Want to run that one by me again? Sometimes the most surprising things seem to happen when you're on the road. That was the case yesterday when I got a call while driving across the dry desert of eastern Washington State. Amid the noise and drop-outs, I thought I heard one of TheCarConnection's contributors tell me that Steve Girsky had joined General Motors. "Let me call you back," I suggested, "obviously, reception is bad." No, it turns out, they had gotten it right.
Those of us who follow the business side of the auto industry know Girsky well. He's the fast-talking and even faster-thinking automotive analyst from Morgan Stanley. His data and analysis are so good, other analysts quote Steve. Especially when it comes to GM. Last January, Girsky was a featured speaker at the Automotive News World Congress. Always amusing, always intense, his speech had little good to see about the troubled automaker, not its people, not its products, and certainly not its future.
So why did Girsky take what we can only assume to be a seven-figure salary to join GM? And perhaps more importantly, why did the automaker cough up so much money for such a frequent critic. The easy answer is, "to shut him up," but I doubt that's the case. Girsky's new title names him a direct assistant to GM CEO Rick Wagoner. He won't be down in the salt mines doing sales analysis for the monthly media conference calls. And that, he'd likely argue, would give Girsky a chance to have the sort of direct influence he could never have as an analyst, no matter how good his presentations. Oh, and there is the fact, as TCC reports in today's Daily Edition, that Morgan Stanley is in complete chaos, with scores of senior players bolting from the company.
Incidentally, Girsky is just the latest of many critics GM has encouraged to come onboard over the last few years. There's hardball journalist Jack Keebler, for one, Keebler serving as an in-house product critic. And he's reporting to Bob Lutz, the same guy who once described GM concept vehicles as "angry appliances." Are these critics actually changing things for GM? So far, the jury is out. Girsky has some tough work ahead of him.