O/T: Michael Moore gets it right sometimes.

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... don't waste your time, buddy!
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You obviousely are out of the loop. I have only run 2 companies. Both made/make a very nice return on investment, bottom line. I mave managed numerous departments in several companies.

I drove a 97 Chev PU for 10 years, traded last year. I had great incentive to purchase GMC or Chevrolet. My son worked for the Chevrolet dealer until the dealership folded 2 months ago. Not a problem, he has 2 other jobs. I had deep employee priceing incentives + hundreds of dollare crdits through the GM CCard program. I test drove a GMC and Checy PU last summer. They really were no more comfortable or felt any better while driving than amy older truck. The GMC dealer even offered to sell me a GMC PU with power doore windows. etc, V8, take my 97 Chev in trade, "sight unseen" for a drive out price of $18K, inc TTL. We test drove 6 different GMC trucks moving up in trim levels each time trying to find one that was comfortable to sit in and to find one that did not have a back door that moved while on the freeway. You could literally see the door rack inside the opening while the vehicle was going down the freeway. I walked away discusted and decided not to buy a new truck. Then we honored our appointment with the Toyota dealer and drove the Tundra. At the time I did not like the looks of the new Tundra but all it took was 1 test drive. I gladly paid $6k more for the New Tundra over the similarily equipped GMC. Since I have had it, 18 months, it has been in for warranty work 1 time for a break light switch. No other warranty work needed. My neighbor has a 3 year old Yukon, a totally different animal. Its drive quality is totally different from that of a Pickup.

Yeah, I own an Accord too.

That is a dealer problem, Have worked as a manager at all the positions in an Oldsmobile dealership, I know what to look out for. My Toyota dealer is better than most any dealership I have purchased from. Service is great and that is not only focusing on the repair work. I am treated like I own the place.
Nissan

Nissan is getting ready to have Dodge build their Titan, the Titan is plagued with problems.

Totally agree however it has been management that got them in this situation. They operate like our government does. It's the what's in it form me right now attitude.

I wuld say they probably did build good trucks but the Tundra has been gaining momentum for several years now and for the first time I did not buy a GM truck.
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Leon wrote:

Noted ... with my apologies. Did you ever have any of the following pleasures while running your companies:
1) Having the government tell you how to run it and then tax you on money you never actually made.
2) Having a union undermine its competitiveness with outrageous demands.
3) Working your <Biblican beast of burden> off for years, and then have someone tell you that "you guys in mangement make too much money."
It's very special when any of these things happen.

I drove a Tundra with the TRD engine for about a week last year. I hated nearly everything about it. This was not because of its lack of quality - it was very well made. I just never got comfortable with its ergonomics and control layout. This is purely a comment about taste not quality, however. As I say, it was very well screwed together.

There's no question that the buck should stop with the executives that led them into this mess. This is why I favor exec compensation in the form of long-vesting stock options with no fast forward vest if they are terminated. It would be good for all concerned if large corp execs owned more of the companies they run, instead of being well paid gardeners whose pay does not vary even if every flower wilts and dies. I also favor the unions being forced (via negotiation, not the government) to take a large portion of their pensions and benefits in the form of long-vesting company stock while also being given a vote on the board. It has to be in everyone's interest for the company to succeed it will not.

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Tim and Leon,
I think that you two have been having a very worthwhile and interesting discussion and I would like to compliment you both on the ease with which it can be read and the civil manner in which you have conducted yourselves.
I firmly believe that the true nature of the problem before us, is either an amalgam of the issues that you both raise, or somewhere in between. From all that I have read, heard and observed, I think that you both are right while seeming to be on opposite sides of a fence.
However, one issue that I must chime in on, is the issue of the products that you have been discussing. You seem to agree that the Big 3 make trucks that range somewhere from good to superior, but that their cars are completely lacking. Well in addition to labor issues, and management issues, I would say that your assessment of their products is #1. correct and #2. the third and equal part of the problem. The Big 3 have centered their product strategy around trucks and SUVs and failed the car market. A common sense discussion about the needs of the motoring public makes it very clear that most people do not NEED trucks or SUVs, and recent gas pricing has forced people to reevaluate their purchasing decisions. It seems to me that smart product strategy would be to develop a bread and butter, reliable straight forward automobile that will satisfy the wants and needs of the greatest number of people. That main product line can then be coupled with additional vehicle types that fill the needs of the smaller market segments, (i.e. contractors, boat owners, those that really do need to get through a major snow, sports car enthusiasts.)
I simply do not understand the product strategies of the Big 3. If you tally the TV ads from Ford and Chrysler these days, you mostly see ads for trucks. Vehicles that most people do not need or want anymore. GM has finally brought to market a hybrid drive system. I know very little about it technically, but why release it only in a $60k SUV rather then in a mid-size sedan that would appeal to a greater market. Why is Chrysler returning to the days of big motored rear-wheel drive cars, (i.e. the Charger, Magnum, etc.) when the mainline, practical concept is that of front-wheel drive small displacement 4 and 6 cylinder cars?
If you look at the relatively recent history of the Big 3 and their products, you have to notice the successes. What was the product that saved Chrysler once before? The Aries K platform, midsized, front wheel drive, practical and flexible. That platform was used for so many different vehicles, its amazing. What saved Ford in the late 80's? The Taurus, midsized, front wheel drive, straight forward automobile. What have the Japanese been selling by the boatload (or trainload)? Small to midsized, front wheel drive, 4 and 6 cylinder sedans.
The companies definitely have labor issues, and management issues, but they also have equally debilitating product strategy issues, (which BTW is technically a management issue but one of such import that I believe it deserves its own examination.)
SteveP.

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Highland Pairos wrote:

I disagree. I regularly engage in activities that require a large storage area. I do not *always* need it, but when I do, no car would serve the purpose as well as an SUV.

I bought my SUV when gas was $4/gal - it was a great buying opportunity.

This is what they should have done. Then again, the money was all being made in light trucks and SUVs, not cars. So .. they went where the money was. They failed to read the changes in the industry effectively and got caught with the pants down.

Because these really are the cars people like ... or at least that's what they did like. The eco-weenies want everyone to drive a shoebox that is vegan and ugly, but that's not what the buying public really wants. They want comfort, safety, reliability, AND some level of fuel economy.

Especially the SHO with that big honking Yamaha power plant in it.

The market changed faster than they could react. I'd argue this was both because of a lack of vision in leadership, AND an inflexible, archaic labor rewards system.

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There are most definatley those who do need large vehicles. I am not at all saying that there is no market for trucks and SUV. Rather I believe that the Big 3 has simply over relyed on them.

If you have the need for one, now is a monumentally good time to buy.

Agreed.
. Why is Chrysler

I would point to the sales figures for those cars versus those of Camrys, Accords, Priuses, Sentras, etc to dispute what it is that people really want. Eco-weenies aren't forcing people to buy the vehicles that they do. (They might want to, but they don't)

I definatley agree with the lack of vision AND leadership, and am curious how the labor agreement impacts product strategy.
SteveP.
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Highland Pairos wrote:

Because the ability to change market direction quickly requires a flexible workforce. Many of the the past UAW contracts were completely inflexible with draconian workrules and terms. It's hard to turn the company on a dime when labor is dragging its feed.
As you say, there's lot's of blame to go around here from senior mangement, to the Board, to the UAW leadership, to the worker bees themselves. Personally, I love GM truck products and hope they stay in business, just not by stealing my- and my fellow citizens' money.
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Par for the course, it all comes down to you, the greedy, delusional weasel you are.
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Upscale wrote:

Let's see if we have this right. Let's dissect yet another ad hominem attack of yours. I am "greedy, delisional ..." etc. because:
1) I like, and buy GM products 2) I want them to stay in business profitably 3) I do not want them to use the power of government to make my fellow citizens pay for GM's failings and/or to serve my interests under duress.
Which of these three positions of mine do you find most offensive? My loyalty to the company? My desire to see them prosper? My unwillingness to support theft to get what I want? (Based on your history here of loudly defending stealing as a moral good, I'd guess #3, but maybe you just hate GM, I dunno.)
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I am not debating your position here, I am just curious. I know that many of the work rules are ridiculous and inflexible. Are there really rules that prevent the company from designing new and different products and then shifting its production over to that new product?
As far as the use of taxpayer money is concerned, I have great reservations about our money being used for all of these bailouts. I definitely agree with the principles against bailouts, bad companies that cannot compete should go out of business. However, there are two facts that sway me towards going along with bailouts. #1. The track record of government loans and 'bailouts' to private industry is one of success in terms of the loan itself. I recently heard a list of the 5 major bailouts in the past 50 years(?) (I think that was the time frame). The two that I can remember off the top of my head are the Chrysler loan and the S&L debacle. All 5 have been paid back, with interest and on time or early. (The fact that Chrysler is back on the hill, hat in hand, however, causes me to question the long term wisdom of bailouts.) #2. The failure of all three companies in quick succession would be disastrous for this country for quite a while. I believe that there would be a great deal of hardship for many people for a long time. That being said, for one of them to go away I think might be a healthy thinning of the herd. If there is going to be a bailout, I firmly, unwaveringly believe that it needs to be handled as a business matter, not as corporate welfare. The American taxpayers need to view this and conduct themselves as one very large investor. To that end, it is unconscionable that the Big 3 even asked for help with out having a plan prepared to right their ships and convince the potential investors that their money would be well spent. There is no way I will ever support money turned over without a significant address of the problems that a bunch of simple wood butchers like us can identify.
SteveP.
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Highland Pairos wrote:

I'd guess not. But the issue isn't the design phase. The issue is just how fast can you train and deploy the workforce to actually *build* the new model. Can you use your workforce in multiple roles, or do the union contracts insist on very stratified work assignments? Can you move work from plant to plant easily to get efficiencies of scale? Can you install automation to replace manual labor for improved productivity and quality without also having to payoff the union for years afterwards?
I don't know the answers to these questions, and I'm sure not excusing the leadership of the Big Three. But, we're going to hold the CEOs accountable here, then let's hold the UAW accountable in equal parts.

All that is well and good, but here's my fear: The government - especially these days - is like an infestation of termites. Once they get in, they never go away. A government "managed" car industry will be rife with corruption, ridiculous regulation, politically correct policy decisions, and so forth. This isn't like Chrysler's loan guarantees of the past. This is a full on trade of Capitalism for Socialism - many of the politicians are just drooling at that opportunity. The truth of this bailout is that it is not a bailout of the auto companies. It is a bailout of the unions because bailing out the unions buys votes, and votes are all that the political types care about.
The right answer here is to let the car companies go bankrupt. Then, under the supervision of a court they could retool their abusive union contracts, set rational compensation models for their management team, and - most importantly - make everyone involved from the floor sweepers to the CEO, stock participants in the company with an incentive to grow it and make it better. This would work better and faster than having the professional politicians - most of whom have never run anything other than their mouths - "manage" a huge, high complexity industry.
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You are correct in that there is a need to be flexible, and I have not doubt that the labor contracts do nothing to help with flexibility. I would also agree with you that labor agreements (or portions thereof) that prevent that needed flexibility do need to be tossed and better agreements drawn up.

100%, absolutley correct. Now if Leon will agree that the Union must share in the blame, (which he may have already, I would need to go back and read), I would (if I ran the world) turn the two of you loose on Detroit to work through the solutions to this problem. Only I would put you with the management to solve their issues and I would put Leon on the Unions.

I also have those concerns that once the government is in the door, they never leave. I also agree that the major problem in even asking the Big 3 for a business plan is deciding who will evaluate it. There is no one in Washington in whom I have the confidence in their qualifications, nor the faith in their integrity to make that evaluation. The issue of further management and representation of the investors is even harder. One thing that I firmly believe about 'bailouts' in general is, that if the American people are going to be investors, they should then be owners, and as such they should have a seat on the boards of whatever companies are invested in. I do believe that there are individuals in our society, that if they were called to serve, and they were to accept, they would have the competency and the integrity to represent the American investors on the boards of these companies. The obviously difficult step is to identify those individuals, and to keep the selection process as non-political as possible.

I am open to the idea of a managed bankruptcy. The only issue in that which gives me pause is the concern that consumers may not be willing to purchase automobiles from a company that is in bankruptcy. The consumer may have profound concerns that the company may go under and be unable to support their product. The end result being that bankruptcy would only be a path to failure. I am not convinced that this would be the case but it is a concern that cannot be dismissed out of hand.
Steve P.

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On Wed, 17 Dec 2008 10:37:43 -0500, "Highland Pairos"

...this is an interesting point: what of the customers who already own vehicles under warranty? SOL, baby...
cg

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Highland Pairos wrote: <SNIP>

No, but there's been this phony consciousness raising going on to get people to experience environmental guilt. Any number of otherwise rational people have bought into the extremist (and unsupported) views of the Global Warming Chicken Littles that overstate the severity and impact of GW so they buy these kinds of cars out of misplaced fear and guilt.
Speaking of which, I wonder if this will cause the Sierra Club to *demand* we all drive high-emissions cars to get things warmed back up:
http://cdapress.com/articles/2008/11/17/columns/columns06.txt
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Highland Pairos wrote:

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I think that you make the solid case for alternatives in your first sentence. We have always found a way to use oil more efficiently. Now is the time to do that. Now is the time to take significant steps to end the one car, one driver commute, now is the time to make better choices about the cars that we do drive, now is the time to develop alternative energy sources. If we agree that there is a finite amount of time before the oil runs out, and merely disagree on how much time there is, doesn't prudence dictate that we begin taking all possible steps towards bringing "other tech on line", and of equal importance, start changing the habits that will impact this problem.

I also agree that the current hybrid technology is not perfect. There is the economic payoff issue that prevents them from being a greater sell to many consumers. There are also ecological concerns involved with them. The mining and processing of the cadmium used in the batteries is an ecological problem, not to mention the disposal problem. I would like to hear about the viability of Lithium- Ion batteries as an alternative. I have heard some compelling arguments for it. That being said, I do not believe that our backs should simply be turned on the concept of hybrid vehicles. They need to continue to be developed and made more viable. I have heard them referred to as being a bridge technology toward hydrogen fuel cell technology and that is one reason why some are not investing in hybrid development. My understanding is that hydrogen fuel cell is 10 years out. That means that hybrid technology would be with us for at least 15-20 years. That is the 10 years before hydrogen fuel cell hits the street and then a potential 5 - 10 year transition among the car buying public. Making an investment in a technology that most likely has a 15-20 year life does not seem foolhardy to me.
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Not to mention the electric eco cars cost more to build, operate, and dispose of during their whole life span than a Hummer does through out its whole life span.
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"Leon" wrote

But, but Leon....., electic cars are just SOOOOOOO...., trendy and in!!!!
And Hummers are just so icky masculine and retro.
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On Dec 17, 11:55am, "Lee Michaels"

Hummer owners have an identity problem. An off-road vehicle it is not. (With the exception of the original HumVee). Many Hummer owners also are said to have a small penis.
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