NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- One of the more amusing automotive news reports in recent memory appeared last week, when we were told that General Motors (GM - Get Report)CEO Dan Akerson has commissioned a task force to learn about Tesla (TSLA - Get Report).
Oh boy, does this discovery open up a field day of questions!
Let's start by kicking GM in the gut: Don't you have at least a couple of people dedicated to competitive analysis? If you do, what have they been doing all along? Did they think they were working for the government, where no competitive analysis is needed? Do you mean to say that your competitive analysis team hasn't spent any time on Tesla already?
In any serious company, the entire management team should be engaged in competitive analysis more than an hour every day. You should talk about the competition, you should use the competition's products, and you should conclude what you need to do in terms of "best practices."In almost any business -- hotel, restaurant, computing, clothing, whatever -- half the battle is won by ensuring that you copy the competition's best traits, while avoiding their worst. You don't really need to invent anything if you can simply copy the best aspects of each competitor. When Tesla started shipping the Model S one year ago, GM should have been first in line to buy one or several Teslas. Management should drive them every day, and engineering should take them apart. When the iPhone 5 came out, don't you think Samsung was first in line and bought a dozen of them and took them apart? Was GM so horribly mismanaged that it didn't do this?
And what about GM's senior management? Presumably they read magazines and can use the Internet. Tesla Model S has won almost every "Car of the year" award. Shouldn't they not just wonder how it drives, but also make sure to get behind the wheel of such a superior car every single day until their own engineering department coughs up a similar product? Okay, let's move on to describe what GM's rationale against pure electric cars has been all along. This history is well-documented. The first Volt prototype was engineered in 2006 and the work on the "real" production car started early 2007. GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz and engineering boss Jon Lauckner decided on the extended-range Volt architecture for well-articulated reasons.