Monday, March 30, 2009

GM/Wagoner - OK, Let's Move On

Are we over this Rick Wagoner episode? It surely was a development that drew many opinions. Was he a sacrificial lamb, as our Gov. Granholm claimed?
The White House promises that no matter what, your GM warranty will be good.
We really believe them. Those White House mechanics are crack.
Perhaps the best take of the day comes from Rick Newman at SeekingAlpha
While we disagree with regard to Newman’s take on Wagoner’s leadership and abilities – the departed CEO really was a major problem via his old school thinking – the new management won’t take the show to any better places. This is a company with problems that will only be solved through a major overhaul that a bankruptcy will put in place.
Let me allow a small story that paints a large picture of how GM is run. Last June, I went to the Hummer dealership in Lansing, Mich., where I live. I wanted to get my father a Hummer hat for his birthday. He is fond of the Hummer for its finger-in-the-eye of the environmentalists. So I walked into the showroom and was greeted with a hostile stare from a woman of about 25, who was very busy turning the pages of a glossy magazine of some sort, perhaps People or something. No greeting, no smile. Just a glare. The place was, predictably, empty.
“Hi, I want to buy a hat with a Hummer badge on it,” I told her.
“The only thing we have is in that showcase at the back of the room,” she said impatiently. I also liked her way of introducing the negative into the conversation.
I walked back and found the hat, good price, $20. She never budged, so I walked back and said I wanted to buy a hat.
Without a word, she picked up her phone and called…someone. She informed him that someone wanted to buy some merchandise and she didn’t have the key to the display case.
So I waited for about 5 minutes while this sales guy made his way. He was a pleasant man, about 60 years old. He pulled the cap and filled the spaces with some good conversation about the brand and hats and birthdays and parents.
But I couldn’t pay for the hat there. We had to go across the parking lot to a cashier in a separate building. We took a golf cart over there, and I went up to the window, where I presented the hat. The guy behind the glass – why do you have security glass in a car dealership? – scanned the hat and gave me a piece of paper.
“Take this over there and you can pay for it,” he said, pointing to another window 20 feet away on the other side of the room. I did as told. A coarse older woman took the receipt and my credit card, and I waited another 5 minutes. The sales guy who drove me over to came by to see how things were going. I told him I was perplexed as to why this would be such an onerous process.
“I really don’t know,” he said, with the air of a man who was used to this Soviet-style line waiting.
Finally, the lady huffed something at me, gave me a receipt to sign, handed me my card and my hat. I was done. I was walking away.
Except the price was different. They had charged me $30. I was 10 feet from the last window when I noticed and noted it to my salesman friend. And to redo the deal, I had to go through the same process again, more line waiting, more huffing.
I did get the hat and for the $20 price. But can you imagine what an ordeal a service issue would be? Or any transaction?
This told me exactly what I needed to know about GM. It was broken. And nothing short of a complete redesign, from the ground up, would fix it. Let’s hope that’s what comes next.
Maybe we can get a clue tomorrow in the new guy’s first presser.

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