I grew up in Michigan, so the bankruptcy of General Motors in 2009 struck close to home. There was a time when GM made more than half the cars sold in America. And then it was a ward of the state. GM's demise wasn't the result of one spectacularly ill–conceived decision; the company didn't jump off a cliff. Instead, it stumbled into mediocrity, one small, short–sighted step at a time. Thanks to the U.S. taxpayer, it got a shot at redemption, but no one's betting it will regain its former glory.

A company can coast for a long time when it starts with a dominant share of an enormous, hard–to–penetrate business in the world's largest economy—but given enough time, and enough myopia, it will eventually run out of momentum. ...

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