Eclectic Curiosity

Green Automaking?


Posted on August 9th, 2005, by Steve Hardy in Archives, Uncategorized. No Comments

Really, this is a question the big US automakers should have been asking many, many years ago: What if a major automaker decided to reinvent itself as the world’s first and only green car company, producing only hybrid, clean-diesel and other high-efficiency vehicles? This is the question journalist asks in a recent NY Times article.

The easy answer is to follow the path that Detroit has taken for years. Grind out well-made but ho-hum vehicles and offer them at huge discounts. Let your debt rating fall below investment grade. And when California tries to impose mandatory reductions in greenhouse gases, you sue, even if some other states want the same stricter standards – and even if some consumers are lining up to pay hefty premiums for energy-saving hybrid vehicles that run on both gasoline and electricity. …

What if one of them decided to break from the pack? What if a major automaker decided to reinvent itself as the world’s first and only green car company, producing only hybrid, clean-diesel and other high-efficiency vehicles? Not Birkenstocks on wheels, mind you, but enjoyable, functional cars that get great mileage. (via Brand Autopsy)

This article reminds me of a news clip I saw just a few weeks ago on TV. Poor old GM had just held their AGM and one of the top executives – I can’t remember who exactly – responded, quite condescendingly, to a reporter’s question about the car company’s weak performance with a lecture about how times have changed and that GM is not in the auto industry so much as it is in the design business. Amazing insight, no? Especially for 2005! The idiot not only didn’t know which road he should be on, he was asleep at the wheel.

It’s a stark example of a company and an industry that could have used one or two fewer focus groups and instead looked up for a minute and soaked in a larger view of the world, of times, of attitudes, of global imperatives. Adding some generalist thinking to the engineering rigour and financial complexity of a company of such a grand scale would have offered not only a better (and earlier) glance at the high-stakes future but would also have enlightened them to different possibilities that could be pursued. But it takes a concerted effort on the part of leadership to see things they aren’t already familiar with. And Detroit seems void of that.





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