|April 1, 2009|
Click and Clack to Head Up GM Revival
Board appoints radio show hosts in surprise move
CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts (CNN) -- In a surprise move, the GM Board of Directors has appointed two radio talk show hosts to head up the company's emergency restructuring. The new GM Product Czars are Tom and Ray Magliozzi, also known as "Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers," who host NPR's Car Talk radio show. Former GM fans from the 1950s and 1960s, they since went on to become harsh GM critics in recent decades.
"We know it's easy to criticize, so we think it's time we try walking a mile - back to a repair shop - in their shoes," says older brother, 72-year-old, Tom Magliozzi, with his trademark guffaw, as a General Motors PR executive cringes nearby.
The brothers acknowledge that the task of reinvigorating GM is a difficult one, but they also say they are uniquely qualified. "Having done our radio show every week for 23 years now," says Ray Magliozzi, 59, "we know what it's like to be selling something no one wants. We've done this before."
What may have convinced GM's Board of Directors to turn to the Magliozzi brothers is their bold plan for reviving the manufacturing giant. "Cuba," said Tom Magliozzi, his teeth clenched around a fat, smoldering Romeo y Julietta, while GM PR folks ponder whether to enforce the company-wide no-smoking policy.
"We've got an enormous number of GM cars we can't sell, right? And who needs an enormous number of GM cars? Cuba! Their GM cars are from, like, the 1950s!"
"In contrast, the cars we have sitting on dealership lots now are all 2007s, 2008s, and 2009s," adds Ray, "and they have all their original parts! The Cubans are gonna love these things."
"Plus, " says Tom, "they get 10% better mileage than those 1959 Bel Airs!"
The Magliozzi Brothers' plans are based on a Cuban population estimated at 11.5 million in 2008. After they negotiate the end to the US economic embargo (which they say they will handle personally), they figure that pent-up demand in Cuba will instantly translate into sales of more than half a million cars per year, of which the Magliozzi brothers anticipate GM will capture 95%. "That's not chopped liver," says Tom.
Asked how they can be so certain that GM will dominate the Cuban market in 2009, Ray explains, "These people have been cut off from the rest of the world for the last 60 years. They never heard of Ralph Nader, the Vega, the Aztek, the bean counters of the '80s, or the Cavalier. They've never even heard of Toyota! As far as they're concerned, GM still leads the world. We're gonna sell cars there like it was 1959!"
Part of the brothers' plan for GM also includes a concomitant increase in parts sales. "We're going to be supplying replacement parts for every one of those new Cuban cars. Right now, every Tom, Dick and Carlos is making his own parts in the basement, but you think he's going to make an electronic ignition module for an '08 Malibu out of a Coke can? I don't think so."
"Well, if he does, he's going to be our new supplier!" adds Tom, laughing.
In order for any of this to work, however, the Magliozzi brothers have to make good on their plan to break the longstanding US economic embargo of the Caribbean island nation. Trade is not currently permitted. "Not a problem," says Ray. "My brother is often mistaken for Fidel Castro. He's going to go and sit down with President Obama, introduce himself as Fidel, and work the whole thing out."
Tom interrupts, "Right. I'm just going to say, 'Listen, this whole communist thing... dumb idea. Sorry about that. How'd you guys like a nice Hyatt on the Malecon?'"
"And then Tom's going to go to Cuba," says Ray, "and show Fidel a brochure for an '09 Cadillac CTS. Dark Red. Premium Package. Air-Conditioned Seats. Trust me. We can make this work."
"We have a lot in common with Fidel," says Tom, "cigars... baseball..."
"...and they both like to store food in their beards," adds Ray.
"We may have to pull a few tail fins out of the design closet," says Tom, "but Cuba is going to lead GM back to the top."