General Motors and Toyota – A Story of Two Recoveries

Toyota has recently announced its biggest quarterly profit in two years, as another iconic manufacturer says goodbye to a man who helped steer their company through some very choppy waters. General Motors will be losing their Chief Executive, Edward Whitacre, after being the company head for just over a year. But what a year it’s been. After seeking a government bailout from bankruptcy in 2009, it’s remarkable to see such vigor and renewal for a company formerly on its deathbed. Likewise, Toyota has been able to shrug off the PR nightmare of their cars being ‘death machines’ that I, for one, thought would take years to recover from. Not So. Both have beaten the odds and the recession, and are currently making money.

For General Motors, this turnaround has come at a price. Almost 70,000 workers were laid off, Saab was cut loose, and the company had to find a way to return to the land of the living after a $4bn loss for the second half of 2009. Now, as the BBC reports, they have made a $2.8bn profit this year so far. That’s quite a reversal of fortune! Well done, and Edward Whitacre is able to leave his office having achieved something miraculous in a very short space of time, “My goal in coming to General Motors was to help restore profitability, build a strong market position, and position this iconic company for success [and] we are clearly on that path.” Indeed.

And as for Toyota, after having to recall over 10 million cars for potential safety defects, it seems that congressional investigations are pointing to driver errors and not a ‘sticky accelerator’ as was once believed. Regardless, and despite the civil suits pending in the States (Americans love their litigation), the car company is still selling strongly and it’s surely not due to a charm offensive from the company heads. For GM, ‘trimming the fat’ of its various brands, and classic company cutbacks have helped its revival – as for Toyota, well, I don’t know how they’ve gotten out of this one, but it appears they have.

William Feins is a freelance journalist currently living in London and Managing the Euro Cheddar Blog; he received his B.A. degree in Economics and his Masters in Sociology. William has always been interested in the mechanics of business and the inspiration of original thinkers, and firmly believes that the former can’t succeed without the latter. In his spare time, he enjoys the ridiculous spectacle of watching table tennis on a big screen (preferably at a pub) and reading weighty tomes about World War II.