Big Three can't play defense anymore
Sen. Barack Obama's finger-wagging lecture this week to Detroit's
automakers shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who's paying attention.
It's the future if maligned Motown doesn't start playing aggressive
offense. Doesn't matter that an Illinois Democrat from the industrial
Midwest, a man who would be president, shows scant understanding of the
technology, market realities and human limitations of his remedies --
and then jumps on the campaign plane.
It's the formula: Whack Detroit, ignore details and draw praise from
most any corner outside of, say, three Great Lakes cities, meaning Obama
understands very well the times in which he's running for the nomination.
Judging by the climatic grandstanding so common now in Washington, he's
not alone. Be it Republican or Democrat, be it a vote in Congress or a
position on the campaign trail, the times are ripe for policies
purported to slow climate change and improve national energy security.
Play offense, not defense
And if they undermine companies struggling to survive? That's our problem.
The path of least resistance runs right through Detroit's weakened
automakers and over the United Auto Workers, presumed to back Democrats
no matter how inimical their proposed policies may be to the union's future.
Doesn't matter that the union and its members are stalwarts of the
Democrats. Doesn't matter that Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, remains
the industry's protector on Capitol Hill. Doesn't matter how communities
could be impacted, most of them Midwest backwaters to party elites.
None of it much matters because big, bad Detroit isn't so big or bad
anymore. General Motors Co., Ford Motor Corp., Chrysler Group and even
Toyota Motor Corp. cannot play defense in Washington on fuel economy,
climate change and energy security. It won't work.
Viewed from the crumbling ruins of industrial America, Washington has
reached an inflection point: There will be political movement on climate
change and fuel economy, as the Senate Commerce Committee votes Tuesday
on tougher federal fuel economy rules showed.
Step on the gas
Change will come quickly, too, even if some of it makes little sense.
Take Obama's suggestion to pick up 10 percent of Detroit's crushing
retiree health care costs, provided that fully half of the annual
federal spending goes into improving fuel efficiency.
For DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group, which spends $1.56 billion on
retiree health care, the federal help would amount to $78 million a year
or $29 per vehicle, according to company calculations. Yippee.
Put aside the political risk of using taxpayer money to bail out GM,
Ford and Chrysler, never a popular play in the "Detroit-is-for-losers"
zeitgeist. The dough is piddling, proving how poorly politicians
understand the enormity of the burden Detroit is shouldering.
It's past time for Detroit to step on the gas in Washington. Tired of
Toyota getting all the props for being so fuel-efficient when its V-8
trucks are anything but? Then help drive the debate on fuel-efficiency,
or it will drive you.
Worried that Democrats in Congress will stall a comprehensive
environmental package to wait for a Democrat in the White House? Push
for a broad deal now, as some of Detroit's automakers are doing, while
Dingell is active, Detroit's balance sheets are iffy and you've got a
decent technology story to tell.
Convinced that a 4 percent annual improvement in fuel economy starting
in 2011 cannot be achieved? Start lining up your bankruptcy counsel;
write the surrender-and-blame speeches; and remind the Pension Benefit
Guaranty Corp. (and their friends in Congress) just how massive your
pension obligations are -- and how heavily they'd weigh on American
Doesn't need to end that way, or Obama's way. But doing nothing and
hoping is not an option.
Detroit's automakers aren't the be all and the end all of things.
Why is it that so many people seem to forget that the Big Three got
themselves into this mess through the simple fact of not building cars
that people -need- to buy?
Detroit has had since 1974 to get on the stick and profitably build and
sell economy cars. When gas prices started rising that spelled the end
of the need for most people for giant vehicles on the road.
Detroit's answer was to launch one of the largest and longest propaganda
advertising campaigns designed to try to convince people that they really
didn't want to buy a small, cheap fuel-efficient car, they really wanted to
buy a big, expensive, fuel-inefficient car. All the while ignoring the
successes of cars like, for example, the VW Beetle.
That campaign gained some traction when times were good and plenty
of money was flowing around. But what Detroit lost sight of was that
the underlying -need- for a cheaper, more fuel efficient car was always
present, it was just being masked by the advertising campaign, and all
it would take is a shift in events to unmask it.
Fundamentally, cars can be divided into 2 groups. There's the ones that
you -need- to drive. And there's the ones that are merely -luxuries- to
You can ALWAYS sell need-to-drive cars in ANY economic time period
when gas is either cheap or expensive.
But you can ONLY sell -luxury-to-drive- cars in good economic time periods,
when gas is cheap.
Instead of spending the last 30 years trying to get people to believe that
the luxury cars - stuff like giant SUV's for people who never go off road -
are cars that they really need to buy, through propaganda, Detroit should
have concentrated on building cheap cars profitably, and turned on the
propaganda machine to convince people that gas prices were going to
go back up eventually and the future of transportation wasn't in big giant
gas hog vehicles. Then just built the gas hog vehicles for niche customers
like farmers and ranchers who really did need those kinds of vehicles,
and can write them and their fuel off on their taxes.
This argument is just tired and worn out. The Asian automakers are not
out there bitching that they can't make fuel economy ratings. They aren't
killing pollution-efficient programs like the EV-1. They instead are
and selling small cheap fuel efficient cars, that are purported to slow
climante change and improve national energy security. If they can do it,
then why can't Detroit?
The UAW didn't deliver the 2000 or 2004 Election to the Democrats, so
that dog ain't going to hunt anymore. And, frankly, the UAW membership is
as disgusted with Detroit as the rest of the country. When a UAW member
gets laid off by GM, he's blaming GM's management, he isn't blaming
the rest of the country for not buying GM cars. He's blaming GM for not
designing cars for him to build that the rest of the country wants to buy.
he should be. And, it's his vote that counts, not the UAW's.
Check out the following, particularly the election results by county:
Do you notice something about the cartogram map? I'll tell you. If you
look at things, you will see the Republicans only managed to hold sway
in 1 densly populated region - the Southwest, (and Texas, which is a
given since GB came from there) In all of the other densly
populated regions of the country, the Democrats won, whereas in the
lightly populated regions, the Republicans won.
In other words, the Democrat's power bases are in the urban areas.
Well, urban areas are much more polluted then rural areas. Also,
vehicle fuel efficiency drops drastically in urban areas for all vehicles.
Thus, it is very natural for someone living in an urban area to be very
concerned with stuff like global warming, and fuel efficiency of vehicles.
They see the effects of pollution every day, and they are the ones getting
12-15 mpg since they are city driving.
It is also natural for someone living in a rural area to not be concerned
with global warming because they don't see pollutions' effects out in the
boondocks, and they don't care that much about fuel economy, as they
are highway driving and getting their 32Mpg fuel economy.
So, now you might have a bit of insight on why topics that a Democrat is
going to push and what topics a Republican is going to push.
That may but your opinion but it does defies logic. What leads you to the
conclusion that GM does not make the vehicles buyers want to buy? Domestics
never stopped making small cars. Buyers stopped buying small cars, once
technology made the larger safer cars they prefer to ride in, available that
got 25 to 30 MPG. Every one of the cars sold by Toyota and Honda got bigger
as well. Toyotas growth over the past ten years are been in ever larger
cars and the introduction of larger vans, SUVs and trucks, and big luxury
cars, not by selling more small cars, In the real world GM has more
vehicles to offer buyers, that get 30 MPG or more than does Toyota or Honda.
Still today in the US, the largest market in the world, more buyers chose to
buy more of the vehicles sold by GM, than Toyota or Honda.
GM's "30" MPG is a false number Mike, at least 80-85% of normal driving
is city mileage-not *relatively* higher highway mileage. So what do
your losing GM/Ford/DCX vehicles get for mileage stuck in stop and go on
the freeway Mike? As a previous poster already said Mike, "...GMNA is
going down...". Gas is already past $4.00 is parts of California (SF
and others) and will probably hit that level in other parts of the
nation. Meantime the Little Three in Detroit whine and cry about the
CAFE being raised. Detroit can not meet the new CAFE because of
laziness and ineptness Mike, Toyota and Honda can already meet them.
Could it be engineering innovation?
That may be your opinion but you better read the CAFE Guide, if that is what
you believe. If you do you will see domestics do a good,or better, on fuel
mileage between the vehicles of the same type and of equal size and
equipment, where they compete. Fords hybrid SUV, for example, get better
mileage than Toyota similar SUV.
The fact is, whether you agree or not, American do NOT want to ride in the
small cars, they prefer the larger safer vehicles being sold by domestics
AND imports. If indeed they wanted small or midget cars, there are plenty
of them on the market today that they can buy.
Toyota best selling car is not one of their small cars. it is their safer
midsize car that gets fewer miles per gallon than Toyotas small and midget
cars. The environuts want to force us all to ride in the less safe small
or midget cars, that Americans are not willing to buy, except as a second or
As to the price of gasoline, American are buying MORE gas today than when it
was $2 or even $1, so I guess the price of gas is not the sole deciding
factor in the vehicle one chooses to buy.
What do you live and what car do you drive?
1. You obviously didn't bother actually reading the post, you just
launched into the standard Mike Hunter reply (no reality involved)
2. Vehicles: 2000 VW Golf, 1998 Prizm (think Toyota Corolla)
3. Western Michigan
4. City driving MPG is truly where the real world is for the vast
majority of actual driving. There are, of course, exceptions.
Motorsforum.com is a website by car enthusiasts for car enthusiasts. It is not affiliated with any of the car or spare part manufacturers or car dealers discussed here.
All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.