The Question Of Loyalty

Here in the Detroit area, loyalty to the ‘Big 3’ automakers is always a hot topic.  At one point, it seemed like just about every family had someone employed by one of the automakers or parts suppliers, or had some other stake in the game.  Now, while there are a lot less people directly employed, it can still be a hot topic.

My Grandfather’s Loyalty

Recently, my dad told me a story about my grandfather and his loyalty.  My grandpa apparently loved Chrysler cars, and had a string of them.  Then, he ended up working for Chevrolet during the later half of his working days.  Once that happened, although he still favored Chrysler cars, he only bought GM cars thereafter.

As my dad said, he knew that the company provided his salary which put the roof over the head of his family, put food on the table, and everything else.  In fact, for him it was so simple that it wasn’t really a choice, because that would have implied a potential alternative.

Today’s Mindset

My dad later went on to lament the fact that many people today don’t have the same loyalty.  He used the example of someone who knew that worked for GM for their his career, and while he drove GM cars during that time, he started buying non-GM cars as soon as he retired.  In Big 3 country, that doesn’t sit well with some people, as they feel that t even though the direct relationship is over, the money was still originally provided by GM.  On the other hand, and while I don’t know if it’s the mindset of this individual personally, the thought seems to be that, yes, GM paid them during that time, but they also gave their time and service back, and don’t feel that furthers the obligation.

Personally, I can see both sides of the argument, and I think it’s one of those that has a lot of gray areas.

Questioning My Own Loyalty

I’ve often considered where my loyalty currently is.  For me, it’s complex, and I’ve been able to put it off for 10 years now, but this discussion raised the question in my head.

See, for me, it’s GM pretty much all the way at least from my family background.  As mentioned, my grandpa worked there, my dad worked there, my father-law-currently works there, and at one point I worked there.  So, it should be simple, right?

mb-2016-05-loyaltyWell, for my personal experience, my employment wasn’t a positive one.  I’ve outlined it before, so I will give the short version:  I was hired for a senior level position for which I had no direct experience.  They assured me that my experience to date would allow for an easy transition.  I was promised that I would be paired with experienced team members and given room to grow by management.  When I started, I was assigned to a different group.  That manager had no interest in providing the accommodations I mentioned above.   I was thrown into several jobs where I was asked to provide leadership to junior level people that honestly, had more experience than I did.

Predictably, it didn’t go well, and after nine months, they parted ways with me.

So, it bring the complexity in terms of my loyalty into question.

My Thoughts On Loyalty

  • My initial reaction was to say “Screw GM, they didn’t want me, why should I want their products?”
  • As time has passed, I realized that this was only nine months of my life.  I had a great career before this, I landed my next job less than 6 weeks later, and I’m still here…10 years later.  So, one could argue, was there really a harm?
  • I also looked at it that I was not 100% blameless.  I took a risk in taking a job where I didn’t have direct experience.  You could arguably point a few different fingers, and could at least one be pointed at me?  Yeah, probably.
  • As mentioned, my family has a much bigger history with GM than my nine months that continues on as my dad still gets a pension check from them, my father-in-law still collects a paycheck.  I’m a big believer in the legacy of your family.  This is a pretty big component that I’m not sure I’d be comfortable throwing away if it came to it.

I’ve  Been Kicking The Can

Our circumstances have allowed us to basically avoid this issue since everything happened with my brief employment.  We have two cars.  Both are GM.  My car was purchased during my brief employment.  The other car we purchased used (from my parents).

So, basically, we haven’t been in the market to even address the question for a number of years.

Our cars are getting older so potentially it could come up at some point soon.  One of the questions that I’ve thought about that I really can’t come up with an answer is what if we bought used again.   At that point, the car company isn’t getting any of the money.

But that may be the way out of answering the question.  That’d probably just kick the can.  I’d expect that at some point in my life, I’d consider buying or leasing a new car, so it’s a question that will eventually need to be answered.

If Push Came To Shove

As I wrote this, it occurred to me that I may not have to answer the question today.  If I did, with the proverbial gun to my head, I’d probably lean toward sticking with GM.  Even just writing this, I’ve noticed a shift over the years.  For the first few years after my brief employment, I probably would have looked anywhere but GM.  Then, I softened to where I said that I’d at least keep GM in the mix.  Now, as I look back at just how I’ve run through this, I realized that I’ve softened further.  I think that my answer at this point would be that GM would not be guaranteed my business.  But, it would be theirs to lose.

With all things considered, I think that’s pretty fair.

Readers, where do you land on loyalty?  How about in terms of products or companies that you personally or that your family has worked for?  

11 thoughts on “The Question Of Loyalty”

  1. I have a family member who works at a certain retailer and we shop their often, but we did before the family member worked there and would continue too if they were not longer employed there. For me its about the quality of product and cost. A car is a major purchase. If I thought another company offered a better product than GM I would not buy a GM product just because a family member work for the company.

  2. Hmmmm….Couple of things. First long ago when “dino’s roamed the earth” I was employed at a dredge manufacturer. I started young as a laborer and progressed upward in the 7 years I was there. Like you, my departure wasn’t my idea. A slow-down and strike made for some tough decisions and I was not part of their future. I was disappointed and angry as this was a VERY good job with an excellent benefits package and I was a good employee. And for the life of me I still do not know how I wound up on the outside looking in. BUT…things could not have turned out better and I will forever be grateful for the skills I learned there. It did not turn out so well for the Company….several set backs led to BK and then they were absorbed by a large conglomerate.
    As for GM….they lost me with the “faulty gas tanks” in the pick ups. I owned one of the affected pick ups and after years of litigation GM agreed to “reimburse” me with a “coupon” for $ off a new GM truck….NO THANK YOU….I’ll never be back. The latest ignition problems seem to be proof that not a lot has changed at GM. On the other hand when Ford and Firestone had the large failure of their products….Ford stepped up to the plate. I am a fan of this kind of integrity. And the fact that they took no “bail-out money” during the “Great Recession” means MY “business is theirs to lose”…Thanks for an interesting and timely post!

    • Yup. Ford — that would be Fix Or Repair Daily — managed to get rid of me with a brand-new 1967 Ford Fairlane, the single most spectacular lemon ever designed by the hand of Personkind. It was a good thing we lived right behind the Ford dealership, because that car spent more time in the shop than it did in our carport. And noooo…that is NOT an exaggeration.

      The faulty gas tanks in the pick-ups are just part of that iceberg. The Mustang — remember the cool, cute little Mustangs of the late 60s and early 70s? Those things were rolling grenades. And the Pinto! Oh, yes…what a fine vehicle that was! And the Crown Victoria, the car that blows up cops.

      Couldn’t drag me into an American car.

      That said, I’d prefer to buy American, if only all things were equal. But they’re not. And even American car brands aren’t necessarily made in America. Yea verily, the most “American” car you can buy may be the Toyota: http://fortune.com/2015/06/29/cars-made-in-america/

  3. I worked for major consumer products companies early in my career. Even 10 years later I couldn’t bring myself to buy products from what was once my competition. I just disliked them and like my company’s products better. 🙂

    After that time, I opened up a bit. I bought the competitor’s products if they were better. If not, I bought my old company’s products.

    As for American made cars, I would LOVE to buy a car from an American company. But after owning two Buicks as my first two cars, I’ve only had a car from Toyota, Nissan, Honda, and Subaru (between me and my wife). The Buicks spent more time in the shop than on the road. The others hardly ever need more than basic maintenance.

    I’m frustrated that a great country like ours can’t make cars that run and last as long as others. But I’m not going to spend $25k and 10 years of frustrating driving just because I feel loyalty to them.

  4. Interesting question. On one hand, loyalty seems like a good idea, but there are times when loyalty will cost you more money. For example, you could shop around for better/different insurance and end up saving money instead of sticking to the same old company you’ve always been with.

  5. Loyalty has to be earned. Being my employer isn’t a good reason for loyalty, that is an exchange of labor for money. Perhaps in the old days when the company actually rewarded you for loyalty that was appropriate but now? Now most companies are only focused on their own bottom lines, don’t treat employees like they’re humans, glorify their C-suites and ignore the people who make their businesses possible. I’ve encountered this everywhere from non-profits to for-profit, corporate and start-up alike. The idea that an employer deserves loyalty has to be backed up with actions that actually garner loyalty.

    As a consumer, if they want my business, they have to perform on a consumer level that makes sense to me and that may be harder because I also have an inside track on how they behave internally as well as what I observe externally. If I have to hold a job and learn that the company behaves unethically, I may not have the freedom to leave that job immediately but I’m not going to try to prop them up with my spending choices for years to come. Obviously I have an interest in their staying in business but I’m not going to go out of my way to keep supporting them if other businesses have better products and behave more in line with my values.

    If I have a job and the company is ethical, upstanding, treats employees with dignity and respect, and doesn’t just do the bare minimum, then yes, I will be choosing to support them with my dollars for as long as I have needs they can fulfill and have dollars to spend.

    You can bet your bottom dollar that I’m looking askance at any company that’s been lying to their customers about the quality and performance of their cars and taking that into consideration when I make purchasing decisions.

  6. I don’t think loyalty applies at all here, but that could be because I don’t get the whole auto-industry-city environment. Given the fact that GM didn’t treat you well, I think any loyalty on behalf of your dad and grandfather is canceled. It’s great that you aren’t bitter about it and that you’ve moved on in your career so well, but it remains true that GM didn’t keep its word to you – so you sure don’t “owe” GM your business when it comes time to buy your next car. I’d say pick the car that suits your needs and your wallet best – without regard for which company it’s coming from.

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