Is GM CEO Rick Wagoner really the reason for the U.S. car manufacturer’s woes?


It was not all that long ago that I was flying down the German
Autobahn in a turbo charged Volvo at almost 220 Kilometers per hour
(about 140 mph) when a Mercedes SL blew by me like I was standing
still—no make that like I was in reverse.

I was so stunned that
I barely noticed that the SL had an exhaust pipe diameter the size of a
regulation basketball. Lord only knows how much horsepower was under
that hood of that uber-tweaked Merc, but I'm sure the owner had little
fear of any of BMW's M division cars prowling the German highways.

I know that this story may seem like it has little to do with the
recent news that General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner is being forced to
resign by the Obama administration in their austere reorganization
plans tied to any government bailout money, or the fact that like
Wagoner Peugeot's Citroen" Chief Executive Christian Streiff was also
just shown the exit door by his board.

But just let me explain.
is reporting that the reason Wagoner was forced out because, "Wagoner
joined GM in 1977, has had a senior role in GM management since 1992,
and became CEO of the company in 2000. He is considered responsible for
increasing GM's focus on trucks and SUVs—at the expense of the hybrids
and fuel efficient cars that have become more popular in the last
couple of years."

In other words, Wagoner, at least in the eyes
of the Obama administration, is the reason that GM is deep in the
automotive dog house.

I could not disagree more.

On that
bright Sunday afternoon in Germany with the fantastic autobahn calling
my name nobody forced me to drive 220 kph so that I could actually see
my gas gauge drop like volt meter on a dead battery.

certainly nobody forced the driver of the Mercedes to upgrade his car's
engine beyond anything that even AMG would consider fast.

most certainly nobody forced millions American, and even some
Europeans, to purchase tens of millions of Trailblazers, Hummers and
Suburbans for a couple of decades. GM, along with Ford, and Chrysler
just built what the consumer wanted.

And before you get on your
high horses and point to the Japaneses automakers you should have a
long and hard look at all of the XXL sized Tundras and Land Destroyers
(I mean Land Cruiser) clogging up your local Toyota dealership.

I can't and I won't fault Wagoner or even Streiff for giving the automotive consumer what they wanted.

Do you remember the Chevy Metro?

It was a basic economy car that got 36 mpg.

Do you remember the Honda Civic CRX HF, or the more recently first generation Honda Insight?

of these cars got phenomenal gas mileage for their day, or even for
today, and almost everybody completely ignored them for all of the
enormous Ford "E" SUVs. You know the the big Explorer, the bigger
Excursion and the biggest Expedition.

Sure Wagoner and his
cohorts should have seen this day coming. Even my 11-year-old son knows
that petroleum is a finite recourse and, by the way, in his interesting
opinion is way to valuable to burn. He wonders out loud what will
replace plastic once all of the gas and oil is gone.

Actually, I think that he secretly frets that they won't be able to make his PSP out of wood.

the fact is that Wagoner and his types only gave the consumer what we
wanted. You can argue until you are blue in the face that we should all
be driving Priuses or riding bikes to work but I've seen where that
nanny state mentally eventually leads.

called the two-stroke East German Trabant, and I had the most
unpleasant experience of driving my uncle's when Czechoslovakia was
still communist. As I recall he luckily had the station wagon version
of the car. That was lucky because I had to lay down the front seat and
sit in the back seat to drive the Trabbi—no joke.

The Trabant is what you got when the East German and Czech communist governments decided what car "the people" should drive.

you get when the consumer decides what to drive is a Mercedes SL with
an exhaust pipe the diameter of regulation basketball.

Honestly I'll take the Mercedes any day over a Trabant.