Former General Mortors Corp. Executive John Z. DeLorean today acknowledge as his own the sharp criticism of his former employer that is included in a new book by Detroit free-lance writer J. Patrick Wright.
In an interview with several reporters, DeLorean emphasized that his inside story about the lack of innovation and overall management weakness at the nation's largest industrial corporation portrays problems that are "common to many large businesses in this country and the world."
The book, "On A Clear Day You Can See General Motors," is "not destructive of anyone . . . the object was to make a constructive contribution," said DeLorean, breaking a week-long silence since the surprise publication of his memoirs under Wright's byline.
Wright, a former Detroit bureau chief for Business Week magazine, collaborated in writing DeLorean's inside account of 17 years at GM -- and why he departed after arriving near the top rung off the auto firm's executive ladder.
DeLorean subsequently withheld authorization to publish the book, written as a first-person account, because of some "naive . . . concern on my part" that General Motors might retaliate by attempting to stop DeLorean's plans for a new auto manufacturing company, DeLorean said today.
In addition, DeLorean said he thought the manuscript at some points was "too tough -- the tone was harsher and more aggressive than I remembered it." But DeLorean emphasized several times that his differences with Wright were only "a matter of degree and tone," that there were no significant errors of fact and no misrepresentation of DeLorean's own views about GM.
Moreover, DeLorean said he doesn't "see a dramatic difference" in the General Motors of today compared with the company from which he resigned as the $650,000-a-year group vice president for North American operations in 1973.
As stated in the book he authenticated today, DeLorean repeated his view that GM is run by a professional management staff interested in the "best earnings today regardless of what happens in the future." A similar staff-like atmosphere exists at such firms as American Telephone & Telegraph, International Telephone and Telegraph and General Eletric, and "it's just not my thing . . . I'm more of a quarterback and not a stadium owner," he declared.
Standing in the De Lorean Motor Co.'s ultra-modern offices high atop a Manhattan office building, with a clear view of GM's New York office tower a few blocks to the north, De Lorean talked candidly for two hours about the book, hopes for success in his new business venture, the crisis facing Chrysler Corp. and corporate ethics in general.
On several occasions, he expressed admiration for Wright, who invested his own money, put a mortgage on his house and sent his wife to work to finance publication of the DeLorean memoirs in an unauthorized fashion. "I admire him . . . It took guts on his part to proceed . . . It exhibits a hell of a lot of courage on his part," De Lorean said of Wright.
The auto executive said he had no plans "at this time" to launch any legal action against Wright. De Lorean also said that if Wright forwards any share of royalties, "I may give it to some charity."
De Lorean said he had not been contacted either by Wright or GM representatives since the book showed up in stores across the country last week. Repeatedly since last Wednesday, GM spokesmen have said their company would have no comments to make on the De Lorean book, which describes the company as run by officials without concern for the huge enterprise's impact on American society, with prior knowledge that the ill-fated Corvair was unsafe and with mismanagement that rivals that often alleged by business to exist within government.
While standing by this criticism, De Lorean also said, "GM was very good to me . . . I was a very unsophisticated transmission engineer . . . They exposed me to large industry and gave me an opportunity to exhibit whatever talents I have . . . It wasn't a completely . . . negative experience."
His comments came in response to the only substantive reaction to date from GM -- Chairman Thomas Murphy's release of a De Lorean telegram in 1973, following Detroit newspaper articles at that time describing the former GM executive as critical of the firm. The telegram sought to refute the articles and described 17 "very happy and satisfying years with GM."
"I think that's what John said back then. As far as I'm concerned, that's what the record says . . . He obviously was a good employe. He certainly won recognition in the corporation. He's no longer associated with us," Murphy said of the De Lorean book's surprise debut.
In a telephone interview today, Wright said: "I'm very pleased . . . He (De Lorean) publicly put his full faith and credit behind the book we wrote together . . . I knew it was the right thing to do." Wholesalers have sold all copies of the initial 20,000 De Lorean books, and a second edition of between 20,000 and 25,000 copies already is being printed for distribution to book stores by the end of this month or early in December, Wright stated.
De Lorean said he expects no adverse impact from publication of the book, other than being shunned by business executives at fancy restaurants because "I have some kind of fungus right now." He hailed cooperation to date from GM in preparing to sell some components to De Lorean Motors for its new sports car, due on the showroom floors a year from now at more than 300 dealers, of which more than half sell GM cars.
He said it is his hope that the GM book "will cause a lot of people to ask questions," since a "lot of things" big business are doing today are of "no contribution" to the nation as a whole. He criticized specially statements by oil company leaders that attributed most profit gains recently to overseas operations. "Profit appears wherever they want it to appear," De Lorean stated.
The auto executive also was critical of Chrysler Corp. complaints about government regulation being the cause of near-bankruptcy. That's bullsh--t," he asserted. At the same time, De Lorean said he supports "aggressively" government aid to Chrysler, a mistake-prone management of previous years has been succeeded by a group equal to any in the automotive world, he said.