An open letter to Ron Gettelfinger, president of the United Auto Workers union; and to Robert S. "Steve" Miller Jr., chief executive of the bankrupt Delphi Corp., once one of America's and the world's biggest automotive suppliers:
Dear Ron and Steve:
The American consumers don't care, and they are not alone in their indifference to your collective plight.
While you are busy bloodying yourselves over how best to kill what was once a great corporation, they are out shopping for cars and trucks equipped with components from your competitors, such as Germany's Robert Bosch GmbH, whose North American automotive sales rose 16 percent, to $5.2 billion, last year while Delphi was planning for bankruptcy protection.
Bosch and other healthy automotive suppliers are shopping, too - shopping for you, or what's left of you.
No formal offers have been made at this writing. Nor have there yet been negotiations of any sort between Bosch and Delphi.
But Kurt Liedtke, president and chief executive of Bosch's North American operation, Robert Bosch Corp., concedes that his company has been having "internal discussions" and "studies" about the possibility of buying you, or the parts of you that could help Bosch expand its business.
"A company such as Bosch should have the opportunity to consider which units at Delphi would make a strategic fit with its business," Liedtke said in an interview. "It's understandable. We are very much committed to the automotive industry. We would, therefore, not exclude the possibility of expansion through acquisition."
It's nothing personal. It's business. More important, it's business in a global industry.
The only thing both of you are doing is making it easier for Bosch, or someone else, to buy you at a lower price. Your constant public wrangling, your mutually destructive threats, are cheapening what remains of the company.
Ron, do you believe the American consumer will see things your way if the UAW strikes against Delphi in protest of a proposal that would lower hourly wages to an estimated $10 an hour, down from current pay of $27 an hour?
Your company is in serious trouble, teetering on the brink of extinction. Other Americans at similarly situated companies are losing jobs altogether - without any pay and without any of the separation benefits provided in a UAW contract.
Steve, your company formally filed for bankruptcy protection on Oct. 8 because it was getting the heck beaten out of it in the global marketplace by competitors such as Bosch. What was Bosch doing that Delphi wasn't? Why did Bosch succeed where Delphi failed? Could it be product innovation, development, manufacture and sales? Could it be the quality of management?
Let's put it this way: Executives, such as you, run companies such as Delphi. You make the executive decisions. The UAW doesn't. Given Delphi's current condition, that means the people in your executive ranks failed big time. That being the case, why should you, or they, now be awarded with bonuses and stock options potentially worth $500 million when the people who followed your orders are getting their fiscal throats cut? Do you really think the American consumer - that any consumers - will reward you for that kind of callous greed?
It's time for both of you to get real. Here's the deal, guys: Cars and trucks will be made and sold with, or without, Delphi. If Delphi is subsumed by Bosch, or by someone else, consumers won't care a hoot as long as the cars and trucks they buy run well, look good, are safe and are reasonably economical to own and operate.
If the UAW goes on strike - the latest deadline for that potential unhappiness is Jan. 20 - automotive assembly lines will continue to roll. For the past decade, the global automotive supplier industry has been in a brutal, intense state of consolidation. A competitor's exit from that arena is a welcome event.
The two of you may want to think about that the next time you call news conferences to trade insults. You will either hang together and save what can be saved, or you will die.
Should you choose death, don't bother ordering a gravestone. I mean, what is it about "consumers don't care" that you don't understand?
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