General Motors can be salvaged and resurrected. But, it won’t happen unless the folks in Washington do a couple of simple things that probably should have been done earlier: Take GM private and let manufacturing engineers run the company.
Normally, I don’t get lost when I drive. But, while researching an article on the origins of the moving assembly line around this time last year (see “The Model T Turns 100”), I suddenly found myself lost in a time warp. I was driving through a depressing, deserted neighborhood on the north side of Detroit that was once the center of the early American auto industry.
Today, the Milwaukee Junction area is littered with large brick factories and warehouses. Most of them are abandoned and gutted. Around other parts of Detroit, you can also find the remains of old auto factories that once mass-produced vehicles that defined the American auto industry, such as Packard.
While processing the latest round of sad news from General Motors Corp. the other day (the company’s third turnaround plan this year!), I started thinking about all those old buildings I drove past. Ironically, they’re located just a few blocks away from GM’s massive Detroit-Hamtramck plant (a 24-year-old facility that was hailed as the “factory of the future” when it opened, because it featured more than 250 programmable robots). I wonder if that building will also end up as a hulking ruin some day.
Believe it or not, I still believe that GM can be salvaged and resurrected. But, it won’t happen unless the folks in Washington do a couple of simple things that probably should have been done earlier:
1. Take GM private.
2. Let manufacturing engineers run the company.
If GM was no longer publicly traded, there would be no more short-sighted decisions that only focus on the next quarterly statement. By focusing on what customers want rather than what Wall Street demands, maybe we would see some cool, must-have cars rolling down GM’s assembly lines again, like the company was famous for during its golden era.
Of course, if engineers run GM again, like they did once-upon-a-time (see “Time to Put an
Engineer Back in Charge?”), that doesn’t guarantee success. But, if the few remaining GM brands ever drive off into the sunset, this former Pontiac (and Oldsmobile) owner believes the ride would be a lot more spectacular and end with more than just a whimper or a thud, like it soon will for a brand that once proudly proclaimed “We Build Excitement.”
Two Ways to Save GM
By Austin Weber
Austin has been senior editor for ASSEMBLY Magazine since September 1999. He has more than 21 years of b-to-b publishing experience and has written about a wide variety of manufacturing and engineering topics. Austin is a graduate of the University of Michigan.