Monday, March 30, 2009

Farewell, Rick Wagoner

I'm very happy to see GM Chariman Rick Wagoner being ousted from his job. While I recognize that is likely populist showboating before a massive bailout (much like the proportionately meaningless $165 million bonuses at AIG), this was long overdo. Having the nation's largest automaker run by a guy who still denies global warming and refuses to ever prepare for the day when oil supplies might dwindle in the face of increasing demand always seemed like sort of a bad idea.

Building cars that aren't even allowed to be sold in foreign countries because they're too big and too thirsty also seemed like a bad idea. Frankly, I don't know that GM would ever be a good investment even if they were able to come out of bankruptcy with their massively underfunded pension and medical liabilities gone. I've heard from a few guys who have started smaller shops or worked at Tesla and they say that GM just absolutely, 100% discourages innovation. It seems ingrained in their culture to do so. I don't know that some $100 million incentive to build eco-minded cars will do much to change that.

The Chevy Volt looks like a neat car, but it looks like a money-losing sacrificial lamb (hey, kind of like Wagoner is this morning!) to bring down the fleet MPG while they continue to pile resources into Chevy Silverados. This was largely Saturn's chief purpose a decade ago. You'll notice Saturn is being killed off as the Volt comes online.

Don't get me wrong; I'm happy to have the Volt, but GM would have to do more to show us they're serious about change before they are worth an investment (and they'd also have to be on the other side of bankruptcy with much smaller retirement and medical liabilities for all those union workers who retired 35 years before their life expectancy).

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