Thanks to all of you who made Day 1 of the Amazon store such a success. I earned $15.43! This is better than Google has done me in a single day, ever, and while I know it can’t last, I’m pleased to know how many of you are willing to do me this small favor.
I’m equally pleased to see my report from Amazon tells me what you bought. No names attached, alas, although some of you announced your purchases in comments. So I know Del is probably the one behind “The McCleers and the Birneys;: Irish immigrant families-into Michigan and the California gold fields, 1820-1893,” but I have no idea who might have picked up “Strip To It: Core Moves and Fantasies Sexy Striptease (exotic dancing)” on DVD. Although I have my ideas ::koff::BrianStouder::koff::. And truly, I am delighted, because it would seem to indicate we’re drawing a younger demographic. Money in the bank!
One of these days J.C. and I will put together a proper button for the sidebar, but for now click either the current On the Nightstand book or the link below. Oh, and Laura Lippman, if you’re reading this, we also sold a copy of “Life Sentences.” Onward to the bestseller list.
So. I haven’t said much about the General Motors situation, mainly because the more I read, the less I know about this company — or know that I know, anyway. I don’t want to be one of those pundits whose advice to the company boils down to “duh, make cars people want to drive,” as though running the largest industrial corporation in the world, with a few hundred thousand employees, plants all over the globe, a product line that takes years to develop and produce, that’s expensive and prone to the vagaries of commodity and labor prices, trends and a fickle public — all this is no more difficult than running a cupcake bakery somewhere.
Fortunately, in Detroit, there are lots of people who know more about this than I do. I e-mailed one and asked him his take on the Wagoner business. I don’t think he’d mind if I pasted his thoughts:
I think Wagoner got a raw deal. But I also think GM could use a little outside agitation. It’s a huge company. And huge companies are hard to turn around. Maybe a new face at the top will help. Certainly the government has the right to call some shots.
But two of the biggest problems of GM were created a long time ago – shitty cars and bloated union contracts. The third – healthcare costs – is out of their hands. Wagoner went a long way to turning quality around. (It’s ironic that he’s out a week after Buick officially ended Lexus’ 14-year run at the top of JD Powers “Most Dependable” list.) And he took a huge step in bringing union costs in line with the last contract. He certainly blew it when they decided not to build a Prius-like hybrid when Toyota did. But he’s admitted that mistake and GM is catching up. (And he gets no credit for the fact that GM was developing that technology as fast as Toyota and Honda. They just made the strategic mistake of not thinking the market was ready for it … a mistake that must be viewed in the context of the fact that GM struggles to make money with small cars under the weight of their staggering health care costs.)
True to Wagoner form, he didn’t stamp his feet and make a fuss. He is the rarest of birds – a CEO with very little ego. GM is in trouble, much of it by their own hand. But that trouble started a long time ago. Rick Wagoner was the guy turning it around … until a banking and credit crisis clipped him from behind.
…One more thought. I made this prediction late last year, and this latest news makes me think it’s more likely that this scenario will unfold: The government overseers will, with support from Nancy Pelosi et al, righteously force GM to shift its focus to smaller, more fuel efficient cars. Not much will be done about health care costs, of course. So these cars won’t make money. Toyota and Honda, meanwhile, continue to invest billions in their truck fleet, fighting for a spot in this sector. With Detroit money sucked away from truck development – Chevy’s new Silverado gets better gas mileage with its V8 than Toyota can get with its V6 – Toyota and Honda will rush in and seize this highly profitable high ground. And that, my friends, will be all she wrote.
I might add: While gas prices remain low, lots of Priuses are sitting on lots, too. And Toyota sales are down as much as the domestic companies’. When people are losing jobs and can’t get credit, a car that flies would be a tough sell, let alone a Volt. Although Toyota saw something in hybrids that GM didn’t, and was willing to carry the Prius for a good long time until it wormed its way into the zeitgeist. And now when people think of Toyota, they think Prius, not Sequoia, Highlander or Tundra. And GM will forever be the makers of the Suburban. (Which I still see a lot of on the streets, btw.)
A bit of bloggage before we depart? OK:
Detroitblog unearths another great story, about a old-time west-side schvitz patronized mainly by Russian geezers, but on weekends? It’s an orgy venue. More pix (nothing spicy) at the first link, easier-on-the-eyes black-on-white text here.
Oh, it’s so cute when newspapers have April Fool’s Day stories, isn’t it? I’m amazed they’re toying with subscription cancellations at a time like this, frankly.
I am stupid and law-abiding, because my first question, reading this, was, “Why not sell at a loss?” I know nothing.
But I have a lot of work to do. So off I go.