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  • Prose and Purpose

    After 25 years on the job, a former provost examines the world on campus and in higher ed.

June 8, 2014 - 4:02pm

I have indicated on numerous occasions that I am a car person.  I read car magazines for relaxation, I go to automobile shows, and of course I appreciate the economic impact of the automobile industry.  I am also a person who has driven/owned/leased great cars and also some that were very mediocre.  More often than not, the least impressive cars that I have driven over the years have been American cars.  And, unfortunately at the top of my least impressive list is the Chevrolet Vega, though I am willing to acknowledge that this should now be considered ancient history.

More recently, up to the point of the GM bankruptcy there were countless virtually identical cars, substantial quality issues and some overall very mediocre models that no doubt resulted in an eroding market share and confidence level in GM products.  But the new GM has recently produced some very impressive cars and from the Chevrolet Impala to the Buick Regal Cadillac to the Cadillac CTS, these cars are leaders in style, quality and performance.  And now we have the latest GM chapter—the Cobalt faulty ignition switch and GM’s handling or not handling of the situation and the consequences of their actions.

I want GM to succeed.  As an economist I supported the bailout and as a car person I applaud their present product line.  But I have no tolerance for their inaction and perhaps indifference when lives were on the line.  What GM has done and what GM hasn’t done has once again seriously eroded the confidence in the GM brand.  I recognize that some employees have now been fired but has the corporate culture really been changed?  Is this another new GM that really isn’t all that new?

I will still consider a GM car the next time I am in the market to lease or buy. I am still impressed by the product line.  I want a robust American car industry. But enough is enough.  If we don’t have clear and convincing evidence that business as usual will no longer be tolerated by GM, GM should suffer the consequences.

GM, this is your moment.  In future economics courses and in business case studies I want to study GM as an example of a corporation that rose above its own serious missteps and became the textbook example of a successful  combination of quality, profitability, and integrity.



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