Daily Podcast: Roger Smith RIP

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

“Roger Smith led GM during a period of tremendous innovation in the industry. He was a leader who knew that we have to accept change, understand change and learn to make it work for us. Roger was truly a pioneer in the fast-moving global industry that we now take for granted.” You can't expect GM CEO Rick Wagoner to speak ill of the dead, but the truth is that Smith was an utter disaster for GM. In GM Death Watch 116, our own Eric Stephans wrote: "After a massive reorganization in 1984, Smith dismissed thousands of workers and began a buying spree of epic proportions. GM’s CEO spent an estimated $40b on a laundry list of fashionable solutions and distractions: NUMMI (New United Motor Manufacturing Inc.), EDS (Electronic Data Systems Corporation), Hughes Aircraft and more. GM’s culture ignored the benefits of these innovations. The Toyota-style production techniques learned at NUMMI and the union-friendly ideas implemented at Saturn’s Spring Hill plant never made it outside the factory gates. GM management remained impervious to EDS’ can-do culture. Saturn devolved into another badge-engineered GM platform brand." Today's GM owes Roger Smith a debt, but it's not one of gratitude.

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

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  • Mikey Mikey on Dec 02, 2007

    24% of the market blunozer and still number one in the world. I don't believe we should compare a CEO,that might of made some lousy calls to a mass muderer OK?

  • Taxman100 Taxman100 on Dec 02, 2007

    Consider the times when he was CEO - while it is true that Chrysler had a dynamic CEO, GM built a much better vehicle. Ford was probably somewhere in the middle. Hindsight is always 20/20, but there is no way the UAW of the 1980's would have signed off on what they did in 2007.

  • Supremebrougham Supremebrougham on Dec 03, 2007

    When I was nine years old, my parents bought their first new car, a 1985 Buick Skylark, and as a young kid who was becoming obsessed with all things automotive, I thought it was a wonderful little car. I learned soon after that the X car (which is what our Skylark was) was being discontinued. I was so upset that I sat down and wrote a letter to GM extolling the virtues I found in that little car and demanded to know why they were killing it off! My aunt, who at the time worked at Hydra-Matic as a temp in the office, got it and sent it to Mr. Smith. I got a letter in the mail soon after from his I guess chief assistant saying that "Mr. Smith read your letter with great interest..." and thanked me for writing. He then went on to explain why the X was being killed, "...being phased out...". But the best part was that to thank me for writing, Mr Smith had sent to me a lovely hard bound book that chronicled GM's first 75 years. I later learned that that book was only available to GM employees. I wish I still had that letter, but despite my best efforts as a young boy to keep it, it somehow got lost over the years, but I still have that book. Mr. Smith may have been a lousy CEO, but he was kind to me. :)

  • Sherman Lin Sherman Lin on Dec 03, 2007

    Why should the UAW have accepted the current concessions back in the 80's taxman? It wasn't their fault for the bad calls. GM was printing money and going on a spending spree (40 billion), even if they had worked for half pay GM would still be where they are today.