Poet and philosopher George Santayana warned that those who fail to heed the lessons of the past will be condemned to relive them. General Motors should remember that as it looks for a way to gain control of its future.
I suggest that GM start by looking at the history of American Motors, the small, independent carmaker that became part of Chrysler Corp. in 1987.
Why AMC? Because it faced a relatively larger threat than GM faces and managed to survive for decades despite slim resources.
GM's fight against the import onslaught is much like AMC's fight against the Big 3. GM's big competitor today is Toyota Motor Corp., which, after all, is a smaller company.
AMC had to compete with GM, Ford, Chrysler and Toyota. The gutsy little contender stayed in the ring a lot longer than anyone expected.
It didn't seem to matter to most people when AMC suffered from adverse market forces. But the termination of Plymouth and Oldsmobile some years later, caused by the same market forces, hit closer to home.
In past decades, we witnessed the fall of Packard, Studebaker, DeSoto, Ford's Continental Division, International's Scout Division and others. There are lessons to be learned there, and the place to start looking is American Motors and its predecessors, Nash and Hudson. (In 1937, Nash Motors Co. merged with Kelvinator Corp. to become Nash Kelvinator Corp. In 1954, that company merged with Hudson Motor Car Co. to create AMC.)