Using hindsight, Roger Smith's tenure was when GM could've turned around their path to the 2008 bankruptcy, if the right steps were taken (stop wasting money in profitless foreign operations, downsize the dealer count, get rid of unnecessary divisions, fix quality issues, turn Cadillac into something desirable for people under 60 and get the unions to see reality). But he did none of that - he clung onto the "have to be biggest" mentality which continued GM to the path of bankruptcy. Though I do have to admit I'm not sure if anyone could've turned around GM, I almost feel like GM had to be humbled by bankruptcy to jolt everyone into reality. I think if GM wanted to maintain its title of largest in the world, then the 1980's was when they had to turn it around, not 2008.If General Motors were a country, it would have a GNP comparable to Albania. You may rest assured that its place on the GNP list would have been higher during Roger Smith's tenure at the helm during the 1980s. Neither Mary Barra nor Roger Smith had dictatorial powers. These are executives of public corporations. They carry-out the policies of their board of directors. This is not to say that they don't have to convince their board which policies to approve. The point is that these are not one-person decisions.
I believe that it is fair to ask questions about the success of a chairmanship. The buck stops at the top. Mary Barra was name CEO of GM after an international economic disaster followed by massive disruptions in the political and economic spaces. She is leading GM through massive technological changes that are reshaping the Globe's economic terrain. However, we are at best reaching the middle of these changes. Roger Smith took over GM following the beginning of economic upheaval characterized primarily by dramatic increases in the price of petroleum. This change dramatically widened the door for Japanese brands to exploit the North American and European markets.
Roger Smith has been called the last of GM's old time executives. However, he was significant in that he came from GM's finance side instead of the engineering side that had produced most of GM's previous top people. The test of a corporate leader is where the company ends up rather than where it starts. I am hard pressed to name any material change made during the Smith Era that is still with GM today. Mary Barra is female, but she gives me the impression that she is leading GM toward a reinterpretation of the GM of yore. As was the case of GM leaders of yore, she is a product of the engineering side of GM. The Smith Era saw horizontal integration into areas that the company has since divested. Barra is leading the company to vertically integrate supplemented by horizontal integration into markets that exploit the resources of developed as part of its vertical integration. BrightDrop comes to mind.
Force to make a choice between Roger Smith and Mary Barra, then it is Mary in a walk. However, the decisions made during the Smith Era then and the Barra Era now are corporate decisions. They have lots of peoples' fingerprints on them.
I agree - MB & team is giving GM the chance to get back to some of its grandeur and swagger GM had 50+ years ago. She's transforming GM's culture and business model - something I've not seen in my life of 53 years. I'm impressed by what she's done, I just hope the market accepts it and GM prospers.
I think it is cool that GM is going all in with Ultium vs. dragging its feet and converting ICE chassis to BEV.