OT: GM Poised To Make a Serious Comeback?
Forget Detroit's obsession with how GM's union workers may see their
health care benefits cut -- and whether it might help the automaker for
more than five minutes.
Ignore the carping about GM sticking it to its salaried workers,
dumping contract workers and hammering suppliers -- as if all that ails
GM can be fixed if they could just squeeze their people hard enough.
GM's brass knows better.
Assuming GM is more than a benefit factory whose primary function is
keeping employees and retirees in the manner to which they've become
accustomed, the difference between hope and despair for a GM revival
are the 20 new cars and trucks sitting under GM's design dome here in
If they miss and become the newest exhibits in the bloated gallery of
GM products that didn't match their hype and can't outperform their
aggressive rivals, it's all over.
Really, it is. The people who'll pay the price won't just be GM
employees and retirees. It'll be communities like Detroit, Lansing and
Pontiac, which depend on GM for jobs and tax revenue. It'll be
homeowners across Michigan, whose housing values will get whacked. And
it'll be industrial America.
Bottom line: There's much more riding on the next 30 months of GM
product rollouts -- which GM is touting in a series of private previews
-- than product czar Bob Lutz's legacy or Chairman Rick Wagoner's job.
The good news is there's not a pathetic Pontiac Aztek anywhere among
the shiny models parked under the dome. The new full-size SUVs, set to
arrive early next year, are sleeker and more fuel-efficient than their
predecessors and, in late 2007, should be available with gas-electric
The trio of mid-sized crossover vehicles from Buick, GMC and Saturn,
code-named Lambda, will be late to the hot crossover game -- which
means they must be better than their rivals. If the Buick version is
any indication, skeptics (like me) are in for a big surprise because
this is no flabby Rendezvous.
Same for the next-generation Saturns. There's the Teutonic Aura, a
mid-size sedan that drew raves at the Detroit auto show, a Euro-style
roadster named Sky, a crossover dubbed "Outlook" and a successor to the
compact Ion sedan. Any resemblance to today's plasticky Saturns is,
The all-new Cadillac CTS is likely to give BMW and Mercedes-Benz
engineers heart palpitations, mostly because the planned interior is
(like most of the other interiors planned for the coming slug of GM
models) a vast improvement over the current model.
Add that to the performance-and-quality cred amassed by the new
Cadillacs, and you can't help but feel cautiously encouraged about GM's
ability to pull out of its depressing nosedive.
Here's hoping. Talking mid-contract deals with the union may be
necessary in tough times, but they're hardly sufficient. Only more
desirable metal meets that requirement, and it can't come soon enough.