Last week, General Motors emerged from bankruptcy after just 40 days. GM CEO Fritz Henderson announced that GM would "make the customer the center of everything" and commit itself to "building more of the gorgeous, high-quality fuel-efficient cars, trucks and crossovers that consumers want and getting them into the market faster than ever before."
This might be the closest thing to an admission of guilt we've seen from a GM executive. For too long, GM, its lobbyists, and republicans in Congress have placed the blame for GM's decline on the economy, unions, and the cost of healthcare, arguing that if GM could simply break its union contracts and reduce its healthcare commitments, they'd be able to bounce back when consumers started spending again. Remember that it was just a few months ago in November 2008 that Rick Wagoner, former CEO of GM, told Congress:
What exposes us to failure now is not our product lineup, or our business plan, or our employees' ability to work hard, or our long-term strategy. What exposes us to failure now is the global financial crisis, which has severely restricted credit availability, and reduced industry sales to the lowest per-capita level since World War II.
So in Wagoner's opinion, GM leadership had done nothing wrong and was simply a victim of the Bush recession, just like the tens of thousands of laid off GM workers in factories and dealerships across the US. This isn't just rewriting history -- it's an attempt to rewrite the present.
While many factors contributed to GM's bankruptcy, perhaps most devastating was the decision by GM leadership to put all its eggs in the basket of giant, gas-guzzling SUVs, which marked a step backward in innovation and fuel-efficiency, but a step forward for short-term, unsustainable profits (sub-prime, anyone?). Instead of embracing the inevitable future of the auto industry, GM decided to be the #1 producer of dinosaurs. Nowhere is this thinking more apparent than in GM's fatal decision to stop production of its revolutionary all-electric car, the EV1, a murder mystery solved in Chris Paine's excellent, essential 2006 documentary, Who Killed the Electric Car?
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