"Edward E.Whitacre Jr. wasted little time shaking up management
ranks of General Motors, just three days after he took over as chief
executive, by promoting on Friday a cadre of young executives
to carry out his mandate for change." - The New York Times
Having last bought a General Motors car more than 15 years ago, I figure I'm a
pretty average American, precisely the kind of person GM needs to win back if it's
going to succeed as a leaner, more responsive company. Although it will take some
time for the restructured GM to roll out fetching new models, it could offer unique
accessories almost immediately for cars it already builds.
How about doing something for those of us who are sick of seeing other drivers
constantly holding cell phones to their ears? Put a button on the steering wheel that
connects to a loud speaker. Any time we see one of these multi-tasking bozos we press
the button and a stern voice bellows, “Get off the DAMN PHONE!” (They probably won’t,
but it will make us feel a little better.)
Many Americans might jump at the chance to buy a Chevy or a Buick if it were equipped
with a GPS-like gizmo that tracks the destination of OTHER cars. In my case, this would
help me find out where that lovely lady in the blue Volvo goes every morning after she
gets her coffee and roll. Once I knew that, I could pull in there alongside her and introduce
myself. If nothing else, I could show her pictures of my grandkids.
The new General Motors could win lots of love and sales too if it figured out a simple way
to clean up all the donut crumbs, sesame seeds and what have yous that accumulate under
the bottoms of hard-working Americans as they munch their way to and from work. Maybe
a tiny vacuum mounted in the driver’s seat would do the trick. We might have to wiggle our
tushes a bit when the vacuum was doing its thing, but a little more exercise wouldn’t hurt any
Another big come-on to buy GM again would be a zapper that disables the ignition of any
vehicle whose stereo you can hear from INSIDE your car with the windows rolled up. Should
this be considered too dangerous or not technically doable now, then why not work on an
interim fix - a gadget that mutes the bass setting on all cars within a 10 mile radius?
Speaking for myself - and probably many others - I would gladly fork over a wad of money
for a Chevy or maybe even a Cadillac with a radio that could be programmed to bleep all
references to certain people or things. At the moment my personal “I don’t want to hear it
list” includes Jon and Kate (whoever they are), Sarah Palin and the New Jersey Nets.
GM might also coax many drivers back if it gave them the chance to make a few bucks
selling advertising on their rear bumpers. These electronic bumper ads would rotate every
30 seconds or so like the signs at sports arenas. Don’t tell me GM wouldn’t like to see that
classy lady in the Volvo switch to a Camaro and that Miller High Life wouldn’t jump at the
chance to get its name on her bumper.
Once GM lured us back with snazzy devices it could then really get serious about design-
ing efficient, attractive cars powered by something other than gasoline, batteries or French
fry grease. America has many untapped resources just begging for someone to find new
uses for them. How about our enormous surplus of cable TV screechers and talk radio hosts?
GM should turn loose some of the world’s best car engineers to develop ways to harness all
that hot air and manure for the common good.
It’s time all of us - GM, the federal government, the unions and the American people -
adjusted to the real world and showed a little more imagination.
(Posted December 15, 2009)