Posted by: goalpath | August 18, 2009

Calling Steve Jobs – GM Needs You!

Washington‘s Cash for Clunkers program is driving traffic back into the showrooms of America. That is a good thing, I think. It appears to be the first reliable economic stimulus program that Washington has come up with since the economy tanked last year.

The TARP program has helped the banks and AIG, but it hasn’t really helped the economy all that much. The bailout did provide the needed funds for those banks and Wall Street Investment houses to pay those much needed bonuses to their executives (aka derivative gamblers and other unmasked bandits) who got us into this mess in the first place.

Unfortunately, the TARP stimulus hasn’t really accomplished its purpose, which was to free up the credit markets and rid the financial institutions of their toxic assets. And it certainly has not trickled down to the average American trying to save their home by blocking foreclosures or reducing mortgage payments. So is the Cash for Clunkers program going to right America’s economic ship? Not hardly. It will be a blip on the radar screen, but Detroit needs all the help it can get right now. Michigan’s unemployment rate is hovering around 20%.

And let us not forget that the majority of clunkers being traded in were produced in America and more than 50% of the new cars purchased in the CARS program are of the Japanese and Korean variety. Part of Detroit’s problem revolves around our cheap gas prices. Gasoline is much cheaper in America than any of the other industrialized countries. That is certainly the reason why the Japanese and Koreans build such fuel efficient cars. The high cost of fuel in Europe is the reason that over half of the cars they produce are of the fuel efficient diesel variety. Last year, I drove over 500 miles from Italy to Paris and I don’t remember seeing one SUV on the highway. My rent car was a diesel Renault.

The real problem is, and has been, the executive management of the big three automakers. Over the past 5 decades, the American automakers position in the world has diminished considerably because there has been no real innovation in Detroit during that period. Their philosophy was and still is: Bigger is better and to hell with those mini car builders overseas. I remember back in the sixties and seventies when the foreign invasion first got started and the American car makers just scoffed at their competition. Back then, American car executives believed that they could dictate to the consumers what type of car they should buy. They were convinced that bigger was better and that quality and innovation weren’t that important in selling their merchandise.

I am quite sure that if Steve Jobs was running one of the big three automakers, we would be driving the most innovative, fuel efficient cars on the planet. What would he call it? Maybe the iCar. I suspect he would have beaten the Japanese in the hybrid development race and America would be on its fourth or fifth iteration of alternative energy vehicles using different sets of power sources. And I am sure that his cars would include Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems to harness he moving energy of the vehicle.

With Steve at the helm, his company’s cars would include the technology required to alert the driver to any impending engine or drivetrain malfunction and the car’s navigation system would guide the driver to the nearest repair facility with a trained technician and parts. All of his cars would have crash detection and avoidance systems. Certainly his vehicles would be networked into the driver’s home and office so you could activate whatever systems you would need upon arrival. Voice activated internet…you bet.

Okay, maybe I am going a little overboard here, but keep in mind that Steve has overcome every obstacle that has been thrown in his path since the mid sixties. It wasn’t all that long ago, mid eighties I believe, that he was kicked out of Apple by then CEO John Scully. Well, he picked himself up and started another computer company, NEXT, and became a major investor in Pixar Studios. When he came back to Apple, he not only resurrected the computer division, but he came up with this iPod thingie. No one thought it would really catch on. Of course, he had to revolutionize the music industry to get the software content for his music player. Then he guided Apple in the development of the iPhone.

Finally let me add that I cannot take credit for this idea. I was listening to my favorite AM talk radio program today and one of the callers suggested that if Steve Jobs was running GM, that company would not be treading water today. I fully concur. Thanks caller. The description of what Steve would do if he were running a big three automaker is all my own creation and supposition.

What’s your take on this issue? Inquiring minds want to know. Comment on Linkedin and/or on We are always looking for Baby Boomers with an opinion that don’t mind speaking out and can successfully complete a sentence.


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