National business reporter claims GM was on right track

March 6, 2009
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William J. Holstein, a national business reporter, arrives in Grand Rapids today to discuss his book “Why GM Matters: Inside the Race to Transform an American icon.”

After extensive travels that took him to China, Germany, and of course Detroit, Holstein wrote the book, which argues that General Motors was on its way to transformation before the economic crash.

Holstein maintains GM had already retooled its entire operation — from manufacturing to cost structure and design.

“What I spent time doing is looking at how General Motors has been trying to transform themselves,” said Holstein. “They’ve transformed their cost structure, working with the UAW. They have dramatically changed the way they manufacture, learning from Toyota. They’ve dramatically improved the way they design cars. They’ve innovated with the lithium battery and the OnStar navigational system and they’re truly globalized, which is a very powerful tool.”

In stressing that GM has aggressively globalized. Holstein pointed out the tremendous investments GM has made in emerging markets such as India and Brazil. He also believes that when it’s all said and done, GM will receive some sort of bailout support from the government, because the thought of an American institution like GM going under is too horrific to contemplate.

Holstein said much of America’s anger toward GM and the auto-industry comes from general angst and not understanding the complexity of what’s happening on Wall Street.

“Americans are really upset about what’s going on and really scared and justifiably. They don’t really understand what’s happened on Wall Street. We’ve been told by our national leadership that we have to poor hundreds of billions of dollars into the banking system and we can’t see anything that it’s really done yet and there’s a considerable amount of rage about that,” he said. “But Americans seem to direct their rage at something they can understand. They think they can understand the auto industry, so it seems that there’s been an American rage about what’s happened, focused on the auto industry that somehow GM’s failure has helped create the problem, which I think is completely upside down.”

Holstein was asked to speak by the World Affairs Council of Western Michigan during a noon event at the University Club.

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