Tough Choices

by James Beattie Morison
© 1997 James Beattie Morison

A struggling automobile company has some tough choices to make.

The boardroom was silent as the President of Small Motors stared coldly at each of his assembled minions. “Gentlemen, I cannot express the seriousness of the problems we face. I believe the marketing report makes it clear enough.”

The Vice President of Marketing cleared his throat and looked at the page in front of him. “We have conducted a series of surveys and focus groups, and the results are shocking. People think our cars are “over priced junk”!”

After those assembled had time to absorb the portent of what the study had found, the President turned to the Vice President of Finance for his perspective. “I think the way forward is clear.” He paused to look at his peers and watch their reactions. “We must cut the price of our cars. We cannot afford to accept a lower profit, so we must cut costs.”

The other vice presidents hesitated, each reluctant to offer their own area for cuts. Only the Vice President of Quality Control had anything to say. “I really think we must be careful about being too quick to cut, who knows what it may cost us later.”

The President exploded. “That is not acceptable! We must reduce our expenditures, no matter what it costs!”

The Vice President of Design glanced at his rival, the Vice President of Manufacturing then addressed the President. “We could save some costs in manufacturing if we did not tighten the wheel bolts.”

The Vice President of Quality Control was appalled. “The wheels will fall off.”

“We won’t put wheels on then.”

“With no wheels we could eliminate the engine too.”

The President smiled. “Now that’s the spirit!”

The meeting went on. More meetings followed. Finally the big day came. The Small Motor Company announced the unveiling of its new model.

They rented a huge hall and invited hundreds of reporters and VIPS. The people began to arrive and wait, their curiosity focussed on a big box that sat in the middle of the hall. The President walked up to a microphone and began to talk. Sometime later, he paused.


“We are here to proclaim Small Motor’s greatest achievement . . . a new car for only $2000!” No one had expected this. “Ladies and Gentlemen, I present the new Small Motor’s Vapour.”

A model in a formal gown opened the big box in the middle of the hall.

There was nothing inside.

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