So it’s midnight on “Monday” where I’m working…

CDR Salamander recommends that I post here about a discussion several folks have been having about the recent details of General Motors’ troubles. There may be something worthwhile to map onto the Navy of today. Phibian provoked some good comment earlier this week with a quote changing “GM” to “Navy” just to see how it fit. It fit rather too well in places. He then asked:

Here is a question; is there a parallel between the path of the USN over the last two decades and that of GM of the last four?

I then made the mistake of forgetting Phibian’s post, but remembering its lesson, when I noticed this via former submariner Gerard Vanderleun of American Digest:

As you probably know, ever since GM was founded, its execs have either been driven by a chauffeur or provided with carefully prepared and maintained examples of the company’s most expensive vehicles. Of course, there are times when the suits must sign off on the company’s more prosaic products. Since 1953, this intersection between high flyer and mass market occurred at GM’s Mesa, Arizona, Desert Proving Grounds (DPG). The execs would fly into Phoenix’s Sky Harbor airport, limo out to the DPG and drive the company’s latest models.

Our agent says that all the vehicles the execs drove were “ringers.” More specifically, the engineers would tweak the test vehicles to remove any hint of imperfection. “They use a rolling radius machine to choose the best tires, fix the headliner, tighten panel and interior gaps, remove shakes and rattles, repair bodywork—everything and anything.”

Did the execs know this? “Nope. And nobody was going to tell them . . . As far as they knew, the cars were exactly as they would be coming off the line. That’s why Bob Lutz thinks GM’s products are world-class. The ones he’s driven are.”

I asked Agent X if the GM execs would ever drive the cars again. Did he know if Wagoner or Lutz dropped in at a dealership to test drive a random sample off the lot? He found the idea amusing.

Well, did the DPG at least send a list of changes to the design and production teams? “The tweaks were never reported to anyone,” he says. “That would’ve been a sure way to kill your career . . . We’d see the cars come back to us after production with the exact same problems.”

What things in the Navy today do we do now that go down that path? I have a possible example or two listed in that post.

Also, I argue that if we can use business cases and rules for some things, we can use them for embarrassing things too. I think there would be value in studying the late-80s Navy like that, and CDR Salamander’s drawing upon GM-related examples might serve as a cautionary tale for our Navy.

Posted by Chap in Navy

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  • FIRST!!!

    Not fair, I know. But, if silence is approval….nice.

  • Chap

    Now why are there crickets in a wasp’s nest? ‘Cause that’s all I hear…

  • Byron

    Probably because it makes you sick to admit it’s the truth? Or that it’s Sunday, and a race is on? 😉

  • RickWilmes

    Of course there is a parallel, when both institutions are dominated by the same philosophy, self-less pragmatism, it is only a matter of time before the end result is the same.

  • Chap

    Hey, where I am it’s “Tuesday”.

  • Byron

    You’re not in Oz, are you? (and if you are, I’ll amend that question with ‘you lucky sod’)

  • Chap

    Nah, wrong AOR. I would not mind to be stationed in Australia, though! Get right on that, would you?

  • Ok, I’ll kick the nest again …..

  • Chap:

    See my comment on your original post…
    w/r, SJS

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Hey Chap,

    Re: crickets… Silence sounds like consent to me!