I’m trying to imagine the moment when that itsy bitsy company AT&T decided, “Hey, we’re only grossing $124 billion. We only have 300,000 employees. Our assets are only worth $268 billion. Why don’t we go out and ‘eat’ another company? Why not T-Mobile? They only have 34 million customers. Their gross income is a paltry $21 billion.”
Have you seen the TV commercials advertising how great it’ll be if these two companies operate as one rather than — God forbid — competing with one another? This will be good for America, they always say, just like the previous “consolidations” that allowed CBS to be gobbled up by Viacom, ABC to be consumed by the Walt Disney Company, NBC by Comcast, and of course Fox by News Corp. They are, like Antonia in Man of La Mancha, only thinking of us.
As of last year, he was talking directly to the customer via GM’s Fastlane blog. Lutz – who occasionally steered onto the shoulder while speaking publicly, such as his dismissal of both electric vehicles and global warming – also had a firm grasp on the wheel and a strong sense of direction.
There are two GMs – the Old GM, and the New GM. The old GM was a manufacturing behemoth who enjoyed a period of dominance in both style and sales, which eventually culminated in the misreading and mismatch of product to consumer needs, a much lamented attempt use marketing to compensate for bland product, and a vicious spiral of legacy costs, quality deficiencies – both real and perceived – and an addiction to market share over profit, punctuated by the occasional hit.
The New GM casted off the chains of the past (as Motors Corp), shed the sick, lame, and lazy divisions (initially Oldsmobile, followed by Saturn, Pontiac, Saab, and Hummer), and shed thousands of white and blue collar jobs and unviable dealerships.
GM is enjoying somewhat of a nascent recovery with competitive offerings such as the current Chevrolet Malibu, Cadillac CTS, and Buick Lacrosse as well as forthcoming product like the Chevrolet Cruze, Buick Regal, and others. The fear is that the bean-counters, bankers, and marketing guys of old – responsible for such ‘hits’ as the Cadillac 4-6-8 engine, the X-cars, badge-engineering, and of course, the Aztec – will have resumed control after the latest management putsch, most notably of car guy CEO Fritz Henderson by former-AT&T Executive Ed Whitacare. GMs greatest weakness is its culture – without strong leadership – as exemplified by Lutz – it will be far too easy for the company to fall back on old habits.