What if Steve Jobs ran one of the U.S. auto companies?

“Looking for improved business models for the personal computer business, Apple CEO Steve Jobs often used to cite automobile makers, though never American car companies. The examples were invariably German. Whether it was the design aesthetic of his Mercedes sedan or Porsche’s success at selling high-margin cars as entertainment devices, Jobs could always point to farfegnugen [sic] as a way to sell a good car for a great price. So since he thinks about these things anyway, and because the U.S. automobile industry is on the skids and begging for help this week, I find myself wondering what would happen if Steve Jobs were put in charge of any of the Big Three car companies,” Robert X. Cringely writes for PBS.

MacDailyNews Take: One of Jobs’ competitors would be out of business within a year and the other would be several times larger, copying everything Job’s company did while pretending to “innovate,” and, as people woke up and realized what was going on, Jobs’ company would be gaining share at the derivative company’s expense with ever-increasing speed?

Cringely continues, “It wouldn’t be boring, that’s for sure, and I’m fairly certain Steve could do a better job than the Detroit executives currently in charge.”

Much more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Fred Mertz” for the heads up.]
This is as good a time as any to trot out the old (updated) chestnut :

If Microsoft Built Cars…
1. Every time they repainted the lines on the road, you’d have to buy a new car.
2. Occasionally your car would just die on the motorway for no reason, and you’d have to restart it. For some strange reason, you’d just accept this, restart and drive on.
3. Your car would inexplicably get slower over time and, every 3-6 months, it would simply grind to halt and fail to restart. At this point, you’d have to reinstall the engine. For some strange reason, you’d just accept this too.
4. Apple would make a car that was powered by the sun, was three times more reliable, fast, and easy to drive–but most people wouldn’t know it or believe it.
5. Apple car owners would get expensive Microsoft upgrades to their cars which would make their cars go much slower.
6. Microsoft would replace the oil, engine, gas and alternator warning lights with a single “General Car Fault” warning light.
7. People would get excited about the “new” features in Microsoft cars, not knowing that they had been available in Apple’s cars for many years.
8. Microsoft cars would come with 5-year-old Apple car paint jobs, but they’d be the same crappy Microsoft car underneath.
9. If you were involved in a crash, you’d have no idea what happened.
10. Before deploying, the airbag system would ask “Cancel or Allow?”


  1. He would probably have us all driving ultra efficient, modern hydrogen fuelled cars that do 300mpg, and also reverse the greenhouse effect.

    I still think Greenpeace would have a compaint or two!

    Imagine that…

  2. Dear american car companies, the answer is quite simple:
    1) Make better small and cleaner cars and less big dirty ones.
    2) Stop believing that everything is god given to you alone and that some miracle will clean your pollution. No way that humans can keap on doing anything with this world as it was done these last years.
    3) Swallow your unjustified pride and LEARN something from the others.

    Steve would be stupid to ride one of the actual windows-like american car products!

  3. Jobs needs to overtake the computer industry first then he’ll look at doing something different…

    Right now, he’s in the prime, and he’s been waiting for a decade to pounce on Microsoft and Dell, no way he’ll miss this chance to left a few hits of steam into them

  4. oh please make it so! i want an aluminum unibody car that runs on 25% of what it takes to power a light bulb!

    the single peddle that senses when your other foot is there for braking makes me nervous though…..

  5. If you want to understand:

    a) capitalism / the free market / how some businesses succeed

    b) why businesses sometimes fail (and how that can be a good thing), and

    c) how to be prosperous in your own life

    then Google the “13 Principles of Prosperity” and do a little homework / research.

    Otherwise, continue living in ignorance and scarcity.

  6. @La Punk
    Oh god I’m so tired of seeing this story popup every couple of weeks.

    Not sure what website your reading, but MDN hasn’t posted this one in a long time.

  7. The funny thing with your Microsoft list is, that that all happened to me with every car I bought in the 1970s.

    The legacy is “General Car Fault” is now called “Check Engine” and most Ford trucks allow you to turn off the airbag manually these days.

  8. If Steve made a car it would be carved out of a single piece of aluminum and only come in one color… silver.

    It would have a glass roof that wouldn’t allow you to block the glare from the sun.

    He would eliminate the traditional, standard DC power plug in the interior (even though most people had devices that needed that type plug).

    He would change the service port connection every two years, so mechanics would have to repurchase adapter cables.

    There would only be two models. One that one that would go 90.1 miles per hour… and a slightly faster (but much more expensive one) that would go 90.5 miles per hour.

    There would only be one lower priced (but not inexpensive) compact model… and there would always be rumors of it being discontinued.

    They would be reliable though.
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  9. Jobs simply wouldn’t take on the task of running any of the Big Three. The pension and health care overhang is simply too great for anyone to deal with. He’d be running Lotus – designing and engineering product that others would make under his name.

    The Big Three will either die a quick death, with their assets sold to others, or be effectively nationalized like the British auto industry a few decades back, and die more slowly.

  10. If Steve were in charge of an auto company he’d probably fire the existing board of directors, executives and managers and gradually replace them with people all across the industrial field (not necessarily autos).

    Steve would discontinue all existing models in favor of just two new vehicles — a sedan and a Mercedes SL type sports car. He’d perhaps soon offer a motorcycle of the ‘cafe racer’ (naked) variety, as well.

    The vehicles would be made of all the latest materials, possibly borrowing from the marine, air and space industries. The two cars would be available in white, black or silver and the motorcycle would be available in any color of the rainbow. Plus, when you turned the ignition on you’d hear the Mac startup chime and a spinning cursor would be projected onto the windshield for a minute or less. Moreover, instead of dials and warning lights (…) ‘Alex’ or ‘Vicky’ would occasionally mention anything of import about the vehicle’s current status.

    And, aside from rolling over the asphalt, the engine would barely make a sound.


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