Somehow I am sad, but not too sad, about the demise of GM.
It has been a long time coming. I’m old enough to remember that GM seemed old fashioned after the Arab Oil Embargo of 1973, when all those monster sized Cadillacs, Oldsmobiles and Pontiacs seemed disgracefully wasterful, consuming gas at 57 cents a gallon.
Our family history was lived inside GMs. We had the 1966 Pontiac Catalina, a car so superbly engineered, that it would die every cold winter day in Chicago and need to be restarted constantly.
We had the beautiful 1972, $4100 Delta 88 Convertible, purchased in Downers Grove, IL and my parents kept it for 25 years. It ran well, even when it sat in the driveway in Woodcliff Lake, NJ and collected leaves and got rained on when they forgot to lift the top up. This was a pleasure car to take on the parkway, and up to Ringwood Lake and Bear Mountain.
There was the solid prosperity of the 1981 Blue Delta 88 sedan and the later 1986 Brown Delta 88 that my father drove down Kinderkamack Road on his way to Medical Economics. The car smelled of his pipe smoke but it never broke down.
I don’t think my parents bought another GM after 1990, with the exception of that used 1992 Cadillac Sedan de Ville that they also kept around for 15 years.
And GM, what have you done with your magnificent wealth and gigantic colossus that basically gave you the entire world’s admiration, market and respect in 1950? You squandered it with bureaucracy, with greed, with a hatred of public transportation and a stupid belief that people would just buy you because you were American. You became fat, lazy, arrogant, narrow minded, deferential to the rich and powerful, and deaf to the needs of your buyers.
You are based in Detroit, yet you didn’t care enough about the actual city of Detroit,which has become a disgraceful slum, many miles wide, a war torn zone of burned and abandoned homes, empty industries: poor, violent, sick and despondent.
You helped dismantle the streetcars of Los Angeles, tearing up the city to construct a freeway and smog drowned wasteland where people sit inside their cars for hours, wasting gas and hours in a needless and useless way of commuting. You might have worked to construct light rail and trains, which you could have built, in between the lanes of the freeways, thereby making driving easier and more pleasurable.
It took me an hour last night, to drive from Culver City to Hollywood. What a city, what a life, made possible by people like those who ran General Motors.
We live in a land of enormous asphalt parking lots and ugly big box stores and billboards. What a city, what a life, made possible by people like those who ran General Motors.
But you always focused on the bottom line. You never aimed high, you only thought of the lowest common denominator of product. The crappy car has always been king and its needs are more important than any human ones.
And who could forget your billions invested in the mortgage and credit debacle, loaning money to home buyers who have now defaulted on those properties they never could afford to begin with?
In the end, everything about GM was about “image” and your needs.
The city, state and nation that you egregiously ignored, has now turned away and forgotten that you once mattered, deeply.
What is good for GM finally turned out to be bad for America.