Why I love the US auto industry

I’ve been watching a lot of the talk about the US Auto Industry lately and I don’t see many people sticking up for it. That’s partially because the execs in that industry are horribly clueless and are flying around private jets. Come on, you missed the chance to really pull some PR magic out of the air. If I were an exec there I would drive an American car down from Detroit. But, let’s leave the PR cluelessness aside.

When I was in China over the past few weeks I saw that the Chinese market LOVES American brands. You really need to go there to understand just how significant this is. On nearly every corner you saw an American brand. The world’s biggest bookstore there? It has a 7-11 on the first floor. And a KFC. And a Starbucks.

Everywhere I looked I saw Buicks and Chevy’s (both American car brands).

I saw Nike and Patagonia and many other American clothing brands. And lots of American technology brands were used at the BloggerCon there. Dell. Apple. Etc.

So, back to why I love the US auto industry and why I’m going to stick up for it.

I own a GM car. My producer owns a GM car and a Ford car. My wife owns a BMW, German. My dad owns a Toyota. My brother owns a GM truck. My other brother owns a Honda.

Funny thing, they are all great cars. The last two cars I’ve owned are American (I had a Ford Focus, now have a Saturn Aura).

So, why are American cars getting such horrible press? Well, they haven’t done two things:

1. They haven’t protected their brand from mediocrity. Apple, for instance, doesn’t put its brand on crappy things. At least not in the past nine years since Steve Jobs came back. But Ford and GM puts its brands on all sorts of second-rate crappy cars that are sold to taxi drivers and rental car industry. Every time I rent a car it’s usually a crappy car. It really bums me out. If I were at GM or Ford or Chrysler I would stop making these crappy cars.

2. They haven’t innovated. Three weeks ago Ford gave me a Flex SUV to borrow for a week. I put more than 500 miles on it, and it is a great SUV. It is a state-of-the-art SUV. Has Microsoft’s Sync technology in it so you can talk with it. The lift gate has a motor in it to lift the tailgate up for you, which I really appreciated when we had some heavy rains and it kept me from getting my hands wet. The SUV itself had a great ride, handling, and was a lot nicer to ride in than my BMW is (my producer Rocky, says so). But, really, these are minor innovations. They aren’t any that you’ll get credit for as an auto maker because other brands have similar things (aside from the Microsoft Sync, which isn’t that satisfying, truth be told — it often didn’t understand when I wanted to switch the radio from, say, CNBC, to NPR). The kind of innovation that American car companies WOULD get credit for? Going all electric all the time. Even GM here, with its Chevy Volt, is coming too late to the marketplace to get all that much credit.

Actually, I think it comes down to the executives PR gaffe. Why are they flying private jets around? They need to demonstrate that they are car enthusiasts and that the American industry is worth saving. Bob Lutz has gotten close when he drives around the Volt and shows it off, but it’s too far away still. We don’t understand why it takes so long for American industry to come up with a new idea and a new car.

When the executives come back to Congress they should demonstrate that American industry CAN come back and CAN do something innovative.

Here’s how.

1. GM should shut down many of its lines and many of its brands. Do a real house cleaning. Why do we need Saturn, Buick, Cadillac, GMC, Chevy? We don’t. Pick two, get rid of the rest. Work on the brand. Make sure that the American brand remains one that’s viable in places like China and India. If we screw up our brands, or, worse, let them go out of business, then we’ll see America drop in influence very quickly around the world. Right now Chinese young people think that being like an American is “cool.” What if they figure out that it’s not? Yeah, there goes any chance of interacting with a billion-person market.

2. Ford and Chrysler should shut down all lines that make substandard, crappy cars. Yes, this will put hundreds of thousands of people out of work and move tons of market share over to Korea, Singapore, and China. But, sorry, this needs to be done if you want Americans to be in the car business at all in a decade. If you don’t, then the people who can build quality low-cost cars will eat our lunch and will take away our oxygen anyway (and, they are coming).

3. GM or Ford should make a strategic deal with Tesla to turn 20% of its best dealerships into Tesla dealerships and should help Tesla get access to the American market. The same company should make Tesla a premier American brand.

4. GM or Ford should figure out why rock star Neil Young could turn his big-ass-American car into an electric car that regenerates its electricity with a liquid fuel generator that uses natural gas, not the stuff that comes from Alaska or Saudi Arabia. Why can a freaking rock star out innovate big old American car companies? GM and Ford should be ashamed. We should take away all executive perks until GM and Ford demonstrate they can innovate again.

5. GM or Ford should make Shai Agassi’s car, Better Place. Why, again, is an executive from Silicon Valley out innovating the old-school US car industry? Give Shai one of those jet planes and let him get to work.

6. The congress should increase gas taxes to make all this happen. Obama should call for a “moon shot” for the US industry. One of replacing 50% of cars with electric cars by 2020. Can’t happen? Well, if you think that, then get ready for the Chinese. They are building their own car industry. Their citizens are getting tired of the pollution there. They are getting wealthy (I saw tons of Audis, BMWs, Ferraris, mixed in with those Chevys and Buicks) and they are building their own brand names too, that they will bring world-wide. We only have a couple of years of market window before someone else slams it shut.

These moves will not be easy. There is not a whole lot of love for the American car industry in the United States right now. Getting Congress to do ANYTHING for this industry will prove remarkably difficult (and will be impossible if American Car execs remain arrogant and out of touch and don’t sell all their jet planes and start riding in coach like the rest of us).

I’m hopeful, because I love my American car and I hope I can buy another one soon.

My experience with the Ford Flex demonstrates that we can build awesome cars here. The fact that the VW Beattle (and Tesla and many other great cars) were designed in Los Angeles demonstrates we still have the best car designers on our shores and that they build products that people want around the world.

What do you think? Am I off my rocker? Is there any hope? Or should we just shut down the whole industry and let the Chinese take over?

Oh, one other little data point. I met a former executive from Mercedes Benz (Daimler Chrysler). He said they built a car in Germany and built the same one in China and the one in China had fewer defects. Do NOT assume that the Chinese won’t take over the entire world in car production in the next 15 years. You will be proven horribly wrong if you assume that.

249 thoughts on “Why I love the US auto industry

  1. Scott-
    I’m sure all the soccer moms out there will appreciate the Flex, but I think Ford is missing out on a major market. I watch every single WRC race and have a fit every time that I can’t buy a new Focus hatchback anymore. I have a 3-door 2005 SES and get 30 miles to the gallon and can pack it full of as much stuff as any station wagon out there. But when it comes time for a new car, I don’t think I’ll be getting a Ford. There’s a huge market in the 20s and 30s crowd for fuel efficient (diesel!) fast (turbo!) compact hatchback European style cars that we just can’t get from Ford. I know Ford is working on the Fiesta, but unless it can rival the rest of that market, we will keep buying the Subaru WRX, Mazda Speed3 and VW Rabbit.

  2. Scott-
    I’m sure all the soccer moms out there will appreciate the Flex, but I think Ford is missing out on a major market. I watch every single WRC race and have a fit every time that I can’t buy a new Focus hatchback anymore. I have a 3-door 2005 SES and get 30 miles to the gallon and can pack it full of as much stuff as any station wagon out there. But when it comes time for a new car, I don’t think I’ll be getting a Ford. There’s a huge market in the 20s and 30s crowd for fuel efficient (diesel!) fast (turbo!) compact hatchback European style cars that we just can’t get from Ford. I know Ford is working on the Fiesta, but unless it can rival the rest of that market, we will keep buying the Subaru WRX, Mazda Speed3 and VW Rabbit.

  3. (Robert, I revised my post a bit……..still awaiting moderation)

    Thanks Robert, I have been looking for a good place to post a comment about the US car industry.

    GM, Ford Chrysler are iconic American brands and in my opinion they must be helped in these exceptional times to survive as American based & controlled brands. They have had a huge wake-up call and I doubt if it will be business as usual after the last few weeks exposure on worldwide TV. People who say they should go to the wall have surely never seen a large scale bankruptcy. The towns & states affected will have mass unemployment, the tooling for making any successful & forthcoming models could end up being taken over by competitors or, more likely, sent to the crusher. It will almost be like a large scale funeral. Is that what the auto industry bashers would really like to see happen? Do you you want foreigners to take over all aspects of your economy? It seems very unfair that new (foreign) manufacturers have been able to set up shop inside the USA at more advantageous labour rates than the Detroit companies and compete in the same market. Perhaps the legacy costs of the Detroit companies should have been “nationalised” at the same time so as to level the playing field so that they did not have to rely on SUV’s & trucks to be profitable.

    As a “foreign” collector of pre 1972 American cars I think it will be a very sad day for the USA if these famous US brands cease to exist or end up owned and/or controlled by non USA companies and the plants are either shut or only build products designed outside of the US. The “merger of equals” Daimler / Chrysler turned out to be a takeover by Daimler and subsequent sale. At the risk of being slated for dragging up the past I think things started going wrong when there was too much government interference starting way back in the seventies. Up to that point Detroit had very successfully implemented a policy of “planned obsolesence” with annual model changes that effectively generated interest in new models each year based on new styling and evolutionary engineering changes. With hindsight these cars were relatively simple, durable, popular & affordable. A lot of them were gas guzzlers, not much different in that respect to the SUV’s of today. This is a symptom of cheap gasoline prices over a long period. Today some of the most sought after collector cars on the planet were built by Detroit in its “golden age” that seemed to suddenly end in +-1972 and many of the iconic cars of that period are regularly used as props or “stars” in current movies that are a distinct part of American culture that is soaked up by foreign audiences. There are TV shows dedicated to the restoration of US cars mostly of that period creating a resurgence of interest & awareness of the heritage of the US brands. These brands need to be rebuilt. To illustrate how influential the movies are other countries with higher gas prices have become good markets for gas guzzling SUV’s…..not a good thing.

    Unfortunately from +-1972 Detroit seemed to have great difficulty building “cool” cars as they were forced to comply with an endless stream of new regulations imposed by US politicians. Innovation by Detroit was aften punished eg the rear engined Corvair …does the name Ralph Nader ring a bell?? and he still has the audacity to habitually run for president, thankfully that will never happen. But let us be fair to the US Auto Industry, there have been a few “cool” US cars since the mid nineties up to the present. The rate at which they are introduced just takes too long these days probably because of the unnecessary complexity in most modern cars as referred to by Jesse above. Even though all the designers in the company wherever they are located have access to the same CAD system in real time it seems that the cars of the 60′s were quicker to get to market than the cars of today. This over complexity is a more effective form of planned obsolelence than the harmless annual model changes combined with evolutionary engineering changes that happened in the past.

    Without addressing electric cars etc, which obviously must be developed fully as an alternative to petrol/diesel, in my opinion perfectly adequate affordable commuter cars could be built using sixties simplicity combined with everything learned since then that is not complex. eg 4 cyl OHC engine, 5-speed overdrive gearbox, decent suspension, rack & pinion steering, safe structure, lightweight materials, with crush zones, minimal wiring, no computers, breakerless ignition, decent paint & rust inhibition, modern lighting, 45 mpg, almost exactly as suggested by Jesse above.

    Regarding the US banks…….The US banks were recently bailed out to the extent of $700 billion. I think there is a case to be made that banks should be nationalised (forever!?) and exist only to provide a service to society and not to engage in reckless speculation or whatever else they have been up to that put the whole world economy at risk. Bankers are supposed to be conservative people, not reckless speculators & risk takers. In comparison to the motor industry execs the bank execs were not made to jump through any hoops at all, except for the ones that “were allowed to fail”. GM/Ford etc have been restructuring for a few years and suddenly the auto market shrunk in the last few months largely because of the global money crisis and not caused by the US auto industry. Now these auto execs are made to appear on worldwide television like naughty schoolboys / scapegoats interregated by a bunch of politicians who are probably lawyers who all appear to think they could have done a better job ……

    The US Dollar…….It is a mystery to me how the US Dollar has strengthened against other currencies at a time like this. A strong USD makes foreign goods relatively cheap. The US foreign debt will never reduce if it is too cheap to import goods into the US and conversely goods made in the US will struggle to compete globally if the US Dollar is too strong. The effect of all the importing into the US has been to help build a massive manufacturing base outside the USA and export of a massive number of US jobs. The foreign countries with a trade surplus will eventually buy up much of your country as has been happening. .

    Even if the best deals are foreign it may be in your long term national interest to buy American whenever possible.

    Lastly…. tourists to the USA will be disappointed if the US road system is full of Japanese/German/Korean etc cars. They visit to see “America” and would love to see exciting American cars on the US roads with the imports. I am old enough to remember that people of my country who visited the USA for extended time often brought back American cars to this country almost like trophies. A teacher at my old high school brought back a 68 Dodge Charger (in 1968). GM SA used to send trainees to GM in Michigan for a year. They always brought back a Camaro/ Transam/ Corvette etc. Recently our country has banned any new imports of LHD cars which restricts sales of USA cars here unless converted to RHD. It is arguably a form of trade protection against US products.

  4. (Robert, I revised my post a bit……..still awaiting moderation)

    Thanks Robert, I have been looking for a good place to post a comment about the US car industry.

    GM, Ford Chrysler are iconic American brands and in my opinion they must be helped in these exceptional times to survive as American based & controlled brands. They have had a huge wake-up call and I doubt if it will be business as usual after the last few weeks exposure on worldwide TV. People who say they should go to the wall have surely never seen a large scale bankruptcy. The towns & states affected will have mass unemployment, the tooling for making any successful & forthcoming models could end up being taken over by competitors or, more likely, sent to the crusher. It will almost be like a large scale funeral. Is that what the auto industry bashers would really like to see happen? Do you you want foreigners to take over all aspects of your economy? It seems very unfair that new (foreign) manufacturers have been able to set up shop inside the USA at more advantageous labour rates than the Detroit companies and compete in the same market. Perhaps the legacy costs of the Detroit companies should have been “nationalised” at the same time so as to level the playing field so that they did not have to rely on SUV’s & trucks to be profitable.

    As a “foreign” collector of pre 1972 American cars I think it will be a very sad day for the USA if these famous US brands cease to exist or end up owned and/or controlled by non USA companies and the plants are either shut or only build products designed outside of the US. The “merger of equals” Daimler / Chrysler turned out to be a takeover by Daimler and subsequent sale. At the risk of being slated for dragging up the past I think things started going wrong when there was too much government interference starting way back in the seventies. Up to that point Detroit had very successfully implemented a policy of “planned obsolesence” with annual model changes that effectively generated interest in new models each year based on new styling and evolutionary engineering changes. With hindsight these cars were relatively simple, durable, popular & affordable. A lot of them were gas guzzlers, not much different in that respect to the SUV’s of today. This is a symptom of cheap gasoline prices over a long period. Today some of the most sought after collector cars on the planet were built by Detroit in its “golden age” that seemed to suddenly end in +-1972 and many of the iconic cars of that period are regularly used as props or “stars” in current movies that are a distinct part of American culture that is soaked up by foreign audiences. There are TV shows dedicated to the restoration of US cars mostly of that period creating a resurgence of interest & awareness of the heritage of the US brands. These brands need to be rebuilt. To illustrate how influential the movies are other countries with higher gas prices have become good markets for gas guzzling SUV’s…..not a good thing.

    Unfortunately from +-1972 Detroit seemed to have great difficulty building “cool” cars as they were forced to comply with an endless stream of new regulations imposed by US politicians. Innovation by Detroit was aften punished eg the rear engined Corvair …does the name Ralph Nader ring a bell?? and he still has the audacity to habitually run for president, thankfully that will never happen. But let us be fair to the US Auto Industry, there have been a few “cool” US cars since the mid nineties up to the present. The rate at which they are introduced just takes too long these days probably because of the unnecessary complexity in most modern cars as referred to by Jesse above. Even though all the designers in the company wherever they are located have access to the same CAD system in real time it seems that the cars of the 60′s were quicker to get to market than the cars of today. This over complexity is a more effective form of planned obsolelence than the harmless annual model changes combined with evolutionary engineering changes that happened in the past.

    Without addressing electric cars etc, which obviously must be developed fully as an alternative to petrol/diesel, in my opinion perfectly adequate affordable commuter cars could be built using sixties simplicity combined with everything learned since then that is not complex. eg 4 cyl OHC engine, 5-speed overdrive gearbox, decent suspension, rack & pinion steering, safe structure, lightweight materials, with crush zones, minimal wiring, no computers, breakerless ignition, decent paint & rust inhibition, modern lighting, 45 mpg, almost exactly as suggested by Jesse above.

    Regarding the US banks…….The US banks were recently bailed out to the extent of $700 billion. I think there is a case to be made that banks should be nationalised (forever!?) and exist only to provide a service to society and not to engage in reckless speculation or whatever else they have been up to that put the whole world economy at risk. Bankers are supposed to be conservative people, not reckless speculators & risk takers. In comparison to the motor industry execs the bank execs were not made to jump through any hoops at all, except for the ones that “were allowed to fail”. GM/Ford etc have been restructuring for a few years and suddenly the auto market shrunk in the last few months largely because of the global money crisis and not caused by the US auto industry. Now these auto execs are made to appear on worldwide television like naughty schoolboys / scapegoats interregated by a bunch of politicians who are probably lawyers who all appear to think they could have done a better job ……

    The US Dollar…….It is a mystery to me how the US Dollar has strengthened against other currencies at a time like this. A strong USD makes foreign goods relatively cheap. The US foreign debt will never reduce if it is too cheap to import goods into the US and conversely goods made in the US will struggle to compete globally if the US Dollar is too strong. The effect of all the importing into the US has been to help build a massive manufacturing base outside the USA and export of a massive number of US jobs. The foreign countries with a trade surplus will eventually buy up much of your country as has been happening. .

    Even if the best deals are foreign it may be in your long term national interest to buy American whenever possible.

    Lastly…. tourists to the USA will be disappointed if the US road system is full of Japanese/German/Korean etc cars. They visit to see “America” and would love to see exciting American cars on the US roads with the imports. I am old enough to remember that people of my country who visited the USA for extended time often brought back American cars to this country almost like trophies. A teacher at my old high school brought back a 68 Dodge Charger (in 1968). GM SA used to send trainees to GM in Michigan for a year. They always brought back a Camaro/ Transam/ Corvette etc. Recently our country has banned any new imports of LHD cars which restricts sales of USA cars here unless converted to RHD. It is arguably a form of trade protection against US products.

  5. GM, Ford Chrysler are iconic American brands and in my opinion they must be helped to survive as American based & controlled brands if that is what is necessary. The management has had a huge wake-up call and I doubt if it will be business as usual after the last few weeks exposure on worldwide TV. People who say they should go to the wall have surely never seen a large scale bankrupcy. The towns & states affected will have mass unemployment, the tooling for making the successful & forthcoming models could end up being bought by ruthless competitors and sent to the crusher. It will be like a massive funeral. Is that what the auto industry bashers would really like to see happen? Do you you want foreigners to take over all aspects of your economy?

    As a “foreign” collector of pre 1972 American cars I think it will be a very sad day for the USA if these brands cease to exist or end up owned and/or controlled by non USA companies and the plants are either shut or only build products designed outside of the US. At the risk of being slated for dragging up the past I think things started going wrong when there was too much government interference starting way back in the seventies. Up to that point Detroit had very successfully implemented a policy of “planned obsolesence” with annual model changes that effectively generated interest in new models each year on a desirability basis. With hindsight these cars were relatively simple, durable, popular & affordable. Some of them were gas guzzlers but not much different in that respect to the SUV’s of today….latter day gas guzzlers. Today some of the most sought after collector cars on the planet were built by Detroit in its “golden age” that seemed to suddenly end in +-1972 and many of the iconic cars of that period are regularly used as props or “stars” in current movies that are a distinct part of American culture that is soaked up by foreign audiences. There are TV shows dedicated to the restoration of US cars mostly of that period creating a resurgence of interest.

    Unfortunately from +-1972 Detroit seemed to have great difficulty building any “cool” cars as they were forced to comply with an endless stream of new regulations imposed by US politicians. Innovation by Detroit was aften punished eg the rear engined Corvair …does the name Ralph Nader ring a bell?? and he still has the audacity to habitually run for president, thankfully that will never happen.. But let us be fair to the US Auto Industry, there have been a few “cool” US cars since the mid nineties up to the present. The rate at which they are introduced just takes too long these days probably because of the unnecessary complexity in most modern cars as referred to by Jesse above. Even though all the designers wherever they are located have access to the same CAD system in real time it seems that the cars of the 60′s were quicker to get to market than the cars of today. This over complexity is a more effective form of planned obsolelence than the harmless annual model changes combined with evolutionary engineering changes that happened in the past.

    Without addressing electric cars etc, which obviously must be developed fully as an alternative to petrol/deisel, in my opinion a perfectly adequate average affordable car could be built using sixties simplicity combined with everything learned since then that is not complex. eg Decent suspension, modern lights, rack & pinion steering, safe structure, lightweight matetials, with crush zones etc, minimal wiring, no computers, decent paint & rust inhibition, 45 mpg, almost exactly as suggested by Jesse above.

    Regarding the US banks…….The US banks were recently bailed out to the extent of $700 billion. I think there is a case to be made that banks should be nationalised forever and exist only to provide a service not to engage in reckless speculation or whatever else they have been up to that put the whole world economy at risk. Bankers are supposed to be conservative, not reckless speculators & risk takers. In comparison to the motor industry execs the bank execs were not made to jump through any hoops at all. GM/Ford etc have been restructuring for a few years and suddenly the auto market shrunk in the last few months largely because of the global money crisis and not caused by the auto industry. Now these auto execs are made to appear on worldwide television like naughty schoolboys / scapegoats interregated by a bunch of politicians who are probably lawyers who appear to think they could have done a better job……

    The US Dollar…….It is a mystery to me how the USDollar can be so strong against other currencies at a time like this. A strong USD makes foreign goods relatively cheaper. The US foreign debt will never reduce if it is too cheap to import goods into the US and conversely goods made in the US will struggle to compete globally if the US Dollar is too strong. The effect of all the importing into the US has been to help build a massive manufacturing base ouside the USA and export a massive amount of US jobs. The foreign countries with a trade surplus will eventually buy up much of your country as has been happening. .

    Even if the best deals are foreign it may be in your national interest to be more patriotic in your buying patterns.

    Lastly…. tourists to the USA will be disappointed if the US road system is full of Japanese/German/Korean etc cars. They visit to see “America” and would love to see exciting American cars on the US roads with the imports. I am old enough to remember that people of my country who visited the USA for extended time often brought back American cars to this country almost like trophies. A teacher at my old high school brought back a 68 Dodge Charger (in 1968). GM SA used to send trainees to the Michigan for a year. They always brought back a Camaro/ Transam/ Corvette etc. Recently our country has banned new imports of LHD cars which restricts sales of USA cars here unless converted to RHD. It is a form of trade protection…

  6. GM, Ford Chrysler are iconic American brands and in my opinion they must be helped to survive as American based & controlled brands if that is what is necessary. The management has had a huge wake-up call and I doubt if it will be business as usual after the last few weeks exposure on worldwide TV. People who say they should go to the wall have surely never seen a large scale bankrupcy. The towns & states affected will have mass unemployment, the tooling for making the successful & forthcoming models could end up being bought by ruthless competitors and sent to the crusher. It will be like a massive funeral. Is that what the auto industry bashers would really like to see happen? Do you you want foreigners to take over all aspects of your economy?

    As a “foreign” collector of pre 1972 American cars I think it will be a very sad day for the USA if these brands cease to exist or end up owned and/or controlled by non USA companies and the plants are either shut or only build products designed outside of the US. At the risk of being slated for dragging up the past I think things started going wrong when there was too much government interference starting way back in the seventies. Up to that point Detroit had very successfully implemented a policy of “planned obsolesence” with annual model changes that effectively generated interest in new models each year on a desirability basis. With hindsight these cars were relatively simple, durable, popular & affordable. Some of them were gas guzzlers but not much different in that respect to the SUV’s of today….latter day gas guzzlers. Today some of the most sought after collector cars on the planet were built by Detroit in its “golden age” that seemed to suddenly end in +-1972 and many of the iconic cars of that period are regularly used as props or “stars” in current movies that are a distinct part of American culture that is soaked up by foreign audiences. There are TV shows dedicated to the restoration of US cars mostly of that period creating a resurgence of interest.

    Unfortunately from +-1972 Detroit seemed to have great difficulty building any “cool” cars as they were forced to comply with an endless stream of new regulations imposed by US politicians. Innovation by Detroit was aften punished eg the rear engined Corvair …does the name Ralph Nader ring a bell?? and he still has the audacity to habitually run for president, thankfully that will never happen.. But let us be fair to the US Auto Industry, there have been a few “cool” US cars since the mid nineties up to the present. The rate at which they are introduced just takes too long these days probably because of the unnecessary complexity in most modern cars as referred to by Jesse above. Even though all the designers wherever they are located have access to the same CAD system in real time it seems that the cars of the 60′s were quicker to get to market than the cars of today. This over complexity is a more effective form of planned obsolelence than the harmless annual model changes combined with evolutionary engineering changes that happened in the past.

    Without addressing electric cars etc, which obviously must be developed fully as an alternative to petrol/deisel, in my opinion a perfectly adequate average affordable car could be built using sixties simplicity combined with everything learned since then that is not complex. eg Decent suspension, modern lights, rack & pinion steering, safe structure, lightweight matetials, with crush zones etc, minimal wiring, no computers, decent paint & rust inhibition, 45 mpg, almost exactly as suggested by Jesse above.

    Regarding the US banks…….The US banks were recently bailed out to the extent of $700 billion. I think there is a case to be made that banks should be nationalised forever and exist only to provide a service not to engage in reckless speculation or whatever else they have been up to that put the whole world economy at risk. Bankers are supposed to be conservative, not reckless speculators & risk takers. In comparison to the motor industry execs the bank execs were not made to jump through any hoops at all. GM/Ford etc have been restructuring for a few years and suddenly the auto market shrunk in the last few months largely because of the global money crisis and not caused by the auto industry. Now these auto execs are made to appear on worldwide television like naughty schoolboys / scapegoats interregated by a bunch of politicians who are probably lawyers who appear to think they could have done a better job……

    The US Dollar…….It is a mystery to me how the USDollar can be so strong against other currencies at a time like this. A strong USD makes foreign goods relatively cheaper. The US foreign debt will never reduce if it is too cheap to import goods into the US and conversely goods made in the US will struggle to compete globally if the US Dollar is too strong. The effect of all the importing into the US has been to help build a massive manufacturing base ouside the USA and export a massive amount of US jobs. The foreign countries with a trade surplus will eventually buy up much of your country as has been happening. .

    Even if the best deals are foreign it may be in your national interest to be more patriotic in your buying patterns.

    Lastly…. tourists to the USA will be disappointed if the US road system is full of Japanese/German/Korean etc cars. They visit to see “America” and would love to see exciting American cars on the US roads with the imports. I am old enough to remember that people of my country who visited the USA for extended time often brought back American cars to this country almost like trophies. A teacher at my old high school brought back a 68 Dodge Charger (in 1968). GM SA used to send trainees to the Michigan for a year. They always brought back a Camaro/ Transam/ Corvette etc. Recently our country has banned new imports of LHD cars which restricts sales of USA cars here unless converted to RHD. It is a form of trade protection…

  7. I have to say that it’s a relief to see that people do still believe that America does have supporters especially where the auto industry is concerned. What astounds me is that Congress is hemming and hawing over helping to secure the auto industry in the United States, saying they don’t want to hand auto makers money. Well didn’t the congress just pass a 700 billion dollar bailout, of the financial industry with few questions being asked. Handing the very same people that caused the problem in the first place a huge amount of money. Now President Elect Obama is suggesting that heads in the auto industry should roll, and CEO’s should lose their jobs over it. I do not believe that the money should just be handed out either. To make the industry as a whole accountable put people in place to govern where every single dime goes, make them curtail the making of frivolous brands that are uneconomical all the way around, the Hummer and vehicles are pretty much useless other than to inflate the ego of the owner. I believe that the auto industry can be saved with a lot of “real” thinking and some serious penny pinching on all of our parts. make economical cars that are affordable, and keep the auto workers in jobs because since almost a million jobs since October have pretty much gone away, why would Congress want to add to the jobless rate by letting the auto industry flounder and fail.

  8. I have to say that it’s a relief to see that people do still believe that America does have supporters especially where the auto industry is concerned. What astounds me is that Congress is hemming and hawing over helping to secure the auto industry in the United States, saying they don’t want to hand auto makers money. Well didn’t the congress just pass a 700 billion dollar bailout, of the financial industry with few questions being asked. Handing the very same people that caused the problem in the first place a huge amount of money. Now President Elect Obama is suggesting that heads in the auto industry should roll, and CEO’s should lose their jobs over it. I do not believe that the money should just be handed out either. To make the industry as a whole accountable put people in place to govern where every single dime goes, make them curtail the making of frivolous brands that are uneconomical all the way around, the Hummer and vehicles are pretty much useless other than to inflate the ego of the owner. I believe that the auto industry can be saved with a lot of “real” thinking and some serious penny pinching on all of our parts. make economical cars that are affordable, and keep the auto workers in jobs because since almost a million jobs since October have pretty much gone away, why would Congress want to add to the jobless rate by letting the auto industry flounder and fail.

  9. I was basically with you up through the gas tax recommendation. The worst think we can do is get the government involved in subsidizing the car industry – innovation and efficiency will go out the window faster than a gallon of gas goes out the tailpipe of a Yukon.

    Recall that a tax at one level (presumably to help American car companies) will, by definition, hurt on another level. That extra $10 in taxes I’d pay each week for my gas is $10 that no longer flows to other industries who ARE producing things I really want. A gas tax for this purpose is just the government telling me that I OUGHT to want American green cars, so I MUST pay the companies that build them.

    Get the government out of the way, let the market rule – and may the best companies win. That’s the only way consumers win – and that’s the only way America can win.

  10. I was basically with you up through the gas tax recommendation. The worst think we can do is get the government involved in subsidizing the car industry – innovation and efficiency will go out the window faster than a gallon of gas goes out the tailpipe of a Yukon.

    Recall that a tax at one level (presumably to help American car companies) will, by definition, hurt on another level. That extra $10 in taxes I’d pay each week for my gas is $10 that no longer flows to other industries who ARE producing things I really want. A gas tax for this purpose is just the government telling me that I OUGHT to want American green cars, so I MUST pay the companies that build them.

    Get the government out of the way, let the market rule – and may the best companies win. That’s the only way consumers win – and that’s the only way America can win.

  11. Not to mention the Indians. TATA motors is on its way to making the sub 2K car, and they just bought JLR. They make awful cars (Indica et al) but they are working hard..

    Chevy and Ford haven’t done too well againts the koreans and japanese in India, but American cars are American cars….

  12. Not to mention the Indians. TATA motors is on its way to making the sub 2K car, and they just bought JLR. They make awful cars (Indica et al) but they are working hard..

    Chevy and Ford haven’t done too well againts the koreans and japanese in India, but American cars are American cars….

  13. Terrible ideas. Once I got to ‘Make Tesla A Premier American Brand’, I nearly fell off of my chair laughing. Tesla is an even bigger mess the big boys in Detroit. By the way, nice gas tax recommendation, that will work…..not

  14. Terrible ideas. Once I got to ‘Make Tesla A Premier American Brand’, I nearly fell off of my chair laughing. Tesla is an even bigger mess the big boys in Detroit. By the way, nice gas tax recommendation, that will work…..not

  15. Comments to the points written in the original post above:

    1.) Generally speaking, the brand names are more of a marketing point of differentiation than a manufacturing point of differentiation. Many of these vehicles leverage the same platforms, parts, and suppliers. Getting rid of the brand names themselves doesn’t inherently trim the fat from the auto industry.

    The brands mentioned cater to various segments of the market and with the deep-rooted history of automotive brands, it would be hard to eliminate nameplates like Cadillac, Saturn, and GMC and relabel them as all “Chevrolet.” Public perception will be expensive to change — inevitably, you’d eliminate the brands to only introduce additional models underneath the Chevrolet brand. With American culture the way it is, it would be hard to buid a one-size-fits-all automobile.

    2.) For publicly traded companies, this is often difficult to justify with shareholders. The “sub standard” vehicles represent volume, top-line revenue, and help the automotive manufacturers meet government fuel economy regulations. If these vehicles share similar sub assemblies, parts, or suppliers, then they are helping drive down the costs of the “above standard” automobile models that we do like.

    This type of move would warrant some research before making any decisions like this. A market survey to understand whether or not the high-volume “sub standard” vehicles hurt public perception of a brand and model should show if this is a move worth making.

    3.) The purchase of Tesla is probably something that will happen or the Big 3 will come out with their own answer. The Big 3 are most likely evaluating as follows: are our engineers good enough to develop something like this? If not, then let’s investigate an acquisition. If they CAN develop something like Tesla, then judging by the speed-to-market of Tesla vehicles, The Big 3 are not interested in this because they have their own manufacturing plants and supply chains to integrate with. Better to evaluate Tesla, learn from mistakes, and innovate within the 4 walls of the Big 3 by designing an automobile that works with our supply chain.

    4.) This all has to do with U.S. infrastructure supporting gasoline. Does your local gas station have a natural gas pump? Probably not, unless they cater to RVs. A natural gas powered vehicle would be a niche market product and not high-volume, so while the innovation capability certainly exists within the Big 3, it becomes a different challenge altogether when the infrastructure doesn’t support an alternative type of fuel.

  16. Comments to the points written in the original post above:

    1.) Generally speaking, the brand names are more of a marketing point of differentiation than a manufacturing point of differentiation. Many of these vehicles leverage the same platforms, parts, and suppliers. Getting rid of the brand names themselves doesn’t inherently trim the fat from the auto industry.

    The brands mentioned cater to various segments of the market and with the deep-rooted history of automotive brands, it would be hard to eliminate nameplates like Cadillac, Saturn, and GMC and relabel them as all “Chevrolet.” Public perception will be expensive to change — inevitably, you’d eliminate the brands to only introduce additional models underneath the Chevrolet brand. With American culture the way it is, it would be hard to buid a one-size-fits-all automobile.

    2.) For publicly traded companies, this is often difficult to justify with shareholders. The “sub standard” vehicles represent volume, top-line revenue, and help the automotive manufacturers meet government fuel economy regulations. If these vehicles share similar sub assemblies, parts, or suppliers, then they are helping drive down the costs of the “above standard” automobile models that we do like.

    This type of move would warrant some research before making any decisions like this. A market survey to understand whether or not the high-volume “sub standard” vehicles hurt public perception of a brand and model should show if this is a move worth making.

    3.) The purchase of Tesla is probably something that will happen or the Big 3 will come out with their own answer. The Big 3 are most likely evaluating as follows: are our engineers good enough to develop something like this? If not, then let’s investigate an acquisition. If they CAN develop something like Tesla, then judging by the speed-to-market of Tesla vehicles, The Big 3 are not interested in this because they have their own manufacturing plants and supply chains to integrate with. Better to evaluate Tesla, learn from mistakes, and innovate within the 4 walls of the Big 3 by designing an automobile that works with our supply chain.

    4.) This all has to do with U.S. infrastructure supporting gasoline. Does your local gas station have a natural gas pump? Probably not, unless they cater to RVs. A natural gas powered vehicle would be a niche market product and not high-volume, so while the innovation capability certainly exists within the Big 3, it becomes a different challenge altogether when the infrastructure doesn’t support an alternative type of fuel.

  17. Robert,

    While I agree that we need to move towards electric cars… the fact is that the large automakers would bankrupt themselves if they started selling pure electric cars (like the ones that Tesla makes).

    You see, the “problem” with electric cars is that they work too well. There aren’t very many moving parts to an electric car. You don’t have things like oil changes, or issues with carburetors, or fuel injectors, or catalytic converters. There are no mufflers or air filters for the engine. Even the brakes hardly ever need to be changed because the car uses regenerative braking to recharge the battery.

    The “pure” electric cars require very little maintenance, making them almost TOO PERFECT!

    And that’s a big problem for the big automakers because they make billions of dollars servicing the antiquated technology that’s still built into today’s typical gas powered cars. In other words… it’s going to take a bunch of small companies like Tesla to create a market for electric vehicles because the big automakers can’t find enough profitability in electric vehicles unless they build them as complex hybrids with lots of “replaceable” parts in them.

    It’s sad, but it’s true.

  18. Robert,

    While I agree that we need to move towards electric cars… the fact is that the large automakers would bankrupt themselves if they started selling pure electric cars (like the ones that Tesla makes).

    You see, the “problem” with electric cars is that they work too well. There aren’t very many moving parts to an electric car. You don’t have things like oil changes, or issues with carburetors, or fuel injectors, or catalytic converters. There are no mufflers or air filters for the engine. Even the brakes hardly ever need to be changed because the car uses regenerative braking to recharge the battery.

    The “pure” electric cars require very little maintenance, making them almost TOO PERFECT!

    And that’s a big problem for the big automakers because they make billions of dollars servicing the antiquated technology that’s still built into today’s typical gas powered cars. In other words… it’s going to take a bunch of small companies like Tesla to create a market for electric vehicles because the big automakers can’t find enough profitability in electric vehicles unless they build them as complex hybrids with lots of “replaceable” parts in them.

    It’s sad, but it’s true.

  19. MattP:

    Here, here! And big kudos for the point about “want” not being a desirable end-in-itself standard for designing and selling cars. Couldn’t have said it better. I also liked your point about the trade agreements and standards that have artificially prevented better, more efficient imported cars from being sold in the U.S., thereby propping up crappy, overpriced domestics (to browbeat a dead horse) and their self-perpetuated production model of unsustainability. That seems like a point that is entirely absent from the discourse. A few years back, wasn’t there a story about cheap, dependable Chinese or Indian cars that were prevented from being released in the U.S. purely for the sake of domestic autos? I’d thought that story had some historical recurrence as well, and yet it seems to have been suppressed in the current climate of putting the Big 3 on the cross. Anyway, great post; it wasn’t lost to internet anonymity and hypersubjective industrial analysis.

  20. MattP:

    Here, here! And big kudos for the point about “want” not being a desirable end-in-itself standard for designing and selling cars. Couldn’t have said it better. I also liked your point about the trade agreements and standards that have artificially prevented better, more efficient imported cars from being sold in the U.S., thereby propping up crappy, overpriced domestics (to browbeat a dead horse) and their self-perpetuated production model of unsustainability. That seems like a point that is entirely absent from the discourse. A few years back, wasn’t there a story about cheap, dependable Chinese or Indian cars that were prevented from being released in the U.S. purely for the sake of domestic autos? I’d thought that story had some historical recurrence as well, and yet it seems to have been suppressed in the current climate of putting the Big 3 on the cross. Anyway, great post; it wasn’t lost to internet anonymity and hypersubjective industrial analysis.

  21. @rupert: yes, I forgot to write that on my last comment.

    It seems that every time Mr. Scoble posts something non tech-related, he tends to be a little bit misinformed. The main idea of the post is good though

  22. @rupert: yes, I forgot to write that on my last comment.

    It seems that every time Mr. Scoble posts something non tech-related, he tends to be a little bit misinformed. The main idea of the post is good though

  23. Robert, you said:

    “The fact that the VW Beattle (and Tesla and many other great cars) were designed in Los Angeles demonstrates we still have the best car designers on our shores”

    The VW Beattle were designed in California because the target market is the U.S. You don’t see many VW Beattles in Europe. I think the Telsa is more like an idea than a real product. It won’t solve the pollution problem since it’s to expensive to be bought in mass.

    You also said that the chinese people want to buy the same cars your movie stars use. Are you talking about BMW, Audi, Lexus?

    You had a point when you said the taxis in NY are inferior to those in Europe. Exactly, you can’t compare those big piece of junk in NY to a nice Audi, Mercedes or BMW taxi in Europe.

    Ah, and as Hans said, the Focus and Saturn Aura are not american cars.

    @Jeremy
    “I’m not sure that the production quality in Mexico can rival the US or China.”

    The Puebla VW facility, according to internal quality audits, is ranked as one of the Volkswagen Group’s top factories worldwide.
    http://www.usitoday.com/article_view.asp?ArticleID=186

  24. Robert, you said:

    “The fact that the VW Beattle (and Tesla and many other great cars) were designed in Los Angeles demonstrates we still have the best car designers on our shores”

    The VW Beattle were designed in California because the target market is the U.S. You don’t see many VW Beattles in Europe. I think the Telsa is more like an idea than a real product. It won’t solve the pollution problem since it’s to expensive to be bought in mass.

    You also said that the chinese people want to buy the same cars your movie stars use. Are you talking about BMW, Audi, Lexus?

    You had a point when you said the taxis in NY are inferior to those in Europe. Exactly, you can’t compare those big piece of junk in NY to a nice Audi, Mercedes or BMW taxi in Europe.

    Ah, and as Hans said, the Focus and Saturn Aura are not american cars.

    @Jeremy
    “I’m not sure that the production quality in Mexico can rival the US or China.”

    The Puebla VW facility, according to internal quality audits, is ranked as one of the Volkswagen Group’s top factories worldwide.
    http://www.usitoday.com/article_view.asp?ArticleID=186

  25. Normally just read, but…
    Well, the thing about American business and its success is basically that large scale businesses act on small-scale innovators. You look at Google and see that they are largely a group that has many people doing many small things that the business of Google implements on a large scale. Ford and other American companies need to get back to this, mostly by cutting the old ideas that aren’t working anymore and start working on building their new ideas (one can only hope the obvious examples presented here are obvious to the manufacturers in the states as well, otherwise it’s simply their incompetence that’s causing their companies to go belly up). Mass production for example was only an innovation after it was applied to cars. But it’s a small idea that led to massive change after implementation. Zero-emission cars are a small idea but will lead to massive change after implementation. It doesn’t require government support, it requires the government to stop saving failing companies.

  26. Normally just read, but…
    Well, the thing about American business and its success is basically that large scale businesses act on small-scale innovators. You look at Google and see that they are largely a group that has many people doing many small things that the business of Google implements on a large scale. Ford and other American companies need to get back to this, mostly by cutting the old ideas that aren’t working anymore and start working on building their new ideas (one can only hope the obvious examples presented here are obvious to the manufacturers in the states as well, otherwise it’s simply their incompetence that’s causing their companies to go belly up). Mass production for example was only an innovation after it was applied to cars. But it’s a small idea that led to massive change after implementation. Zero-emission cars are a small idea but will lead to massive change after implementation. It doesn’t require government support, it requires the government to stop saving failing companies.

  27. I can not believe that you people are still whining about cars you bought 30 years ago, OMG! The “Pinto”, please! That thing hasn’t been made in 30 years, have you looked at anything American since then? I agree that the auto industry has issues, but stop your crying about some car you paid $3,000 for 30 years ago, you’re pathetic!

  28. I can not believe that you people are still whining about cars you bought 30 years ago, OMG! The “Pinto”, please! That thing hasn’t been made in 30 years, have you looked at anything American since then? I agree that the auto industry has issues, but stop your crying about some car you paid $3,000 for 30 years ago, you’re pathetic!

  29. Is this your definition of ‘blind faith’? Good grief there is a whole mixed bag of issues in this, and I know my points will get lost in the noise, but what the heck…

    1) Bailing out the US auto industry will merely perpetuate deep seated rot. ‘Who killed the Electric Car?’ documentary says it all even if only half the footage is true. The Big Three had this coming, it’s been on the cards for at least 20 years. In 2005 GM and Ford together made losses of $7.2billion while Honda Toyota and Nissan achieved record sales.

    2) Building cars that people ‘want’ is what got us all in the mess we are getting into. ‘Want’ is a perception arrived at from years of advertising brainwashing, so let’s stop that. Over the past 25 years the US car industry has spent billions and billions on advertising SUVs as symbols of power and success. They spent $9 billion in the 1990s alone. Money that would have been better spent on energy efficient vehicle marketing and, most importantly, education. Current SUVs are symbols of consumerism gone insane and a development cul-de-sac. What people ‘need’ is quite different and Europe has the lead on this, though the idea of a ‘big executive barge’ is still sold. Excessive consumerism is not sustainable, as the Big Three are finding out. Many sustainable development advisors have been telling the Big Three and the White House this for years. They won’t listen because all they see are lost profits from the crude oil status quo.

    3) The US is an excessive consumer of finite energy. China and India are learning many bad habits from the US (and Europe) in this regard. Why not leap-frog the developing nations and go ultra-energy efficient? It’s a no-brainer unless your name is Bush, Cheney, Ford, GM, Chrysler…

    4) US vehicle protectionism dressed up as Economic Stimulus Plan and CAFE standards enabled the Big Three to build hopelessly fuel inefficient monster dinosaurs (aka luxury SUVs) for over a decade as US business could ‘benefit’ from tax breaks of $75,000 through accelerated depreciation. This was and is insane.

    With this massive tax deductible perk on business equipment and CAFE standards, it makes it possible to write off the entire cost of most SUVs (Hummer H2 and BMW X5 as examples) in the first year. Others, like the Hummer H1 will be practically free to the business owner. This makes buying a fuel inefficient SUV cheaper than a normal more fuel efficient car (sedan). And the US imports the majority of its oil? Who’s doing the mathematics here?

    5) US protectionism features heavily in my criticisms, because it is across the board; import duties, safety standards, fuel standards, advertising and so on. For example the US continues to use a unique set of standards for its automotive safety and emissions regulations, which differ significantly from the internationalised ECE Regulations used throughout the rest of the world. This means that vehicle manufacturers face considerable expense to type-certify a vehicle for US sale. This is no accident or because US standards are higher – they rarely are compared to EU standards. This cost particularly impacts low-volume manufacturers and models, most notably the makers of energy effecient trailbalzers. Quality of diesel fuels is also an major issue, with a whole raft of CDI engines used in Europe not able to be used in the US because of lack of ULSD availability.

    6) Case in point. The Smart ForTwo CDI produced in the EU by Mercedes has been on sale since 1999. It still can not be imported into the US, and yet it achieves less than 2.8 litres/100km (84 miles per US gallon combined) fuel economy and 83g CO2/Km on ULSD. In the US diesels are classed as ‘dirty’ but a petrol (gasoline) 28.2 litres/100km (8 miles per US gallon combined) Hummer H1 is OK (2006 model – I know it was the last year of that model). The 6,000cc V8 has an impressive 316hp and 360 lb ft of torque. Less impressive though as it struggles to shift its bloated overweight body around – 3,000kg of it.

    The 740kg 800cc Smart ForTwo CDI belches out a lethal cocktail of particulates and 83g CO2/Km, whereas the cleaner gasoline Hummer H1 only produces 670g CO2/Km. This is calculated as Hummer don’t release CO2 emissions data, that I could find.

    Hummer sales have collapsed. Smart car production going flat out, despite global recession.

  30. Is this your definition of ‘blind faith’? Good grief there is a whole mixed bag of issues in this, and I know my points will get lost in the noise, but what the heck…

    1) Bailing out the US auto industry will merely perpetuate deep seated rot. ‘Who killed the Electric Car?’ documentary says it all even if only half the footage is true. The Big Three had this coming, it’s been on the cards for at least 20 years. In 2005 GM and Ford together made losses of $7.2billion while Honda Toyota and Nissan achieved record sales.

    2) Building cars that people ‘want’ is what got us all in the mess we are getting into. ‘Want’ is a perception arrived at from years of advertising brainwashing, so let’s stop that. Over the past 25 years the US car industry has spent billions and billions on advertising SUVs as symbols of power and success. They spent $9 billion in the 1990s alone. Money that would have been better spent on energy efficient vehicle marketing and, most importantly, education. Current SUVs are symbols of consumerism gone insane and a development cul-de-sac. What people ‘need’ is quite different and Europe has the lead on this, though the idea of a ‘big executive barge’ is still sold. Excessive consumerism is not sustainable, as the Big Three are finding out. Many sustainable development advisors have been telling the Big Three and the White House this for years. They won’t listen because all they see are lost profits from the crude oil status quo.

    3) The US is an excessive consumer of finite energy. China and India are learning many bad habits from the US (and Europe) in this regard. Why not leap-frog the developing nations and go ultra-energy efficient? It’s a no-brainer unless your name is Bush, Cheney, Ford, GM, Chrysler…

    4) US vehicle protectionism dressed up as Economic Stimulus Plan and CAFE standards enabled the Big Three to build hopelessly fuel inefficient monster dinosaurs (aka luxury SUVs) for over a decade as US business could ‘benefit’ from tax breaks of $75,000 through accelerated depreciation. This was and is insane.

    With this massive tax deductible perk on business equipment and CAFE standards, it makes it possible to write off the entire cost of most SUVs (Hummer H2 and BMW X5 as examples) in the first year. Others, like the Hummer H1 will be practically free to the business owner. This makes buying a fuel inefficient SUV cheaper than a normal more fuel efficient car (sedan). And the US imports the majority of its oil? Who’s doing the mathematics here?

    5) US protectionism features heavily in my criticisms, because it is across the board; import duties, safety standards, fuel standards, advertising and so on. For example the US continues to use a unique set of standards for its automotive safety and emissions regulations, which differ significantly from the internationalised ECE Regulations used throughout the rest of the world. This means that vehicle manufacturers face considerable expense to type-certify a vehicle for US sale. This is no accident or because US standards are higher – they rarely are compared to EU standards. This cost particularly impacts low-volume manufacturers and models, most notably the makers of energy effecient trailbalzers. Quality of diesel fuels is also an major issue, with a whole raft of CDI engines used in Europe not able to be used in the US because of lack of ULSD availability.

    6) Case in point. The Smart ForTwo CDI produced in the EU by Mercedes has been on sale since 1999. It still can not be imported into the US, and yet it achieves less than 2.8 litres/100km (84 miles per US gallon combined) fuel economy and 83g CO2/Km on ULSD. In the US diesels are classed as ‘dirty’ but a petrol (gasoline) 28.2 litres/100km (8 miles per US gallon combined) Hummer H1 is OK (2006 model – I know it was the last year of that model). The 6,000cc V8 has an impressive 316hp and 360 lb ft of torque. Less impressive though as it struggles to shift its bloated overweight body around – 3,000kg of it.

    The 740kg 800cc Smart ForTwo CDI belches out a lethal cocktail of particulates and 83g CO2/Km, whereas the cleaner gasoline Hummer H1 only produces 670g CO2/Km. This is calculated as Hummer don’t release CO2 emissions data, that I could find.

    Hummer sales have collapsed. Smart car production going flat out, despite global recession.

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