Michael Moore On General Motors

For about 25 years, a propoganda war has been waged on American business, with GM, Ford, Chrysler and any oil company taking the beating. The ‘evil U.S. Corporation’ them permeates movies, television and magaizines. It is now part of the culture to see these words as somehow bad: American Corporation or Capitalism.

Moore NEVER EVER said or even hinted to “The Evil U.S. Corporation”…EVER…Never made any statement what-so-ever that Big business is evil or that there’s any problem with Corporate America or capitalism…He Attacked a PERSON…NOT the system…BIG DIFFERENCE. The problem according to Moore wasn’t GM or “Corporate America”…it was the INDIVIDUALS of the company that caused this mess…and I COMPLETELY AGREE WITH HIM ON THIS POINTS.

There are THOUSANDS of companys Big and small that don’t try to SCREW the public and it’s workers the way GM executives did. I have great respect for those companies and the way they do business. Sorry…but it’s OBVIOUS you completely missed the point…OR…you’re all for Corporate Greed and just SCREWING anyone you can as long as you make your Million. How about Hard work…Don’t you think that’s a better model to run company with…instead of GM’s “Screw you” attitude.

Moore is one of the dullest knives in the utensil tray and Objectivity is hardly his middle name.

He states GM “invented” planned obsolescence. So he doesn’t think everyone else does it?
While I was at a Subaru service school one time many years ago (about 25 roughly) the instructors there flat out stated that Subaru was going to obsolete their vehicles about every 4-5 years at the maximum.

Around this time Subaru started their “Parts Buy Back Program” in which they were scrapping countless hundreds (probably millions) of dollars worth of brand new parts in our district alone from the dealer shelves. Everything from windshields to brake shoes to rod bearings was smashed with a hammer and consigned to the dumpsters.

The vast majority of those parts were applicable to vehicles less than 5 years old.
Scrap the parts, price goes up a lot (and it did, a LOT), and people throw in the towel and trade for a new car. Pretty shrewd though.

Let Moore do a movie about that one.

Shrewd. The feds have been mentioning the idea of a buy back program for old vehicles to encourage people to buy new ones. I wonder if they’ll seek a way to also make owning old vehicles cost prohibitive. Perhaps after they feel the economy has “recovered” enough?

Let’s hope not.

An interseting article but not one I would take seriously either as truth or as a good method of assigning blame. GM has actually spent the better part of the last 15 years correcting the problems everyone complains about with their cars. To the point where a GM division(Buick) is considered superior to lexus in dependability. Their plants as several experts have pointed out are very efficient. Their cars are generally equal to or ahead of their foreign competition in fuel economy(in fact the make with the most gas-guzzling SUV models in the USA is Toyota).
As for the high speed railline idea it reflects a life only spent in cities and not the reality in most of the US outside of New York City, DC, and LA. To make it work would require demolishing and replacement of most of the nations infrastructure especially suburbs. Plus there is still no gaurantee that americans would ride it.
Finally lets point out this is Micheal Moore a man who has over the years put himself in opposition to everything American except apple pie(insert your own weight joke here). And whose major qualification for analyzing industry is being a far-left celebrity.

Actually, Moore’s point about planned obsolescence is wrong anyway. While he’s looking for the conspiracy theory as usual (forcing people to buy a new car due to their old one being obsoleted) it’s for a different reason.

It’s because of the new car buying public. At a Subaru school one time there was a discussion about styling introduction. They stated their surveys showed that around the 4-5 year mark a vehicle design may start wearing a bit thin because the general public gets bored easily.
So if a car maker sticks to the same old thing year after year it won’t be long before sales are down and money is lost because the car is not profitable to produce in such a low volume.

There are exceptions. The Porsche 911 has hung around forever and even a few cars like the Fox-bodied Mustangs.

I mentioned Subaru earlier in regards to this issue. They were also looking ahead to what the buying public would want in 5 years. It was not an underhanded method to force people into new vehicles. They knew that the current owners would become a bit dulled and might expect something new down the road.

The only issue I have with Subaru is that parts scrapping program they began. Anything over 3 years old was considered obsolete and this was a blatant attempt to remove many OEM parts from the market. Subaru of America did not own these parts. The dealers owned them.
Subaru of America was spending THEIR money to buy those parts off of the dealer shelves at cost LESS 10%.
So not only did the dealers lose money while those parts are parked, they also lost a bit by selling those parts for less than they paid for them, but since cash flow is everything many dealers participated and took the quick buck.
To the detriment of the mechanics and car owners of course.

agreed. execellent article. except for the inconvenience of having to click on each point individually.

many auto makers (and other manufacturers) have used planned obsolescence as a revenue strategy.

but moore is on the mark about GM ‘inventing’ it for cars. GM’s “Art and Color” division was the first in the industry to employ “styling” as a marketing too. prior to that, all cars were strictly functional, with style (such as it was in the early days) simply incidental to the design.

this came to a climax in the 1950s and '60s with ANNUAL STYLING CHANGE. this costly exercise was intended to make cars look ‘out of style’ if not downright old fashioned after just 3 years or so.

Yes, I had a 1957 “Forward Look” Plymouth which looked outdated 3 years after its introduction. Cars with wrap-around windshields look positively weird when you see them today.

“The feds have been mentioning the idea of a buy back program for old vehicles to encourage people to buy new ones.”

I listened to debates on CNN radio in the House of Representatives a couple of weeks ago, and this happened to be the topic. The program is extremely narrow. Someone with a car that gets less than 18 MPG is entitled to $3500 if they trade their car on another one that gets at least 5 MPG more or $4500 if the next one gets 10 MPG or more. The next car does not have to be new and could even be older than the traded car. Also, the old engine must be destroyed. Under the circumstances, no one with an even slightly valuable car would use this method to get another car. The Congressmen continually referred to the traded cars as clunkers, and they meant it.

" many auto makers (and other manufacturers) have used planned obsolescence as a revenue strategy.

but moore is on the mark about GM ‘inventing’ it for cars. GM’s “Art and Color” division was the first in the industry to employ “styling” as a marketing too. prior to that, all cars were strictly functional, with style (such as it was in the early days) simply incidental to the design.

this came to a climax in the 1950s and '60s with ANNUAL STYLING CHANGE. this costly exercise was intended to make cars look ‘out of style’ if not downright old fashioned after just 3 years or so."

Yeah, it’s all their fault. Stop me before I buy again!

Can’t we be responsible for our own buying habits? I suppose I’m just a cheapskate, but the last time I changed cars in less than 5 years was when my boss insisted that I drive a traditional US brand since I dealt with customers at our steel company. I drove a Rabbit from Westmoreland, PA but that wasn’t good enough. I ended up with a Cavalier, which I paid for on a 0% loan from the company. I wasn’t keen on buying a new car, but my boss went to bat to get me the 0% loan, and I still appreciate that. BTW, that was in the early 1980s.

Stop me before I buy again! It isn’t a company’s fault for trying to sell their goods or services. You and I have choices, and we are responsible for them. No one else is. Are you drunk on that new Camaro’s good looks? Me too! But as we used to say at the Fraternity: drunkenness is no excuse. I can resist the temptation and have for decades. I know that most of the folks here do, too. Just don’t assign your responsibility to some guy who was just doing his job.

Michael Moore could not make a car to save his soul from eternal fire.

Regarding the comments about quality: Quality is easy to provide if you have the money to spend to obtain it. Quality does not come free of charge. Quality requires people to monitor and ride herd on others who provide parts and assemble them. The newcomers to the auto business, the Japanese, Koreans etc. were not burdened with the legacy social costs that unions imposed on the US companies that management capitulated to and could instead spend this money on quality. Nobody including US management and union leadership could see the future when these demands were made and met.

If unions had any foresight in any way, they would have been a part of the solution rather than a final obstacle to overcome after the house came crashing down to earth. The union leadership reflects the thinking of the membership. They are not business people and are out of their element when it comes to forward thinking.

I submit that if the Oriental car companies had the same financial burdens imposed on them to provide for early retirement and retiree costs that the US car companies have, then their quality would be no better.

This situation does not correct itself easily. It takes a great deal of pain to get people to give up the good deals to meet the competition.

Meanwhile, we have done our part to sustain the manufacturing base in the US, just bought a new GM car and I must say that it is a very good car.

Ummmm… the fallacy that quality costs has long been proven false in industry. It comes from the old manufacturing process wherein inspectors would check the work of assemblers, as you described. Modern quality methodologies utilizing statistical process controls, design for manufacture, “flow down”, “lean manufacturing”, and things like Just In Time (JIT) reduce the cost to manufacture product tremendously.

The subjects I reference are complicated, but I’ll try to summarize and make the point.

Statistical process control does not inspect parts. Rather, it monitors the process variation. Bad parts don;t get [roduced because when the process varies and/or “trends” toward bad parts, the process gets adjusted. It also enables analysis as to whether the process is capable of producing the parts to the needed dimension with normal variation and enables the engineers to make changes if it does not.

Design For Manufacture not only reduces the opportunities for problems, it also incorporates multifunctionality into parts. Something that used to require 3,000 parts can be redesigned to require 1,000 parts. That reduces manufacturing costs, procurement costs, inventry costs, process costs, improves throu-put…you get the idea.

I’ll save you the boredom of explaining in more detail, or explaining teh rest, but quality does not “come at a cost”. It reduces cost.

You understand these things about cost and quality such as JIT, 3 Sigma, Bell curves, bathtub curves and more as does anyone seriously in the business of making things for sale including US auto companies.

Please offer an explanation as to why competitive quality was slower to happen with US auto companies if quality is free.

Are you saying that US car companies hire engineering and management people who are less intelligent than oriental car companies?

I submit again that quality costs money. To say that attention paid to quality saves money is a nice slogan but is not reality.

Wha Who; quality is mostly a way of working. Japanese companies not only practice very tough statistical quality control, they also manage to harness the total talent of their work force, vs maybe 10% of the talent that US companies used to capitalize on.

Toyota gets 2 MILLLION suggestions per year, about 2 per month for each employee. Many get implemented.

Japanese car manufactiurers are hard on their suppliers. When they started making cars here, many parts makers could not meet the quality needs, like six sigma.

The steps in making quality products:

  1. Design it for durability; this does not have to cost more

  2. Design it for ease of manufacturing; get the workers and engineers involved

  3. Design it for maintainability; this is a tough one for a complex luxury car

  4. Apply sophisticated logistics, JIT, to get the materials flowing evenly to reduce inventory and floor space.

The final results for Toyota is fewer assembly hours per car at a a lower hourly rate; resulting in a $1400 cost advantage for a compact like a Corolla.

The first US car to be designed for ease of assembly was the 1986 Taurus. Unfortunately, Ford did not bother to use quality components. Prior to that, styling dictated the shape and features of the car, engineering did their best to design it, then threw it over the fence to manufacturing. Poor purchasing was ususally left out in the cold till the end and had to scramble to get the stuff purchased or the components made. No time for quality standards and detailed quality specifications.

When GM sent their engineers to Toyota in the 80s they were puzzled by the weird way they built cars; no military top down process. The flow apeared to be organic and HOLISTIC, a process totally alien to GM and other Detroit companies, and their UNIONS…

Toyota, like Wal Mart, saves money, time and effort at everything it does. In the process the whole car gets built better FOR LESS MONEY!!! That’s what is meant by Quality is Free. This process was totally alien to Detroit until recently.

I recommend a book called “The Machine That Changed The World”, by James P. Womack, Daniel T. Jones and Daniel Roos. It is the story of Lean Production. Your library will have a copy.

Hope the above sheds some light on why quality built-in, not inspected-in, is really free.

Still that’s pretty high. $28 hr plus health insurance and retirement is pretty impressive for a job doesn’t require much in the way of education. There are many folks who are more highly educated and don’t make that kind of money. For a few years I worked as a Geek Squad in-home tech, I have a four year degree in IT, and various MCP certifications. I was paid $15.50 an hour; I was on call 24 hours a day. Best Buy did not provide any health care insurance at all, I had to pay for my own personal policy, which because of a pre-existing condition, I paid around $500-$650 a month for, and I was dammed grateful for it all.

To me it’s difficult to sympathize with some guy who bolts on fenders for living, yet gets paid more than me for doing what I consider far easier work. It seems that these folks don’t realize what a good deal they have.

I do agree that management did GM no favors. They clearly failed to plan for the future. And yes many of them will walk away from this filthy rich and it is a shame. I also do feel bad for the auto workers who will get laid off, but only to certain point, for many of them this is going to be huge reality check. They are going to find out the hard way that the UAW is the only entity that feels that they are worth $28 an hour.

After reading the article and this thread, it occurs to me that Michael Moore probably doesn’t care that you hate him. All he probably cares about is having an impact by being controversial. Based on your reactions, he has been quite successful.

No, I’m not saying that.

To make a long story short, after WWII Japan was in ruins. They desperately needed to rebuild their manufacturing infrastructure from scratch. The brought in a mathematician by the name of W. Edward Deming to help them. He used applied statistics to do so, applying his theories of focusing on the process to their operations. Japan being a “group think” culture to begin with, the application was a perfect fit.

The U.S. manufacturing community was firmly set in it’s old ways of production line manufacturing with inspectors to inspect in quality. They were steeped in the arrogance that comes from having been a major key key to having won a world war. It was, after all, our manufacturing capacity that enabled us to do so. Prior to WWII we were the best in the world.

It isn’t a question of intelligence. It’s a question of how history emerged. We are all merely a piece of our environment.

It isn’t that quality per-se saves money, it’s that the systems, protocols, and technology that enhance quality save money. A lot of money.

Yes, people seriously in the business of making things for sale (en-masse) understand these things. I spent 23 years in the manufacturing industry working in the field of quality engineering and management. I spent a large portion of my life in the places you speak of.

IMHO all he cares about is being the center of attention. Yes, he’s succeeded.

Great explanations, guys. I would only like to add that selling low quality products has hidden costs. How many people have turned to imports because they were dissatisfied with the quality of their domestic vehicles? If you cut corners on quality to gain a competitive advantage on cost, the gain will only last one iteration of your product because your customers will soon realize that (A) paying more for quality means fewer headaches and less inconvenience, and (B) quality products that cost more usually have lower lifetime costs of operation. In many circumstances, spending a little more up front for a quality product will save you money over the lifetime of the product.

An excellent added point.

Our automotive manufacturers (I guess they really are “ours” now, aren’t they) even went so far with the cost cutting they hired “value engineers” whose sole function it was to try to find ways to reduce costs by cutting corners. The “poster child” for that was probably the Caddilac Cimmeron. They cut costs all the way to using a bone-cheap existing chassis and just adding fancy trim.