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Handicapping GM's Turnaround


"Rick Wagoner's game plan" (Cover Story, Feb. 10) was a great overview of what General Motors Corp. is doing under CEO G. Richard Wagoner Jr.'s leadership. It is building some of the prettiest cars around, and it's always love at first sight. Having owned several GM vehicles, I only wish they were designed so they don't fall apart after 100,000 kilometers--one reason I no longer consider them.

Personally, I would rather shell out a bit more now and avoid the thousands in repairs a GM car costs you after a few years. This may not be the planned obsolescence of decades ago, but it sure appears to be an unplanned parallel.

Peter Kotsinadelis

Pleasanton, Calif.

Like many Americans, I only buy cars made here, but doing so becomes more and more difficult. Super Bowl Sunday featured several multimillion-dollar ads for the new Cadillac convertible, which isn't currently for sale. The Cadillac Web site, also lavishly done, doesn't feature its price or availability date. When I sent an e-mail to GM expressing my frustration, I was sent an elaborate Cadillac brochure, which also didn't include pricing or availability dates. Calls to three separate dealers resulted in similar answers. On my fourth dealer call, I was told that the car might be available in fall, 2004, with a possible price of $60,000 to $70,000!

Mercedes' showroom on Park Avenue has in its window an immediately available, brand-new $39,000 hardtop convertible. Why shouldn't I buy it, Mr. Wagoner? Once I start to purchase cars made elsewhere, I'm not coming back to "Made in the USA." It's your call.

Walter Deane

New York

Rick Wagoner, Robert A. Lutz, and the rest of the team deserve a great deal of credit for bring GM's design studios back from the Roger Smith days of cookie-cutter sameness. The 16-cylinder Cadillac show car brings back the days of GM's V-16 Cadillac of the 1930s. While the car may never go into production to compete against Maybach or Rolls-Royce, it does show that the company is finally emerging from a long hibernation of stodginess.

James P. Butler Jr.

Douglassville, Pa. I am appalled that BusinessWeek's editors insist that "as the new members of [the President's] economic teamare approved, they must become forceful advocates of the President's plan" ("Stay focused, Mr. President," Editorials, Feb. 10). What are his three new economic advisers appointed to do if not to advise on and presumably determine economic policy? If they're only called upon to sell the President's predetermined economic program, who is responsible for the program? Karl Rove? The President? Dick Cheney? Favored lobbyists? And what reputable economist would accept such a degrading appointment?

Robert E. Gahringer

Deering, N.H. "The new global job shift" (Cover Story, Feb. 3) suggests that for India's tech grads, there's no place like home. I think that the idealistic 26-year-old engineer Dharin Shah represents only one in a thousand. I met with the other 999 grads in the U.S. and India who were ready to sacrifice everything just to leave India and stay in the U.S. or elsewhere in the West.

Big corporations don't have enough power to create jobs for most of the educated youth in the developing countries. Instead, in some way they are contributing to unemployment by destroying small and midsize companies.

Kenan Ovali

Antakya, Turkey

Foreign direct investment by U.S. companies grew at a rate of 10% per year in the decade of 1990s, reaching a record of $142 billion in 2000. Foreign affiliates of U.S. companies employ about 6.9 million workers, about 74% (4.6 million) in high-wage industrialized countries. The 33,600 jobs that the article states went abroad last year to low-wage countries is a minuscule amount (0.0048%) of total employment of U.S. affiliates.

Thanks to globalization, foreign direct investment in the U.S. has been growing in the last decade by more than U.S. foreign direct investment abroad--and is accelerating. In 2000, a record $282 billion of foreign direct investment was added to the U.S. economy after tripling, to $215 billion, in 1999 from $69 billion in 1998. Foreign capital has added more than 5.7 million high-paying jobs to the U.S. economy. This process is accurately postulated by economic theory that predicts high productivity reflects high wages.

Pellegrino Manfra

New Rochelle, N.Y.

If Manila and Bangalore and Guangdong profit at Silicon Valley's expense, isn't the world economy, as a whole, better off? By definition, if an economy is growing more quickly than our own, then any money that is earned and reinvested there is more productive than capital that's invested here. But maybe there are even more important questions.

Will religious fundamentalism and terrorism become less attractive to young people in Third World countries if real jobs exist as viable alternatives? Will Stalinist dictators who threaten to destabilize an entire region be tolerated by their neighbors if those neighbors have real economic opportunities that depend on a stable, interconnected global economy? In the long run, will the average American, whether at home or abroad, be safer if the real (and perceived) disparities in global incomes are lessened in the process?

Your story states that "talented, innovative people will adjust as they always have." What worries me more is the understandable but misguided self-interest of companies, industries, unions, politicians, etc., which try to promote legislation to protect their own narrow positions. In the process, they retard the broader, predictably beneficial, and ultimately inevitable march of globalization.

Robin Koskinen

Chicago I was amused by "Improv at the interview" (Management, Feb. 3). Many of the suggested alternative assessment approaches have some utility, but when top-quality staff is in short supply, the differentiator is typically the bond that develops between a hiring manager and a candidate. That kind of relationship only comes with a dedicated, time-intensive process that allows both parties to get fully acquainted.

An old adage says that the role of an interviewer is to "make a friend." When you establish such a relationship, you are most likely to be told things that you would never be told in a stress interview. The reason these other assessment tools have been developed is that most business leaders have failed to invest the time needed to learn the art and science of the behavioral interview. As a result, they can pass the buck when a candidate fails to perform.

Michael Eisenbud

Stamford, Conn.

Editor's note: The writer worked at General Electric Co. for 25 years and conducted assessments of GE's top people for former CEO Jack Welch. In "A bright spot for ailing CNBC" (Up Front, Feb. 3), Marcia Vickers says, "it's fair to say business news is in the tank." But TV's most watched daily business news program showed no audience erosion in 2002. According to Nielsen Media Research, Nightly Business Report (on public television stations nationwide) delivered an average 850,000 viewers each weeknight in November, 2002, more viewers than CNN's Lou Dobbs Moneyline and CNBC's Business Center combined.

Stuart Zuckerman

Vice-President, Sales and Marketing

Nightly Business Report

New York


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