I’ve long been a fan of Jerry Flint, the automotive columnist for Forbes. In his latest writing,
He spreads the blame around, and has plenty of harsh words for governments, both here and abroad, in regard to how they supported or failed to support their automakers.
But the heart of his column focuses on what we lean advocates have been saying all along:
Car plants become profitable when running full and with overtime. To do that, the car companies must build vehicles the customers want.
And why didn’t they build the right products?
The Big Three workers are older, tired and often from urban environments. Doing less was always the goal, and they bragged about it, too, which is why auto workers may not be particularly popular, even in their own towns. Foreign manufacturers, with American plant managers, won over their factory workers with a new culture: uniforms for everyone, democracy in the parking lot and no executive dining rooms.
The foreign culture was about more than parking spaces. Its real focus was on eliminating class warfare from the factory floor. The Japanese and the Germans, too, put particular emphasis on teamwork and quality.
Listen to Robert Dewar, who worked at Ford's
Times have changed. The worker-management battles in
David Brooks, columnist for The New York Times, has also hit the nail on the head:
G.M.’s core problem is its corporate and workplace culture — the unquantifiable but essential attitudes, mind-sets and relationship patterns that are passed down, year after year.
Over the last five decades, this company has progressively lost touch with car buyers, especially the educated car buyers who flock to European and Japanese brands. Over five decades, this company has tolerated labor practices that seem insane to outsiders. Over these decades, it has tolerated bureaucratic structures that repel top talent. It has evaded the relentless quality focus that has helped companies like
The importance of culture can never be overestimated.