"Boy Wonder," our April article about Chris Hughes, drew largely appreciative comments at FastCompany.com. "A pure sign of the changing social-media environment," wrote one. "Acknowledge it, embrace it, or move aside." With GM and Chrysler on the ropes, there was more controversy about our piece on how to save the auto industry.
I was at a loss for words when I read "10 Ways to Jump-start the Auto Business" (April). Nationalize health care! Four-dollar gas! Put a cap on carbon! Fake bankruptcy! These ideas are ludicrous! The solution to our economic problems is to allow the free market to work.
Lisbon Falls, Maine
GM used to be a niche car-maker. You bought a Chevy for entry level, stepped up to a Pontiac, then an Oldsmobile, a Buick, and finally, a Cadillac. The big problems started when GM tried to have a similar price-point model for each brand line. Once brand differentiation was lost, sales tanked.
There are several things that have gotten the domestic automotive industry into the ditch it's in. One is that fuel-economy standards are based on a wrong assumption: that we should not "tax" the end users for their fuel usage. Most other countries do so, and one reason they have smaller cars is that it costs more to drive a bigger car. Then there's the grossly underestimated cost of providing health care and pensions to workers. Offshore manufacturers do not have to worry about social-benefit costs. Getting these things in line with the rest of the world would provide the U.S. automotive and manufacturing base with a much more stable foundation.
Mark J. Cady Jr.
I anticipated an interesting read given the title. What I found was a mishmash of social engineering, overinflated egos, and downright silliness (a $12,500 iPod-powered golf cart? Puh-leez!). The most cogent contributions came from Mike Rowe and Mike Hughes. What the car business needs is car guys (designers and engineers), not bean counters, not marketing types, and certainly not a bunch of Beltway meddlers who have never had to meet a payroll.
Bruce H. Anderson
In Danielle Sacks's April article ("Om My!"), the writer reported on the amazing success of Lululemon, and the contribution of Landmark Education and others to that success. We appreciate the great acknowledgment. However, we must correct the inaccurate statement that Landmark's seminars were "developed by an ex-Scientologist." None of the people involved in the current or prior design of our programs have ever been Scientologists. We are proud that Lululemon's CEO, Chip Wilson, considers Landmark a part of his company's formula for success.
CEO, Landmark Education
San Francisco, California
Why not sell products that promote a healthier and potentially wealthier lifestyle? Seems like a win-win for all. Is this a cult product? Only if it dies from unpopularity or fails from greed.
Marlene E. Hirzel
The Fall and Rise of Rwanda
The thing I thought was great about Jeff Chu's article on President Paul Kagame's development plan for Rwanda was that it told a good story while highlighting the nuanced complication Kagame presents for the West ("Rwanda Rising," April). Kagame has an extraordinary amount of power — far more than our notion of "democratization" normally allows for — and he doesn't show a lot of signs of ceding that. At the same time, he has done an incredible job facilitating the renaissance of the country and is widely admired.
What really hits home is Kagame's comment, "No country can depend on development aid forever. Such dependency dehumanizes us and robs us of our dignity." Don't just send your money — which eventually runs out — send your mind and create a future!
Tuned In to NPR
Thank you for your cogent profile of my primary source of news, entertainment, and special-interest stories ("Finely Tuned," April). When my wife and I were living in L.A. and I was working in the music industry, KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic introduced me to the newest and best artists from around the world. While NPR's music programming does offer far superior recommendations compared with any commercial radio station, it is still Morning Becomes Eclectic that real music listeners and industry executives turn to for the latest unheard and unsigned artists.
Opinions Pro ...
I'm the proverbial "I never do things like this" person, but after enjoying the April edition of Fast Company, I wanted to write to the magazine. I used to see it as a publication for "those business guys" — whoever those guys were. The cover that called to me this weekend was the story on Chris Hughes and his work for the Obama campaign. Once inside, though, I stayed the duration. Maybe my own thirst to consume meaningful content has gotten the best of me. Maybe I'm just sick and tired of sound bites and fluff. Maybe I'll be one of "those guys" now that I'm convinced that Fast Company isn't just for business elitists but for anyone yearning for engagement.
... And Con
I've been a subscriber to Fast Company since the very beginning. I think I came three issues in. But if I were needing to renew now, I'd really have to think about it. I've seen a drift over the years from a business-and-management idea magazine to a leftward-leaning political magazine. It really started to show with the Gore and Obama puff pieces. This last issue was cover to cover, from Facebook cofounder, to NPR, to left-wing ideas about how to fix the auto industry. Come back to basics. There are plenty of left-leaning magazines. There used to be one really good business-management magazine, Fast Company. Please rethink this direction.
Dave Mitchell iii
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A version of this article appeared in the June 2009 issue of Fast Company magazine.