On Nov. 26, General Motors CEO Mary Bara announced the once world-leading manufacturer would close five plants and lay off as many as 14,000 employees.
Four days later, Alliant Energy, the Madison-based utility that supplies electricity to south and central Wisconsin through Wisconsin Power and Light, announced there are now 1 million electric vehicles on the road. By 2030, that number will increase to 18 million.
Before we blast away at GM and condemn any vehicles not propelled by internal combustion engines, let’s try to connect the dots.
Gazette readers don’t have to be reminded about the effects of GM plant closings and related layoffs. It’s a sting that will forever be a part of Janesville’s history. There are plenty of reasons to criticize Bara and GM for closing five plants, including huge assembly plants in Lordstown, Ohio; Oshawa, Ontario, and the Detroit area.
Also, who wants to ride around in a cracker-box cube that makes no noise? Driving used to be a pleasant experience. There will soon be only a few cars, real cars, that give the driver a thrill.
How are GM plant closings and electric cars related? It’s all explained in two words.
As painful as it is for 14,000 employees and the five communities affected by the plant closings, Bara was correct when she said the moves were made to ensure any kind of future for GM.
Here’s how she put it during a conference call with analysts: “We are taking these actions now while the company and the economy are strong to stay in front of a fast-changing market.”
The GM actions were greeted with surprise and anger, but the handwriting was on the wall.
Get this: Fiat Chrysler says it will go out of the automobile business and become a people-hauler maker. No more Dodge Darts and no more Chrysler 300s. Unless you lean toward a Hellcat or Demon with up to 750 horsepower and virtually undrivable in any conditions other than flat, dry and smooth surfaces, Dodge has nothing to offer in terms of an automobile, regardless of its name.
Ford announced earlier this year it was also going out of the car business. For example, the Ford Fusion, a great car successfully competing with the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, will be discontinued. To be competitive, the Fusion is made in Mexico. It is not competitive if a 30-percent tariff is slapped on it. Ford decided not to wait around to see what the United States would do in terms of trade.
The same fate is slated for other Ford cars. The only survivor is the Mustang.
The so-called Big Three all came to the same conclusion. The future in cars is electric and autonomous or no cars at all.
GM followed the lead set by Chrysler and Ford. The car world as we know it is gone.
Mary Bara is doing exactly what is required of a CEO looking out for the future of a major manufacturer—get going while the going is good. She and her board believe electric and autonomous will be the company’s car salvation. Workers will still be employed building cars, but they won’t be making Impalas.
Bara inherited a mess. Rick Wagoner and his incompetent old men’s group drove GM into the ditch.
Bara knows better. Without what she’s doing, there would be no future for GM and its workers.