A few weeks ago I posted an open letter to GM CEO Fritz
Henderson on the first day of GM’s entering into bankruptcy protection,
offering my concern that Mr. Henderson’s reliance on great GM design to save
the company might be a problem since GM had put so much ugly tin on America’s
roads. I also noted that GM’s culture needed to change, and this was their last
chance to get it right. I didn’t mention that most experts on corporate change
say it requires 3 — 5 years to accomplish, if you know what you’re doing.
In an amazing display of exactly what I was talking about,
Mr. Henderson tossed my article over the fence and assigned the response to
Global VP for all design, Ed Welburn, who wrote a public letter back to “Gerald
Sindell of the Huffington Post,” which contained an impassioned defense of GM
design, and the thousands of artists and modelers at work around the clock
around the world creating beautiful new GM cars. Mr. Welburn invited me to
visit GM dealerships, look at and drive the new Chevys, Buicks and Cadillacs. I
was also invited to visit to global design headquarters in Detroit and see for
I went to the GM website which lists a number of dealers
nearby in San Francisco and Marin County, but when I tried to call them I was
shocked to discover that their phones were disconnected. I eventually found
some GM dealers who were answering their phones and asked to see if they had
the cars Ed had suggested I look at. Although half the models had not yet arrived,
I did eventually spend two days visiting three GM dealerships, made many notes,
talked to a lot of salespeople, and drove some cars. I sent an email to Mr.
Welburn asking if he would like my private thoughts, and upon his acceptance, I
wrote him an 8 page letter about what I had seen in the field and made some
suggestions about how the consumer experience might be improved. I asked him to
please let me know if he had received my email.
But I received no answer. None.
I wrote again, asking for Mr.
Welburn to confirm whether or not he had received my letter. And I wrote
a third time this week. Again, silence.
So, what the heck. I might as well share some of my thoughts
about GM publicly.
I think it would be a good idea for GM to make a grand gesture,
as a way of saying we’re sorry, we get it, we are a different kind of company
now. We know we’re never going to be as cool as Apple, but we’re going to prove
to you we’re not your bankruptcy lawyer’s old GM.
And as part of our sincere effort to undo some of the design
atrocities of the past, we’re going to remove some of the eyesores that have
made America’s highways home to most of the ugliest cars the world has ever
seen. That’s right: GM is going to send our tow trucks out there all across
America and buy back a few ugly cars and send them to the recycler. And we’re
going to start with the Pontiac Aztek. Why single out the Aztek? Because in Mr.
Welburn’s letter to me he singled out the Aztek as one of GM’s “misstep”s.
So there you have it. I’m offering it for free: my brilliant
idea for GM to salvage its reputation, demonstrate imagination and commitment,
make good on mistakes in the past, all in one daring move. Now don’t jump on
the phone and call GM. If you are an Aztek’s owner, your days of humiliation
are over. Just take that eyesore out of your garage, park it in front of your
house, and wait for that GM towtruck to come to your neighborhood. It’s coming
soon, I promise.