Perspective – Part II: Kudos to Wagner, Shame on Mulally

More than 50 years ago, then-General Motors President Charles Wilson reportedly said “What’s good for General Motors is good for the country”.

My how things have changed. There was a time back during the dot com bubble that even AOL had a larger market value than GM, and there was even talk of GM becoming a subsidiary of

My point is that the automotive manufacturers no longer have the impact on the national economy that they once did. They’re still big companies to be sure, but nationally they are no big deal.

But the same isn’t true here – in the Detroit metro area.

No, here in the Detroit area the car is still king. The automakers are by far the largest companies in the area, and other than the kindergarten-like governments of Wayne County and the City of Detroit, they are also the largest employers in the area. Don’t be fooled by any of the talk – when the automakers get a cough, southeastern Michigan gets the flu.

That has been demonstrated all too clearly lately in that the problems that this region is presently facing are largely attributable to structural changes in the automotive industry. What’s also become clear is that this region is going to be lead out of this recession by the automotive industry, so the quicker it get’s back to being healthy the better. This is SO obvious that you’d think that every “leader” in the area, from the elected politicos to company execs, would get it.

I bring this up because it serves as a backdrop for two very important events that occurred this week. One of which demonstrated a leader fully engaged with a laser focus on his business, the other with a leader demonstrating YET AGAIN that he is over his head, out of touch, and completely ignorant of the situation he is in.

The two leaders? I give you – Rick Wagner, CEO of GM and Alan Mullaly, the latest seat-warmer CEO at Ford.

Let’s start with the kudos.

This week Rick Wagner hosted a relatively low profile fundraiser for an Oakland County congressman named Joe Knollenberg. Now you may not know this, but Joe is one of the most ardent, and most vocal supporters of the automotive industry, to the extent that he took out a billboard a few months ago taking California governor Arnold the Barbarian to task for his threat to have his state impose draconian fuel economy regulations on the automakers. Joe understands completely that this region is dependant on the domestic manufacturers selling cars, and he’s going to go to the mat to make sure that they can continue to do so. Kudos to Joe.

Now as strange as it may seem in this era of kumbyah hugs, political correctness and big, bad corporations, the message that GM is sending to Washington (and everyone else) is that they know their business, they know how the game is played, and they are going to be PROACTIVE not reactive in defending their turf. I can’t tell you how proud it makes me to see the CEO in this area stand up on his hind legs and defend his business. Big bold Kudos to Rick on this.

Then on the other hand we have the anti-Rick. Alan Mulally.

Stay tuned. . .