Monday, March 30, 2009

The Name of Wagoner

I shall miss Rick Wagoner. It is, quoting Martin Amis (I think), such a 'rangey, big-cocked name' that it always makes me laugh. Also it is precisely the right name for the boss of a car company. People should do the job suggested by their name. That would have prevented Jacqui Smith becoming home secretary and left her hammering horse shoes in some village or other. I should own an orchard, I suppose.

28 comments:

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  2. It's a good name, on the face of it. According to Wikipedia Wagoner made CFO in 1992, President and COO in 1998, CEO in 2000, Chairman in 2003. So it's worth quoting the normally very reliable Edwin Black at some length, summing up GM's ongoing efforts to suppress the facts of its involvement with Naziism and other shocking misdeeds of the period (in contrast to Ford, which also potentially had a great deal to hide):

    As for GM, it commissioned eminent business historian Henry Ashby Turner Jr. in 1999 to conduct an internal investigation and report his findings. Turner, author of several favorably reviewed books, including "German Big Business and the Rise of Hitler," was well known for, among other things, his insistence that big business did not make a pivotal contribution to the rise of Hitlerism.

    GM, however, declined to release Turner's internal report or discuss the company's Nazi-era or New Deal-era history or archival holdings when contacted by this reporter. In February 2006, corporate spokeswoman Geri Lama twice refused to give this reporter the location of the company archive. In November of this year, Lama was again asked for an on-the-record response. She said she was referring the question to "staffers," but after more than a week, no reply had been received.

    GM has maintained a special combative niche in the annals of American corporate history, achieving a reputation for suppressing books, obstructing access to archival records and frustrating critics ...

    Yale archivist Richard Szary, who supervised the accession of the collection, said that for the approximate half-decade that the documents have been on file, he knows of only "one or two" researchers other than this reporter who have had access to the papers. Szary, who was previously said to be the only Yale staffer who understood how to access the materials, facilitated this reporter's on-site access. He has since left Yale. By late November, however, in response to an inquiry by this reporter, a senior Sterling librarian said her staff would "figure out how to make it available" by reviewing technical details.

    Simon Reich, who compiled Ford's Hitler-era documents, bristled at the whole idea. "Ford decided to take a very public, open and transparent route," he stated. "Any serious researcher can go into the [Henry Ford] archive, see the documents in paper form, and have them copied. Compare and contrast this with the fact that GM conducted a very private study and the original hard-copy documentation upon which the study was made has never been made available, and today cannot be copied without the GM legal department's permission."

    Between the unpublished GM internal investigation, the restricted files at Yale and the little-known insights offered in Turner's book, the details of the company's involvement with the Hitler regime have remained below the radar.

    Nonetheless, GM's impact in both the United States and the Third Reich was monumental.


    The full four articles from George Mason University are worth study. I don't claim to know who made all the decisions leading to such extreme measures to hide the past but I do know the name of a man who was in a position of great responsibility at GM throughout. I very much doubt he should be mourned.

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  3. The chancellor would have gone to the RSAMD and become a thesp, Vince would be carrying data, Ed... best not go there.
    Some entry on your CV that is, made redundant by Mr President, get you a job anywhere.

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  4. Isn't it 'a rangy, well-travelled, big-cocked name'?

    Figure Rick in happier days, presiding over his General Motors fiefdom with deep and laughing self-satisfaction, occasionally bursting into a spontaneous, full-chested rendition of that Watersons song with the refrain 'who wouldn't be for all the world a jolly wagoner?', and just try to fight back the tears.

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