NYT Defends GM: The Night of the Living Pom-Poms

nyt defends gm the night of the living pom poms

We’ve identified NYT (and former Detroit News) scribe Bill Vlasic as a Motown cheerleader ever since ever. Bill’s not happy with that assessment. Can’t see it. Which is kind of strange. I mean, read this piece in The Times chronicling GM’s slide into bankruptcy and try and find one– one– instance where Vlasic takes CEO Rick Wagoner and Co. to task for running what was once the world’s largest automaker into the ground. It’s full of the usual weasel words and waffle. To wit: the headline. “Driven to the brink.” Not driving over the brink. Driven to the brink (by external events, of course). Vlasic and his partner lead their “story” with the termination of GM’s CXX SUV program (you hurt your what?). “‘It would have been very difficult in today’s environment to spend a couple of billion dollars to do a replacement [for the GMT900 SUVs],’ said Robert A. Lutz, G.M.’s vice chairman and head of product development. ‘Reality had set in.'” And when did Maximum Bob get this wake-up call? May. Of this year. There’s more, but those of you who easily offended by GM’s mismanagement and media stooges should avoid the jump.

The rest of the article is a potted history of GM, focusing on the recently terminated Janesville SUV plant. “Potted” as in you’d have to smoke a lot of pot to view it as anything other than corporate spin/fiction. “What is clear is that Detroit, among its other miscues in recent years, particularly overindulged its romance with S.U.V.’s, leaving it tethered to a product line that may prove to be the industry’s undoing.” Over-indulgence? Jeez, we’ve all done that! “G.M. began sensing the vulnerability of the market in the summer of 2005, when gas prices shot up in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Sales of big S.U.V.’s dropped sharply, just as G.M. was in the midst of the first stages of a broad turnaround plan.” Doh!

“‘The market kind of fell off a cliff, which was very difficult to deal with,’ said Mark R. LaNeve, head of G.M.’s North American sales. ‘It was burning down just when we were trying to do our turnaround.’ Yada yada yada. “Mr. Wagoner also pointed out that G.M.’s biggest rival, Toyota, invested heavily in new truck production in the United States just as the pickup and S.U.V. markets were crashing. But big trucks were never the underpinning of Toyota’s success, and the Japanese juggernaut never lost sight of its goal of becoming a leader in hybrid gas-electric vehicles and small cars. G.M. is just now making an all-out effort to catch up in the small-car arena, and its hybrid sales are still far behind Toyota’s.”

While the is more of less accurate, the softly-softly approach clearly shows where the journalists’ sympathies lie. Anyway, sorry, can’t go on. Just had breakfast.

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  • Argentla Argentla on Oct 27, 2008

    Michael: It sounds like those things go back decades, and that many of those factors (the lack of trust, the parochialism) extend beyond just product development.

  • Michael Karesh Michael Karesh on Oct 27, 2008

    Yes, they do. GM (and many other American companies) have consistently overlooked the nature and importance of interpersonal relationships. They've acted as if people are like car parts, and can be swapped about and instantly achieve full potential. This is far from the case. If I had to identify who did the most to destroy GM, though, that would be Roger Smith.

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