Quote Of The Day: The Autoextremist Gets His Bash Back Edition
It probably won’t come as too huge of a surprise to many of TTAC’s regular readers that the first car blog I ever read was Pete DeLorenzo’s Autoextremist.com. This was years ago, years before I ever imagined that I would get pulled into the crazy world of the auto industry, and at the time I was deeply impressed. Here was a guy who, having seen the Detroit machine from the inside, was documenting the self-destruction of an industry with an unmistakable bravado and flair for storytelling. In retrospect, it’s strange to realize that my tastes for automotive coverage were well-defined before I ever considered entering the profession.
In any case, writers are forever challenged when the stories they grow to love take a turn for the unexpected, and DeLorenzo seemingly abandoned his caustic style by the time the auto bailout hit. But cheerleading never quite sounded right coming from the man peddling “bare-knuckled, unvarnished, high-octane truth,” and TTAC took the Autoextremist to task for some of his more brazen pom-pomery during the fevered bailout debates. Still, when the bailout-era wagon-circling was over, DeLorenzo could no longer contain the angry spark that once inspired TTAC’s founder to offer to post Autoextremist rants on this very site. And after warming back up over the past year by using Ed Whitacre as his rhetorical punching bag, I’m pleased to say the Autoextremist is back to his bombastic pre-bailout form. His inspiration: the leadership (or lack thereof) of GM’s latest CEO, “Lt. Dan” Akerson…
DeLorenzo tears into “Lt.Dan” with such enthusiasm, it’s impossible to encapsulate all the anger into a single blurb… so let’s just call the whole piece TTAC’s Quote Of The Day. Surf on over to autoextremist.com to read the whole thing. Or, for just a taste of the shellacking dished out by Motown’s “insider’s outsider,” consider this passage:
Marching to the dulcet tones of a soundtrack based on his own unimpeachable convictions – even though they are unencumbered with any real depth of knowledge or understanding of what this business of making cars is really all about – “Lt. Dan” Akerson has launched an offensive to put his stamp on the company, no matter what the cost. And I predict those costs will be cataclysmic for GM and may just cripple the company down the road, just when it needs to be firing on all cylinders.
If this is a business about product cadence – which it most definitely is – then the “new” General Motors is on a runaway train to Hell. After all, this is a guy who has proudly admitted “I’m not a car guy” from the get-go, underlining that statement by making some plainly horrific comments to the Wall Street Journal in a revealing interview conducted right before the Detroit Auto Show.
Do you want to know just how dangerous this guy is to the future stability of GM? In that interview Akerson insisted that GM has too many engines globally, and he’s going to “fix” that. Uh, and he’s basing that on what, exactly? Secondly, Akerson is quite certain that GM is spending too much time and money differentiating sheet metal between the divisional nameplates, when a little creative marketing would suffice.
The last guy who believed that at GM was John Smale and we all know how that turned out, don’t we? The Smale “Reign of Terror” (executed by his Chief Acolyte, Ron Zarrella) was so mind-numbingly wrong-headed that it ended up unleashing a string of products bristling with all of the P&G-infused, marketing-driven mumbo jumbo that the Smale/Zarrella brain trust could muster – revolving around the fundamental premise of it doesn’t matter how good the product is, because brilliant marketing can overcome anything – and resulting in the most woefully uncompetitive and out-of-touch products in the market. Not only was it a complete disaster, it ultimately helped set the table for the most humiliating corporate bankruptcy in American history.
Ouch. You know when Sweet Pete reaches for a Smale/Zarella reference, he’s spitting mad… and in this case, the shoe just might fit. Akerson has definitely done a better job “making his mark” on GM than explaining just what exactly he’s trying to accomplish. And there’s no doubt that the “if you’ve run one corporation, you’ve run them all” attitude is poison in an industry as complex as the car game, as Zarella and Smales proved with aplomb. Is Akerson doomed to “shake the neck of GM until it falls limp in his hands so that he can then rebuild it in his image” as DeLorenzo has it? Not necessarily. But DeLorenzo’s critique provides a fantastic counterpoint to the MSM’s rush to crown the newest savior of General Motors.
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Lutz has forgotten more about cars (OK, more about what constitutes a good car) than Akerson and Barra will ever know.