Gou Motors On

Under different circumstances, would Foxconn’s Terry Gou be considered the second coming of Henry Ford?

This Business Week article suggests so. I’ll have to study my Henry Ford history, because while the piece breaks little new ground, it is filled with Gou quotes that are ironically delicious: “Work itself is a type of joy”; “A harsh environment is a good thing”; “Hungry people have especially clear minds”;  “An army of one thousand is easy to get, one general is tough to find.”

All this from a man worth an estimated $5.9 billion. It doesn’t sound like the man who said of the Model T, “”When I’m through, everybody will be able to afford one, and about everybody will have one.”

Also, the new Madison Avenue p.r. agency’s touch is coming through, as Business Week reports on how Guo’s family fled the China and the Mao-led Communists in the late 1940s. There also is background fodder on his personal family tragedies — his wife and son both died of cancer in the same year — and how he practices yoga and regularly takes his 85-year-old mother for Taiwanese noodles.

The article attempts to smooth over criticism of the employee suicides (calling it a classic cluster, despite evidence by the Wall Street Journal to the contrary), and completely misses the boat on how overtime works in China, finding several workers who say they welcome the extra hours, without bothering to acknowledge the reason they work OT is because they need the money.

The gold nuggets come when Gou intimates his strategy to move workers off the company rolls and onto the government’s. “I think we need to change the way things are. Businesses should be focused on business and social responsibility should be government responsibility.” Comparisons of Foxconn to Wal-Mart sound more apt than ever before.

I don’t expect a smear job. However, this piece has the fingerprints of a PR agency at its finest all over it. Read it with that in mind.

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About Mike

Mike Buetow is editor-in-chief of Circuits Assembly magazine, the leading publication for electronics manufacturing, and PCD&F, the leading publication for printed circuit design and fabrication. He is also vice president and editorial director of UP Media Group, for which he oversees all editorial and production aspects. He has more than 20 years' experience in the electronics industry, including six years at IPC, an electronics trade association, at which he was a technical projects manager and communications director. He has also held editorial positions at SMT Magazine, community newspapers and in book publishing. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois. Follow Mike on Twitter: @mikebuetow