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David Brooks & the Dismemberment of General Motors
In the movie “Seven Pounds” (2008 Columbia), Will Smith plays a work-driven executive with a beautiful wife and a beach house who is consumed by guilt when to takes his eyes off the road to take a business call, causing a spectacular crash that kills his wife and an entire family of six.
He makes amends by giving away his house, then parts of his body to deserving people, his brother, a close friend – who is enlisted in the end game, then a little boy, an ailing, beloved coach – you get the idea. Having given the parts that one can live without, lung lobe, liver slice, bone marrow, the story comes down to the parts that will end this man’s life, his eyes to a blind musician and his heart to a woman with whom he has fallen in love. Let’s skip the rest....
It occurred to me this is the GMC parable of our time. In a chop shop, stolen cars are “parted out” because the parts can bring in more money than the car itself. The Will Smith character had apparently concluded that his life had reached its useful end and he decided to part himself out.
It looks like the GMC dismemberment will follow the same pattern: its European division goes to a Russian-Canadian group, the Hummer goes to the Chinese (I’m not making this up) and with any luck the Saturn division will go the Renault-Nissan). That pretty much leaves the beating heart.
Enter David Brooks who today addressed the failure of the whole bail-out notion because of GM’s defective “heart” (corporate culture) in “The quagmire Ahead”. Here’s the link: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/02/opinion/02brooks.html?_r=1&ref=opinion . I’ve made the same points in this space: See “Toying With Carz” http://jaygaskill.com/ToyingWithCArz.htm , and “The
Great auto Salvage Operation” http://jaygaskill.com/AutoSalvageOperation.htm .
The problem is that the “heart” of the GMC culture is so toxic that it will kill its next host. This is why the administration is now trapped into keeping it o life support, possibly forever. The same political mindset that was willing to pull the plug on Terri Schiavo in 2001), can’t bring itself to so the same for a spectacularly failed carmaker. There are many wonderful things about the liberal mindset, but realistic toughness in the business world isn’t among them. We the taxpayers have been sold a colossal lemon.
When do we get our rebate?