Friday, July 11, 2008

Rick, we should talk

An open letter to G. Richard Wagoner, Jr., Chairman and CEO of General Motors

Dear Mr. Wagoner,

Your company has been in the news lately, and sadly the reports have not been positive. Today a flurry of articles suggested worries of bankruptcy. Certainly, I want to give you the benefit of the doubt on this subject, but I’m worried. In many ways, the deck is stacked against you. Pension plan woes and rising healthcare costs are putting GM a big step behind foreign competitors. I know that your predecessor’s poor business decisions have put an incredible fixed cost burden upon your shoulders.

I notice that yesterday’s closing price of $9.69 per share is down over 60% year to date. I also notice that when you took the reigns as CEO on June 1, 2000, GM was trading around $70 per share. Can I be anything else than disappointed?

It’s not just about the financial that disturb me; it’s the lack of innovation. Now that Toyota’s Prius is over 10 years old, I ask you, how is GM competing in the Hybrid market? Unfortunately, adding an electric motor to the Chevy Tahoe isn’t a good answer. Anyone satisfied with improving an SUV’s highway fuel economy from 19 MPG to 22 MPG is completely missing the point of this technology.

I remember your 2007 Commencement speech at Duke when I received my Master’s Degree. You spoke of great advances coming for the automotive industry. Now is the time to step up our game. Once we start giving people more competitively priced options with American innovation, they will respond. They will be proud to own and drive GM cars and trucks.

My goal is defending my Ph.D. in Photonics early in 2009, so I’m on the lookout for job opportunities. My strong engineering and problem solving background would be an asset to your company. In particular, I’ve got some really good ideas for plug-in electric vehicles. Feel free to look me up in the Duke Alumni Directory if you want to talk.

Best regards,



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