Confront Wagoner's Mistakes

“The Empire Cuts Back” (WAW — Dec.'05, pp.26) is the biggest bunch of crap I've read in a long time. Reckless Rick (Wagoner) has never been confronted for the mistakes he has made and continues to make. If this is the best we can have managing GM, then the U.S. is in deep trouble.

It is a tragedy that at a time when we need a businessman in charge of GM, we get a business boy like Rick Wagoner. No wonder the UAW gets him to do their bidding. Where is there a manager with a backbone and some guts?
Name Withheld
Shawnee Mission, KS

Consider Yourself Lucky

I must respond to Richard Dougal's letter, “Go Easy On Us” (WAW — Dec.'05, p.9), which states that UAW members deserve their high wages because they are good people.

So are bank tellers, restaurant workers, and custodians, but they don't make $27 an hour. For years, the auto makers have given into union demands in exchange for labor peace. But GM has lost market share for 30 years, its stock is at a 20-year low, and it's bleeding billions of dollars. Clearly, change is in order.

Mr. Dougal states, “I could have gone to college and had a better job.” Really? Having completed college, my fellow graduates and I have never made close to a UAW wage. Likewise, a public school teacher with a master's degree takes 15-20 years to approach that mark.

Whose fault is it? Labor? Management? In a global economy, it doesn't matter. The Big Three are no longer the only game in town. GM will survive as a much smaller company, but only after thousands of layoffs and dozens of plant closings.

I'm afraid UAW members must consider themselves lucky if they still have a job, let alone the high wages and benefits.
Steven Vail
Martinsville, IN

Throw the Bums Out

Maybe the UAW hourly-worker pay scales would be doable if the CEO and executive pay scales were more reasonable. The top executives' salaries and bonuses are too high, a multiple of those of the lowest-paid assembly-line workers. The rest of the world doesn't do this. The successful Japanese auto maker executives don't receive the obscene pay of the incompetent U.S.-company executives. It's time for another populist political movement — throw the bums out and keep the workers!
Name Withheld
Atlanta, GA

GM Needs More Enthusiasm

Regarding your editorial "Pick Your Battles" in the December 2005 issue, you put forth an interesting concept for General Motors. And that is to withdraw from markets in which they cannot compete.

However, this is not a new strategy to General Motors. Over the last 25 years, they have given up on heavy-duty trucks, buses, diesel engines, the ‘pony car’ market (Camaro/Firebird), station wagons, midsize and fullsize 2-door body styles, rear-wheel-drive minivans (Astro/Safari) and Oldsmobile. These are only those that readily come to mind. A while back, it was home appliances and more recently diesel locomotives and the entire component business (Delphi).

Regarding General Motors getting out of the minivan business with the closure of its Doraville (GA) plant, “the elephant in the living room” in this situation is GM's inability to build a competitive minivan. This market segment is too large for GM and its dealers to not be a successful player.

It is interesting that Honda, a relative newcomer to the business of automobiles, can build a vehicle worthy of GM's benchmarking. Well, at least it was GM's target vehicle for their current minivans until Bob Lutz saw the new Toyota Sienna at the Detroit auto show. Thus, very late in the game, they revised their strategy somewhat, and Sienna became the target vehicle.

But even more telling is the fact that “brand new” Kia, on their first attempt, can build a minivan (Sedona) virtually as good as the GM minivans. And they did this in Korea for the American market! Toyota, likewise, can design a minivan in Japan that perfectly suits the American market.

The bottom line is General Motors has been building vehicles for a hundred years, and they are being out-maneuvered by the more agile, quick-thinking youngsters in the industry.

Since car guys Stempel and Reuss were ousted by marketing guys Smale and Zarella, GM has lost its car culture, its enthusiasm for the game. Enthusiasm in this instance is inspiration that trickles down from the top. Or doesn't.
Pat Bisson
Flushing, MI

Bag Your Proof Reading

Bill Visnic (senior technical editor) says: “The best seller in the sector in the U.S. is the Chevy Aveo, a rebaged [sic] Daewoo” (see WAW — Jan. '06, p.54).

I like the play on words, but I'll bet it was totally untended to imply that if you “bag” a Daewoo a second time around, it becomes a “rebag,” or in past-tense verb fashion, “rebaged.”

Even that's a stretch, since the past tense of the verb “to bag,” is “bagged.” Perhaps Webster would grin too! How about “rebadged” as the word that Bill truly intended!
Michael J. Paul
Oshkosh, WI

Go Import Yourself

I read with sadness Jerry Flint's “The Canaries Go First” (WAW — Dec. '05, p.48). His advice to the majority of the auto makers he named in the article was to cease U.S. production and import vehicles from outside the country, referring to these companies as “canaries.”

What about the U.S. workers and their families affected when the “canary” dies? The number of deceased “canaries” is growing at an alarming rate, and adequate employment for workers often is not available after the “funeral.”

I realize this “import everything” idea is not a new concept — too many companies already are experts at the import game. But the U.S. middle class is the big loser in this contest of making money in a global economy.

Hey, Jerry, why don't you practice what you preach? Find yourself a nice little place in China or India and correspond from there. After all, as you suggest, we just can't seem to get enough imports.
Bruce Endlich
Cuyahoga Falls, OH

A Welcome Change

Hats off to Chrysler Group CEO Tom LaSorda. Not only does he have the ability to direct the activities of his company, he also has empathy — not sympathy, toward his employees. The son of a United Auto Workers official, but now a successful executive, he has lived both worlds.

In your recent interview (WAW — Dec. '05, pp.34), he disgustedly referred to some management group's approach toward filing Chapter 11, saying, “All these people lose their jobs and everybody at the top gets rich.” It's nice for a change to see a man at the top of Chrysler that values his employees.
Ron Ustruck
Clarkston, MI

Editor's Note: Just to be clear, even though he is Canadian, Tom LaSorda's dad was a prominent official with the United Auto Workers union. He stepped down just prior to the split that created the Canadian Auto Workers union. Also, LaSorda was referring to a non-automotive company, not Delphi Corp.

Want to e-mail us a letter? Please send to dwinter@primediabusiness.com