Monday, June 1, 2009

"Planned obsolescence" meets "Accelerated attrition" meets "Chapter 11"

Alas. Michael Moore can quit looking for Roger Smith.

It is with sad irony that the company which invented "planned obsolescence" - the decision to build cars that would fall apart after a few years so that the customer would then have to buy a new one - has now made itself obsolete. It refused to build automobiles that the public wanted, cars that got great gas mileage, were as safe as they could be, and were exceedingly comfortable to drive. Oh - and that wouldn't start falling apart after two years. GM stubbornly fought environmental and safety regulations. Its executives arrogantly ignored the "inferior" Japanese and German cars, cars which would become the gold standard for automobile buyers. And it was hell-bent on punishing its unionized workforce, lopping off thousands of workers for no good reason other than to "improve" the short-term bottom line of the corporation. Beginning in the 1980s, when GM was posting record profits, it moved countless jobs to Mexico and elsewhere, thus destroying the lives of tens of thousands of hard-working Americans. The glaring stupidity of this policy was that, when they eliminated the income of so many middle class families, who did they think was going to be able to afford to buy their cars?

Thus was Charles Wilson, former CEO of GM--and author of the oft-misquoted phrase I thought what was good for the country was good for General Motors and vice versa--eventually proved right, at least in the negative: What could drive the country to its knees, economically, could lay GM out flat on the canvas.

1 comment:

Chuck Butcher said...

Much of Moore's rant is on point, but the planned obsolence is BS. Well into the 70s GM vehicles gave good service for their cost. They could have had longer service life built into them - at great cost and the exclusion of most buyers. At some point advancements in technology made repairing vehicles pointlessly expensive versus the newer models. Moore makes a lot of points about things he has little actual knowledge about - I've twisted a lot of wrenches on Chevrolets and kept them going for a long time at considerably less money than he presents in his rant. Cars going to crushers has to do with a lot more than just their quality.