Former General Motors Exec Spoke Openly About Flawed Culture 30 Years Ago2
A former General Motors senior executive spoke openly about the automaker’s culture problems more than 30 years ago, Automotive News reports. The company’s unnecessarily complicated bureaucratic ways and flawed internal culture have been making headlines as of late, following its now widely publicized ignition switch safety recall.
Bill Hoglund led Pontiac in the early 1980s and had ambitions to become CEO eventually. Hoglund was known for being blunt and straight to the point, which set him apart from his colleagues. Ross Perot was also fairly straightforward and known for being a critic of GM after he joined the board of directors in 1984.
Perot was openly against GM chairman Roger Smith and would speak in public about the company’s flawed culture and subsequent issues. He wanted to be more involved in GM’s every day business practices, and approached Hoglund who seemed to also be on the same page as him. Perot once called Hoglund in the heat of his rivalry with Smith to gauge Hoglund’s support of him being more involved with the company. Hoglund reportedly replied: “Ross, I don’t think anyone wants to speak with you about anything at this point. The public bashing of GM and Roger isn’t helping any of us.”
GM eventually paid Perot off to leave the company. However Hoglund may have tarnished his name by aligning with Perot, ruining his chances at becoming CEO. When CEO Jack Smith took over, Hoglund became his “right-hand man,” despite his former bashing of the company’s problematic culture.
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Any company that was as strong as GM is going to have culture problems. The Microsofts, Apples, and Googles of today will soon face this. When you have high profits, high pay, and job safety, you’re going to relax and do what satisfies your personal needs instead of the organization’s.
There have been many to speak out over the years. I have heard several behind closed doors speak out.
FYI Bill just passes away recently last week.
Just to give you an idea where Bill came from as he was in charge of Pontiac in the early 80’s. He is one of the reasons Pontiac was around longer than Olds. At the time Pontiac was on the verge of being the first to go but many of the moves Bill and his staff did staved off the failure of Pontiac.
Note he was the one that reversed moves like putting the Bonneville on the Lemans platform. He also was there when the Fiero came along and he faugh all the moves by GM to have the car killed but it also left the car underfunded, under developed and in a plant that even at 36,000 cars was under plants needed production levels when the GM 80 program was killed.
You want to see how GM worked or did not work you really need to study the Fiero.
Pontiac was acting on building their own sports car in the late 70’s. It was based on a GM engineering study for a mid engine V6 Corvette that was rejected.
The car was killed by GM many times and Pontiac kept bringing it back and funding it with money from other programs. It was outsourced to Entech engineering to do much of the work so it would go un notices.
Because of the lack of funds the car had to make do with what they had on hand for many components. The 88 was really the starting point they wanted.
The car was also built in the large Pontiac Mi plant and had to move a large volume of cars so that is why they built over 100,000 units each of the first two years. This alone sealed the fait of the car as how many 2 seaters can a company sell per year? Even Mazda limits the Miata to keep demand up.
Anyways the GM 80 [FWD F body} was killed and left the plant under production and Pontiac had nothing else to move in to take its place.
Add the other issues with wrong Oil pans and failed rods in the 4 cylinders it set the stage for Chevy to push to kill the car. Chevy Corvette volumes could not take competition from another GM sports car so they wanted it killed. They knew the new suspension worked well and that Pontiac had tested Turbo V6 and DOHC V6 engines in the Fiero. Both are still in the GM historic collection. Chevy wanted the car dead and so as one GM lead designer told me Chevy sells more cars and Chevy got more say.
The Fiero for all its faults did extend the life of Pontiac as it put the spot light on them as did the 83 TA. These cars help sell a lot of Grand Am’s that became the Volume car for Pontiac till they lost their way again.
There is a lot more to this story but you could write a book on it. I know or have met many of the people who were there and it is amazing what all went on. As I have said GM did more damage to GM than Toyota or Honda combined.
Note the Second Gen Fiero GT for 1990 styling was adapted to the 4 gen F body. They enlarged it and made it front engine. Google a 1990 Fiero and look at the body lines as they shared much. John Schinella lead GM designer was proud of the car and said the styling was too good to throw away.
Note even the gauges on the dash were carried over as the prototype used them years before the 4 gen was even started.