Full disclosure. I earned a very good living for a number of years working for various GM advertising agencies. I have owned many good vehicles over the years: Chevrolet Impala, Pontiac 6000, a couple of Saturn models and most recently a number of Saab models including my current vehicle, a 2005 Saab 9-5. Going back even further, my Father worked for the only GM Dealer in Jamaica, United Motors. My first remembrance of GM was from the passenger seat of a really cool Opel 2-door coupe. As a youngster growing up and working for my Dad at his Texaco service station in Trench Town in Kingston we had a couple of Oldsmobile's including my favourite, a 2 door Delta 88.
One day GM died.
I remember the day well. I was about 8. Dad had just taken delivery of an absolutely huge Olds 98. We were at the Texaco station where he was showing the new car off to a couple of his friends. As usual, he popped the hood and as the men stood around looking at the engine, one of his friends casually mentioned that he had actually bought a Chevrolet.
The conversation died. They all looked carefully at the "engine made by Chevrolet" markings on the valve cover. Dad was not amused.
There was much animated conversation (and lots of swearing) for the next few minutes as they debated the reality of an 'Oldsmobile' having a 'Chevrolet' engine. The conversation ended when my godfather, 'Uncle Donovan' popped the hood on his brand new ride, a Ford Torino and proudly showed the blue 'Ford' oval on his engine.
Dad never spoke about that car after that. In fact it dawned on us that driving a left-hand-drive behemoth on the right side of the narrow Jamaican roads was completely ridiculous. And even at that young age, what struck me was that GM jad chosen to export American-made cars to Jamaica when British Vauxhall's and German Opel's would have made more sense. Bad choice: Toyota is now the dominant brand in Jamaica. We did not keep the Oldsmobile very long after that.
So 40 years later, here we are in 2009 debating the pros and cons of keeping General Motors alive. I chuckle when I think about that.
The company of my youth and of my Father is dead. It is time to bury the old GM so that a new company can begin again the task of building business one car and one customer at a time. Here are my suggestions, completely un-solicited of course:
- The current, old management must be dismissed immediately. It is not acceptable to allow people to run the company who grew up in a culture where Chevrolet engines in an Oldsmobile were OK.
- Scrap General Motors itself. Delete all reference and identification from all the vehicles. I want to drive a 'Chevrolet'; I don't drive a 'General Motors'.
- Divide the company into brands: Chevrolet, GMC, Corvette, Opel, Vauxhall, Buick, Saturn, Saab. Define each brand clearly and stick to it.
With my Saab 9-5 lease coming to an end this November, I will be watching with great interest how the story plays out. What happens over the next few months will determine what new vehicle I select next. It should be an interesting summer.