SEPTEMBER 18, 1956
NEW YORK—I took a plane for Detroit, Mich., early Thursday morning to see with my own eyes the remarkable General Motors Research Center.
I had been sent a booklet on the center and happened to say to a young man of my acquaintance in the advertising business, who is more or less connected with General Motors, that where so much is being put into research for automobiles, something also should turn out to be of value in the lives of human beings. Almost immediately, I was invited to go out and see what General Motors was doing and I was delighted to spend the day there on Thursday.
It is a most beautiful plant. Saarinen of Birmingham, Mich., was the architect. He made the buildings simple and functional, largely of glass but used brick at the ends of red, purple and green buildings, giving tremendous color to what might otherwise have been monotonous.
He also demonstrated that having a lake is cheaper than having a lawn to mow. So there is not only a central lake, with its curtain of water spouting up into the air, but a number of smaller bodies of water with fountains. The plantings are beautiful, too.
A domed building, which looks like a planetarium, is the exhibition hall where new cars are examined, either in the experimental or finished stage, under different lights. Outside of the hall there is a large space where the cars can be shown in daylight.
One building is devoted to research, which is conducted practically everywhere in all divisions. There also are engineering and styling buildings.
One division head is in charge of personnel, one in charge of the manufacturing stage, and one heads the process development.
Each of the makes of cars by General Motors has its own individual setup, with separate divisions covering the same needs. Each, in a way, competes with the other and they come together only at the top when they pool their knowledge and experience for the benefit of all.
The executive vice-president and director of General Motors in charge of the car and truck group, body and assembly divisions and the accessory group is Louis Clifford Goad, who was our host.
I met Goad during the war when I visited his plant in Linden, N.J., to study cafeterias in manufacturing plants. Here we were together again, not touring one plant but an enormous research center. He was most kind and helpful in explaining everything to me.
Before we started the plant tour, I had the opportunity at lunch to meet the men in charge of all the divisions. What impressed me most, of course, was the work that goes into producing an automobile and the size and power of an organization such as General Motors.
Here you quickly see that our genius for mass production is what has made possible the ownership of automobiles by so many people in the U.S. But you wonder a little about the power that lies in the hands of what you might call the management class.
The only people who can and should keep a balance in this setup are the leaders of labor. But this requires so much enlightened and highly educated labor leadership that this balance sometimes is not as good as it should be. As a result, we sometimes find management and labor each thinking of its own interests, with the individual consumer left out in the cold.
I will tell you more about this visit tomorrow.