General Matters

I got an email from Dan Akerson, the Chairman and CEO of General Motors today (well, okay, I didn’t get it directly, but it was forwarded to my boss’ boss, who forwarded it to me), about the deal between the Obama administration and the automotive industry to set fuel economy averages to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

It’s an ambitious goal, but definitely reachable — and Akerson agrees, homey similes to the NFL salary cap aside.  It seems like a pretty typical CEO preaching-to-the-masses-from-the-pulpit email, congratulating everyone on their fine work and exhorting them to greatness in the future, which means the short email reads like what would happen if William Wallace became a used car salesman.  But then Akerson adds:

Going forward, reducing fuel consumption and lessening the automobile’s impact on the environment are important to our business because it’s important to our country and our customers.

Wait, what?  Those are the reasons?  Not because GM wants to of its own accord?  Not because the future of the planet, let alone transportation as we know it, is at stake?  Interesting choices.  I don’t think this is how he meant it to come across, but Akerson’s sentence has no conscience in it whatsoever, only a bottom line.  I guess I’m glad GM is doing what they are doing, but it pains my idealist sensibilities to think the Volt was made simply because there was an opening in the market.  I came to work for GM this summer because I believe in the promise of hybrid and electric vehicles to move humanity — quite literally — into a new era of transportation, to something clean and secure and filled with the quiet hum of electric motors.  That’s what’s important to me.


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