Editorial: General Motors Death Watch 235: Where's Marion Robert Morrison When You Need Him?

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

Moral relativism is inherently childish, as demonstrated by my eleven-year-old. “You don’t make Lola take her plate into the kitchen.” Any assertion that her sister’s age removes her from the obligation meets with a derisive snort. In fact, Sasha reckons she’s a victim of a cruel, capricious system. “It’s not fair!” she cries, storming off—until I threaten to yank her poker chip pay. Then, grudgingly, she does what needs doing. All of which reminds me of GM’s PR “narrative.” As their sales dip by half, they cry “Everyone’s sales numbers are a disaster! You can’t blame US for this mess.” And then they walk off and we clean up (i.e., pay for) their mess.

GM’s bondholders and union leaders “get it.” They know that GM lives in a world where actions don’t have consequences. No matter what The General does or doesn’t do, no matter what they build or don’t build, kindly Uncle Sam will keeping throwing them chips.

And who do you think scoops up those plastic pieces at the so-called bargaining table? Why the bondholders and union leaders, of course. When it comes to securing “their” stake, General Motors and its camp followers have learned that whining speaks louder than action.

“These are obviously unsustainable levels which are causing almost every major auto manufacturer across the world to look for government aid,” GM’s chief sales analyst Michael DiGiovanni said during a post-February sales numbers conference call.

See! Nobody else has to file bankruptcy! You want us to go C11? I hate you! I wish you were never born!

Plug your ears for a second and think about that. General Motors has just publicly admitted that they’re no longer a viable business. And no wonder.

When GM first suckled from the federal teat, their loan request was based on grabbing their “usual” share of an estimated seasonally adjusted annual sales rate (SAAR) of 11m vehicles. February’s SAAR clocked in at 9.8m. Oh, did you mean retail sales? That’s 7.5m. Nissan’s CEO figures SAAR will drop to 8.5m.

Bottom line: GM is too big to survive in such a small market, never mind the weakness of their products.

You could make a case that the precipitous sales drop was due to the unforeseeable collapse of the credit market. You could argue there was “no way” GM could have predicted these terrible times (although I won’t be joining you in that belief). But clearly, indisputably, GM should have known the way the winds were blowing back in December.

So how come GMNA’s Best and Brightest’s “worst case scenario” wasn’t even close to reality? Either GM management was woefully ignorant of their own business, or they were lying to Congress to minimize their [initial] call on the public purse.

After ten years charting this company’s course, watching as the crew plowed it straight into a killer iceberg (that a faltering economy has now revealed in all its terrible glory), I’d have to say GM’s misinformation was based on willful ignorance. And cowardice.

These are tough times. Times that try a man’s soul. What GM needs, what we all need, is true grit.

True grit refers to the character of a person who can look at their perilous situation without flinching, then devise a realistic plan to deal with it. Sometimes, the odds are insurmountable; even the best possible plan is doomed to failure. And then a person with real character does what has to be done; whatever they can do. No matter what the personal cost.

It’s no coincidence that The Alamo is one of John Wayne’s best-loved movies. It’s no coincidence that GM is bankrupt, without anything like a coherent plan to file for C11, reinvent itself and save what can be saved.

And here’s the missing puzzle piece: the aforementioned willingness to make a personal sacrifice.

Last year, at The New York Auto Show, I asked GM Car Czar Bob Lutz if his pension was bankruptcy-proof. I was really asking if he was personally committed to saving GM. Lutz’ derisive prevarication, followed by his recent retirement, answers that question once and for all.

In fact, GM’s management team are like a bunch of eleven-year-olds, willing to do most anything, blame anyone, to avoid accountability for the mess they’ve created. By the same token, they refuse to take responsibility for cleaning it up.

Unfortunately, it’s is no longer their problem. It’s ours. BUT, contrary to growing sentiment, it’s not our job to let management walk; take control and clean the god damn table ourselves.

GM is not our child. We can’t afford to feed it and take care of our own family. Nor should we let GM’s parents avoid responsibility for their own progeny. We’ve served them a hot meal. We’ve done more than our fair share. It’s time to show GM the door. Anything less is simply enabling and encouraging bad behavior.

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

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  • MaintenanceCosts "But your author does wonder what the maintenance routine is going to be like on an Italian-German supercar that plays host to a high-revving engine, battery pack, and several electric motors."Probably not much different from the maintenance routine of any other Italian-German supercar with a high-revving engine.
  • 28-Cars-Later "The unions" need to not be the UAW and maybe there's a shot. Maybe.
  • 2manyvettes I had a Cougar of similar vintage that I bought from my late mother in law. It did not suffer the issues mentioned in this article, but being a Minnesota car it did have some weird issues, like a rusted brake line.(!) I do not remember the mileage of the vehicle, but it left my driveway when the transmission started making unwelcome noises. I traded it for a much newer Ford Fusion that served my daughter well until she finished college.
  • TheEndlessEnigma Couple of questions: 1) who will be the service partner for these when Rivian goes Tits Up? 2) What happens with software/operating system support when Rivia goes Tits Up? 3) What happens to the lease when Rivian goes Tits up?
  • Richard I loved these cars, I was blessed to own three. My first a red beauty 86. My second was an 87, 2+2, with digital everything. My third an 87, it had been ridden pretty hard when I got it but it served me well for several years. The first two I loved so much. Unfortunately they had fuel injection issue causing them to basically burst into flames. My son was with me at 10 years old when first one went up. I'm holding no grudges. Nissan gave me 1600$ for first one after jumping thru hoops for 3 years. I didn't bother trying with the second. Just wondering if anyone else had similar experience. I still love those cars.