Columnist Jerry Flint slammed General Motors' top management in a speech to about 150 GM engineers and technicians at the Milford (Mich.) Proving Grounds in October 2000. Here are excerpts:
Leadership: 'You are badly led, with an organization that just doesn't work. I'm going to prove this to you, and my proof is an unparalleled number of errors, mistakes and failures.'
Cadillac: 'I wrote (in 1998) that your strategy board had decided that luxury sport-utility vehicles had no place in the company's own Cadillac division, thereby going about as far as anyone could to destroy Cadillac. This isn't hindsight. Mercedes, BMW and Lexus all understood what was happening at the same time that GM rejected a Cadillac SUV, and they created SUVs, and so did Lincoln.'
Desirable vehicles: 'This is the board that has never updated and will soon kill the Camaro. That should take a good part of the excitement from Chevrolet. GM executives don't seem to understand that the art in the auto business is building desirable vehicles, not killing models and closing plants.
'Your strategy board completely missed the trend to car-based all-wheel-drive vehicles and is years behind the Lexus RX 300, the Honda CR-V and the like. Even Ford is in production of the Escape. How many more years must we wait for such a GM vehicle?'
Pickups: 'Your management built an all-new pickup truck without four doors, when Dodge and Ford and Toyota all had four-door big pickups. To this day, no one at GM admits to having made that decision. It must have been someone they promoted.'
Brand marketing: 'I don't think much of brand marketing theories. To me, they are just a way of avoiding the idea of building a better product. I suppose that if your idea of a new model change is putting six more raisins in a box of cereal, then brand marketing might be important. But even if I did believe, the idea that every single car model is a brand is incredibly dumb. No one in the industry believes this, except at GM. The idea that Chevy Impala is a separate brand, that Chevy Monte Carlo is a brand, that Cavalier is a brand, that Malibu is a brand is nutsy cuckoo. You can't have 75 brands within GM. It won't work.'
The Pontiac Aztek: 'I'm not going to dump on it, and I hope it catches on. I hear it's a dud, but you never can tell. But I have never, never seen such dislike of a vehicle design. Never.'
Opel: 'This management is so inept that its own wholly owned subsidiary, German Opel, revolted. Did you know that? The board of directors of German Opel, appointed by GM, revolted. They blamed Detroit for stripping Opel of resources for GM's globalization, thereby wrecking Opel quality. The American head of Opel, Dave Herman, agreed with the Germans, so GM in Detroit, in effect, fired him, ordered him transferred to Moscow.'
Leadership: 'How can anyone who knows something about the American car business, about cars, get to the top, or even the No. 2 position, of GM? I don't see the pathway up. Engineers don't count for anything anymore in this company, as far as I can tell. You know, even Fred Donner, the ultimate financial man at GM, who set up the last management system about 40 years ago, felt that while there should be a financial man on top, the No. 2 should know something about cars. Not today.'