GM, Hummer and schadenfreude

With the odd notable exception, I’ve never been a huge fan of schadenfreude, pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others.

It’s not a particularly positive thing, so I try and avoid it.

Some environmentalists will be feeling it today, as they read this news:

A Deal Sours, and the Hummer Bites the Dust

As Time summarises:

“General Motors’ efforts to sell Hummer to a little-known Chinese company have fallen apart, the U.S. automaker announced on Wednesday. As a result, GM will begin to dismantle a brand of gas-guzzling SUVs that was synonymous with pre–financial crisis wealth and excess.”

The Chinese firm who wanted to buy it, now realises that brands like Hummer, which symbolises excessive fuel consumption and excess, as well as selfishness, are not sustainable given the way fuel prices are going.

The government in China too, gets this, and I’m sure has made feelings known.

Hence perhaps the odd bit of schadenfreude for GM by environmentalists.

This is the company that colluded with big oil to help kill the railroads, (back in the day) then the electric car, (not so long ago) and now has come full circle via bankruptcy protection.

GM is a sad story of heads in the corporate sand.

When I worked in the auto industry more than ten years ago everyone said GM was doomed even then. ‘A social security system that also makes cars’ was one common refrain.

The only surprise was how long then CEO Rick Wagoner hung onto his job there.

But more than that, the company thought the way out of its mess was to promote excess, the pinnacle of which was the Hummer.

Now it’s a different story, and despite the greenwashing taking place around the Chevy Volt, (which we wrote about here last month in a briefing on electric cars) I really hope it takes off.

It looks quite good, so here’s to hoping. If it doesn’t work, companies like Reva may steal their thunder.

And so let’s remember the Hummer and its demise as a turning point, an ultimate revolt against bad taste that helped prove the case for sustainable business thinking, rather than as GM’s greatest PR folly.

Mmm, classy.

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