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.