They're celebrating in Detroit. What was once the world's largest industrial corporation is out of bankruptcy. CEO Fritz Henderson held a press conference celebrating "an exciting day" that will get the company "back to the business of designing, building and selling great cars and trucks and serving the needs of our customers."
Then he said he was rehiring the out-to-pasture "Mr. Horsepower," Bob Lutz, the man who said that global warming was "a crock of @#$%&*," and expressed skepticism about hybrids until well after Toyota already owned the category. The company says it will focus on customers, and then it puts Lutz in charge of "products and customer relationships." To say I don't get this is putting it mildly.
Here's a decidedly uncomfortable Henderson getting grilled by conservative Glenn Beck about his company being run by the government (he thinks it will mean the return of K cars):
GM's big success story right now is the new and decidedly retro Camaro. It sold 9,300 last month, which is more than the entire Cadillac division, and more than Buick, too. Maybe that's why GM wanted Lutz back, because he's the king of this kind of nostalgia project.
But a company that depends on the reminiscing of old timers ("Wasn't the '57 Chevy great?") is doomed before its "comeback" can get off the ground.
GM also announced that it is partnering with eBay to sell cars in California. People can bid or pay a predetermined price. Fine, it sounds like the company is "with it." Kind of like your dad wearing brand-new jeans with the tag hanging off. But very few people have shown themselves willing to buy cars on the Internet.
Henderson did say one encouraging thing for those of us who wave the green flag: The company will make an announcement later this summer on new battery tech for plug-in hybrids and EVs. I attended the opening of GM's new battery testing facility, and wondered at the time why the company was testing batteries without buying a stake in a battery company (as most Japanese carmakers have done). We'll see.
GM has huge hurdles ahead. Its debt is $54 billion. It owes the U.S. taxpayer $60 billion. As citizens, we now own more than 60% of GM, so let's make sure it looks to the future, not the past.
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