My fascination with the looming disaster known as the US auto industry has continued unabated over the summer. I’ve been especially intrigued by the upheaval in GM’s most successful venture in recent years, the development of the Wuling Sunshine minivan for the Chinese market. Philip Murtaugh, the executive who headed up this miracle of manufacturing and marketing in partnership with the Chinese—and who stuck his neck out by championing the vehicle inside a company with a long history of punishing passionate mavericks—has finally met his predictable fate by being forced out. The details became public over the last month, shortly before GM’s debt rating was downgraded to junk and the company decided to extend its “employee discounts” to cover the new 06 models, which it had pretty much declared it would never do.
Minus Murtaugh, the company may no longer be able to count on Chinese profits to help offset its slide in the US market. Those still holding shares in GM should take note. The rest of us, meanwhile, are left to serenely ponder this latest evidence of corporate boneheadedness by putting it in historical context.
[Note: Cool Friend Sally Helgesen sent us the above entry. See her website here.]