Reports out of New York and Washington, D.C., indicate that an executive recruiting firm is searching for at least six new General Motors board members who will aggressively push the company’s management. I want to be considered among the candidates.
My extensive car-guy credentials include knowing how to change tires on various passenger vehicles and even on a Baja 1000 racing buggy. And I once replaced an Austin-Healey Sprite sports car’s fuel pump.
In addition to those impressive accomplishments, I gained policy and administrative savvy while serving 10 years on a public library’s board of trustees. (Deciding whether to cut the budget for mystery novels in favor of adding DVD titles will wring a guy inside out.) And here’s something most candidates won’t be able to boast: I’m well enough acquainted with GM’s history to explain how the early Buick sales manager Carload Collins and the one-time GM president Engine Charlie Wilson got their nicknames. (Long stories.)
I’m campaigning on the Quattrovalvole Party ticket with my car-guy pal Andy, who’s a doctor. During his days as an assistant professor at a teaching hospital, Andy became adept in management when he supervised union nurses. He says their average weight was pretty high, so he’s also used to manipulating overinflated assets.
As for cars, Andy owns a Ferrari 308GTSi and can sort out the electrical gremlins. Even more useful, he points out that he can maintain the outward appearance of his cars even while the mechanics are subpar, which would prove very useful in raising stock prices.
Andy’s mom, Claire, also fancies herself a potential GM board member because she once sat opposite Jimmy Hoffa in a Toledo restaurant. The whims of union bosses are nothing new to her.
However, I suspect the profiles of successful candidates will look more or less like this sampling:
- Corporate architect who specializes in building from the roof down to the foundation, conforming to the practice of bees or spiders—a useful method as the company will have only a few remaining assembly plants, stamping operations, and foundries.
- Inventor of the plug-in hybrid gas-electric toaster, which accepts not only the usual bread slices, bagels, waffles, or English muffins but also takes a whole live turkey, feathers and all, and after just three minutes on the high setting yields 200 pages of CO2 emissions regulations.
- Anthropology professor who has studied mobility patterns among central African pygmies and proposes that Western peoples drive the Ebola BSE, a neighborhood electric vehicle that suddenly and thoroughly emulsifies after 10 years or 100,000 miles, leaving no trace of its existence, even in the minds of its owners. (Drawback: every three months it must go to an authorized dealership for a time-consuming delousing procedure.)
- Labor philosopher who asserts that the only aspects of reality that are imaginable are nouns, and therefore future union contracts should avoid the use of verbs, adjectives, or other parts of speech except inevitable prepositions. Example: “Overtime in factory with shift on layoff from body-in-white of benefits before exclusion until paintshop.”
The first result of this new board’s pushback against the staid corporate managers could be the Purity thru Justice Cruiser, a 140-inch-long people’s car with a hydrogen fuel cell powering an electric generator to rotate the shaft of a variable-pitch propeller that serves either to launch the vehicle into the air or to bore through the ground, as directed by a Department of Treasury-provided navigation system working in concert with forecasters from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
This brainchild of the bureaucracy will be priced at $49,995. Buyers will take delivery at the factory after working a week of midnight shifts. Color availability will be restricted to red, symbolizing the industry’s persistent financial losses.
Knowing my competitive instincts, losing the board seat to some egghead is really going to sting. Then again, I don’t want to be lolling around the proving grounds when a “chipped” version of the PtJ Cruiser that’s designed to surpass 100 mpg goes haywire and mows down the visiting dignitaries. It’s hard to believe enough funds remain in the Troubled Asset Relief Program kitty to recompense my widow.