In 1982, a 14-year-old Bernie Moreno wanted to be the next Roger Smith, General Motors' CEO at the time.
Moreno, who owns 10 dealerships in his Bernie Moreno Cos., was an immigrant from Colombia. His goal was to move to Michigan from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where he grew up, to attend the University of Michigan, then pursue a career at GM.
So he put pen to paper, mailing Smith a letter. The CEO was impressed enough to write a lengthy reply that began: "It's not often I receive a letter from someone who is planning to take over my job."
Smith congratulated Moreno for "knowing exactly what it is you want to do once you complete your high school and college education. Most fellows your age haven't given a lot of thought to their future career."
The three-page, single-spaced, typewritten letter from Smith sits in Moreno's home, but he gladly shares it and the story behind it. Moreno's letter to Smith was inspired by studying President Woodrow Wilson's 14 points for peace negotiations to end World War I.
Moreno offered Smith nine points on how to improve GM. They included suggestions that GM:
- Install a "burglar-proof door" to protect against car theft
- Improve its vehicle quality
- Assign each employee a special number
- Combine Chevrolet and Pontiac
- Offer customers a movie showing various vehicle color choices
- Make aluminum engines to reduce weight and boost fuel economy.