I love that General Motors has retired two of five corporate jets.
I do not love that Congress spent their time bashing Ford CEO Alan Mulally, Chrysler CEO Robert Nardelli, and General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner for flying privately to the hearings. What should the CEOs have done? Driven to Washington?
Has anybody in Congress ever looked at the Presidential fleet?
Has anybody looked at how Congress Critters prefer to travel? Can you spell c-o-r-p-o-r-a-t-e jet? Or the Air Force C-20? The C-20 aircraft provide “distinguished visitor airlift” for military and government officials. What’s a C-20? That would be a Gulfstream IV. As an aside, General Motors leases the G-IV aircraft Mr. Wagoner used. We taxpayers own the C-20 G-IVs.
Gee, ya think the Congress critters could maybe perhaps be bashing the wrong target?
It is far, far easier to tear down what you cannot possibly create on your own than it is to create something tangible.
I promised a solution somewhere in this series. Here it is.
Warren Buffett says the only possibilities left for the automakers are a bailout or bankruptcy.
Sorry, Mr. Buffett. You’re wrong. Bankruptcy is not an option.
Bankruptcy is attractive because it allows the companies to void their union contracts and turn over their horrendously expensive pension obligations to the taxpayers. The serious downside is that no manufacturing company recovers from bankruptcy. Would you buy a $30 grand widget if you knew there would be no warranty service or even parts available next year? Nobody would. The serious downside is that half of American manufacturing workers will find themselves out of work within 12 months. The serious downside is that some huge number of individual American shareholders (including me) will lose even more from their retirement funds because bankrupt company stocks evaporate.
But a bailout isn’t the answer, either.
I have a three-part plan. 1: Americans need an attitude adjustment. 2: Carmakers need an attitude adjustment. 3: Congress needs an attitude adjustment.
First, remember what your mother taught you: If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say it at all. Bashing a business leader for doing something you know nothing about does absolutely nothing productive. If you do that, stop. The corollary to mom’s adage is simple. If you hear someone else bashing American business, stop them.
Second, American automakers need to get ahead of the curve on market prediction, manufacturing planning, and management.
GM is now working overtime in Texas to make trucks because they shut their truck plants down too early. Not enough of the American auto production lines are flexible. And ongoing layoffs have stripped American companies of their best and brightest workers (that’s not just an automaker problem. At Motorola, for example, product developers with excellent rankings are next up for layoff because all of the “average” and “good” engineers are already gone.)
Finally, the automakers do need some Congressional help. Congress can pass a law. Change labor laws to let the automakers void their union contracts. Then give those horrendously expensive pension obligations to the Fed. That’s going to happen whether we taxpayers like it or not.
Give us that kind of bailout and Messrs. Mulally, Nardelli, and Wagoner can take UAW President Ron Gettelfinger out to the woodshed and beat him until they have appropriate contracts for all the employees as well as for Messrs. Mulally, Nardelli, and Wagoner. After all, if the union folk must give up half their pay, the CEOs can give up most (90%?) of theirs.
We need to do something. Chrysler is probably worth about a billion dollars on the market. Ford’s market cap is $4.04 billion today. GM’s market cap is below Ford at just $1.91 billion. Bill Gates, Mr. Buffet, or the U.S. Congress could simply buy all three on the open market and even though it would be a better investment than the bank bailout has proven to be, that latter is a bleak thought.