Toyota Passing GM. Time To Pause for GM. Then Get Back To Work.

Sure, it’s a moment to pause. Like waiting for the O.J. verdict. Toyota outsold General Motors worldwide in the first quarter for the first time.

I can just see the earth shattering changes in the monthly sales stories and the quarterly and annual earnings stories. No longer will GM be described as “the world’s largest automaker.” It will soon be referred to as the world’s “Number-two automaker.” Historic? Sure.

I don’t like to repeat myself in blogs. But a while back, I quoted GM sales and marketing chief Mark LaNeve saying something very sane. He said, “We don’t have to beat Toyota. We can win along with Toyota.”

It’s at this time that I bring it up again as a sign that not all the GMers are wringing their hands over this. Sure, there are some. Those, I should think, are the guys who have been advocating that GM buy Chrysler. An additional 11%-12% of share in the U.S. would technically hold off the Toyota advance. But at what price? Yipes.

A few weeks ago, I was at Ford Motor Co. when Ford CEO Alan Mulally was addressing about 100 employees. I was struck by the number of times he said to them…”Stay focused. Don’t get distracted.” I think distraction is a real problem in Detroit sometimes. Too often, the cultures here teach employees to seek a new challenge or job change before the job at hand is done. Mulally, having come to Ford from outside the auto industry must have seen this in his short seven months on the job.

GM’s comeback is nascent. It has some terrific new models. But it has to do a lot more, and for a longer period of time before people believe they have fixed the problems that ailed them for so long.

The mind still boggles over the logic that was driving some GM execs to want to take on Chrysler. Yeah, I guess now that you have Buick, Pontiac and Saturn totally fixed, it only makes sense to take on Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge. {Headslap}{DOH}.

Memo to GM. Forget the headline today. Stay focused. Don’t get distracted. Profits are Job One.

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