GM CEO Dan Akerson talked at length to the Detroit News about many matters bearing on the company’s future. His comments on alternative-fuel vehicles and the wisdom of a gas tax were particularly interesting.
“In the next 10 years,” he said, “this company has to break the code on advanced propulsion and that’s going to be a multifaceted solution.”
And the GM product line has to completely reform: “If we produce 8 million cars this year, we have to have three or four models that we produce as half of those models.” Chevrolet has to be the “killer brand.”
It was frankly refreshing to hear this kind of straight talk from someone who doesn’t proclaim that he has all the answers.
Akerson’s naysayers, of course, were out in force with all the answers. Edward Niedermeyer, one of the usual leaders of the negativity parade, was surprisingly mild in his criticism. The commenters, however, told a different story.
Most of what they say (and our blog has its share) is simple prejudice or cheap sarcasm, exercising their right to rant that GM can do nothing right. Scroll down here, here, and see Randy’s comment here on our blog for samples. Asking these people for more objectivity is like asking a child to stop his tantrum. Finally, this stuff is tiresome.
Anyhow, Akerson thinks what GM does with Cadillac will be a key determiner of the company’s future success. It’s got to be a global brand, and it has to improve. At the annual meeting today, he said GM will build Cadillacs outside the U.S. next year, à la the Toyota-Lexus model. Earlier, he remarked that Ford should “sprinkle holy water” and give up on Lincoln. Which naturally caused more comment!
Akerson wants to make “these big, heavy trucks that are making 15 miles, 12 miles to a gallon” a lot more fuel-efficient, despite the fact that they now make up a big chunk of GM’s profit.
He advocates a government-imposed 50-cent-to-$1.00 gas tax, which indeed would do more to promote small-car sales than the ridiculous (in my opinion) CAFE standards that are basically a tax on production. Akerson maintains that raising mileage requirements by 3 to 6 percent annually, as the feds propose, will boost vehicle cost “by up to $3,500” per unit.
Yes, a gas tax may be politically impossible right now, but it would work and it would produce gobs of revenue that we desperately need. Not too many auto execs have the cojones to admit that in public. Now, if they would bring some pressure to bear on our useless Congress, it might happen (at least in my fantasy).
Well, how about a gas tax? Is it totally out of the question? Leave us a thoughtful comment.