Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Columnist's Not-at-All Modest Proposal: Let Steve Jobs Save GM Jobs

New York Times op-ed columnist Thomas L. Friedman says he is really skeptical about proposals that the federal government give General Motors and the other U.S. automakers another $25 billion in recovery funds, on top of the $25 billion in loan guarantees the same companies have already squandered.

Friedman says he's "as terrified as anyone of the domino effect on industry and workers if GM were to collapse." But if we're going to use more tax dollars in another attempt to head that off, it needs to come with several conspicuous strings attached. Friedman starts by seconding the view expressed in Monday's Wall Street Journal by Paul Ingrassia, the Journal's former Detroit bureau chief:

“In return for any direct government aid,” he wrote, “the board and the management [of G.M.] should go. Shareholders should lose their paltry remaining equity. And a government-appointed receiver — someone hard-nosed and nonpolitical — should have broad power to revamp G.M. with a viable business plan and return it to a private operation as soon as possible. That will mean tearing up existing contracts with unions, dealers and suppliers, closing some operations and selling others and downsizing the company ... Giving G.M. a blank check — which the company and the United Auto Workers union badly want, and which Washington will be tempted to grant — would be an enormous mistake.”

I would add other conditions: Any car company that gets taxpayer money must demonstrate a plan for transforming every vehicle in its fleet to a hybrid-electric engine with flex-fuel capability, so its entire fleet can also run on next generation cellulosic ethanol.

Lastly, somebody ought to call Steve Jobs, who doesn’t need to be bribed to do innovation, and ask him if he’d like to do national service and run a car company for a year. I’d bet it wouldn’t take him much longer than that to come up with the G.M. iCar.


jim108 said...

I'm impressed that a total technological moron like yourself has layed out an excellent plan. Steve Jobs will, if given the chance, see hybrids for what they are: a very expensive dead end. Electric cars need--surprise, surprise--a real battery which doesn't exist because its specifications are beyond the imaginations of the present management of GM and every politician on the planet. Steve Jobs will soon enough tell you what those specs are and explain that the development of such a battery is the single biggest task/obstacle ever standing in the way of our future existence. We need real intelligence at the helm to direct the best scientists and engineers to do this. Steve Jobs is a great suggestion to be science and technology tzar. --The probability of this happening in our stupid culture? Zero.

adam hartung said...

GM needs new leadership that is not committed to old Lock-ins if it is going to ever be a viable competitor. Only someone from outside the industry will be able to implement necessary Disruptions and create White Space that will allow GM (or Ford or Chrysler) to address long-term shortcomings. I don't know why Jobs would take the job, but someone who is Jobs-like is necessary. Read more at