a foreign vehicle regardless of quality.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    Someone asked about the background of Toyota and Honda top management. Check out this bit of information: ” In 1973, a junior engineer at Honda Motor Co. put the company on the US map with a Civic subcompact that met US clean-air standards withOUT a catalytic converter. The engineer was Fukui Takeo and he was 28 at the time. Today, Fukui is Honda’s CEO.”

    http://www.risingsunofnihon.com/2006/07/honda_japans_other_major_car_p.html

  • avatar
    nino

    If you bought a Japanese import in the first few years they were offered in the US you probably were not impressed with any aspect other than low initial cost. They learned, improved, and (mostly) earned their reputation. They continue to improve, but so does (mostly) the whole industry. And it seems that the domstics, including GM have come farther (and had farther to come). Are they there yet? Maybe not quite, but in many ways, yes. Statistically anyhow. Perceptions and biases die hard. NEVER is a long time, and I won’t be surprised if most of RFs disciples stubbornly hold on to their now core beliefs long after the playing field is leveled, or even when the pendulum swings the other way.

    If you need to know, many of my opinions are formed by the car buying and driving experiences of myself and my immediate family. There are anywhere from 25 to 30 cars in my family that are replaced every 2 to 4 years. These cars run the gamut from SUVs to economy cars, from the Big 2.5 to foreign makes. The newest addition to the “fleet” is a 2007 Cadillac STS.

    As to the poster that asked if it can be proved that today’s GM are worse, all I can say that a leak that was coming from the A/C in my 2003 Grand Prix GT wound up shorting out an airbag sensor. While the leak was fixed under waranty (after 4 trips to the dealer), I was forced to pay for the sensor because the sensor failed due to its getting wet and not therefore covered under waranty. Even many calls to the GM zone office gave no satisfaction.

    My point is that while things do go wrong, it is the attitude of GM and the dealer that leads to the perception that GM cars are crap.

    I can relate experiences with Honda, Nissan, and Toyota dealers, if you’d like.

    Ford was pretty good too, I must say.

  • avatar
    finger

    And do *I* personally know GM vehicles suck? Absolutely!! Head gaskets and associated milling? Transmissions?….you know…the “little” things. $700 here, $1000 there…

    And what about all the trans problems with Honda? And all the sludge problems with Toyota? Do all Toyotas and Hondas suck? Of course not. As for your other issues, they sound a little too deeply rooted to address here.

  • avatar

    Ar-Pharazon: Argument 1 . . . GM and Ford don’t make crap cars anymore, but people act on their perceptions because it’s easier than actually finding out the facts. Please see the “haven’t driven one in a decade, never will” posts for confirmation.

    Well, I’m someone who HAS owned a GM product within the last decade. In fact, I had three of them in my driveway up until about 3 months ago (model years 01, 02, and 03). I got tired of watching trim pieces fall off, and looking at the worn out leather in a car that only had 36K miles on it, and listening to rattles, and hoping all the door locks would operate when I pushed the button on the remote, and wondering what was tearing up that I couldn’t see with all that was falling apart that I could see. I traded 2 of them off this year and won’t even look at another GM product in the foreseeable future.

    And until Ford and DCX start making something besides SUVs, rental-mobiles and livery cars I won’t be looking at them either.

  • avatar
    Johnson

    Ar-Pharazon,

    what pushed the Camry off the TWAT nominations list was a little something called common sense and reasoning. All of those who voted for the Camry (and there were less of them than you think) did not have anything substantive or convincing to say about why the Camry should have been on the list, other than “it’s ugly” or “it’s boring”, or any other number of phrases that lacked substance.

    The Camry meets the needs of buyers in the family sedan segment extremely well. It covers a lot of bases, and has no glaring obvious flaws. The same cannot be said for any of the TWAT finalists.

    Nobody here disagrees with the domestics improving and getting closer to the imports in a lot of categories. The problem is we do not live in a bubble, and neither do the import makers. Honda and Toyota are not sitting still while American automakers strive to catch up. Toyota and Honda are also improving, and moving the bar every day.

    Follow-up experience is just as important as purchase experience, and that is a fact. Same thing with long term dependability vs initial quality. Nobody really is concerned about initial quality. I have no care at all for initial quality, even if Toyota or Honda or GM do well. I simply have no interest in it. I am much more interested in long-term quality, and not just 3 year dependability, but longer term 5 or 8 year dependability.

    Consumer Reports has been consistently bashed and discredited by domestic fans and domestic supporters (even certain employees of American automakers have bashed Consumer Reports) because they typically rank import cars at a high level. So now, with several new domestic models getting good rankings, all the bashers of CR suddenly use it to support their arguments and now seem to think it’s a decent publication? Give me a break.

    Until American automakers consistently surpass Honda and Toyota for a couple of years in making class leading products, the inferior perception of American automobiles will not change.

  • avatar
    fahrvergnugen11

    jthorner:

    Good point about the top management. In fact, if you look at the top management in most European and Japanese companies, not only do they have engineering backgrounds, but many of them also have a P.H.D. in engineering.

    Now compare that with the MBAs are running the Big Two (Chrysler was a part of the MBA bunch until Daimler acquired them), and you’ll get a good idea what their engineering philosophy is – beancounting, marketing and profit-oriented. It’s working very well for the U.S. automakers, isn’t it?

    Um, not really…

  • avatar
    Sanman111

    For all of the people that love domestic cars, I have one question. Is overall relaibility all that counts? I bought a 2000 nissan altima used and a close friend bought a used 2001 grand am. Both were purchased in 2003. While both cars ran, the pontiac had loose trim pieces, flase engine lights going off, and a PLASTIC lugnut on one of the tires cracked causing a huge problem when trying to change said flat. In that time, my nissan had almost no problems. Since then, I have had a few corrosion issues due to the salt on upstate NY roads and a powre seat problem, but still less than my pontiac owning friend in more years. my car is almost 7 years old with 73,000 miles on it and still runs and feels like new. The pontiac was falling apart in 2003 and the only thing that stopped it from falling apart piece by piece is that it was totalled in an accident a couple of years ago.

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    Or in Ron Zarella’s case, not even an MBA.

  • avatar
    mikey

    Sanman Your Altima has rust 2001? My 2001 Grand Am lives in southern ontario and has no rust. Your friend has plastic lug nuts on his tires He does have problems. Face it folks 7yrs is a long time for a Nisson The Pontiac will outlive the Japanese products every time. Look around the rust belt people the domestics rule in aged vehicles. Maybe a piece of trim is missing but the body is intact and the engine, push rods and all is still running

  • avatar
    greenb1ood

    You know what works better than technologically-advanced, ananymous chat rooms and special ‘communicators’?

    Taking the time to actually have conversations with the people in your organization, then following up with the appropriate senior management to have their concerns addressed, and finally being accountable by returning to those same employees to provide updates on how the changes are progressing.

    Now obviously someone in Mr. Cowger’s position can’t meet with every employee one-on-one, but he could easily get to everyone in a year by doing 10 at a time. The issues that go across functions, regions, and salary grades are the ones that should be attacked first.

    I have similar ‘skip-level’ meetings at my employer, but when no actual results come out of the discussions, and no follow up occurs, they simply become one more reason to assume that Senior Managers only care about themselves.

    There are two extremely important tasks for Senior Managers:

    1) Create an environment of open communication and accountability, any company can become more efficient and competitive.

    2) Listening to the consumer’s needs and exceeding their expectations.

    Out of those two, Cowger’s job is way easier.

  • avatar
    troonbop

    Hey, sanman, that’s been my experience. I’ve been driving Nissan products for the last fifteen years and have no intention of changing. Had one sentra i bought new, put three hundred thousand on it, first as a daily driver and then as a winter beater when i moved up.
    I try to impress peple with that, but it’s so typical of japanese quality it’s not that remarkable.
    And all the time i was being lectured/threatened by caw workers in my area of ontario. Good thing i’ve learned to ignore them.

  • avatar
    finger

    Plastic lug nuts? You are absolutely wrong. There is an ornamental plastc lug nut COVER that covers the lug nut, but it is asily removed. In most cases by hand.

    I severely doubt that your 73,000 mile Nissan runs and feels like new. I would venture to say you have not been in a new car lately.
    And you have rust? Give me a break!

  • avatar
    finger

    Troonbop-

    Given that the previously mentioned Nissan had electrical problems and started to rot at only 73K, your alleged 300K Nissan belongs in the Smthsonian!

  • avatar
    vitek

    Mikey and Finger

    Surprised at rust? 70,000 is about right for the cancer to start appearing in the North. In the Detroit area no car goes much longer before showing rust thanks to the liberal use of salt on the roads. In other areas where sand or some other noncorrosive material is used its obviously longer before rust appears. Zeibart or others can’t prevent the rot. I only drove American nameplates in Detroit and all (cars and trucks) got the cancer starting about 4-5 years.

    Now early on I remember how Japanese cars, especially Hondas, would have whole quarter panels rust into oblivion within a year or two of the first rust sign. They seem to have improved.

    As far as American cars “ruling” in aged vehicles, are you accounting for the initial high percentage of US versus imports in the initial pools in those same areas?

  • avatar
    finger

    That is tue of early Hondas. You could park them in a quiet garage and listen to them rot.

  • avatar
    Ar-Pharazon

    Johnson,

    The TWAT voters had the opportunity to vote on several domestic cars that had nothing but the same flaws. Only it’s ‘cool’ to slag on domestics and ‘not cool’ to do so for imports. Hence the domestics stayed, and the Camry didn’t

    Also . . . most surveys I’ve read do not compare the current performance of the domestics with the past performance of the imports. They compare current domestic to current import . . . and point out the domestics gaining or surpassing. Thus your ‘moving target’ argument is spurious, and frankly smells of one of those ‘diversionary’ tactics . . . if you can’t address the facts, then spin, spin, spin.

    Speaking of which . . . my intent was not to suggest the value of one particular metric over another. It was simply to point out another spinmeister strategy . . . if the domestics are shown to be ahead in a particular quantified metric, then divert attention to a different unquantified metric, with the implicit assumption that the domestics would lose on that one. Which, by the way, is obviously more important. I noticed no one said “yeah, they won here but look . . . they lost there, which is more important.” It was simply “yeah, but that doesn’t count as much as . . . (where the imports are obviously better)”

    And regarding Consumer Reports . . . perhaps you’re right. However, if so then that tactic was well learned, since for years the import supporters have been crowing about their stellar CR performance. Only now, when the domestics are knocking, they fall back on the argument that CR is no longer trustworthy. What’s good for the goose, they say . . .

    Frank Williams . . . in the 20 years I’ve been married, my in-laws have gone through two washer/dryer combinations, three microwave ovens, two dishwashers, a stove, a refrigerator, and close to half a dozen living room couches (in the same house). Over that same time, we still own the same washer/dryer and ‘fridge, and have only replaced our couch once and microwave once (stove and dishwashers changed with the house). Some people just tear shit up, and other don’t. Maybe that’s why I’ve never had a problem with any domestic car I’ve owned, either.

  • avatar
    willjames2000

    Johnson;

    And Jaguar was #1, but I also left out every make, below and above average because my point was that GM dealers are doing a good job with the sales end of things in relation to everyones favorites, Toyota and Honda.

    As for service, Lexus is #1 in JD Powers latest CSI (customer service index) but GM stores also scored well, with Buick at #2, Caddy #3, Saturn #7, Pontiac #8, Chevy #13, Hummer #18, Saab #19, and GMC # 20, all above the industry average. At #17, Honda was also above average, but Toyota ranked #26, just behind Dodge.

    And how’s this for perceptions. True story:

    My next-door neighbor bought a new 1993 Chevy S10, drove it 10 years with no problems, routine maint only. Broke a ball joint at 146,000 miles and decided it was time to replace it. Looked at a new Colorado, and bought a Tundra even though the Chevy gave him a great experience.

    For the next two and half years the Tundra was in the shop an average of once every three months for this and that. One morning it doesn’t start (again). He has it towed to the dealership, and while there decides that gas is too expensive anyhow and he’ll trade the problem truck. So what does he buy?? A Toyota Yaris.

    The Chevy gave him 10 years of great service, the Toyota 3 years of poor, and his loyalty is still with Toyota. Why does this make sense? Because people act on their perceptions. His perception was that everyone says Toyota makes a great product and his bad experience was an abberation. His reality was the opposite.

    Unbelievable.

  • avatar

    The perception gap is a constant theme amongst supporters of The big 2.5, especially GM.

    May I suggest a quick scan of this previous Death Watch: https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=239

  • avatar
    alexndr333

    One of the remarkable things about the auto industry is that we take a microscope to the management and operation of the American companies, and then come up with comments like Farago’s “…GM’s culture of paranoia, unaccountability and corporate constipation continues unabated.” How much does he – or anyone – get to look into the workings of Toyota Japan to the same extent? Not much, I’d say or we’d hear more about the stops and starts, fits and tantrums, that go on inside the headquarters of other companies. Of all the PR problems facing GM, Ford and Chrysler, one of the greatest is created by the America’s openness and can be summed up by the phrase, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” In fact, that could be the slogan for TTAC.

  • avatar
    willjames2000

    Interesting piece from the archives. That the sales arena is the ultimate measure of perceptions makes my point. Perception is reality, but reality is reality, if one bothers to learn and understand it.

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    Only now, when the domestics are knocking, they fall back on the argument that CR is no longer trustworthy.

    Huh? Imports still lead CR’s buyers guide by a wide margin. Out of all domestic cars, only the Corvette and CTS-V got their Excellent rating based on driving one of the vehicles purchased for a month, but the former not Recommended due to subar reader survey reliability.

    Other domestics that got the nod have all been ranked lower than comparable imports – Focus, LaCrosse, Fusion/Milan, 300/Magnum, STS, CTS, 500/Montego, Impala, PT Cruiser, Tahoe, Durango – to name a few.

  • avatar
    CAHIBOstep

    “Some people just tear shit up, and other don’t.”

    At one point during my first job out of college, I was asked to find out what was wrong with my boss’s S-Class that had broken down on the way to work.

    It had 50,000 miles on it, and he had never performed an oil change or any other service. It was covered with scratches, dings, scrapes, stains, etc. Talk about a POS.

    The Chicago MB dealer refused to work on the car once they found out what the problem was. Furthermore, they insisted that we remove it from their property immediately. Phonies!

    My boss never understood why MB treated him like that. We found an independent Ferrari mechanic, of all people, who agreed to rebuild the engine.

    People do stupid s–t to their cars everyday. Some drive GMs, some drive BMWs. Some cars are clearly better than others. Some are ugly and some are beautiful.

    I will never hold it against anyone if they feel that they want/need/deserve the very best automobile in the world. But even those cars, in all their inherent perfection, don’t drive themselves.

    I know a guy who owns a 1965 Mustang that he has driven over one million miles, in the US, Europe, etc. It is dented and scratched and beat up. He could afford a fleet of European/Japanese heavy metal. If I had 10% of his money, I’d throw ALL of mine away no problem.

    He loves that stupid car. And people like that are at least as interesting as those who feel compelled to come up with an argument to prove they are right in every possible situation.

  • avatar
    nino

    Somebody here mentioned the sludge issue in Toyotas, mainly, the 2.4 liter 4 cylinder motor.

    Would you like to hear how it was handled?

    My cousin, who drove a 1998 Toyota Camry with the 2.4, brought the car for routine maintenance and replacement of the timing belt at around 65,000 miles. She was told that it would take the better part of a week to get her car back. When she asked why, she was told it was because they were REPLACING the engine.

    But it didn’t stop there.

    She was sent a certificate that entitled her to a substantial discount on the purchase of her next Toyota and as an appology for any inconvenience.

    The dealer and especially the manufacturer, seemed embarassed by what had taken place. Maybe it was all for show, but boy, what a show.

    I was recently told by a Cadillac dealer that a typical car has over 10,000 parts and that if it were 99.9% perfect, 10 things would go wrong with it. So, just expect that something will and when it doesn’t, you’re ahead. This, after buying a car with a $53,000 sticker price.

  • avatar
    windswords

    Your cousin’s experience was problably because of the negative media coverage of other customers before her who had the same problem. They were told it was their fault that the engines sludged up, that they must not have performed the required maintainance, and that they would have to foot the bill for the major repair or replacement. It got so bad that web sites were springing up to complain about it with customer testimonials of how they were royally dissed by Toyota dealers and the manufacturer. It was the first time I had ever seen people at large who were complaining bitterly and fuming mad at a Japanese auto company.

    When Toyota finally admitted there was a problem they couched it in terms that they were going to teach their customers how to better take care of their cars making it seem like it was still somehow the customers fault. It easy to get the whole story on this, just google Toyota engine sludge.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    It is true that Toyota had to be pushed into their now very liberal program for dealing with engine sludge. It is also true that GM never did anything for the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of V-6 engine buyers who ended up with coolant in the oil thanks to poor intake manifold gasket/sealing design. Often times this resulted in internal engine damage before being detected.

    It is also true that Honda had some issues with it’s transmission in recent years … and unilaterally extended the warranty on them to 10 years/100,000 miles.

    The Detroit companies and most of the Europeans in my experience duck and run when their products have latent defects show up after the warranty is over. GM did this to me. Volvo did this to me. Honda, on the other hand, covered the one post warranty defect issue on our Accord at no cost to us and was very helpful about it.

    The perception gap mantra is a ruse if our experiences with a 2002 GM product are any guide. By the time that van was three years old it rattled like a cheap baby buggy, was on it’s first replacement intake manifold gasket and was throwing mysterious check engine light errors that the dealer couldn’t figure out. Then there was the $1000 replacement of the a/c condensor. The trade in value was less than 1/3 of the original purchase price and we had maintained that car impecably.

    Perception gap my ____. The problem is a quality gap, not a perception gap. Of course the MBA types believe that perception is reality, so I’m not sure where that leaves ’em!

  • avatar
    nino

    I’m not denying that Toyota was pushed into doing something about the sludge problem. But when they decided to do something, BOY they really did.

    My cousin now drives a Lexus ES 330 partly because she knows it’s a fancy Camry. You try and tell her that there are better luxury cars out there and she’ll just tune you out. That’s what a little customer service can do for you.

    I had an experience with a Mazda dealer that replaced a water pump and changed the coolant in my RX 7 after it was well out of waranty because of a possible defect in the pump and a change of spec on the coolant. All of this was free of charge to me.

    When I compare that with my experiences with GM dealers, both during sales and after sales, I wonder why I ever put up with it.

    The recent Caddy purchase was for my dad, but if it was left up to me, we wouldn’t have bought the car because of how bad we were treated.

  • avatar
    nino

    I have to say that I’ve had some good experiences at two Ford dealers if only after getting a little nasty and getting the zone office involved. I had a 1993 Ford Probe GT that started acting up after having for 18 months. When I took it in for service, it turned out that it needed a new transmission. They didn’t want to cover it because they said the car was “abused”. A few months of angry phone calls, letters, and visits, along with threats of legal action and a personal visit to the district zone office, netted a better equipt 1995 Ford Probe GT with a sunroof and leather that served as the replacement for the ’93 car. After the financing for the Probe was up, I was offered a lease on a new Jaguar XK coupe for $500 a month. I couldn’t afford it at the time, but this experience led to me getting a Focus SVT as a screwing around car and my brother buying three Focus.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Farago wrote, “A quick scan of this [earlier DW – #10]”

    Actually, an even better read is the article prior to that, DW #9, which outlines GM’s plan to reduce or eliminate model overlap and badge engineering. After two years, has there been any progress on that? Sure doesn’t seem like it.

    RF, ou might consider a DW Recap occasionally to check the Geenral against his own stated plans.

  • avatar
    nino

    I guess the point I’m trying to make is that nobody thinks nothing will break on a car. But what everybody wants is SATISFACTION and that whatever problems that occur will be taken care quickly and correctly and without debate as to who’s fault it is.

    In my experience, GM is the worst at this aspect of their business.

  • avatar
    windswords

    It isn’t always just the Japanese who finally make good on a problem – whether they are pushed (as in the case of Toyota) into it or not.

    When problems surfaced about the new Chysler electronic transmissions they finally did the right thing and waived the $100 deductible on the powertrain warranty, provided a free loaner, and if you were stranded away from home, payed for your accomdations or provided you with a rental to complete the trip.

    Now at first they didn’t want to recognize they had a problem, just like Toyota. If Toyota had not been put under pressure by the public at large I don’t think they would have been as proactive. They are a large corporation like any other.

    As for the Honda tranny problems, I can’t confirm this but I remember reading somewhere that the same engineering and/or consulting firm that helped Chrylser with it’s infamous A604 tranny also helped Honda develope theirs.

  • avatar
    nino

    I’m not trying to sound like a broken record here, but in all the dealerships I’ve been in, I’ve never felt I was talked down to the way I am at most GM dealerships. And if they have a product you might actually want (Solstice, CTS-V, etc), forget it. They treat you like a moron that they’re doing some favor for. They’re put out if you ask them a question. All they want to know is why isn’t your checkbook out writing them a check for $5,000 over sticker and if you’re not going to write it in 30 seconds, you’re wasting my time.

    I was actually called an idiot for expecting some trunk space in a Solstice with the top down.

    So much for customer service.

    If GM and the domestics really want to change the perceptions of the buying public, they should concentrate on the dealer experience first and foremost. Even great products won’t be enough if you’re treated like shit when you buy them.

  • avatar
    Eric Miller

    If perception is reality, then there is certainly, as Cowger calls it, ‘noise in the system’, ‘transparency’, and ‘TMI’.

    Even here at TTAC we have several conflicting linked articles and personal anecdotes that some of us will give cred. Trouble is, we have no idea if it is cred-ible.

    If I told you that my 1992 Toyota Camry went 214K relatively trouble-free miles (and still going) and another vehicle in my personal fleet, a 1997 Toyota Tacoma 4×4, currrently shows like new at 195K miles would you believe me? Might you hold it as some supporting evidence for your own opinion?

    If I told you that my previous 1997 Pontiac Grand Prix GTP had 267K miles when I sold it, and my sister still has a 2000 Chev Cavalier currently at 220K miles and going strong, would you believe me then? How would you know for sure? Is it ‘proof’ that American cars are better/getting better/get a bad rap? Depends on your preconceptions and predispositions.

    The media that was once considered the experts are also no longer as cred-ible. We scrutinize practices of Consumer Reports, JD Power, Car & Driver, et al. and find ways to dis-credit them.

    So who to believe? We come full circle back to personal anecdote/experience.

    Noise indeed

  • avatar
    doctorv8

    Sanman,

    Finger is right…most GM vehicles these days have plastic ornamental covers for their metal lugnuts that unscrew by hand. The fact that you or your friend did not realize this seriously clouds your credibility. Did you really think an automaker could get away with releasing an automobile in todays litiginous society with PLASTIC lugnuts? C’mon!

  • avatar
    wsn

    Replying to: willjames2000:

    3-Year Vehicle Dependability: A top (Lexus) to bottom (Land Rover) difference of about 3 “problems” per vehicle over three years. Without them, the difference shrinks to 1.7 “problems” per vehicle over three years.

    A Lexus has 1.36 problems per car, while a Land Rover has 4.38. In other words, the latter is 222% more likely to break down (assuming they have the same type of problems).

    Certain statistical numbers may look small, but the relative gap is still huge. Consider commercial jets built in Russia. They have extremely low rate of failure during flight, if you compare them to any car or any other mechanical/electrical device. But given the track record, I would still choose the slightly better Boeing or Airbus.

    Not to mention that Toyota/Honda cars don’t solely rely on reliability. They also possess superior styling, safety, and material quality. Take a look at Fit vs. Aveo, Civic vs. Focus Accord vs. Taurus.

  • avatar
    Sanman111

    Alright, a few clarifications….
    1. Vitek is right, the rust problems I have been having are similar to ones that friends of mine have had in chevy, ford, honda, and other vehicles. It is due to liberal salt use and vehicles that stay ungaraged and covered in the stuff all winter due to college living. It is also the reason that there is more pothole than road in upstate NY when the snow melts.

    2. My nissan does run and idle just as well as when I bought it. And for comparison’s sake, I drive a 2003 camry and a 2006 CR-V fairly often. As for reliability, the camry was bought this year and a 1992 pathfinder that still runs just fine was traded in for it with 150,000 miles on the odometer.

    3. I should have been more clear doctorV8, I did realize that the plastic cap was covering a metal lugnut. However, the lug wrench supplied with the car fit the plastic caps. Hence, I was able to remove the rest of the lugnuts except for one, which required a AAA call and even he took 45 min to get the damn thing off. For what reason they need to do this, besides it being cheaper, is beyong me. God forbid anyone should hit a pothole, who heard of such a thing.

    Frankly, I haven’t been in a GM car that didn’t feel like it was going to fall apart. Now everyone here is mentioning GM SUVs and pickups as evidence that they can last. I think GM can build a truck but apparently something happens when they build a car. Looking at the Mazda 3, Ford can build a a good car, they simply choose not to in the US. Is there any reason that we are stuck with the last gen focus platform even though mazda and volvo are using the new one?

  • avatar
    mikey

    The lug nut you couldn,t remove was the locking one.Its a special socket to prevent thefts.Pontiac supplied one when the car was built.
    During your weekly car check check your fluids,air preasure
    your spare,and most important your jack, wheel wrenches,
    and locking socket.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    Hence, I was able to remove the rest of the lugnuts except for one, which required a AAA call and even he took 45 min to get the damn thing off.

    Like mikey said, that’s the lock nut. And it sounds like it was overtorqued by the last mechanic who slammed it on there with an impact wrench. It happens.

    I’m not convinced GM makes product as refined as many imports, but so far your complaints are not GM’s problem. I’d recommend you get a general knowledge book on Auto repair/maintenance or spend more time with the owner’s manual of whatever vehicle you’re driving.

  • avatar
    willjames2000

    wsn:

    My point was made in response to a posters remark about “GM crap”. My arguement is that there is really not much crap being built today anyhow. In Powers 3-year reliability study, without Lexus (ahead of #2 Mercury by .2 “Problems” per vehicle and Land Rover, trailing #36 Saab by over 1 “problem” per vehicle), every other manufactuer is much closer.

    In fact the Toyota (#5) to Ford (#12) difference is just .5 and to Chevrolet (#19) is just .7 . Add the fact is we don’t know what kind of “problems” they were on each brand (radio?, paint?, wind noise?, engine?) makes its impossible to caculate the breakdown rate anyhow.

    As for safety, Fit did beat Aveo in the IIHS test, but botha re 5-star rated in the govmt test. But Aveo beats Yaris in the IIHS (unless equipped with the rare option of side airbags) and Malibu (with opt side air bags) beats Camry, and on and on. So what does all this really say about safety? Probably nothing since safety is not one thing, but many. Accident avoidance is the best way. Does the car have ABS? DRLS? How and where is it driven? What type of accident is the car most likeyl to be involved in? Real-world results are much better predictors and the Insurance industry (as in the IIHS) don’t really let those stats out much.

    Of course styling is a very subjective thing. I personally most Toyota models are very bland and don’t appeal to me at all. Does that mean they are crap? Of course not. To each his own.

  • avatar
    wsn

    Replying to willjames2000:
    In fact the Toyota (#5) to Ford (#12) difference is just .5 and to Chevrolet (#19) is just .7 . Add the fact is we don’t know what kind of “problems” they were on each brand (radio?, paint?, wind noise?, engine?) makes its impossible to caculate the breakdown rate anyhow.

    Yeah, from the JD data alone we don’t know what type of problems are there. However, from sales trends, it seems that many of the domestic issues are significant enough that upset car buyers big time.

    That may explain why 50%~100% more problems result in a much larger gap in perception. You still remember the Explorer steering wheel fire problem? Dozens have died before a massive recall. I don’t know any problem of such a magnitude with Toyota or Honda. Sure, some Prius stalled on highway, but no death has ever been reported. And yeah, probably that Explorer has 1 more problem than a 4Runner. Being totalled, it cannot have any more chance to report a problem.

  • avatar
    willjames2000

    wsn:

    But really, see my safety comments earlier. Domestic buyers are dying, but mostly because they are older. The younger generations (of which I am a member) don’t have much loyalty to anything. And with many of them the perception is that:

    1) Domestics are not well built (not true today, really. But I’m sure you’ll argue that all day)

    2) Imports are more fuel efficient (also, not true to a large extent. While at the extreme high you’ll find Prius and the sub-compacts, most are not buying the most fuel efficient import models anyhow, but rather the other small and mid sedans, trucks, and suvs where sometimes the domestics win, sometimes the imports, but their is largely no difference)

    3) That is doesn’t matter if you buy a domestic (assembled in America is much different than made in America)

    All of these perceptions are reinforced daily by the way the media reports on the industry. Toyota recalled more vehicles in the US this year than any other manufacturer. Didn’t know that? I’m not surprised. It was reported, but not sensationalized like “Toyota plans to surpass GM worldwide”.

    When the Japanese cars first came to the US, I’m sure most buyers thought “no way I’d buy that”. Made in Japan meant cheap. Things changed right? Well the domestics are now building much better products than at anytime in their history. An open mind is not the worst thing and NEVER is a long time. The market will judge, if they don’t close their minds. And it is important to the US, believe it or not.

    Anyhow, Merry Christmas.

  • avatar
    wsn

    willjames2000:

    1) The young generation, or any other generation, is loyal to whatever brand that give them value.

    2) I don’t want to use the terms “imports” and “domestics.” The Camries that we see every day are mostly built in North America. Thus they are not imports. In addition, I live in Canada. Although the Ontario auto workers may view GM cars as being “domestics”, I don’t. They are American/German, not domestic. Canada never had a true domestic mass-production car brand.

    3) Not all the Japanese cars are fuel efficient. That’s for sure. But let’s just have a look at the most significant one: Camry. Compared to a Taurus, it’s has the same interior space (in terms of cubic feet), yet it is one foot shorter and subtantially lighter and … more fuel-efficient.

    4) Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. Any auto maker that has to use “buy domestic” as a selling point should die.

    Happy new year.

  • avatar
    Sanman111

    Sajeev and Mikey,
    If memory serves, the locking nut was uncovered and we were able to remove it. This nut looked like a small bolt and had half a plastic cover over it that didn’t fit the lug wrench. I might be wrong though since that happened a few years ago and it is possible that the reason I couldn’t get it out with one my wrenches is that the thing was overtorqued.

    Sajeev,
    It wasn’t my car, I was just helping out a buddy in need.

  • avatar
    Sanman111

    Oh and as far as that being GM’s problem, my only issue was that the use of the plastic covers on the nuts was cheap and the lug wrench was made to fit these caps for some reason. I was just wondering why they did n’t just have the metal bolts on most cars.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    “That is doesn’t matter if you buy a domestic (assembled in America is much different than made in America)”

    It seems to me that a Camry built in the US with a US made engine is more “American” than a Ford Fusion built in Mexico with a Mexican made engine. The Ford was built on a platform engineered by Mazda folks in Japan, so you can’t even argue about the white collar design jobs!

    Ford and GM are closing US factories and outsourcing to foreign suppliers just as fast as they can while the Japanese and Koreans are building US factories and moving more and more of their sourcing to the US. The game is over and the flag waving card doesn’t play anymore.

  • avatar
    Patriotic_wish

    WillJames2000 had a thought-provoking post on December 22nd where he chronicled his neighbor’s problematic experience with a Toyota. The neighbor remained loyal to Toyota despite the negative experience and a previously positive outcome with a Chevrolet. Why? Are American’s inherently “disloyal” … is it a “status thing” … or is there something deeper at work here.

    My father was a union carpenter, who…for most of his life wouldn’t consider owning a foreign car. Growing up, we were never rich, but never poor either. Dad worked extremely hard, loved automobiles, and worked his way steadily up the GM hierchy with an eye towards retiring with a Cadillac. In 1974 he bought his first one…a bronze Eldorado…for about $14,500…cash! His pride was contagious. That car saved our family’s lives nine months later when a drunk re-ended it at 65mph…the accident would not have been survivable in a smaller, less robust vehicle.

    Fast forward to the 90’s, three Cadillacs in a row prove to be lemons. A howling rear-end differential, deemed to be “within tolerance” by the dealer and GM-rep, is replaced by one with real problems…chronic electric problems, from hard starts, to windows that stopped mid-way up/down, three starters…so forth and so on. The last one, a STS that I bought for them, had recurring transmission problems that stranded my parents on their last vehicular vacation. Fed up, I bought them a GS400. A flawless, boring appliance that has yet to give them the first problem in five years.

    I travel extensively on business and sampled countless rental cars. Within this context, I am amazed by GM’s ability to run 99 yards and fumble the ball on the one yard line. The last CTS I rented ran great. Nice engine and transmission combination; reasonable handling (although a little too much torque steer for my taste); competitive ergonomics. I was on the verge of being really impressed, but found various minor fitments to be shoddy and cheap…why would the interior designers put flimsy, poor fitting plastic around the transmission shifter? The darn thing squeaked, chattered and felt like it was going to pop out in my hand…every time I took the car out of park! That, coupled with a cricket-like squeak/rattle in the right hand corner of the dash, ruined my perception of the vehicle.

    Years ago, GM ran a series of commercials claiming that “Nobody sweats the details like GM”…this was a triumph of marketing over reality and good sense. In my humble opinion, nobody screws up the details more consistently, or stupidly than GM. I would like to scream at Wagoner…go sit in a bunch of three year old fleet vehicles and see why consumers are fleeing GM.

    These problems aren’t confined to GM. My wife’s new Mercedes has had five recalls; has terrible feeling brakes and more than it’s fair share of rattles. It doesn’t come close, in my opinion, to the quality and solidity of my 90,000 mile 2001 540. Strange though…my wife perceives the MB to be far (far!) superior to any Cadillac product due to the crappy versions of the later that we’ve rented in recent years.

    It may well be that GM has corrosively eroded it’s reputation by dumping decontented and otherwise low-end cars into the rental car fleets. For what it’s worth, if GM would just “sweat the details” like it claimed to…I bet lots of people like me would be delighted to return home and buy domestic products. But, the perception gap won’t close quickly or easily.

  • avatar
    finger

    I’m not trying to sound like a broken record here, but in all the dealerships I’ve been in, I’ve never felt I was talked down to the way I am at most GM dealerships

    And I assume you are treating your sales consultant the way you would expect to be treated?

  • avatar
    nino

    And I assume you are treating your sales consultant the way you would expect to be treated?

    I realize that you don’t know me, but if you did, you’d also know that it would go without saying.

    Not to post a personal biography here, but I’ve been successfully dealing with people, and how to treat them, for about 34 years now. I’m ALWAYS surprised when I’m not treated in kind.

  • avatar
    Johnson

    Ar-Pharazon,

    I encourage you to look at the final Top 10 TWAT list, and pick out one vehicle that fits the needs of it’s market or class extremely well. Pick out just ONE vehicle on the TWAT list that you feel is undeserving. I dare you.

    You can argue about this all day long, but the Camry did not deserve to be on the TWAT list because it is class leading, and an extremely competitive vehicle that fits the needs of the midsize market all too well.

    Even if you read a survey yesterday, that compared current domestic cars and current imports, the bar is already moving. Most articles and posts related to the American automakers improving talks about the future, not the present. Yes, at present, American automakers have improved a great deal over the past several years, but they still have a long way to go.

    And I’m not particularly focusing on any surveys. I, along with others, such as the staff at TTAC, look at the present, as well as the future. We look at the cold, hard facts. We look straight through the media, the bias, and all the silly playground arguments occuring on the internet.

    I have extensive knowledge on the corporate culture of each of the world’s major automakers. I will also say that Robert Farago, and some of the other TTAC writers possess similar knowledge.

    I stand by what I said, which is despite the current and upcoming future improvements of American automakers, import automakers are too improving currently, as well as looking to improve themselves in the future. Seems that you in fact are the one that is diverting oneself from the facts.

    As much as it no doubt pains some of you here, Toyota is in a very envious position right now, and although they are certainly not perfect, they are doing a lot of things right now extremely well. Same can be said for Honda.

    Yes, the domestics have improved in many areas, and in a few areas have surprised import makers, depending on which survey you look at. But again, that has nothing to do with the fact that Honda and Toyota, the bulk of the import competition, are a moving target. Toyota and Honda both have publicly stated that they will increase quality to new levels, and Toyota wants to increase the quality gap between it’s competitors, even with American automakers improving their quality.

    In case you’re still confused, Toyota wants to increase it’s quality at a faster rate than any of it’s competitors. This is of big concern to the competition, and should be a concern to any import critics. Recently, when Toyota’s CEO Watanabe held a press conference to state Toyota’s 2007 sales goals, instead of talking mostly about sales and becoming #1 worldwide in terms of sales, he spent the majority of the press conference talking about his concern about Toyota’s quality control, and he reiterated that increasing quality is Toyota’s top priority.

    If that’s not paranoia, I don’t know what is. A press conference, from an extremely successful company, meant for a discussion of sales goals for next year, ends up being about the CEO’s concern for the company and how the company vows to increase and improve quality at every level. You would be forgiven for thinking that Toyota was in a big crisis, based on the attitude that Watanabe has. You would also be forgiven for thinking that GM is doing extremely well in the marketplace, given the attitude of Wagoner and Lutz. Heck, if one were to believe what Lutz says, than GM is doing extremely well, and has no major problems to speak of.

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