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Warren Bennis
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Warren Bennis

Warren Bennis is University Professor and Distinguished Professor of Business at the University of Southern California. His newest book is 'Still Surprised: A Memoir of a Life in Leadership.'

The Deadly Hand of Habit

Here's a leadership riddle for you: What's the difference between MIT and General Motors?

When I was a young assistant professor of economics at MIT in the mid-50s, I heard a former MIT president remark that the university's success didn't hinge on its handsome buildings or endowment or, really, anything specific. Rather, he said, it relied on the "habits of success" developed by staff and students over the decades.

That phrase -- habits of success -- has stuck in my mind over the years. At the time, of course, I was sure the phrase applied to the iconic GM. Indeed, my office then was in the Sloan Building -- yes, that Alfred Sloan, GM's legendary former president and chairman.

But the paths of these two great institutions soon diverged. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has continued to develop and enhance its reputation by changing its habits, practically every year, with new programs, dropping obsolete ones and continuing to attract top-flight students and faculty. In other words, MIT has relied on its habits of success without letting them fossilize. The university, I believe, took seriously that bit of wisdom in Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot" when Vladmir remarked to his buddy, DiDi, "Habit is a great deadener." I suspect successful habits that get outdated and shopworn are even greater deadeners.

This, in a nutshell, is the difference between MIT and GM. General Motors has allowed its successful habits to become self-defeating conventions. Chrysler and Ford have less serious problems, but their habits have to be re-examined as well. GM must freshly imagine its future but that is not possible with their current top leadership and board.

In order to change, GM has to get rid of its top leadership and re-animate its stale, aging board with younger and greener members. I don't think that Ford or Chrysler, for quite different reasons, deserve the same "cures" for what ails them. What Berlioz said about his more popular rival, Camille Saint-Saaens applies to GM: "He knows everything. All he lacks is inexperience."

By Warren Bennis

 |  December 10, 2008; 10:11 AM ET
Category:  Economic crisis Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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It is so easy to be a prophet of the past when facts have already shown all that had to be shown. It causes pain when globalization finally arrives home. Maybe the only way out for the automakers is to learn back lessons touch to the world in the past: cheaper, better, even more reliable, and now it also has got to be "green"!

Posted by: Paulo Cunha | December 15, 2008 7:14 PM
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A very minor side issue: I believe Didi is the nickname for VlaDIDImir himself, not his friend.

Posted by: Wilf Gehlen | December 15, 2008 8:34 AM
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The UAW states their wages are 10% of the cost - wrong their UAW web site states 10% of the selling price. Fuzzy math - its nmore like 20% of the cost.

Posted by: john | December 13, 2008 6:07 PM
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1. "Trucks" were promoted, as the Japanese had to pay higher import duty on these. Protection not much mentioned. That protected, until the Japanese companies built their truck factories in US.
2. Low tax on fuel helped big vehicles, until the petrol price increased. Then the percentage increase became far more in the US than in Europe, where the taxes actually lowered the fekt increase, in percentage!
3. The leaseing idea, credit subsidised by car manufacturers, and a guessed future value of used vehicles, also worked, until the credit became expensive.
Now these 3 factors happened to collapse almost at the same time.
Is it too bad now, or was it too good too long time before?

Posted by: Per Norinder | December 13, 2008 6:01 PM
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Marketing for the Big 3 was juvenile and insane. I received, for about three years, a "magazine" FROM Dodge arranged BY the Dodge dealer, which included lines such as "who wants to be seen in a minivan?"

Well, dufus, maybe the guy with a large family driving a Dodge minivan.

That dealer is gone.

In his place, Kia.

Arrogance, as many posters noted, runs our law, business, and, apparently, engineering schools.

MIWhat?

Maybe this is why Harvard opened an Engineering curriculum.

Posted by: F Equals MA | December 13, 2008 4:10 PM
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"They CANNOT make money on small cars due to labor costs ... that's why the small cars that are made are so cheaply made ... most of the cost goes to labor, pensions, and health care ... nothing is left to make a quality small (reasonably priced) automobile. The Japanese have a huge advantage there.

The UAW needs to be held accountable for their role in this and offer REAL concessions."

Puzzling rational! Unless of course one is a CEO or an Economist, but why would "Joe Six Pack" care how much another person makes? Who is he to say what another person should make? Detroit autoworkers earn what they should earn, Import autoworkers earn less than autoworkers should earn, but since the plants are competing with agricultural wages, or Dollar store waqes, they can get away with it. Should we make a list of what everybody makes, then adjust them to, I don't know, a People Magazine poll? Or, is it just autoworkers who make too much money? Or, is it just the "moral right" who think that union workers make too much money? Puzzling, isn't it!

Posted by: David P. | December 13, 2008 2:51 PM
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When people dont work togeather this is where you end up . A little more civility and humbleness can make a lot more sense than arguing about who is right and who is wrong. During stressfull times like this a little cooperation and a lot of sweat is the formula of transition. We may never have an oppertunity like the one before us.

Posted by: ron | December 13, 2008 12:05 PM
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Bit of a platitude, isn't it? I hate having someone explain every time when something doesn't work anymore that times change, yadda, yadda, yadda. In fact, my all time hated book is "Who moved my cheese" which provides the same moral in condescending language.

Yes, business is a balance between making changes (improvements, hopefully) and habits which allow efficient use of time when the objective is know, eg, those habits that go with a profitable production run.

The real issue is how to instill the courage to make changes when the current client is still profitable (and comfortable) but knowing the future will be different.

Posted by: James Turnage | December 13, 2008 10:10 AM
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Apparently there is a common thread connecting
General Motors, MIT and Congress. That thread
is arrogance.

Posted by: Courtney | December 13, 2008 9:48 AM
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I've had GM cars all my life, mostly Buicks, and drive them for 10 years without any major problems. I don't get all this talk about quality. GM is the best as far as I'm concerned.

Posted by: nana6 | December 13, 2008 7:40 AM
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GM said a few years ago they were in the healthcare business and not the car business. I don't see them or the UAW saying "we want to increase shareholder value", so neither one cares if the company is around in ten years. So, who cares about green cars, younger CEO...they are going to out of business.

Posted by: david | December 12, 2008 11:37 PM
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The U.S. still has significant military presence in Germany, Korea and Japan. Our military presence subsidizes a significant portion of their national defense. Thanks to the U.S., they can focus their national expenditures on providing great health and social programs for their people. As a result their companies have no "legacy costs" to burden their corporations internally. This also enables foreign corporate conquests which reinforce the status quo when profits remit to the home country. Korea and Japan also engage in currency manipulation to supercharge profit remits.

The U.S. again is so generous that it allows these same nations to ship their union built cars into the U.S. at low tariffs and allows them to set up plants in the U.S. with non-union labor.

In the meantime the Detroit Three are effectively prevented from exporting to the Japanese and Korean markets and tariffs into Europe are double.

In addition the Detroit Three pay massive Pension and retiree Health care costs since the U.S. government can't.

This is called "Free Trade." And the Detroit Three have failed business models.

Posted by: a a | December 12, 2008 11:20 PM
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Mr Bennis probably knows what he's talking about in regards to MIT, but his knowledge of GM is rather archaic and inaccurate, as for the rest of you, you're either ignorant, or, hateful and jealous. I wonder if it's The Post, because the NYT readership just seems so much more enlightened that you peeps!

Posted by: David P. | December 12, 2008 11:00 PM
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living in india in the 70/80's one remembers that we considered american made cars to be better than the fiats, ambassadors, heralds and jeeps that were then made in india. the overall quality and dependability was better. i bought a 1957 chevy in 1973 that i drove for many years. visiting america in 1980, i heard my brother say he was not buying another american made car as the one he had was of poor quality. he went ahead and bought a volkswagon vanagon to show america to his family and me. a friend of ours called zekes who worked in auto sales in california told me that the market was finished and the japs had screwed everything american. i told him that things would change, the americans would switch from styling to smaller more efficient cars suited to the times. now i see my children drive hondas, toyotas and porches. but much of the japanese and foreign cars sold in america are 'american' and i look forward to the day i buy an american made suv and drive to alaska in it. the big american car manufacturers have been adamant, have refused to change to the extent required. rather than see the public pay for their foolishness they should be made to fend for themselves. that is the true american way and new companies will come up to take their place providing americans with cars they will be happier to buy. indian protectionism kept the old fiats, ambassadors and jeeps on manufacturing lines for many years but these very same companies are now manufacturing vehicles with renault, mitsubishi and korean collaborators. and the new ones are so much better. i wish protectionist attitudes had changed here much earlier.

Posted by: benny from india | December 12, 2008 10:33 PM
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How do you fix your cost when you can not cut your labor expenses? GM just anounce that they will lay off 3000 jobs in the first quarter. That is a bunch of baloney!
The laid-off workers will be moved over to the so called "JOB BANKS PROGRAM" that will pay them 100% of their wages if they report to the union hall or 95% of their wages if they stay home. That is not the definition of LAY OFF! Who pays for all of
this.... And if you produce less cars and have the same labor cost that labor cost is no longer just 10% of the total cost of the car.
The UAW president thinks that the public can not see thru his logic that labor is only 10% of the cost. ANd that they have given up all they can give up! Wonder if he ever took math in school?

Posted by: An American | December 12, 2008 5:10 PM
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These guys, from CEO to the UAW boss, talk in terms/vocabularies that seems out of step with the market. UAW is so used to the rich concessions they extracted from GM over the years, they can't even imagine giving up some of that in a meaningful way. As for GM's marketing? I never got what their "american revolution" means. that same clumsiness shows up in their products, marketing, labor relations, public relations, political engagement, not to mention financial planning. it is absolutely a leadership problem.

Posted by: Bob from Great Falls | December 12, 2008 4:45 PM
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The problem is marketing. When is the last time you saw a memorable advertisement for a domestic product that was not a truck or suv?

All of the Big The have cars that are competitive in their respective markets, but you could hardly tell from their ads.

Vehicle quality is not nearly as big an issue as INTERIOR finish quality is. If you sit an a Chevy and then a Toyota of the same price, the interior is shocking.

One more reason to save the Big Three. If you honestly think that the foreign car producers would continue to manufacture cars in the USA if there was no domestic competition, you are smoking something.

Posted by: Silver Spring | December 12, 2008 3:47 PM
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Bailout on the conidition that the UAW is disbanded and charged with conspiracy and blackmailing.

Posted by: Unions Suck | December 12, 2008 3:27 PM
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The Big 3 has and alway will operate based on the business model of "Planned Obsolence". Build a product thats designed to only last for 3 years, 4 years max. Then the cutomer will return for more of teh same bad products. Its worked for 60 years. Why would anyone expect them to change.

Posted by: blackspeak,DC,USA | December 12, 2008 2:57 PM
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Here's the reason why GM failed: My father worked for GM for 40 years. We always bought GM cars. On our 1972 Impala, for example, the emergency brake pedal had to be held up by rubber bands. The latches had rusted out so the passenger door swung freely open. We had a rope with a loop on one end that would go over the lock, and the driver would sit on the other end of the rope to keep the door from opening on the road. Whenever we would point out the shortcomings of one of our GM cars, my father would grow angry and say, "There's nothing wrong with that car!" That has been the GM culture to this day.

Posted by: Eric | December 12, 2008 2:38 PM
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Some posts have touched on the primary (not only) reason for the automakers' decline ... the unions:

From quality issues to the selection of product line make-up, unions are at the root. Here's why. Poor manufacturing quality, assembly and inspection issues are MOST impacted by union employees and their work performance. Costs associated with labor (direct and indirect [particularly legacy expenses for outrageous pension and health care benefits]) have forced GM and other domestic automakers to focus on larger vehicles that fetch higher retail prices. They CANNOT make money on small cars due to labor costs ... that's why the small cars that are made are so cheaply made ... most of the cost goes to labor, pensions, and health care ... nothing is left to make a quality small (reasonably priced) automobile. The Japanese have a huge advantage there.

The UAW needs to be held accountable for their role in this and offer REAL concessions.

Posted by: JR Brown | December 12, 2008 2:02 PM
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This explanation is simple and right on target. I have always felt that the difference between working for an established corporation and a new enterprise is maintaining the status quo or growing with new ideas! In my twenties you could always pick out where you felt your friends or family members would tend to eventually work. Now in my seventies it's no different.People with new ideas don't want to work in established corporations they'd be stifeled. People who are comfortable with keeping things the same would never want to work in a new enterprise. I'm sure the selected Board of Directors, the CEO and all upper managment are where they are because they strongly support status quo or new ideas. The solution?

Posted by: eleanor odonnell | December 12, 2008 9:14 AM
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You have a very good point. For the last thirty some years, the big three have failed to attract the best minds this country has to offer and to develop their infrastructure. To a great extent, the US as a whole has been failing to do so for the last decade or so. MIT, like other great universities are constantly re-defining themselves and I agree that this is a good business model to follow. Google, IBM, Mac and other great companies have done it in the past. Why can't GM and the big three? Why haven't they?

Posted by: Alexander | December 12, 2008 7:38 AM
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I'm against the bailout for this reason. Does anybody honestly believe the big three can improve the quality of cars to Japanese standards in 5 or 10 years? It's funny how the executives like to blame the unions when Japanese companies don't seem to have a problem building cars in the United States and making money. I don't think this bail out will stop the big three from making crappy cars that fall apart 3 years after you buy them.

Posted by: infiniti driver | December 11, 2008 10:57 AM
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If all the economists and professors in the world were as smart as Professor Bemis would have us believe, then why did they not foresee the calamity that has crushed our economy??

Ignorant people were being swindled into spiraling mortgages they were sure to default. Greed was rampant. Salesmen, bankers and Wall Street investment houses were partners in a nation-wide crime wave. And it was all done in the open, and none of the pundits noticed the smell of a fuse burning.

Where were Professor Bemis and his thousands of fellow economists and intellectuals?
They were not dirtying their hands in our factories or farms.

They were in their ivory towers writing op-ed pieces.

Posted by: www2vet | December 11, 2008 10:23 AM
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Self-Defeatism is a symptom of a disease in my world. And so is denial, denial of economic reality on this topic. Of course, greed is a common demoninator in our current day Capitalistic society. I doubt that MIT was rarely accused of an Orginal deadly sin.

I think some members of the Senate are still asleep. They have not been awakened to the economic reality facing the United States of America. Judging by their rhetoric, they may be Union busters too. Basic reality is that if our economy was not in the toilet then Detroit would be selling cars and we would be having no discussions about Automobile Executives or Unions.

Generally, people are happy when gainfully employed. There is hope when the American Dream is within grasp. A minimal pursuit of happiness is gained at 65mph. We certainly don't need alot of bells and whistles to go from point a to point b but good fuel economy is desirable. Comfort, well it seems that foreign automobile manufacturers have adapted well to ergonomics. I understand Ford has recognized the need for turning out more pleasurable driving experiences.

In the meanwhile, I have no great expectations for a Lameduck Senate. Seems certain members want the country to hit a real bottom approaching the level of the Great Depression of the early 1930s. Say your Honors, why not bring back Prohibition too, that did not work either. Problem is that those heading for and seeking bottoms drag everyone else down with them. Maybe it's time for a good old fashion shunning ?

Seeking detachment myself, I have no clue why I blog. Could be that I blog, therefore I am. Beware of oracles repeating the ego demands of Mankind.

Posted by: Hank whatever | December 11, 2008 10:11 AM
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wow, only two mentions in the whole blog about the unions. Well, I think that they are more to blame than any other problem that GM has had to face.

They refuse to be cross-trained. They drink on the line (yep, that's the line where brakes are put on cars. They get their production for the day and then sit down and play cards, while they are still getting paid. They clock other people in and out. They get paid while they are laid off. Some of them do nothing (push brooms, drive around on tow motors, get parts, etc and make a lot of money doing it.

How do I know all of this? Well, I am from an area where they have a plant and have lots of family and friends who work there.

So, while you point your fingers at all the CEOs and salaried workers, remember that the unions are standing there with their hands out and the butts on a chair.

Posted by: GM city | December 11, 2008 9:23 AM
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I would like to add another comment. Deming took the old fashion view that management were not Gods, they served the pleasure of the stockholder-owners and were entrusted with the long term viability of the business. There has been a noticeable trend towards management enrichment without corresponding value. At best it has been management by follow the leader. This unhealthy practice must figure into the picture.

Some economists continue to justify high management salaries because they have the view of an accountant. The money is small considering the big picture. But the money is huge when you consider the individual, especially when it breaks every management expectation put forth by Deming. Many economists are accountants, Deming focused on human factors and statistics. Encourage, innovate, verify then reward.

Accountants don't innovate, they watch money move from one pile to the other. Their contribution to innovation is the shadow banking system that plagues us today. Do you think Fastow of Enron created off-balance sheet accounting?

It has been said the hierarchical structure of corporations can develop organizational silos. They are actually inverted funnels, each having a choke point. In this way a few key individuals can destroy a business regardless of size and the hard work of 99% of the employees.

Consulting agents have tried to flatten the funnel but the choke points remain, often manned by the person that has been promoted rapidly to their level of incompetence. Rapid promotions and inexperience are yet other factors in the decline of American businesses.

An interesting business mix would be young brash innovators, experienced employees with the wisdom of Navy Chiefs to make it happen, and management by Professors that know how to motivate and get the best from their students. All following the principles of W. Edwards Deming.

Posted by: Beaconps | December 11, 2008 7:50 AM
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I share most of the criticism above. Where I part company is the idea that GM needs to be punished for its sins. For my part, I would give them one bailout; after that bankruptcy. But, what really, really bothers me is that we the American people are so willing to give up on our American institutions so easily and then to rely on foreign competitors. But everybody says they are better quality and lower priced. My experience three years ago was to compare a Buick Lacrosse with a Toyota Camry. They were essentially equal in price, and EPA mileage. I bought the Buick and except for a couple minor things it has been totally reliable and gets up to 30mpg on the road for 3 straight years.
By the way I was born and raised in Ohio and do not love Michigan that much, but I do know where my loyalty lies. Finally, I will never take advice from an economist. As Dr. Galbraith (Texas?)said in the NY Times magazine recently, it is disgusting that except for one or two, the thousands of economists, most of them professors, totally missed the meltdown.

Posted by: ken | December 11, 2008 7:48 AM
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Professor Bennis, I do wish you'd be more specific in making your case, at least specific enough to give your readers some assurance that you really do know what you're talking about. A sweep-out of GM's boardroom and executive suite exactly along the lines you suggest was done several years ago. Wagoner, Lutz, et al are the products of that sweepout, and were several years into a thorough remaking of the company when the assorted economic disasters hit.

Instead of trading in outdated stereotypes, give us specifics (and please please please explain why Chrysler is so much better-run that GM... you DO mean the Chrysler with massive debt, only a couple of product lines that rise above "utterly hopeless", and a pipeline that is almost entirely comprised of wishful thinking and unfunded ideas, don't you?)

Posted by: John from Concord | December 11, 2008 6:42 AM
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I plan to use Mr. Bennis's essay in my management class this week. I have rarely found a better example of hubris and false certainty over ones position. Everyone assumes what they do is more difficult and more deserving than anyone else.

Running a 150,000 employee corporation successfully for 100 years requires constant innovation and often cruel and decisive leadership. GM has led the world in each stage of auto development over those 100 years while also having to fire more than 60% of its employees on two points in its history (we are at the tail end of one of those 20-year downturns in employment). Meanwhile, MIT has almost never fired a single tenured professor or union employee in 50 years. This includes one who shaved the word moron on his head and continued teaching for 2 years.

Again, no disrespect to the great university of MIT, but an institution that thinks its achieved something by raising tuition only 10% a year is hardly in a position to complete with the world's elite car makers for 100 years. MIT gets a government bailout every year!!!

Posted by: Robert | December 11, 2008 6:25 AM
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I would look at the difference in management structures of Detroit, MIT, and the Japanese. What are the priority of values and note that behind every great business failure, you will find a consulting agency, almost always from accounting roots. Do consulting agencies manage MIT?

The difference between the Japanese and Detroit is W. Edwards Deming. the Japanese embraced him and America ignored him. He embraced measurable quality and continuous improvement, not quarterly profits.

Deming offers a theory of management based on his famous 14 Points for Management. Management's failure to plan for the future brings about loss of market, which brings about loss of jobs. Management must be judged not only by the quarterly dividend, but by innovative plans to stay in business, protect investment, ensure future dividends, and provide more jobs through improved product and service. "Long-term commitment to new learning and new philosophy is required of any management that seeks transformation. The timid and the fainthearted, and the people that expect quick results, are doomed to disappointment." Wikipedia

To back up the assertion of stale thinking, look no further than the hiring of George Fisher to lead Kodak. He said run, don't walk, into the digital age. They considered him a heretic.

Posted by: Beaconps | December 11, 2008 6:16 AM
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The central problem may be that the foreign companies make vehicles here without unionizing their employees.

The price differential on domestic and foreign makes is considerable.

Posted by: Bill Franklin | December 11, 2008 4:29 AM
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Sure while you can continue to set the fashion for a time (IE big cars, SUV's) it is going to catch up to you. Particularly if there is a large emerging counter culture that caters to people who tend to be educated, young and trendy. IE hippies, greenies, economists and health nuts.

So basically, when you split the country into SUV people and small car people it becomes an inflection point. If the circumstances tip one way or the other everyone buys product A or in the other case product B. What happens is that the tipping point went towards product B (the green cars) because the gasoline prices rose. Now its been a few years of high gas prices and almost 6 years of wars in oil rich countries, so even the moderates these days think its obscene to buy big. Things change but the car companies should have known that they were riding a tipping point model of demand to begin with.

If they insist on living on the margin they should not be surprised when they fall off the edge, GM ignored large emerging trends in American consumption. We are still a capitalist country its just many people are annoyed because many of the products available are not considered to be of good quality or desirable. If the American and European markets demands are converging and companies insist on selling different quality products in different markets they are not providing what the consumer wants and there is room for other companies to fill in that need (such as the Japanese).

Posted by: Elizabeth | December 11, 2008 2:29 AM
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the behaviour, actions, policies of these three, esp. GM with it's Hummer, Caddie -warrant profanity, attacks and contempt. John Salz

Posted by: John Salz | December 11, 2008 1:52 AM
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enough already. GM is a a bore - just look at the Caddie, the Hummer. all the years in biz, all the avaiable design talent in US and look at 'em. And that moronic p.r. blunder with the jet arrival. I've been in biz many years, and would never tolerate the likes of what's-the-idiot's CEO' name?. And Chrysler? has'nt it been bailed out few years back? Ford? a "family" biz lost it's way. boo hoo! Yes I know, many and much depends on these losers, maybe bankruptcy and restructuring woul be best, but they need to hire me to make sure they don't screw up again. John Salz

Posted by: John Salz | December 11, 2008 1:48 AM
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Go to ConsumerReports.org or to J.D. Powers or Kelly Blue Book or Edmunds and it is perfectly clear why American Auto Manufacturers are having trouble.

Their cars do not rate highly in any category other than SUVs and Large passenger cars.

When you make automobiles that are high in price and rated low in quality by the popular web sites that's not a good sign.

Posted by: ProfessorWrightBSU | December 10, 2008 8:16 PM
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Joe, does the Metro kill as many people as automobile accidents? Didn't think so.

Posted by: Major Mel Funkshun | December 10, 2008 7:31 PM
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I suspect that part of the problem for Detroit has been their complacency. Yes Opel (GM) produces good cars in Europe but that may be because their European operations are used to competing against Japanese and German manufacturers. Here in the States I think that they have still failed to admit that their US cars are simply not designed and built as well as foreign, particularly Japanese, cars.

Posted by: Ian Stuart | December 10, 2008 6:41 PM
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Killing people nearly every day, that's the metro system in greater LA.
Furthermore, it can't even pay for itself.
Has to have large government subsidies to stay rolling.
The state is also 28 billion dollars in debt.
California has stubborn arrogance by the bag full!
They make great headlines with CARB, which does little but cost people everywhere more money, but the state flat refuses to attack the real root of their problems, which is simply too many people.
Well, I'm out of there and glad to be out, it isn't going to get any better.

Posted by: Joe | December 10, 2008 6:23 PM
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To be honest, I don't find Bennis that convincing. Sure, GM has a stale culture in many ways -- Ross Perot found that out during his brief tenure on their board.

But the truth is that GM, a disaster in the US, is a howling success overseas. They sell 2/3 of their vehicles and employ 2/3 of their total workforce outside the US. And their revenues overseas are up 28%.

So why are they a failure here? My guess is that a big part of it is their decision to go heavy into larger vehicles (SUVs, trucks) in an effort to boost their margins. That's a financial decision, and when the gas crunch hit, and the economy tanked, turned out to be bad one. Now they're faced with a need to retool and they can't afford to do it.

In the 33 other countries where they sell cars, GM is a model of affordable efficiency. Here, they suppressed the electric car, and bet their hand on the Hummer.

So it comes back to bad decisions. Doesn't it always?

Posted by: samson151 | December 10, 2008 6:18 PM
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Rhoda's correct. Remember that there were 16 other states ready to sign on to using the CA standards. What's more, California ALREADY has different emissions standards as well as the process in place to handle imports to the state, new cars bought out of state, etc.

Also, realize that this is effectively the same Big 3 that conned the state into paving over all the rail lines in L.A. so that now the land must be bought up at a premium in order to build rail service that used to exist. Health and safety aren't high priorities...

Posted by: kcInSD | December 10, 2008 5:58 PM
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Keith....I think Rhoda hit it dead on. You know as well as I that the GOP DOT was not going to lead the way.

Posted by: Bruce | December 10, 2008 5:45 PM
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Rhoda, please you really don't know what you are talking about. The Big Three fought the California emissions issue because they could not afford to let California and following them every other state create a different set of requirements. Thats why the Feds have a DOT to set a common set of rules.

Posted by: Keith | December 10, 2008 5:16 PM
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I have worked for more than one company that found changing with the times more than difficult. I was in retailing, and every company, some national, for the foregoing reason are gone. Most of those at the very top, who I dealt with, never wanted to hear bad news, especially if it was true. I came to believe, and still do, that nothing will kill you faster than the eternal optimist. Detroit and the White House are only two of thousands of such organization across the nation. We always did it this way is not a trite expression, for too many it is a mantra. When you are told that can not and never will happen, duck and cover.

Posted by: Bill | December 10, 2008 5:01 PM
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The problem was not just deadening habit, but stubborn arrogance. GM, and the other big auto makers fought every safety innovation tooth and nail, from recessing the steering column to safety belts, even when annual model changes made this relatively cheap. They "wouldn't be told what to do!" And they have done the same for gas mileage improvements. Just ask the State of California.

Posted by: Rhoda Miller | December 10, 2008 4:45 PM
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