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GM has a lot of work to do.

Avatar for Dave Llorens
Published on 12/24/2008 in
Updated 12/24/2008

I just happened across GM’s website this afternoon as I typed the first two letters of “gmail” into my browser’s bar and hit enter by accident. I was immediately greeted by this image of a sleek concept car with some solar cells in the roof. That’s when I got a little more annoyed. “Why? At least they’ve got some energy efficiencies on the horizon, right Dan?”

Come on! Enough of this “concept” BS. Do something already!

I don’t think I’m in the minority as a slightly pissed onlooker while GM flounders to regain market share and stay afloat. I’d much rather see smaller, swifter, and smarter car manufacturers like Tesla Motors get billions of dollars to work with than these dinosaurs. Sure, GM is pledging to be more efficient with its fuel economy. And yes, they issued a touching “we’re on our knees here” letter to congress stating just the extent to which they had screwed the pooch over the past 20 years as Asian competitors swallowed up market share.

It sure would be nice to have a fleet of American car companies creating the most innovative, affordable cars on the market. However, what’s needed within all of those organizations to actually make it all happen is missing: leadership and technological agility.

Our big 3 car companies are not nimble, fast to market, or technology leaders. What’s more, the CEOs of those companies have zero experience as entrepreneurs. Why do I think this is important?

Henry Ford was an entrepreneur with vision about a new way for masses of people to get around without need of horses. Smart business people at the time and even now would argue you need to listen to what people want before rolling out new products. However, if Ford did that, perhaps he would have introduced slightly less squeeky horsebuggies. Of course, while laughed at, he goes and builds completely new products for people, not products people wanted, but products they didn’t know they wanted.

When’s the last purchase you had like that? Mine was my smartphone. I saw a friend with one, a full keyboard takes pictures, can get email on the go and compose messages in a flash. I can even share the internet connection through my phone with my laptop. Amazing.

I encourage you to take a look at Tesla’s website. I am very high on their prospects for success specifically because of what I just mentioned. There’s a leader at the top of that organization who is as serial innovator: Elon Musk. He thinks, he envisions, he networks, he gets access to capital, and he simply crafts innovative businesses that have all been wildly successful. Ever heard of Paypal? Musk. SolarCity? Musk. Space tourism in 10 years? Musk. The only electric car company to have cars now on the roads which can do 0-60 in less than 5 seconds? Musk.

Tesla will succeed because of his vision, his leadership, and passion to create products people don’t know they want yet. They’ve got a new sedan set to begin assembly next year: 100% electric, affordable, stylish. Sure, there are gonna be some bumps along the way. But there are bound to be massive improvements as they suck up more and more smart engineers from our universities.

For these big 3 to ever succeed, they need to oust their CEOs and replace them with people who know how to innovate and create new ways to move from A to B on our roads. These three are trained quite well in sucking each last drop out of old cash cows. However, this Bessie has been out of milk for the past 20 years.

Last modified: December 24, 2008

2 thoughts on “GM has a lot of work to do.

  1. Avatar for CelticSolar CelticSolar says:

    Ford famously said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

    New York Times, December 5th had an article At G.M., Innovation Sacrificed to Profits. They agree with you:

    For the last half-century, virtually all of G.M.’s chief executives, including current Mr. Wagoner, have come from the financial side, which has judged projects by profitability.

    This philosophy has led to the demise of G.M.’s ability to try something new. Worries over profits stifled innovation.
    By contrast, Toyota lost money for years on Prius, which never caught on in Japan until Toyota halved its price.

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