Letter to General Motors

A caustic letter from the president of Knox Machinery took the president of General Motors to task for seeking a government bailout.

  • Published


The president of Knox Machinery wrote a letter to the president of General Motors, criticizing the latter for seeking a government bailout.
Abridged letter from Troy Clarke, President of General Motors — followed by a response from our son, Gregory Knox:
Dear Employee, Next week, Congress and the current Administration will determine whether to provide immediate support to the domestic auto industry to help it through one of the most difficult economic times in our nation's history. Your elected officials must hear from all of us now on why this support is critical to our continuing the progress we began prior to the global financial crisis. As an employee, you have a lot at stake and continue to be one of our most effective and passionate voices. I know GM can count on you to have your voice heard. Thank you for your urgent action and ongoing support. Troy Clarke President General Motors North America
From Gregory Knox, In response to your request to call legislators and ask for a bailout for the United States automakers please consider the following, and please also pass this onto Troy Clark, the president of General Motors North America for me. You are both infected with the same entitlement mentality that has bred like cancerous germs in UAW halls for the last countless decades, and whose plague is now sweeping the nation, awaiting our new "messiah" to wave his magical wand and make all our problems go away, while at the same time allowing our once great nation to keep "living the dream". The dream is over! The dream that we can ignore the consumer for years while management myopically focuses on its personal rewards packages at the same time that our factories have been filled with the worlds most overpaid, arrogant, ignorant and laziest entitlement minded "laborers" without paying the price for these atrocities, and that still the masses will line up to buy our products Don't tell me I'm wrong. Don't accuse me of not knowing of what I speak. I have called on Ford, GM, Chrysler, TRW, Delphi, Kelsey Hayes, American Axle and countless other automotive OEM's and Tier ones for 3 decades now throughout the Midwest and what I've seen over the years in these union shops can only be described as disgusting. Mr Clark, the president of General Motors, states: "There is widespread sentiment in this country, our government and especially in the media that the current crisis is completely the result of bad management. It is not." You're right, it's not JUST management, how about the electricians who walk around the plants like lords in feudal times, making people wait on them for countless hours while they drag ass so they can come in on the weekend and make double and triple time for a job they easily could have done within their normal 40 hour week. How about the line workers who threaten newbies with all kinds of scare tactics for putting out too many parts on a shift and for being too productive (mustn't expose the lazy bums who have been getting overpaid for decades for their horrific underproduction, must we?!?) Do you really not know about this stuff?!? How about this great sentiment abridged from Mr. Clarke's sad plea: "over the last few years we have closed the quality and efficiency gaps with our competitors." What the hell has Detroit been doing for the last 40 years?!? Did we really JUST wake up to the gaps in quality and efficiency between us and them? The K car vs. the Accord? The Pinto vs. the Civic?!? Do I need to go on? We are living through the inevitable outcome of the actions of the United States auto industry for decades. Time to pay for your sins, Detroit. I attended an economic summit last week where a brilliant economist, Alan Beaulieu surprised the crowd when he said he would not have given the banks a penny of "bailout money". Yes, he said, this would cause short term problems, but despite what people like George Bush and Troy Clark would have us believe, the sun would in fact rise the next day and something else would happen where there had been greedy and sloppy banks, new efficient ones would pop up. That is how a free market system works. It does work if we would let it work. But for some reason we are now deciding that the rest of the world is right and that capitalism doesn't work that we need the government to step in and "save us". Save us, hell! We're nationalizing and unfortunately too many of this once fine nations citizens don't even have a clue that this is what's really happening but they sure can tell you the stats on their favorite sports teams. Yeah, THAT'S important! Does it occur to ANYONE that the "competition" has been producing vehicles, EXTREMELY PROFITABLY, for decades now in this country?... How can that be??? Let's see: Fuel efficient... Listening to customers... Investing in the proper tooling and automation for the long haul... Not being too complacent or arrogant to listen to Dr W Edwards Deming 4 decades ago... Ever increased productivity through quality, lean and six sigma plans... Treating vendors like strategic partners, rather than like "the enemy"... Efficient front and back offices.... Non union environment! Again, I could go on and on, but I really wouldn't be telling anyone anything they really don't already know in their hearts. I have six children, so I am not unfamiliar with the concept of wanting someone to bail you out of a mess that you have gotten yourself into. My children do this on a weekly, if not daily basis, as I did at their age. I do for them what my parents did for me (one of their greatest gifts, by the way), I make them stand on their own two feet and accept the consequences of their actions and work them through. Radical concept, huh? Am I there for them in the wings? Of course, but only until such time as they need to be fully on their own as adults. I don't want to oversimplify a complex situation, but there certainly are unmistakable parallels here between the proper role of parenting and government. Detroit and the United States need to pay for their sins. Bad news people, it's coming whether we like it or not. The newly elected Messiah really doesn't have a magic wand big enough to "make it all go away" I laughed as I heard Obama "reeling it back in" almost immediately after the vote count was tallied. We might not do it in a year or in four. Where was that kind of talk when he was RUNNING for the office? Stop trying to put off the inevitable. That house in Florida really isn't worth $750,000. People who jump across a border really don't deserve free health care benefits. That job driving that forklift for the big 3 really isn't worth $85,000 a year. We really shouldn't allow Wal-Mart to stock their shelves with products acquired from a country that unfairly manipulates their currency and has the most atrocious human rights infractions on the face of the globe. That couple whose combined income is less than $50,000 really shouldn't be living in that $485,000 home! Let the market correct itself people. It will. Yes it will be painful, but it's gonna be painful either way, and the bright side of my proposal is that on the other side of it is a nation that appreciates what is has and doesn't live beyond its means. Gets back to basics, and redevelops the work ethic that made it the greatest nation in the history of the world and probably turns back to God. Sorry don't cut my head off, I'm just the messenger sharing with you the "bad news". Gregory J Knox President Knox Machinery, Inc. Franklin, Ohio 45005
Collected via e-mail, December 2008


In December 2008, just weeks before the end of his term in office, President George W. Bush announced a $17.4 billion government bailout of American automobile manufacturers:

President George W. Bush stepped in to keep America’s auto industry afloat, announcing a $17.4 billion bailout for GM and Chrysler, with the terms of the loans requiring that the firms radically restructure and show they can become profitable soon.

“If we were to allow the free market to take its course now, it would almost certainly lead to disorderly bankruptcy,” Bush said at the White House, in remarks carried live by the national broadcast networks. “In the midst of a financial crisis and a recession, allowing the U.S. auto industry to collapse is not a responsible course of action. The question is how we can best give it a chance to succeed.”

Bush said that “bankruptcy now would lead to a disorderly liquidation of American auto companies.”

In anticipation of that event, General Motors president Troy Clarke had sent out a mailing (reproduced in the Example section above) exhorting GM employees “to call legislators and ask for a bailout for U.S. automakers.” Shortly afterwards, a caustic response to that mailing (also reproduced in the Example section above) attributed to Gregory J. Knox, president of Knox Machinery, was circulated online. In his reply, Knox took Clarke to task for “ignor[ing] the consumer for years while management myopically focuses on its personal rewards packages” and being “infected with the same entitlement mentality that has bred like cancerous germs in [United Auto Workers] halls for the last countless decades.”

We inquired of Mr. Knox via e-mail whether the viral response attributed to him had actually been written by him, and he replied as follows:

I’m real…….

I came into my office 2 weeks ago and the first email I opened was a pathetic plea from Detroit…and my fingers just started flying across the keyboard

The letter was a “spleen vent” which just quickly flowed out of me, and when I was finished I copied my mom and hit the send button…and she asked me if she could share it with her friends…and the rest is history

As for the “3 decades” in the letter not jiving with my bio on our company website, I was referring to the 80’s, the 90’s and the current decade

Keep in mind, if I knew this was going to be my “15 minutes of fame” I certainly would have done a better job on the letter

It amazes me the attention it has gotten — I have been deluged with calls and emails from across the country — from TV crews to congressmen, and really it is a very simple letter that states very basic facts…facts which I believe everyone really knows in their hearts…

I guess there are more folks out there that think like this than the media would have us believe…

  • Published

Stein, Ben.   “Bail Out Detroit — Now.”
    Yahoo! Finance.   9 December 2008.

CBS News.   “Ben Stein Votes ‘Yes’ on Big Three Bailout.”
    16 November 2008.

Allen, Mike and David Rodgers.   “Bush Announces $17.4 Billion Auto Bailout.”
    Politico.   19 December 2008.