“… Only in the 1970s, after the first oil shock, did faults start to become visible. The finned and chromed V8-powered monsters beloved of Americans were replaced by dumpy, front-wheel-drive boxes designed to meet new rules (known as CAFE standards) limiting the average fuel economy of carmakers fleets and to compete with Japanese imports. As well as being dull to look at, the new cars were less reliable than equivalent Japanese models.
By the early 1980s it had begun to dawn on GM that the Japanese could not only make better cars but also do so far more efficiently. A joint venture with Toyota to manufacture cars in California was an eye-opener. It convinced GM’s management that “lean” manufacturing was of the highest importance. Unfortunately, that meant still less attention being paid to the quality of the cars GM was turning out. Most were indistinguishable, badge-engineered non-entities. As the appeal of its products sank, so did the prices GM could ask. New ways had to be found to cut costs further, making the cars still less attractive to buyers….”
Briefing. The bankruptcy of General Motors. A giant falls. The Economist. June 6th-12th 2009. Pp 58-60. Ed. The Economist Newspaper Ltd.