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. There are some fundamental issues that the US car makers face that their competitors don’t. This won’t be cured by a bail-out:
    1) Get a government healthcare system. This is *crippling* GM, Ford and Chrysler. How can they hope to be competitive when $1,000 per car goes straight onto healthcare and pension costs? Whereas in Europe we all pay for healthcare so the company doesn’t need to.

    2) Build cars people want. Ford of Europe is profitable because they build cars that people want and will pay to buy. Ford of America has been focussing on building enormous trucks for people who want to look as though they’re on the way to a lynching. And now that fuel bills have gone up, the companies have belatedly realised that putting a 6l engine on something that ought to be driven on rails isn’t the best way to sell cars. Nobody in Europe wants US cars, as they don’t go round corners and the interiors are vile. So focus on smaller cars that are economical, high quality and still fun

    3) Don’t rely on the car finance arm. If the company’s entire profit comes from the financing, something is wrong with their car building arm. Look at the early signals…

    4) Oh, and ditch the private jet, you insensitive clods!

  2. There are some fundamental issues that the US car makers face that their competitors don’t. This won’t be cured by a bail-out:
    1) Get a government healthcare system. This is *crippling* GM, Ford and Chrysler. How can they hope to be competitive when $1,000 per car goes straight onto healthcare and pension costs? Whereas in Europe we all pay for healthcare so the company doesn’t need to.

    2) Build cars people want. Ford of Europe is profitable because they build cars that people want and will pay to buy. Ford of America has been focussing on building enormous trucks for people who want to look as though they’re on the way to a lynching. And now that fuel bills have gone up, the companies have belatedly realised that putting a 6l engine on something that ought to be driven on rails isn’t the best way to sell cars. Nobody in Europe wants US cars, as they don’t go round corners and the interiors are vile. So focus on smaller cars that are economical, high quality and still fun

    3) Don’t rely on the car finance arm. If the company’s entire profit comes from the financing, something is wrong with their car building arm. Look at the early signals…

    4) Oh, and ditch the private jet, you insensitive clods!

  3. (2 cents alert! Well, more like a buck and change.)

    As a mechanic, I feel the need to step in. First, domestic auto industry? Good for economy. Jobs. Unions. Pride, and such. Yeah. Now the compliment sandwich: I grew up in a household of mechanics and spent my teens wrenching on and worshiping old Chevies. So like most anybody, I was brought up on loyalty to American brands. But that all changed once I became a mechanic (well, not anymore; I would like to do something with my life besides smoke a pack a day and explain to F-tard customers that it’s not a matter of salesmanship when I tell them that their wheels will fall off if they attempt to drive home. But what’s that? You’re going to get a second opinion? Okayyy. From who? St. Peter?).

    Unless it’s a Toyota or a Honda (or subsidiary brand; some Nissans), if it was built in the last twenty-five years, say, it’s likely a piece of crap. You mentioned in your article some positives about the mergence of electronica and automobilia. Although to some extent this is an inevitable market shift, electronics are actually a pretty fundamental reason why so many new cars are niche pieces of junk. There is a fundamental separation in parts/forms if you want to succeed at building the thing you set out to build. As such, cars should be cars. They should not be mobile home theatres/second-rate concert venues/GPS military command centers. If you need directions, ask someone or don’t drive. If you need to blast Nickelback while flipping off the innocent guy in the next lane, in the words of the Simpsons, “leave your aggression at home, where it belongs!”

    Now there are about a hundred other rants exploding in my head, but the point is that the market/customer is not always right. The Big three’s product lines have fallen into the trap of thinking that novelty is a good substitution for real quality, and that well-paid marketing firms could convince us to buy crap. Thing is, quality isn’t difficult. Quality is simplicity (ie, R2D2 will never be my copilot, and if he is, he better make wicked strong coffee). Quality is being able to see the engine when you pop the hood, instead of burying it beneath unnecessary electronic and “comfort” systems that make routine maintenance nearly impossible, thereby assuring the premature failure of the vehicle.

    And hybrids. My goodness. Nothing but a pseudo-environmental extension of the same, national carophilia. (“MPG! MPG!” Ever heard of a motorcycle folks?) And yet, even me, when I heard about the fundamental design of the Chevy Volt, as novel and over-marketed as it was (a prerequisite for any GM product), it actually made sense. Comparatively, at least. From an engineering standpoint, the Volt actually showed the most promise, albeit not much (most hybrids won’t once you consider their broader implications and costs). And now it is sure to get the corporate axe when GM cinches up its budget with either piano wire or a woodchipper (Fargo, anyone?).

    In sum, the big 3 need to get back to simplicity, not junk that is developed for a market model of obsolescence. Instead of building cars and trucks that are designed to fail after 100K, build ones without the extraneous junk and build them for the people whose idea of driving is not an automatic, “climate-controlled” (sunshine??), sponge-suspension, bumper-choked, conference calling, roll-down-the-highway affair. Get rid of the hundreds—sometimes thousands—of pounds of unnecessary bumpers, safety equipment, comfort systems, and yes, the electronic rat’s nest. Then just apply decade’s-old technology (sequential fuel injection, low idle systems) to cheap, mass-produced four cylinder engines. Put a stick shift behind it, and bam. Saved!

    So. What does he drive? Used to drive a 1973 240z with a 350 under the hood. And now? A manual 1987 toyota pickup, and I’d never go back. 300K miles on the odomoeter, zero under the hood. Goin for 750K. 33 mpg. HWuhwuh!? Yep–30 years old and 33 mpg. Simplicity is golden. And for those driving the market dynamic toward poor quality and low expectations (90% of car-buyers), by buying new and selling after 30K, well silence. Silence is golden. Learn to change your oil, THEN start writing informed car articles.

    And that kids, is how a confluence of market stupidity coupled with corporate group-think leads to the downfall of national, economic lifelines.

  4. (2 cents alert! Well, more like a buck and change.)

    As a mechanic, I feel the need to step in. First, domestic auto industry? Good for economy. Jobs. Unions. Pride, and such. Yeah. Now the compliment sandwich: I grew up in a household of mechanics and spent my teens wrenching on and worshiping old Chevies. So like most anybody, I was brought up on loyalty to American brands. But that all changed once I became a mechanic (well, not anymore; I would like to do something with my life besides smoke a pack a day and explain to F-tard customers that it’s not a matter of salesmanship when I tell them that their wheels will fall off if they attempt to drive home. But what’s that? You’re going to get a second opinion? Okayyy. From who? St. Peter?).

    Unless it’s a Toyota or a Honda (or subsidiary brand; some Nissans), if it was built in the last twenty-five years, say, it’s likely a piece of crap. You mentioned in your article some positives about the mergence of electronica and automobilia. Although to some extent this is an inevitable market shift, electronics are actually a pretty fundamental reason why so many new cars are niche pieces of junk. There is a fundamental separation in parts/forms if you want to succeed at building the thing you set out to build. As such, cars should be cars. They should not be mobile home theatres/second-rate concert venues/GPS military command centers. If you need directions, ask someone or don’t drive. If you need to blast Nickelback while flipping off the innocent guy in the next lane, in the words of the Simpsons, “leave your aggression at home, where it belongs!”

    Now there are about a hundred other rants exploding in my head, but the point is that the market/customer is not always right. The Big three’s product lines have fallen into the trap of thinking that novelty is a good substitution for real quality, and that well-paid marketing firms could convince us to buy crap. Thing is, quality isn’t difficult. Quality is simplicity (ie, R2D2 will never be my copilot, and if he is, he better make wicked strong coffee). Quality is being able to see the engine when you pop the hood, instead of burying it beneath unnecessary electronic and “comfort” systems that make routine maintenance nearly impossible, thereby assuring the premature failure of the vehicle.

    And hybrids. My goodness. Nothing but a pseudo-environmental extension of the same, national carophilia. (“MPG! MPG!” Ever heard of a motorcycle folks?) And yet, even me, when I heard about the fundamental design of the Chevy Volt, as novel and over-marketed as it was (a prerequisite for any GM product), it actually made sense. Comparatively, at least. From an engineering standpoint, the Volt actually showed the most promise, albeit not much (most hybrids won’t once you consider their broader implications and costs). And now it is sure to get the corporate axe when GM cinches up its budget with either piano wire or a woodchipper (Fargo, anyone?).

    In sum, the big 3 need to get back to simplicity, not junk that is developed for a market model of obsolescence. Instead of building cars and trucks that are designed to fail after 100K, build ones without the extraneous junk and build them for the people whose idea of driving is not an automatic, “climate-controlled” (sunshine??), sponge-suspension, bumper-choked, conference calling, roll-down-the-highway affair. Get rid of the hundreds—sometimes thousands—of pounds of unnecessary bumpers, safety equipment, comfort systems, and yes, the electronic rat’s nest. Then just apply decade’s-old technology (sequential fuel injection, low idle systems) to cheap, mass-produced four cylinder engines. Put a stick shift behind it, and bam. Saved!

    So. What does he drive? Used to drive a 1973 240z with a 350 under the hood. And now? A manual 1987 toyota pickup, and I’d never go back. 300K miles on the odomoeter, zero under the hood. Goin for 750K. 33 mpg. HWuhwuh!? Yep–30 years old and 33 mpg. Simplicity is golden. And for those driving the market dynamic toward poor quality and low expectations (90% of car-buyers), by buying new and selling after 30K, well silence. Silence is golden. Learn to change your oil, THEN start writing informed car articles.

    And that kids, is how a confluence of market stupidity coupled with corporate group-think leads to the downfall of national, economic lifelines.

  5. Whatever happen to the survival of the fittest?

    IMO, the American car companies are producing bulky, inefficient, slightly nerdy looking, and technology inferior cars.

    If congress throws billions at them for a bail-out, it doesn’t change the fact that folks aren’t buy the cars — it only puts off the inevitable and the companies continue to produce bulky, inefficient, slightly nerdy looking, and technology inferior cars.

    Personally, I’d like to see them…

    - Thin out their offerings.

    - Incorporate impressive technology… such as text to speech, Internet messaging, weather, etc. Make it easy for all U.S. car/truck owners to WiFi to their home network and download car/truck data (driving habits, performance, problems, maintenance).

    - Offer sleek, attractive, and comfortable vehicles. Rebuild the brand.

    - Incorporate plug-in hybrid technology to 80% of all their new cars and trucks moving forward. I think the U.S. would be a much better place if the first 45 miles were battery only. Some commutes would not require gas. The U.S. needs more energy independence… especially oil independence.

    - Improve safety.

    Needless deaths happen each week.

    Perhaps cars should notify the cars behind them (on the same roadway) of traffic accidents that just happened 5 miles ahead of them?

    Perhaps instead of having automatic cruise control distancing technology — we should also have automatic breaking to prevent wrecks — using the same cruise control technology — to help alleviate the impact force as opposed to full impact.

    Perhaps cars/trucks/motorcycles should know if they are being driven entirely too fast for a given metropolitan area and limit the speed to no more than 20 miles above the speed limit in that metropolitan area? GPS and the cars around them could provide this information.

  6. Whatever happen to the survival of the fittest?

    IMO, the American car companies are producing bulky, inefficient, slightly nerdy looking, and technology inferior cars.

    If congress throws billions at them for a bail-out, it doesn’t change the fact that folks aren’t buy the cars — it only puts off the inevitable and the companies continue to produce bulky, inefficient, slightly nerdy looking, and technology inferior cars.

    Personally, I’d like to see them…

    - Thin out their offerings.

    - Incorporate impressive technology… such as text to speech, Internet messaging, weather, etc. Make it easy for all U.S. car/truck owners to WiFi to their home network and download car/truck data (driving habits, performance, problems, maintenance).

    - Offer sleek, attractive, and comfortable vehicles. Rebuild the brand.

    - Incorporate plug-in hybrid technology to 80% of all their new cars and trucks moving forward. I think the U.S. would be a much better place if the first 45 miles were battery only. Some commutes would not require gas. The U.S. needs more energy independence… especially oil independence.

    - Improve safety.

    Needless deaths happen each week.

    Perhaps cars should notify the cars behind them (on the same roadway) of traffic accidents that just happened 5 miles ahead of them?

    Perhaps instead of having automatic cruise control distancing technology — we should also have automatic breaking to prevent wrecks — using the same cruise control technology — to help alleviate the impact force as opposed to full impact.

    Perhaps cars/trucks/motorcycles should know if they are being driven entirely too fast for a given metropolitan area and limit the speed to no more than 20 miles above the speed limit in that metropolitan area? GPS and the cars around them could provide this information.

  7. @ceedee The specs for the Flex (heh – that rhymes!) are 17 mpg city, 24 mpg highway. These are the best for any 7-passenger vehicle on the market today.

    Next year, our EcoBoost engine will go into the Flex, boosting that amount by about 20%. See more at http://ford.digitalsnippets.com/2008/01/05/introducing-ecoboost/

    In the meantime, Ford has the most fuel-efficient SUV on the planet in the Ford Escape Hybrid (one that President-elect Obama and his family own).

  8. @ceedee The specs for the Flex (heh – that rhymes!) are 17 mpg city, 24 mpg highway. These are the best for any 7-passenger vehicle on the market today.

    Next year, our EcoBoost engine will go into the Flex, boosting that amount by about 20%. See more at http://ford.digitalsnippets.com/2008/01/05/introducing-ecoboost/

    In the meantime, Ford has the most fuel-efficient SUV on the planet in the Ford Escape Hybrid (one that President-elect Obama and his family own).

  9. Scoble,

    your American cars:
    Focus
    Saturn Aura

    are based on Europena models.
    The Saturn Aura has the same platform as the German Opel Vectra
    and the Ford Focus was originally developed in Europe and released 1998 in Europe and 2000 in North America.(by the way, a very good and affordable car, which I drive for 6 years)
    So much do your great American car industry and models(So what to be proud of now?).

    In fact the US car industry is in very bad shape and didn’t have and innovations or answers to the world problems in the lst years. Why don’t you just shut down GM and fix your roads first. And start to save energy and fuel.

    Did you learn such things in China?
    Did you learn if all Chinese would live like the US Americans and consume so much enegry, the world would go down the drain?

    Some thoughs from Europe!

  10. Scoble,

    your American cars:
    Focus
    Saturn Aura

    are based on Europena models.
    The Saturn Aura has the same platform as the German Opel Vectra
    and the Ford Focus was originally developed in Europe and released 1998 in Europe and 2000 in North America.(by the way, a very good and affordable car, which I drive for 6 years)
    So much do your great American car industry and models(So what to be proud of now?).

    In fact the US car industry is in very bad shape and didn’t have and innovations or answers to the world problems in the lst years. Why don’t you just shut down GM and fix your roads first. And start to save energy and fuel.

    Did you learn such things in China?
    Did you learn if all Chinese would live like the US Americans and consume so much enegry, the world would go down the drain?

    Some thoughs from Europe!

  11. I haven’t owned a purely American car (so many non-American brands are made here with American components) for a long long time. But I would like to. Just don’t have the confidence. They have to stop the posturing, the attitude, and start telling us facts that will sway us.

  12. I haven’t owned a purely American car (so many non-American brands are made here with American components) for a long long time. But I would like to. Just don’t have the confidence. They have to stop the posturing, the attitude, and start telling us facts that will sway us.

  13. Yes, the Aura is basically an Opel Astra, which was developed in Germany. By the wy, the same holds for your previous car, the Ford Focus, which was also developed in Europe, as a “world car.” Though both Ford, Germany and Opel are owned by American companies, they are largely independent. These cars are not representative of “American” cars.

  14. Yes, the Aura is basically an Opel Astra, which was developed in Germany. By the wy, the same holds for your previous car, the Ford Focus, which was also developed in Europe, as a “world car.” Though both Ford, Germany and Opel are owned by American companies, they are largely independent. These cars are not representative of “American” cars.

  15. Frank: regarding the planes, I agree with you, but we live in a PR-driven world and if they really wanted public sentiment on their side they HAVE to be more clueful about this stuff. Especially when so many Americans are getting laid off it’s just not clueful to use a private jet plane to come to Congress and beg for money from US.

    Stan: we build plants around the world to serve local markets. Just like Toyota builds plants here.

    Greg: the guys in charge haven’t done enough. Are you in charge? If so, shame on you.

  16. Frank: regarding the planes, I agree with you, but we live in a PR-driven world and if they really wanted public sentiment on their side they HAVE to be more clueful about this stuff. Especially when so many Americans are getting laid off it’s just not clueful to use a private jet plane to come to Congress and beg for money from US.

    Stan: we build plants around the world to serve local markets. Just like Toyota builds plants here.

    Greg: the guys in charge haven’t done enough. Are you in charge? If so, shame on you.

  17. Re: Gas tax

    Probably a better idea would be a revenue neutral feebate system:
    give efficient non-polluting vehicles rebates, and tax gas guzzlers.

  18. Re: Gas tax

    Probably a better idea would be a revenue neutral feebate system:
    give efficient non-polluting vehicles rebates, and tax gas guzzlers.

  19. Here are some comments for you:

    *One of Chrysler’s contributions to automotive innovation is the cooled beverage holder.
    *The consumer market that is impressed with the cooled beverage holder is not a great market to pursue.
    *Younger consumers with lots of education and disposable income is a better market to pursue.
    *Older consumers like American cars, but this market is decreasing because some day soon, many of them will no longer be able to drive.
    *Powerful cars don’t impress people as much as they did in the late sixties.
    *How about focusing on making what makes a car betteras a car first? How’s the gas mileage? Is it comfortable? Does the sight of the car make me want to vomit? Will the car last a while without too many troubling issues? Will the car retain good value a few years down the road? Do I feel good about driving the car?
    *Maybe Cadillac and GMC trucks and Chevy cars should survive. Toyota has three brands and two of them are less than twenty years old (Scion and Lexus). By the way, Toyota is the auto industry benchmark. They have tons of cash in the bank. Their cars are desired by the public and just about all their cars make a healthy profit for the parent company.
    *Toyota makes great cars and they sell a bunch of them to highly willing,less stingy customers.
    *By the way, I like the Tesla partnership idea.

  20. Here are some comments for you:

    *One of Chrysler’s contributions to automotive innovation is the cooled beverage holder.
    *The consumer market that is impressed with the cooled beverage holder is not a great market to pursue.
    *Younger consumers with lots of education and disposable income is a better market to pursue.
    *Older consumers like American cars, but this market is decreasing because some day soon, many of them will no longer be able to drive.
    *Powerful cars don’t impress people as much as they did in the late sixties.
    *How about focusing on making what makes a car betteras a car first? How’s the gas mileage? Is it comfortable? Does the sight of the car make me want to vomit? Will the car last a while without too many troubling issues? Will the car retain good value a few years down the road? Do I feel good about driving the car?
    *Maybe Cadillac and GMC trucks and Chevy cars should survive. Toyota has three brands and two of them are less than twenty years old (Scion and Lexus). By the way, Toyota is the auto industry benchmark. They have tons of cash in the bank. Their cars are desired by the public and just about all their cars make a healthy profit for the parent company.
    *Toyota makes great cars and they sell a bunch of them to highly willing,less stingy customers.
    *By the way, I like the Tesla partnership idea.

  21. I used to own an American car, a Saturn… My previous cars to that were American (and Oldsmobile and a Plymouth). When my Saturn got totaled (not my fault), I looked at the American cars and guess what, I couldn’t find one (this was 2006) that either wasn’t an SUV because they were well out of my price range, or one in my price range that didn’t suck and wasn’t horribly small. Oh and none, and I mean NONE, were fuel efficient.

    I went over to Toyota and was able to find a compact, but with space, fuel efficient Yaris for a good 5k less than what the cheapest Chevy was priced at!! I’d be tempted to buy another American made car in the future, especially something like the Dodge Caliber. It’s a cool looking car, and everyone I know who drives them loves them, but when I needed a car, they were nowhere to be found!

    -Adam

  22. I used to own an American car, a Saturn… My previous cars to that were American (and Oldsmobile and a Plymouth). When my Saturn got totaled (not my fault), I looked at the American cars and guess what, I couldn’t find one (this was 2006) that either wasn’t an SUV because they were well out of my price range, or one in my price range that didn’t suck and wasn’t horribly small. Oh and none, and I mean NONE, were fuel efficient.

    I went over to Toyota and was able to find a compact, but with space, fuel efficient Yaris for a good 5k less than what the cheapest Chevy was priced at!! I’d be tempted to buy another American made car in the future, especially something like the Dodge Caliber. It’s a cool looking car, and everyone I know who drives them loves them, but when I needed a car, they were nowhere to be found!

    -Adam

  23. I think all the blow up regarding the CEOs flying private jets to Washington D.C. was ridiculous. How many multinational companies don’t own, lease, or charter private jets for their executives? There may actually be practical reasons why these companies have jets, and besides even if all the Big 3 got rid of their jets and forced executives to fly commercial, that is not going to solve the problem. Is Congress forcing every bank they give money to to give up their jets?

    People seem to think it is easy to downsize these companies, when it is not. For example, there are state franchise laws that make it very difficult for GM to close down a brand and basically put independent dealers out of business. (GM doesn’t own all those dealerships you see everywhere.) It cost GM in the order of $1 billion in buyouts when they closed down Oldsmobile. And let’s not forget that downsizing GM means laying off hundreds of thousands of people, and affecting hundreds of thousands more indirectly for everything from parts to the Dennys across the street from a plant.

    The real problem we have here, like with everything else, is that people want to place blame on someone else instead of taking responsibility. Got a 401K or own stock? Happy with making 10% return or were you bitching that you should be making 20%? What about getting into mortgages that you knew was too expensive for your income?

    Sure, greedier people in corporate offices on Wall Street and Main Street, and on Corporate Drives have made stupid decisions. It is easy to have little sympathy for decisions that affect other people’s lives until it affects your own. The nation’s view towards Detroit this past week has been too much like it was towards New Orleans when Katrina hit.

  24. I think all the blow up regarding the CEOs flying private jets to Washington D.C. was ridiculous. How many multinational companies don’t own, lease, or charter private jets for their executives? There may actually be practical reasons why these companies have jets, and besides even if all the Big 3 got rid of their jets and forced executives to fly commercial, that is not going to solve the problem. Is Congress forcing every bank they give money to to give up their jets?

    People seem to think it is easy to downsize these companies, when it is not. For example, there are state franchise laws that make it very difficult for GM to close down a brand and basically put independent dealers out of business. (GM doesn’t own all those dealerships you see everywhere.) It cost GM in the order of $1 billion in buyouts when they closed down Oldsmobile. And let’s not forget that downsizing GM means laying off hundreds of thousands of people, and affecting hundreds of thousands more indirectly for everything from parts to the Dennys across the street from a plant.

    The real problem we have here, like with everything else, is that people want to place blame on someone else instead of taking responsibility. Got a 401K or own stock? Happy with making 10% return or were you bitching that you should be making 20%? What about getting into mortgages that you knew was too expensive for your income?

    Sure, greedier people in corporate offices on Wall Street and Main Street, and on Corporate Drives have made stupid decisions. It is easy to have little sympathy for decisions that affect other people’s lives until it affects your own. The nation’s view towards Detroit this past week has been too much like it was towards New Orleans when Katrina hit.

  25. When the rules of the game are known, the windows of opportunity have long been closed.

    Maybe the window of opportunity is closed for US car manufacturers.
    In the sixties and seventies, coal mines needed to close too.

  26. When the rules of the game are known, the windows of opportunity have long been closed.

    Maybe the window of opportunity is closed for US car manufacturers.
    In the sixties and seventies, coal mines needed to close too.

  27. I don’t have time to sit and type an essay, but I wanted to touch on one point you made about slimming the brands down. I’ve been wondering this for years. GM needs to follow Toyota’s lead (for the most part) possibly keeping two lines going, Chevy and Cadillac.

    Think Toyota and Lexus. A standard line and a luxury line. Chevy and GMC are just pumping out the same styles every year, why not consolidate them into the more popular one? Saturn is nearing irrelevance in this market. Buick would be an interesting merge, though. “Luxury crossovers” don’t really fit with Chevy’s models or Cadillac’s models.

  28. I don’t have time to sit and type an essay, but I wanted to touch on one point you made about slimming the brands down. I’ve been wondering this for years. GM needs to follow Toyota’s lead (for the most part) possibly keeping two lines going, Chevy and Cadillac.

    Think Toyota and Lexus. A standard line and a luxury line. Chevy and GMC are just pumping out the same styles every year, why not consolidate them into the more popular one? Saturn is nearing irrelevance in this market. Buick would be an interesting merge, though. “Luxury crossovers” don’t really fit with Chevy’s models or Cadillac’s models.

  29. I’ve been turned off by the US auto makers for years. I’m a former Ford Pinto owner and you might remember what a piece of crap that car was. It barely made it 100K miles. A lot of really stupid things went wrong with that car while I owned it. From broken knobs to the arm rests on the door falling off. I put a lot of time and way to much money into maintaining that car. As soon as I could afford it, I made the move to Toyota and purchased a corolla that made me happy for years. The only maintenance I had to do on that car were the tune ups, battery replacement and exhaust. The car was far more fuel efficient as well.

    The US auto execs have a lot of work to do to win back my respect and part of that would have to include inviting in the innovators. I think they need to be more open to ideas from outside their ivory towers and encourage a two way conversation with their consumers. Maybe even create some “Open Source” cars. Basic body style choices and publish all the specs including the engine so smaller start ups and innovators can create new add ons or experiment with the engine design. US car companies would reduce their internal R&D expenses by using the ingenuity of inventors and creative thinkers across the country. Keeping the industry closed the way it is guarantees failure, if not now by providing a bail out, then later.

    If the Feds are going to assist these companies, I want to see a plan to remain open, innovative and flexible. I won’t agree with providing assistance to keep doing things the same way. That would be throwing good money after bad in my opinion. I feel awful for the families that have worked for years for these companies and are now suffering because of the mess the US auto industry has made. We owe it to them to insist that changes be made to prevent this from happening again.

  30. I’ve been turned off by the US auto makers for years. I’m a former Ford Pinto owner and you might remember what a piece of crap that car was. It barely made it 100K miles. A lot of really stupid things went wrong with that car while I owned it. From broken knobs to the arm rests on the door falling off. I put a lot of time and way to much money into maintaining that car. As soon as I could afford it, I made the move to Toyota and purchased a corolla that made me happy for years. The only maintenance I had to do on that car were the tune ups, battery replacement and exhaust. The car was far more fuel efficient as well.

    The US auto execs have a lot of work to do to win back my respect and part of that would have to include inviting in the innovators. I think they need to be more open to ideas from outside their ivory towers and encourage a two way conversation with their consumers. Maybe even create some “Open Source” cars. Basic body style choices and publish all the specs including the engine so smaller start ups and innovators can create new add ons or experiment with the engine design. US car companies would reduce their internal R&D expenses by using the ingenuity of inventors and creative thinkers across the country. Keeping the industry closed the way it is guarantees failure, if not now by providing a bail out, then later.

    If the Feds are going to assist these companies, I want to see a plan to remain open, innovative and flexible. I won’t agree with providing assistance to keep doing things the same way. That would be throwing good money after bad in my opinion. I feel awful for the families that have worked for years for these companies and are now suffering because of the mess the US auto industry has made. We owe it to them to insist that changes be made to prevent this from happening again.

  31. Robert wrote: “I really loved the Flex and would love to have one, other than the gas mileage was only about 17MPG in my experience.”
    Just for comparison’s sake, I get between 5-6 kms/litre (about 17 mpg(US) from my fully-loaded 7.5 tonne truck. How the hell does Ford (another wave to Scott Monty) justify that ridiculous fuel consumption for a CAR?

    Nuclear power can only be a short-term fix (and a dangerous and massively polluting one at that) — uranium is expected to become scarce within a couple of decades, even sooner given the likely expansion of power plants to reduce oil dependency.
    Oh, and where are you thinking of storing all the spent fuel, irradiated equipment, etc. for a couple of thousand years?

  32. Robert wrote: “I really loved the Flex and would love to have one, other than the gas mileage was only about 17MPG in my experience.”
    Just for comparison’s sake, I get between 5-6 kms/litre (about 17 mpg(US) from my fully-loaded 7.5 tonne truck. How the hell does Ford (another wave to Scott Monty) justify that ridiculous fuel consumption for a CAR?

    Nuclear power can only be a short-term fix (and a dangerous and massively polluting one at that) — uranium is expected to become scarce within a couple of decades, even sooner given the likely expansion of power plants to reduce oil dependency.
    Oh, and where are you thinking of storing all the spent fuel, irradiated equipment, etc. for a couple of thousand years?

  33. 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.

    Agree.

  34. 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.

    Agree.

  35. Robert, last week brought the announcement of the first 20 registered teams to compete in the Progressive Automotive X PRIZE. Of those 20 teams, 15 are American. I feel that it will take some amazing innovation on our part to shake up the American auto industry and these teams are poised to do just that. The question will then become whether or not one of these vehicles will be able to penetrate the market and be adopted by us consumers.

  36. Robert, last week brought the announcement of the first 20 registered teams to compete in the Progressive Automotive X PRIZE. Of those 20 teams, 15 are American. I feel that it will take some amazing innovation on our part to shake up the American auto industry and these teams are poised to do just that. The question will then become whether or not one of these vehicles will be able to penetrate the market and be adopted by us consumers.

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

    Who do you mean by “we?” We Americans? Or GM/Ford executives/stockholders?

    As an American, I’d like GM/Ford to stay in the game, but not due to any sort of bailout. A bailout is just forcing Americans to buy stock in these failing companies. They should sink or swim on their own. Maybe if we let them sink, something better will spring up to take their place.

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

    Who do you mean by “we?” We Americans? Or GM/Ford executives/stockholders?

    As an American, I’d like GM/Ford to stay in the game, but not due to any sort of bailout. A bailout is just forcing Americans to buy stock in these failing companies. They should sink or swim on their own. Maybe if we let them sink, something better will spring up to take their place.

  39. Robert wrote, “We HAVE to get a clue about our new global world and what is coming at us. China is changing VERY quickly”

    We’ve got plenty of examples already of Americans having the evidence right in front of their eyes and still not seeing how much the world is changing. I wrote about that, how Detroit has never had a Pearl Harbor-type moment where the change was so sudden it couldn’t any longer be denied or ignored

    http://allthings.blogsome.com/2008/11/14/still-in-denial-detroit-never-had-their-pearl-harbor-moment/

    But it’s not just Detroit, changes are coming faster and faster from every direction, impacting every part of our country, yet so many Americans still don’t seem to get it. It’s both puzzling and frustrating.

    Just like in World War II, I’m sure we could rise to the occasion and deal with the increasing levels of global competition, etc., if we put our minds to it, but there has to be the collective will to do that, to really try to compete and innovate.

  40. Robert wrote, “We HAVE to get a clue about our new global world and what is coming at us. China is changing VERY quickly”

    We’ve got plenty of examples already of Americans having the evidence right in front of their eyes and still not seeing how much the world is changing. I wrote about that, how Detroit has never had a Pearl Harbor-type moment where the change was so sudden it couldn’t any longer be denied or ignored

    http://allthings.blogsome.com/2008/11/14/still-in-denial-detroit-never-had-their-pearl-harbor-moment/

    But it’s not just Detroit, changes are coming faster and faster from every direction, impacting every part of our country, yet so many Americans still don’t seem to get it. It’s both puzzling and frustrating.

    Just like in World War II, I’m sure we could rise to the occasion and deal with the increasing levels of global competition, etc., if we put our minds to it, but there has to be the collective will to do that, to really try to compete and innovate.

  41. sorry Scoble, it’s too late. your suggestion last year about turning Saturn into the all hybrid brand would have been a great one, but Detroit doesn’t move like that, they buy the competition like Buick, Olds, Saab, Volvo etc. Detroit doesn’t know how to innovate. Finally backed into a corner, the big three are whimpering cowards, they won’t stand against the unions, they can’t stand against competition. As much as it pains me the big three need to die a painful death. Maybe Microsoft can buy GM and fix things…………oh the humanity.

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