Michael Moore's first big documentary effort was Roger and Me, a look at a declining General Motors and a even more declining Flint. The Me part of the title is still with us, much to the consternation of many conservatives, but the other title character has pass on to his reward. Roger Smith, GM chairman and CEO in the 80s, died on Thursday.
The obit in the Detroit Free Press puts a good spin on Smith, who tried to automate GM, learning Japanese productivity tricks, and take GM in into a global marketplace. Marketing seemed to be his weak suit; GM tended to send out cookie-cutter cars that looked the same across the various GM brands, because they often were the same.
GM made some smart acquisitions, buying EDS, then selling it at a profit after having a running feud with EDS founder Ross Perot. Back when the Little General was running for president, his inability to work well with Smith was seen as a detriment; given how anemically GM was managed, not working well with Smith seemed to be a plus. They also bought Hughes Aircraft, which they sold at a nice profit.
However, the same smartness can't quite be attributed to their core business. Part of it may be due to a global marketplace, that the Big Three ain't as big as they used to be and can't be expected to have the market shares that they had in a more nationally compartmentalized car market.