For much of the 20th century, General Motors was one of the most stable and successful companies in the United States. You’d see GM cars on every road in America, and the company’s production plants were thriving from coast to coast. The company earned money—and employed many thousands—every year.
It now appears that all of that may be changing, though. The company recently announced that it would be making big cuts, shutting down five production plants in North America and letting go of 15 percent of its salaried workforce.
According to CNN Business, though, these moves are not a surrender, they’re part of a long-term plan to transform the business. GM is reportedly moving away from its traditional model of producing and selling conventional automobiles; instead, it will focus on innovative new technologies such as electric and self-driving vehicles. GM isn’t going out of business; it’s rebranding. The company’s new motto will be “Zero Crashes, Zero Emissions, Zero Congestion,” and its new mission statement will be all about increased efficiency, both for GM and for the world at large.
“The actions we are taking today continue our transformation to be highly agile, resilient, and profitable, while giving us the flexibility to invest in the future,” GM CEO Mary Barra said.
GM is making an interesting attempt to reinvent itself on the fly. The company is shutting down five plants, including two in Michigan and one in Ohio, that have largely been making outdated vehicle models like sedans. The hope is that the company will be able to reallocate resources from those facilities and invest more in vehicles of the future. With 21st-century tech titans like Google, Apple, Uber, and Tesla all gearing up to attack the self-driving car market, GM is starting to get more aggressive about bolstering its own offerings.
In the short term, though, this realignment at General Motors comes with a real human cost. Tens of thousands of employees will be losing their jobs as a result of the company’s layoffs—and unsurprisingly, the labor unions are not happy.
“This callous decision by GM to reduce or cease operations in American plants, while opening or increasing production in Mexico and China plants for sales to American consumers, is, in its implementation, profoundly damaging to our American workforce,” said Terry Dittes, vice president of the United Auto Workers union.
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