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GM Like a Presidential Candidate In Silly Season

Posted by: David Kiley on July 16, 2008

I did not attend the GM press conference as my colleague David Welch did. But I was sruck by two soundbites I heard from CEO G. Richard Wagoner Jr.

In one, he said, the cost cutting and borrowing moves were about “winning, not surviving.” In another soundbite, I heard him say the company was undertaking these moves—white collar cuts, suspension of medical benefits for white-collar retirees beyond age 65, suspension of dividend, asset sales—“to insure our survival.”

He sounds like a Presidential candidate today trying to comment on an event; like when Barack Obama said he supported the Washington DC handgun restriction, as well as the Supreme Court ruling that deemed it illegal. Or when John McCain said he was against the Bush tax cuts, until the GOP political base (re: Grover Norquist) told him he might want to rethink that position if he wanted their money and support. Now, he’s in favor of the cuts.

GM is walking a tricky line. Words like “insure our survival” can put customers off, not to mention investors. Just when GM needs consumers to notice its better-than-ever designs and quality, it has to follow the sales message with…”if we are still around.” I wonder if a PR person got into Wagoner’s ear to tell him to rephrase.

Reader Comments

Harry C

July 16, 2008 6:33 PM



July 17, 2008 4:34 AM

I sometimes wonder if 2000's silly season ever actually ended.


July 17, 2008 5:07 AM

Kicking a man who's down on his luck has new meaning when even David Kiley joins in the bashing. The last thing Wagoner needs now is to have a side-kick-two-bit editor from BW's automotive pages doing Monday night quarterbacking as to Wagoner's speech and his choice of words. I'm sure that if Wagoner had read some of the wacky stories and choice of words written by Kiley, he would have had plenty to say about them. But the almighty Kiley, the King of the Hill, thinks he can out- think, out-speak and out-finesse Wagoner. Readers of Kiley's comments on Obama and McCain would conclude that Kiley is now also the newly appointed political commentator in BW's auto section. BW is blessed to have such multi-faceted writers. Perhaps Wagoner issued only one pass specifically to Welch for good reason, or perhaps Welch declined Kiley's most esteemed company.


July 17, 2008 2:11 PM

"Kicking a man who's down on his luck.." are you kidding? Ballbuster did you miss the part where under Wagoner GM has gone from only very bad to almost out of business. Wagoner, and the entire GM board should be sacked. Bad luck that Wagoner didn't see boat-mobile gas guzzlers as something to move away from, bad luck that Wagoner forgot to spend on 'new technology', bad luck that GM uses 1950 technology. Bad luck that the progressive auto makers of the world didn't decide to buy 1950s technology from GM. Wagoner shouldn't be kicked while down, he should be kicked out. BW auto section is one of the best on the web and unrestricted opinions being expressed is one of the reasons why.


July 18, 2008 10:04 AM

Why the companies always keep their hands on their employee benefits when it comes to cost cutting....Why is this, i think better companies can find other sources where they can cut their cost....Areas like lavishly spending for ads can be reduced and they should use their brains for cheap and effective advertising.


July 24, 2008 10:12 AM

To me the dumbest part of the 20% of white collar workforce cutbacks is that they hope it will all be achieved voluntarily by either early retirements or people leaving voluntarily. Huh?? 1 of the biggest problems GM has is a bumper crop of idiots (managers who can't run a 2 car funeral, engineers who can't engineer a broom handle). They will lose their brightest that need to stay and the idiots will never leave voluntarily. Am I the only 1 who doesn't see much hope?

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