Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Dear American People: Please Excuse General Motors for Driving its Company into the Ground

Simply put: General Motors and Congress are in a bit of a political pickle. And by pickle I don’t mean the classic Vlasic Pickle, which was faced with the prospect of bankruptcy in 2001 until it was bought out by Heinz, Inc., rather the pickles you find glued with ketchup to the bathroom walls in McDonalds.

On the verge of bankruptcy, General Motors, along with the other two heads of the three-headed monster Ford and Chrysler, has thrown itself on the congressional floors, begging for mercy, forgiveness and a multi-billion dollar bailout --- or corporate subsidy? Your call, dear taxpayer:

Heads: Bridge loan

Tails: Corporate welfare*

*Current odds-on favorite in Vegas

As GM executives continue to beg Congress, dispensing empty but-this-time-will-be-different promises, it is hard for me to sympathize for GM’s man-made plight. Or in GM’s case, what they did make but did not put into mass production: electric cars.

After watching the documentary film “Who Killed the Electric Car?” last year, I couldn’t help but think that GM’s alleged role in sabotaging efforts to launch and market the line of EV1 electric cars would come back to bite them in their Hummers.

However, the film concludes that GM did not act alone in the assassination of the EV1. The documentary found all of the following guilty in helping bring down the electric car: consumers, oil companies, car companies, the California Air Resources Board, hydrogen fuel cell and the government – namely our beloved Congress, which is now taking the holier-than-thou pedestal because it holds the taxpayers’ purse-strings.

Who Killed the Electric Car?: Round up the Usual Suspects

In the meantime, GM is doing everything in its limited power to improve its public image including leaving their corporate jets double-parked at home and promising to forgo executive salaries. But they have yet to take full responsibility for their role in driving the company six feet under…

Stop the Press: GM took out a full-page advertisement out in Automotive News Monday, not only confessing to its blunders but apologizing to the American people as well?

Say it isn’t so, Taxpayer.

A letter entitled “GM's Commitment to the American People,” appeared in the ad and explains why GM needs $18 million and how it plans to turn the company around.

"While we're still the U.S. sales leader, we acknowledge we have disappointed you," GM said in the magazine ad. "At times we violated your trust by letting our quality fall below industry standards and our designs become lackluster. We have proliferated our brands and dealer network to the point where we lost adequate focus on our core U.S. market. We also biased our product mix toward pick-up trucks and SUVs. And, we made commitments to compensation plans that have proven to be unsustainable in today's globally competitive industry."

Well, that should take care of everything. I’m sold. I wonder how much that full-paged apology cost them?

However, some lawmakers, including Sen. Chuck Grassley, R – Iowa, want the Wall Street executives to serve up some Japanese-style apologies to the American people.

“I am talking about scenes I've seen on television where in belly-up corporations the CEOs go before the board of directors, before the public, before the stockholders and bow deeply and apologize for their mismanagement,” he said in a statement in October. “Something like that happening among Wall Street executives would go a long way toward satisfying my constituents and many Americans that help might be needed and would more gracefully be given by the taxpayers of this county.”

I say take it one step further and turn their public apologies into a marketable game show, say a season of “The Running Executive” (an offshoot of Stephen King’s novel “The Running Man”). All of the executives from the Big-3 will be unleashed in D.C., which is filled with anyone who has lost their job from these companies and the object is to make it to Capitol Hill – alive. The first one to make it alive will receive the lions’ share of the profit generated from the television show.

However, we at Political Fallout –- a no-profit organization – are a little more civilized than this. That said, we would like to resurrect “Please Excuse the Excuses: The War on Excuses”:

Dear American People,

Please excuse the executives at General Motors for, among many other unfortunate mishaps, driving our automobile company into the ground. We really did have your best intention in mind when we killed the electric car, the EV1, and put all of the shareholders eggs in the Hummer basket. At the time, we had hoped the visibility of the military Humvees in Iraq would increase the demand for our civilian version back home.

We thought the Hummer would be synonymous with the American Dream, wherein every child would grow up wanting to be behind the wheel of a vehicle the size of a mobile home. Besides, our constituents, the United States Congress, assured us the war in Iraq would end quickly, thus freeing up the vast oil reserves bubbling beneath the Iraqi soil and yearning to feed a customized Hummer.

Blessed with hindsight and a new awareness that the intelligence procured by our marketing division was faulty, we now realize the EV1 could have been the wave of the future. Our minds must have been muddled, which is only natural given the quickening of global warming back in the day. Boy, that came out of left field, huh?

We admit that we are not perfect, nor are our line of automobiles, which is why most Americans prefer to buy foreign cars, but we do want to somehow make it up to you.

If you just give us another chance, say to the tune of $18 billion for starters, we promise to turn our company around and close the gap on our foreign competitors.

This letter was not easy for us to write, that is why we paid an entry-level employee in our public relations department to do it -- who by the way will be unemployed if we don’t get the bailout.

Finally, please don’t let Congress know we sent you this letter. We have already had to do a lot of groveling in front of these folks, not to mention we had to carpool in a hybrid all the way to D.C. as part of our penance for being so greedy and ungrateful.

Sincerely (we really do mean it this time),

General Motors Executives