Are there options for GM beyond cars?

There’s no lack of pessimism about GM’s prospects under majority-government ownership:

GM’s main problems are

1)  A terrible, bloated cost structure
2)  A terrible, bloated bureaucracy
3)  A bunch of meh car lines

Which of these is the government going to solve?  That terrible, bloated cost structure supports a bloated union whose jobs are the entire rationale for the government intervention.  Leaning on the parts suppliers just risks UAW jobs further down the supply chain.  Maybe we can take it out of the budget for copy paper and pencils.

Forgive me if I am skeptical that the government is going to show GM how to streamline its bureaucracy.  Nor do governments historically have a good record as cutting-edge auto designers.

That sounds about right.  There are a lot of improbable but not impossible scenarios, but using government influence to spur a bureaucracy to suddenly become competitive with Honda and Toyota?  That seems about as close to impossible as any proposition I’ve heard.

I’ve wondered in recent days if this isn’t a matter of rigid mental models:  we have to keep doing this because this is what we do.  Might it not be possible to envision retooling industry, suppliers, and workforce to produce something more relevant, desirable, and practical than GM’s current offerings?  I’m talking about (partially) getting out of cars, and instead using the infrastructure and labor available to make a far more diverse portfolio of products that people need and can afford.

What might be in that portfolio?  I haven’t a clue.  Many of the things people buy now aren’t things at all, and the components of the automotive industry seem ill-suited to producing high-tech products.  I think the idea is worth exploring, though.  There is an infrastructure that can produce things in volume that can be had at a historically low price.  An entrepreneur should be able to see the opportunity there.

One response to “Are there options for GM beyond cars?

  1. Pingback: Week in Public Organizations, 7Jun2009 « PublicOrgTheory

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