Sunday, December 20, 2009

Ideas from Outside the Box

How ironic is it that I, a confirmed business-hater, would think of an idea to save General Motors?

It came to me as I was reading the obit for Saab yesterday in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the latest in a string of GM-related murders. It follows the deaths of Oldsmobile, Pontiac and Saturn, and unsuccessful attempts on Opel and Hummer.

GM bought a fifty-percent interest in Saab for $600 million in 1989. Eleven years later, it purchased the remaining half for $125 million. I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed, but by my reckoning this begs a question: why was the second half 79.1 percent cheaper than the first? Frequent-buyer miles?

Or does GM have one of those preferred customer keyring tags you get from the supermarket?

I'm betting the only time you get 80 percent off is on really junky Christmas cards after New Year’s Day. So how does GM get 80 percent off on the asking price of a viable car manufacturer with a distinguished history and a passionate following?

Just for the sake of argument, let’s take it on the word of car enthusiasts that GM wrecked the brand. Smoothed-out every irregular personality trait until Ashley Simpson resembled one of Hugh Hefner’s plastic surgery Barbies. Took what had been a quirky, much-loved automobile and spread-sheeted it into perfect Buick blandness. What if?

And therein lies GM’s salvation. So ironic. And so true. Its own ineptness, its bloated culture of bureaucracy and accountants and design by committee that insures that any trace of personality is ironed out of each and every automobile, could save its ass.

GM wants to survive? All it needs to do is buy the competition.

Buy Toyota. Buy Ford. And buy Honda. Within eleven years, all will be wheezing shadows of their former selves. Uninspired sheetmetal resting on outdated platforms. Of course, past performance is never a guarantee of future results, but the odds look pretty good.

My bill is in the mail.

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