Being a humble American taxpayer, it's almost dizzying to consider that I now own a car company, a giant that was once known by the name of General Motors and once worth over $41 billion dollars.
Some of the shine is off my recent acquisition now that the accountants tell me it’s only worth a measly $500 million. How could this have happened when they did everything right? They built gas guzzling cars that would need to be replaced every few years, screwed their workforce, sent jobs overseas, fought against environmental and safety standards, and stubbornly refused to update their designs to reflect what consumers want. With that in mind who could have seen this coming?
Okay, okay, all is not lost. We bought a lemon, we just need a lemonade recipe.
Let’s look at where GM got off track. I believe it was Michael Moore that pointed out the beautiful irony that the company which invented “planned obsolescence” is now obsolete. It probably wasn’t a sustainable strategy to build crap that guzzles gas and breaks down so people need to buy new gas guzzling crap every few years, and to ignore the trend for fuel economy and quality picked up by the rest of the world.
What can we do differently this time? Maybe we should look at market trends, build things people want and which meet the environmental and energy needs of the next generation. Here are some things we could try:
Let’s make hybrids, electric vehicles and ultra-efficient cars.
What about retooling for solar panel or wind turbine production?
Why not refit the manufacturing plants to produce light rail mass transit lines?
We can pay for retrofitting and research by increasing taxes on coal and gasoline, make polluting the planet the least appealing choice!
Keep in mind that it is not the first time GM’s plant has been repurposed. In WW2, within weeks of Pearl Harbor, these once-great plants were refitted to make the equipment needed to keep us safe and end the war. Make no mistake, we are in another crisis that requires equally drastic action.
So there it is. This debacle can be a demand for change. Let’s use this opportunity, not to throw good money after bad, but to invest in something that adds value for us and for the world. What do you think? Hey, what am I asking you for, it’s my company!