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Mary Barra and the GM story deserved better than Matt Lauer

June 26, 2014 - Paul Giannamore
Recognizing who I am and where I sit, I still feel the right to grow flush and growl when the big national guys blow the heck out of an interview I’d have walked on glass (maybe even broken glass) to get.

I know, if I were so good, how come I … but Matt Lauer really drew wind on his sit down — not once but twice in a single hour — today with Mary Barra, she of the chief exec job at GM.

He played softball with her. Heck, he played Nerf ball with her, to the point where one of his final questions in the second interview segment was over-the-line insulting in many ways. It was one of those “can you combine being an executive with being a mom” questions that bordered on the sort of crap car dealers used to ask the little lady in the 1960s before steering her away from those big, powerful muscle cars and into a nice pink six-cylinder Nova.

Insulting? You bet.

Off the topic? You bet.

We can read about Barra’s personal life in People or Time or BusinessWeek. When you’ve got about 10 minutes total with her on national TV, get in there and get your sleeves rolled up and get dirty.

He actually asked her if she thought anything criminal was going on in GM relating to the ignition switch crisis. Now, I’m no big-time TV guy with a national following and ladies swooning over my every word (my wife, The Boss included, she follows Lauer and will hate this blog post when she reads it), but I am a guy who has done an interview or two in my time. Though the uninitiated will think that was an “oooohhh, Matt, you’re so tough!” question, it was softball. Ask your kid if he took the cookie. Ask the murderer if he killed the victim. Waste of time. Even if Mary Barra believed there’s something criminal going on, she’s not going to say it on the “Today” show, not with cadres of “victim” consumer attorneys salivating like pigs at the trough at her every word.

And with that being the case, one wonders why the interview on national TV’s morning circus show at all.

Ah, there were some valid questions that weren't asked, such as, how does Mary Barra feel about justifying pushing any monetary claims off on the “old” bankrupt corporate entity formerly known as GM as opposed to paying from the coffers of the “new” GM — which, incidentally has money and most of the same personnel in the same places, sans the 15 she fired for the ignitions and recalls controversy.

How about asking her just how she is changing the culture so that engineers who drive a car with an ignition that cuts off will feel the freedom to tell the higher-ups and that the higher-ups will listen to their complaints/issues/questions instead of deciding that the switch was something for the consumer to complain to the dealer about?

How about asking her how come the Korean leader in cars, Hyundai, paid Elantra owners for false high-mpg claims when the current generation of the car came out while GM waits to get sued when brand-new cars shut off when the driver moves his or her knee?

How about asking her some serious questions about her honestly earned engineering cred, which might inspire young girls to consider a career in automotive design and engineering, instead of that crappy question (from 1958 as one friend on Facebook said) about being a mommy and the head of GM?

How about asking her if GM is being unfairly targeted because every company uses pretty much the same suppliers for things like air bag switches that don't work.

How about asking her what's in the pipeline and how GM will overcome any public confidence damage to be sure folks come buy the 2015 versions of the really good Buicks and Chevys and Cadillacs and GMCs — despite the recalls, there are some really interesting cars on the market.

How about asking her how GM is trying hard to get Cadillac and Buick buyers to be younger?

Swoon at Matt, ladies. He asks fluffy, garbage questions and manages to insult women when there’s opportunity on his silver platter.

How about letting Brokaw come back for mornings like this one, Matt?


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