Thursday, April 2, 2009

Good for General Motors

I have owned a Ford, two Chevrolets, two Studebakers, and four Toyotas. I have studied and worked at quality control, quality assurance, experimental design, and convened a quality circle at a nuclear power plant.

The worst of those cars above was a Chevrolet, a 1980 Citation with four cylinders and a stick shift. The second worst was a Chevrolet, a 1971 Concours stationwagon with eight cylinders and automatic transmission. Terrible mileage.

The first car I owned was 22 years old when I bought it, a 1931 Ford Model A. The last Toyota I purchased was brand new five and a half years ago, and is an outstanding product with four cylinders, an SUV called Highlander.

President Eisenhower selected "Engine Charlie" Charles Wilson to be his Secretary of Defense in 1953. Mr. Wilson famously said "What's good for General Motors is good for the country." In my small sampling of automobiles, their products have not been good for my household. Far from it. Analysts and pundits now report that the deposed CEO named Wagoner helped to improve GM's manufacturing. "Quality" has now improved in the many lines and brands of General Motors. "Lessons have been learned" from Japanese automakers.

Engineers with several decades of experience and memory can tell you that it was a U.S. professor
who went to Japan, after its defeat in the Pacific War, to help industry there rebuild. Professor Edward Deming taught the principles of quality improvement, which Japanese industries then used to become known for their excellence instead of their earlier cheapness.

Finally, the best thing that our current President has done for the country lately - and for General Motors - is to show that failure can be met with dismissal, not executive bonuses, and another chance. Goodbye, Mr. Wagoner.

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