Daily Podcast: The Weakest Link
Asked about the American Axle strike, GM Marketing Maven Mark LaNeve said "I don't know how long this thing is supposed to last. It's not a threat to our daily business. If it persists for a long time it could be." Yes, that's factually accurate. But it sure sounds like LaNeve couldn't give a shit. It's a far cry from something along the lines of, "We deeply regret this disruption at one of GM's trusted, longtime suppliers. For the sake of our employees and customers, we're hope to see a speedy and amicable resolution to this dispute." And at almost the exact same moment that LaNeve was poo-poohing an industrial action that's hurting GM's other suppliers, Toyota was handing out its 2007 Top Supplier Awards. "The awards were presented at Toyota's Annual Business Meeting and Awards Ceremony at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center, bringing together approximately 500 North American suppliers. Toyota hosts this annual event to communicate objectives for the current year, recognize top supplier performance for the prior year and enhance relationships… Suppliers' commitment to continuous improvement is key to achieving Toyota's long term focus on quality and value."
Long term relstionships matter, whether its with suppliers or with customers. I had hoped the fiasco with former customers would have driven that point home. Toyota gets it and ironically for many decades GM did too in an earlier era.
memories of transmission failures, head gaskets, engine failures, recalls, safety related issues, these all die hard. Some of these problems can be blamed on faulty engineering, others on assembly, but a good number could be traced back to parts. Look at common failure items like crank position sensors on DCX cars, belt tensioner on fords, Brake problems on GM , the list goes on and on. The aftermarket has stepped in with replacement parts because after building cars with questionable parts, the dealers have the balls to charge a fortune for replacements. It would not seem out of place if not for quality cars built by other makers shaming them with better reliability.
An interesting debate about the Focus/3 comparison. Believe it or not, the previous generation Ford Focus ZX3 (3 door hatch) was quoted to me higher than a Mazda 3 GS (mid-level sedan). I really liked the Focus, it was a small, resonably sporty 3 door hatch, but I wasn't even going to consider it for more $ than a 3. Granted, as a repeat customer at Mazda, I was getting a good deal, and when I stated the price I was quoted at Mazda to the Ford dealer he even agreed, and said I should just get the Mazda! I was dumb-founded! He probably thought I was just low-balling to get him to come down. I politely said thanks and walked out.
This mess just demonstrates that a good product is only one component of running a successful, competitive and profitible company. The GM and the rest of the Debt3 have many other issues beyond product and reliability that can sink them.