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GM Gets Jolt From Consumers

Tuesday, 3 Jun 2008 | 10:34 AM ET

A year ago, this would have been the punch line for a joke. GM is dumping the HUMMER and pouring money into an electric car, called Volt.

It should be called Jolt.

It's sad that it took record high gasoline prices for GM to figure out what it takes to be a competitive global auto maker. It's sad that GM has to go through yet another wrenching restructuring, closing plants and sacking workers from lines that make trucks and big SUVs. Sad, but hopefully it's not too late for GM to regain an edge in the global car race.

What it really may mean though is that record high oil prices are bringing about their own form of creative destruction. As GM steers its fleet of big-bellied Suburbans and Tahoes into the sunset, one can only hope that this is a real sign of change, and that GM is actually taking the lead in a new wave of corporate investment that will help lessen dependence on oil, or at least learn to use it more sparingly.

It's also not GM driving the change. It's the American consumer, and GM acknowledges that. "These higher gasoline prices are changing consumer behavior and rapidly," said GM Chairman Rick Wagoner.

And here's the bottom line. "We at GM don't think this is a spike or temporary shift. We by and large think it's permanent,:" he said.

Questions? Comments? marketinsider@cnbc.com

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