The downfall of General Motors

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The downfall of General Motors

By Maynard The New York Times

06/01/09, 9:00 PM PDT |

It is a company helped lift hundreds of of American workers into the class.

It transformed Detroit a symbol of the industrial prowess of the States. It built iconic like Cadillacs, that synonymous with luxury.

And now it is for bankruptcy, something that have been unfathomable a few years ago, much decades ago, when it was a force in the American economy.

has a company fallen so far and so fast as Motors. And while its bankruptcy increasingly likely in recent the arrival of the moment is still a blow, particularly for anyone ties to the company.

I never could have believed one day this thing would go way, said Jim Wangers, a GM executive who was part of the team developed the Pontiac GTO, and the of Glory Days, about heyday in the muscle-car era of the 1960s.

We were so successful, he added.

in 1908, GM ruled the car industry for than half a century, a broad range of vehicles, the company’s promise to offer a car for purse and purpose.

The expression good for General Motors is for the country entered the lexicon, though it was a slight misquote of E. Wilson, GM’s president in the 1950s.

But then GM began a and slow process of undermining Its strengths, like the rigid that provided discipline on, became weaknesses, and it lost its for reading the American car market it create, as Japanese automakers away even its most buyers.

Only eight ago, Rick Wagoner, its chief executive, stood hundreds of GM employees to celebrate the 100th anniversary. We’re a that’s ready to lead for 100 to come, Wagoner said.

of leading, GM will be following failed companies on a well-worn into bankruptcy court.

The moment will reverberate to corner of the country, from Avenue in New York, where it its financial headquarters, to Epcot, at Disney World in Florida, GM sponsors the Test Track a showcase of its latest cars.

GM sprang up all around the country, Massachusetts to California, from to Louisiana. They churned out cars, pickup trucks and muscle cars with sculpted body panels were rolling displays of DNA.

A GM plant was a ticket to for the communities lucky enough to one. GM put Spring Hill, on the map when it picked the town Nashville for its Saturn plant in prompting the hamlet to swell new homes, motels and restaurants.

Now officials around the country, those in Spring Hill, await phone calls on to tell them if their will be among the 14 GM is expected to it will close in the latest of cuts.

But even after its deep GM can still claim that the country’s largest automaker.

For GM, simple fact — its size — was long as a trump card to end debates. If the were so right about all was wrong with GM, why did so many buy its cars?

The company did have numbers of loyal buyers, but GM them through a series of and cultural missteps starting in the

It bungled efforts in the 1980s to cut by sharing the underpinnings of its cars different brands, blurring distinctiveness.

GM gave in to union in 1990 and created the Jobs paying workers even plants were not running, it to build cars and trucks it not sell without big incentives.

Its staff wrestled with developers and marketers, causing GM to victim to a practice called and leave — putting on the market, then failing to them with advertising.

When they didn’t the finance staff would to abandon them as just failed effort, including the EV1 vehicle.

With its market shrinking, GM could not give its brands and car models the individual that helped Honda customers to the Accord and Toyota to its

Now GM’s brand lineup is halved, with the company to jettison divisions like

Nobody gave any respect to thing called image, it wasn’t in the business plan, Wangers. It was all about, `When is going to earn a profit?’

the years, GM executives became at the art of explaining their problems, blame to everyone but themselves.

list included the United Workers, for demanding health coverage and pensions (even GM agreed to provide them); regulators, for imposing rules GM said hampered their the Japanese government, for unfairly its own carmakers break into the market; and the media, for failing to GM vehicles and the strides the company was to improve them.

Asked in 1995 why he didn’t faster to reorganize the company, the GM chief executive Roger replied, Wouldn’t it have wonderful if we could have a switch? Even last GM’s newly retired chairman, Robert A. Lutz, the automaker had experienced a world of much of it not of our own doing.

Sloganeering was not up by execution. Executives wore pins, for example, in 2002, the number 29 — referring to the share the company vowed to (most companies focus on Through April of this its share was 19 percent, a steep from its peak of 54 percent in

Consumers started blaming GM for vehicles. They may have them second and third but many eventually started to other brands, which make it that much for GM to win them back.

Wagoner was to hold on to his job for longer than expected, as GM’s stock steadily from about $70 he took charge at the start of the It closed at 75 cents a share on

Wagoner was pushed out by the Obama which is now making the call to the company into bankruptcy A judge will then the process of building a new, much diminished, GM into a that might have a at a second century. But the automaker so dominated center stage in the car market for so long will to earn that place

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