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Old 12-11-2008, 12:22 PM   #2
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Default A letter to Michael Moore


Dear Mr. Moore:
Let me start by stating upfront that I'm a lifelong Michigander and a contract employee of General Motors. I should also add that, unlike many at GM, I have long been a fan of your work, the work of a man I had considered to be about truth, and truth-telling, even when it hurts, and hurts so bad it's funny in a pathetic sort of way.

On "Larry King Live" last week, you didn't tell the truth, and it left me flabbergasted. In your defense, I think you did it out of ignorance, not malice. But it was an untruth nonetheless, and one that will have very damaging ramifications for Detroit and for the nation.

When is the last time you were in a showroom of new GM products? Or Ford or Chrysler for that matter? I'd guess years, if not decades. And yet, you felt comfortable going on CNN and disparaging the current roster of cars and trucks from GM, calling them "crap," "the wrong vehicles," and implying that they're the same old garbage that no one wants to buy!

It was hugely irresponsible and couldn't have come at a worse time for our home state.

Yes, many of the products of the past were in fact garbage. I was a journalist for AutoWeek magazine through most of the '90s, and I drove every car and truck from every manufacturer on the planet, and the GM products were, with the exception of the Corvette, largely lousy.

However, Mr. Moore, this is 2008. Have you been in a new Chevrolet Malibu? It's better than anything Toyota or Honda has, gets better mileage, won North American Car of the Year, and is built by the UAW in America. Have you seen the Buick Enclave? Gotta be the best-looking crossover on the market, is selling like crazy, even though "no one" wants GM products, and is built by the UAW in Lansing. Have you driven a Cadillac CTS-V? Even the highly discriminating German press says it's the best-performing luxury sports sedan on the global market today. It's built by the UAW in Lansing.

The point is, whether you care to admit it or not, right now GM's product house is IN ORDER. It has the best lineup of cars and trucks, top to bottom, it has ever had. Honest to God. The influential automotive press, across the country and around the world, has realized it, and it is only a matter of time until the public does as well. The newest models had been selling well, and the restructuring already under way had been taking hold, and Wall Street had noticed. The stock price was $43 just a year ago. That's a sure sign that Wall Street approved of the changes in progress.

Then the credit market collapsed, and GM could get no financing to continue business, and most of its customers could get no loans to buy vehicles. And that is where things stand now.

Is the weak balance sheet at GM as compared to Toyota and others the fault of past mismanagement, poor products and legacy burdens, and at least partially self-inflicted? You betcha, as the governor of Alaska might say. Absolutely. The company, with an assist from the federal government (national health care, anyone?), bears some of the blame for putting itself in this precarious position. Is it to blame for the catastrophic events of THIS year? No. Wall Street is, and it's getting $700 billion in handouts, no questions asked. Wall Street executives flew down there in their own jets to get it and no one batted an eye.

Now the auto industry is in D.C., with its collective hand out, asking for a pittance by comparison -- $25 billion, in LOANS, not bailout money -- and getting hammered left and right and criticized on national TV because of it.

Your irresponsible comments will only fuel the fires of hatred that burn for the Big 3 and for Detroit. And since we all know that politicians don't put cream in their coffee without first consulting the polls, we know how this is going to go down.

America doesn't want to lend money to the auto industry, so Congress won't. And we'll all go down in flames here in Michigan. The UAW you claim to support so strongly will be SOL. Downtown Detroit, which has worked so hard at coming back, will be a literal ghost town, instead of the after-5 p.m. ghost town it largely is now. Restaurants, salons, shops, everything in southeast Michigan will close, and the ripple effect will begin, and spread across America, and it will be horrific. I don't see how to avoid it, if we don't get this bridge loan.

But I know what I'd like to see, and that is for you to go on TV or write a blog or say something somewhere that indicates you've seen GM's new vehicles. Test drive a Cadillac CTS and tell the UAW workers in Lansing what you think of the vehicle they work so hard to build. It may be the last one they get a chance to make.

It's that bad. And for the life of me, I can't figure out why the rest of America is so indifferent to the fate of our home state. Drop dead, they are telling us. Do you have any idea why? This isn't about helping the three CEOs you saw sitting on the witness bench on Capitol Hill; this is about keeping this region -- and ultimately this nation --from economic apocalypse.

I apologize for the long letter. This is fairly important stuff. The city and state I love are on the brink of becoming a wasteland. America can help us, but doesn't want to and doesn't care. Any idea how that feels?



John Cortez is a former reporter for AutoWeek, a sister publication of Automotive News. He now is vice president of executive communications for Hass MS&L Public Relations, which does contract work for General Motors.
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