Saturday, November 22, 2008

Great Moments in Business Journalism

In a recent post ("Iraq, the Automakers, and the Limitations of Technology") we noted New York Times columnist Tom Friedman's glib suggestion that if Steve Jobs were hired as the CEO of GM, he could turn out a successful "iCar" in a year. On Wednesday, Bloomberg Columnist Mark Gilbert expanded on Friedman's suggestion, and recommended Bill Gates for the top job at Ford and Warren Buffett for the top job at Chrysler ("Jobs, Gates, Buffett Should Run U.S. Automakers").

Aren't there are more qualified candidates to run an automaker than Jobs, Gates, and Buffett -- three men with no experience in the auto industry? How about someone who worked his way up the executive ranks of arguably the best automaker in the world, becoming the president of its North American division? Someone like James Press, the first non-Japanese executive appointed to the board of directors of Toyota Motor Company. You might think a business journalist such as Mark Gilbert might have heard of him. Granted, Tom Friedman isn't a business journalist, but he needn't have been one to have heard of Jim Press. All he would have had to do is read his own paper's New York Times Magazine, which featured a laudatory article on Press last year ("From 0 to 60 to World Domination"1).

Jim Press has been co-president of Chrysler since September of 2007. The combination of unsustainable labor costs, excess capacity, and CAFE standards has been the main impediment to profitability for the domestic automakers; neither Jobs, Gates, nor Buffett would be able run any of the companies profitably under the current conditions.

1The comic strip image above comes from this article.

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