Ever since the auto bailout started garnering serious attention from Washington, I've been thinking. The automakers' problems aren't a result of the current financial crisis, but rather as a result of the manufacturers' own stupidity. (Auto Bailout a Go. Oh No.) So I got to thinking, if I ran an auto manufacturer, say General Motors, what would I do?
1. Gut the bureaucracy. Everything is done by committee nowadays, to the point where deciding what color a car's engine cover will be is endlessly and needlessly debated. Cutting this out will reduce development time and allow designers to focus on the more important aspects of the cars. Also, cutting out unneccesary bean-counters will save millions in salaries and benefits costs.
2. Cut the Top Brass' pay. CEOs and other execs make hundreds of millions while they drive the company into the ground. Not on my watch. Top brass would make $250,000 a year, $300,000 tops. Which is more than most Americans make.
3. Play hardball with the unions. Pardon my language, but the UAW has castrated the auto industry. I talk about this more in my previous blog post on the subject, but that was before I learned that the UAW owns a $6 million golf course and a $33 million retreat to go with it. I'd bring the unions to the table and force them to negotiate contracts that provide fair wages to the workers without causing the company to go bankrupt. If they refuse, I'd pack up and move manufacturing out of union country (part of something is better than all of nothing). Hey, it's worked for the Japanese manufacturers.
4. Focus on quality and aesthetics. Nobody wants to pay $40,000 for a car that looks, feels, and drives like a piece of junk. I'd build cars that people want to buy.
5. Massively reorganize the brands. Right now, with any of the Big Three, it doesn't really matter which of one company's brand you choose, you're still essentially buying the same car with a different badge. (Example: the Dodge Charger and the Chrysler 300.) That would change with me at the helm. I'd reorganize each brand to focus on a specific area of the market. Also, while they'd still share platforms, each model would be more distinct in appearance, color offerings, perfomance, and options.
- Chevrolet: Flagship Brand, featuring a little of everything. (in other words, it would stay basically the same)
- Caddilac: Premium luxury brand, focused mainly on larger sedans.
- Buick: Budget luxury. For those who can't afford Caddilacs. Might throw a crossover into the mix.
- Dewoo. Axed. This brand is crap. Last time I heard an add for them, they were offering "Buy one, get one free!" That says something. This brand would either be sold back to the Koreans or just bite the dust all together.
- GMC. Focus on SUVs (real ones) and utility trucks.
- Hummer. Civilian production would die, plants would be converted to produce up-armored Humvees for the Military.
- Pontiac. Re-focused on performance, like in the old days. The GTO and Firebird would be ressurected.
- Saab. I don't know what I'd do with Saab, honestly. Probably focus on premium perfomance like in the old days, though this would be more rally-oriented than Pontiac.
- Saturn. The entry-level economy brand. That's what it was, that's what it's reputation is, that's what it should be.