Former GM Executive Warns Company About Downfall…21 Years Ago!

May 19th, 2009 at 3:30pm

Twenty one years ago Elmer Johnson was GM’s general counsel and an executive vice president. He was an outsider who did not spend much of his career in the auto industry, but that gave him a fresh perspective. He wrote the following memo, giving his ideas on what the company should be doing, and it is impressively prescient of what would happen to GM. Elmer Johnson left GM out of frustration not long after he wrote this memo. He died last year.

Elmer Johnson’s Memo (Adobe PDF)

One Comment to “Former GM Executive Warns Company About Downfall…21 Years Ago!”

  1. David Waymire Says:

    John:
    What an outstanding example of how management failures were masked while other factors are blamed repeatedly. Whether it has been “that damned UAW” or “that damned government” or “oil prices and other problems beyond our control”, the auto companies, and GM in particular, have avoided the central and, to those of us on the outside who have more than a passing knowledge of the industry, obvious failures of those at the top. “Entitlement” seems to have been far more than a UAW problem.
    As someone who works closely with state government today, I see many of these same tendancies. Not to draw too close a parallel, but the failure of the state to address the same sorts of administrative and executive failures has made Michigan the GM of America. Many of Mr. Johnson’s suggestions should be put in place by a smart governor starting in 2010, to help Michigan compete in the new world economy that we have thus far ignored in the interest of placating voters who resist change in fundamental ways.