Tuesday, March 31, 2009


I have some personal connection to GM. My father-in-law and his father were long-time employees of the company. Almost 20 years ago, my fil retired early when the division he worked for was sold off to a French company. 20 years ago, we didn't think GM was doing all that well. While most of Mr. Geeky's family drove only GM cars, we drove whatever was inexpensive. Although on occasion that turned out to be a GM car, most of the time it didn't. We saw, through riding around with various family members the kinds of cars on offer and they certainly didn't appeal to a young couple on the move. They were grandma cars. We did actually go through an SUV stage, driving two Ford Explorers (consecutively) rather than any of GM's offerings (one was a hand me down, no choice there really). And now, we're in a GM brand minivan, which, I have to say, has lasted a long time (122,000 miles and counting) and a fuel-efficient Toyota. Mr. Geeky's family's loyalty to the company only made sense for the people who actually worked for them (since they got a discount on the cars they bought). For the aunts and uncles who drove cars they may or may not have like out of a desire to "buy American" or buy within the family, it didn't make sense to me. Why not buy what you wanted or what you could afford? And, as it turned out, their loyalty didn't save the company.

Not that long ago, Mr. Geeky and I watched "Who Killed the Electric Car?," a film that describes how GM was working and actually built an electric-powered car, a car that had potential, but was eliminated from the product line after 3 years. The film makes GM look like it's in the oil industry's pocket and that's been the theory behind their resistance to increases in CAFE standards in addition to their resistance to change manufacturing procedures.

It's weird, even though I've never been a fan of the automakers as they seemed largely to be an industry in denial and out to make a quick buck at the expense of the planet, I feel a strange sense of sadness at the real possibility (probability?) that GM will go the way of the dinosaur. But the whole idea of capitalism is that the best product survives and GM is no longer making the best products across the board. Like any business that's not doing a good job, it should probably fail. Maybe what I'm feeling is the loss of so many jobs at once. Detroit and Michigan are already at the top of the unemployment list. What will happen if/when GM fails? What will all those people do? What will Michigan look like? It's a depressing and scary thought.

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