Problem is it's a whole new generation of listeners who want what they want, when they want, and a wise cracking DJ who's going to talk about what he had for breakfast may well not be of interest to much of anybody. Even when I was growing up in the 70s, some people loved the DJs and some people wanted to listen to automated music or very low key AOR formats. If there is going to be a new generation of on-air personalities, they'll have to be doing what no one has thought of. Thinking that doing radio in the 1970s is going to attract an audience in 2010 who have hundreds of choices is unlikely.
I'm going to have to disagree with you to a certain extent. Yes, people will ALWAYS complain. But if you strive for quality, customers will always find you. Using the General Motors example again, you can see how the beancounter model failed. They cheapened product to the point where nobody wanted them anymore. Of course, with their cost structure we also know they were to a certain extent forced to cheapen product to stay afloat. Likewise, corporate radio has an overleveraged cost structure that forces them to make bankers rich instead of putting the money into product.
But I think the analogy is valid. If you build a car that appeals to the buffs, the non buffs will also find it an appealing product. I think the same holds true with radio. If you put out something good, people will find you.
Remember the old days? if you got a 13.0 share you were doing gangbusters. That means 87% of the people still hate you. Who wouldn't kill for a 13.0 share these days? You're not going to get it with plug -n- play radio.