Tuesday, November 18, 2008

'The Heartbeat of America' ... on life support

I'm highly annoyed at the auto industry today, GM in particular. As I type this, execs from GM, Ford and Chrysler are going before Congress to discuss whether the Big Three will get a federal bailout. As a happy Ford owner, I realize I should be rooting for the company to be saved but I've searched my gas tank for sympathy and come up empty.

It was the greed of these companies that got them where they are and now they are whining from the bottom of a wishing well. For decades now, since the Nixon era actually, there has been a call to lessen our dependence on foreign oil. How do the Big Three react to this? They flood the market with SUVs and put out the Hummer.

All along, these companies have had access to technology that could seriously reduce our usage of oil and they have dawdled with it. In the end, they took the low road that led to higher profits for the industry and the oil companies. They should be ashamed. Here's why:

In 1990, GM debuted the EV1 at the Los Angeles Auto Show, the first car with zero-emissions marketed in the US in over three decades. The vehicles were marketed through dealers located in only a few regions (e.g., California, Arizona, Georgia). The cars were only leased, not sold. Though demand was high, GM ceased production of the vehicles and all the EV1's were destroyed or donated to museums or universities.

A colleague reminded me today to view the documentary, "Who Killed the Electric Car?" which delves into the short life of this GM EV1 electric car. Asks the film's tagline: "How could such an efficient, green-friendly vehicle fail to transform our garages and skies?" Reason? Greed. As long as there are still fossil fuels trapped in the earth, people will pay big money to find it, sell it and burn it.

Flash forward to today: GM recently posted a grim video that details the reverberations of a failed auto industry and how it would affect the economy and smiling factory workers. Yes, it would be fucking scary, no doubt about it but as reporter Brian Naylor commented in this morning's NPR piece, these companies would not cease operations without the bailout. Auto sales are down but they are not non-existent. (If it weren't for sales in places like Russia, China, India and Brazil, they would be even worse.)

So, I reject their sympathetic pleas and remind them that they were born and thrived in a capitalist society that they helped build. Now, they want socialism all of a sudden and I - a bleeding heart liberal - would rather see them get off their asses and stand up to the challenge. They need to rally to the red, white and blue balls (yes, I said blue balls) that these companies try to evoke in their ad campaigns:

"Chevrolet. An American Revolution"
"Built Ford Tough"
"Grab Life by the Horns" (Chrysler)

Please. These companies have proven themselves to be nothing but a bunch of greedy, candy-ass wusses with no long-term view. They need to implode and rebuild themselves from scratch with people who give a thought to the future.


DD said...

Isn't business fun?
Value added stuff and all.
We've got the combustion engine with all of it's added support.
Gas, gas stations
Oil, oil distributors
Transmission fluid
Transmissions with dip stick
AAMCO, beep beep.
Radiators (800RADIATOR.COM)
Radiator fluid
cylinder heads
cylinder head gaskets
smog testing (great income for CA)
intake manifolds
manifold gaskets
Mufflers with exhaust pipes,(Midas)
All of the electrical black box crap which makes working on your own vehicle next to impossible unless your one of these Fast and Furious geeks with a laptop and time. I've left out at least another thousand parts which fit between all of the filler above.

Going all electric means dropping a huge supporting industry.
More than what "Who Killed The Electric Car" lightly touches upon.
Just plug it in and go does not support enough of the economy. Or should I say it does not funnel enough money to the top of the hierarchy.

ClizBiz said...

Exactly. But what they don't realize is that they are still cars - cars that need parts. Okay, different parts but parts nonetheless. They need to adapt or die because ready or not, the future is here.

DD said...

Looks like Waxman is going to take the big three to task. Another point for Obama, hell, lets make it 10 points.

ClizBiz said...

Awesome. Glad someone is on the job. I'm not saying there can't be a solution here but I'm not in the mood for any more automatic handouts.

Jeff C. said...

I love the fact that when gas was up at $4.00 a gallon nobody from the Big 3 said anything. At that point, I could see this coming - why couldn't they? Oh, right - you get more profit from selling an SUV than you do from selling a hybrid car. It's all about profit.

I wouldn't give 'em a dime unless they came up with a solid plan to change their businesses so that we can stop buying oil from other countries. Even then, I'd be skeptical.

Elizabeth Glass-Turner said...

I agree: tax dollar should go to propping up businesses who haven't been competitive in years. The unions buried quality with Jimmy Hoffa's body.