Every once in a great while, a thread topic appears tailor-made for spirited debate. I think this is one of them.
As a show of grassroots support, we’re asked to join in emailing our elected representatives to exhort them to bail out our troubled domestic automakers, using tax money all of us work hard to contribute with the wishful assurance the government will spend it wisely. We’re also hyperlinked to a GM site full of scary statistics citing why we must bail them out: Six-figure unemployment, (before subsidiaries are even considered.) Ripple effects that will drag our embattled economy down even further. Doom. Gloom. Boom!
I have no doubt these numbers are true and the consequences justified.
What I fail to see on this site (or hear about in the media) is an explanation by GM as to how they are going to use taxpayer-backed loans to change their business practices and get in sync with the realities of the world marketplace. They need to convince the citizens who provide the funds, not just the feds who disburse them. I'm waiting . . . .
My solution: Let the oil companies (whom are inextricably tied to the automakers survival) bail the auto industry out with the record profits they've enjoyed.
--In all fairness to GM, there’s the Chevy Volt. This could well be the car that saves GM in a few years . . . –if the Japanese don’t beat them to market with electric vehicles of their own.
I’ve purchased three Cadillacs in the past six years, two of them new. How much more grassroots support does GM need from me?
Our wake-up call came over thirty years ago during the Arab oil embargo. What was the US response? Six bangers and build quality so bad those of us who drove those cars cringe when we remember. In contrast, the Japanese automakers built more fuel-efficient cars, and continuously improved their quality practices until Detroit took notice only when their sales figures took an alarming hit --that continues to this day.
GM’s business woes are the result of lackluster vision, unions that undermined the very companies they depended on for their existence, combined with the perfect storm of the failure of the US banking system to police itself, --and melting down accordingly. Such is the dark side of capitalism. Greed is the one factor Alan Greenspan neglected in his equations for economic forecasts.
Agile, paradigm-shifting innovation used to be an American tradition; what the hell happened? Like fast food, GM will build any car it thinks it can sell, even if it isn’t good for us. Their latest ballyhooed offering: The 556 hp, 0-60 in 3.9 seconds, CTS-V; the “Fastest Production sedan in the world.” Is that really the message the car-buying public is listening for? (Maybe .001%) How about something along the lines of, “The fastest, most fuel-efficient sedan on the planet.” GM wouldn't be able to hire enough people to build them.
The XLR was an engineering marvel when first introduced, but can its production be economically justified in such low volume and high MSRP to be profitable enough to spur further development? It isn’t even the “Halo Car” anymore; that title rightfully belongs to the CTS, which is selling well, under the circumstances.
I’ll be the first to admit I’m a bit of a hypocrite when it comes to fuel efficiency. I own a CTS-V and an XLR. Not because I need them; only because I wanted them and was lucky to have the means to do so. Neither is a necessity in my life. As long as I can afford the gas, I’ll drive them. I bought the CTS-V new four years ago because I felt the end of an era was looming on the horizon. I still do.
Take one of me, add an infectious strain of affluenza with champagne taste on a beer budget, subtract common budgeting sense, multiply that by tens of millions and the result is a big part of our current problems. --At least I could afford that which I didn’t need. Man, what happened America? Did we have to supersize everything for everyone?
Having traveled overseas a bit, it’s hard not to notice a lack of high performance vehicles. In Italy, the majority of the cars are the size of VWs. They’re sip gas (which is outrageously expensive) and are easy to park in narrow streets and atop medians. These are vehicles built with the realities of their operating environment in mind. And full-size trucks?! I saw only one cruising Rome. In direct contrast, our roads are crowded with single-occupant SUVs –most of which will never go an inch off-road, being driven in states with flat terrain and no appreciable snowfall. The market dictates which cars sell, and GM is obliged to build them, even if it runs contrary to our own self- interests as consumers and as a nation. Maybe the “Be careful what you wish for” philosophy should have been ingrained in us more.
The WWII generation has rightfully been called the “Greatest Generation.” We’re on track for being remembered as the “Greediest Generation.” It’s gotten to the point where the government is forced to buoy major US companies to prevent a collapse of the entire social foundation our country is built upon. That’s the unspoken reality of the situation. This is more of a matter of national security than anything else we’ve ever faced, and I have yet to hear any government officials mention it out loud for fear of panic that would disrupt the market further. It’s pretty bad when the truth is more dangerous to our well-being than just hoping things will turn around without a real plan in place; --if we just keep our collective noses to the grindstone. Whoever said American workers don’t work hard? We're second only to bees where productivity is concerned. We worked hard and the folks at the top of the food chain made out like bandits. In school, I could never understand why the French were so eager to get the rich to the guillotines during the Revolution. Now I do.
To tie into the thread topic, we can email our elected officials ‘til our collective fingers bleed, but the die has already been cast. The government is being held economic hostage by the very heart that makes it beat. If our big corporations die, society as we know it will fall into unthinkable chaos, and the disruption and subsequent destruction of our free-market economy will most likely follow. Makes “Madd Max” seem almost visionary, eh? The time emailing our elected officials might be better spent if they prefaced with, "Do something to fix this without bankrupting all of us or look for another job next term. --And oh yeah, build more prisons to house the folks responsible for this mess as a lesson to future business grads."
The real questions come down to, “How much more fiscal plasma do we pump into this withering economic body of ours? What is the metric for which companies get rescued at taxpayer expense? Do we save Circuit City, and Starbucks too?” When does it end?
And more importantly, “What butt-ugly child will be spawned by the forced marriage of government and Big Business?” Will the next administration give GM money --but with a caveat: “We want you to build cars this way . . . --for the common good.” No thanks; give the government a mandate to build a horse and you end up with a mule.
These are interesting points to ponder. What do the rest of you think? Should GM be forced to change the way they do business? Is it in the long-term interests of the consumers to have the government tell the automakers what’s best for us, since they’re fronting them money?
Sorry, I didn’t mean to get on a rant. I think this is a much bigger issue than empowering our voices via email (and tax dollars) to save GM. What say you?