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.

Comments

  1. I met with a Chinese businessman within the past year that we do some business with on a brand you would recognize. He was attempting to fill his factories in China with a western face to meet with American companies. In that meeting, he got so fired up he was walking around the room telling me that America doesn’t see what’s coming from China. That we are lazy and complacent and that China will steamroll us. Needless to say, we didn’t do business. Am I lazy or just freaked out by his act? Who knows.

  2. 1) We should save Detroit, the Autos, those jobs and the large US wide eco-system that surrounds it. NO, we should not bail them out as a company (certainly not the shareholders). Should taxpayers fund this “bailout”, it should only be as THE senior lender, and not subordinated to equity holders of GM or Ford.

    2) Detroit’s issue is not one of quality, there cars have been very competitive for years now. Detroit’s issue is one of credibility, when they earlier sold us or our parents crappy cars – and subsequently did not make good on them when they went bad.

    3) As to bailouts in general there are huge counter consequences. As just two examples, everytime the government prints more money to pay for these bailouts – it devalues the US dollar longer term, has inflationary implications, and postpones the inevitable.

    The reality is that there is just to much automobile manufacturing capacity world wide. We started as an agricultural economy, and went to the industrial economy. Now we have to complete the third stage (Service economy), show the “Tuff love”, and let Detroit live or die on its merits. I would rather see the short term pain, and retool Detroit and its workers to create solar, and other nexgen technologies.

    Long live Detroit, not necessarily the Detroit 3.

    http://www.twitter.com/A_F

  3. I met with a Chinese businessman within the past year that we do some business with on a brand you would recognize. He was attempting to fill his factories in China with a western face to meet with American companies. In that meeting, he got so fired up he was walking around the room telling me that America doesn’t see what’s coming from China. That we are lazy and complacent and that China will steamroll us. Needless to say, we didn’t do business. Am I lazy or just freaked out by his act? Who knows.

  4. 1) We should save Detroit, the Autos, those jobs and the large US wide eco-system that surrounds it. NO, we should not bail them out as a company (certainly not the shareholders). Should taxpayers fund this “bailout”, it should only be as THE senior lender, and not subordinated to equity holders of GM or Ford.

    2) Detroit’s issue is not one of quality, there cars have been very competitive for years now. Detroit’s issue is one of credibility, when they earlier sold us or our parents crappy cars – and subsequently did not make good on them when they went bad.

    3) As to bailouts in general there are huge counter consequences. As just two examples, everytime the government prints more money to pay for these bailouts – it devalues the US dollar longer term, has inflationary implications, and postpones the inevitable.

    The reality is that there is just to much automobile manufacturing capacity world wide. We started as an agricultural economy, and went to the industrial economy. Now we have to complete the third stage (Service economy), show the “Tuff love”, and let Detroit live or die on its merits. I would rather see the short term pain, and retool Detroit and its workers to create solar, and other nexgen technologies.

    Long live Detroit, not necessarily the Detroit 3.

    http://www.twitter.com/A_F

  5. I really like point #4. Willie Nelson is another good example (if you’re willing to include his bus.)

    The problem is, and I’m saying this as a trained organizational consultant, that the method of analysis often used to make decisions is poor. I don’t think it is a question of a desire to change, but when you get skewed or inaccurate information, you don’t see things as they are.

    Ok. Maybe that’s too optimistic.

  6. I really like point #4. Willie Nelson is another good example (if you’re willing to include his bus.)

    The problem is, and I’m saying this as a trained organizational consultant, that the method of analysis often used to make decisions is poor. I don’t think it is a question of a desire to change, but when you get skewed or inaccurate information, you don’t see things as they are.

    Ok. Maybe that’s too optimistic.

  7. Paul: the Chinese have their own form of arrogance. But, on other hand, that arrogance is right. I could be that Chinese business man. We HAVE to get a clue about our new global world and what is coming at us. China is changing VERY quickly (12 years ago I didn’t see any signs of wealth, today I see it all over the place). Americans who don’t visit there don’t really have a clue about what is going on there and what they are going to do to the world-wide marketplace.

  8. Paul: the Chinese have their own form of arrogance. But, on other hand, that arrogance is right. I could be that Chinese business man. We HAVE to get a clue about our new global world and what is coming at us. China is changing VERY quickly (12 years ago I didn’t see any signs of wealth, today I see it all over the place). Americans who don’t visit there don’t really have a clue about what is going on there and what they are going to do to the world-wide marketplace.

  9. Andrew: I don’t disagree. But we need to make sure our brands have credibility with the world. Right now they are teetering. If we lose our brand leadership we’ll lose a LOT.

  10. I agree with much of the innovative thinking in your post. I do not agree with a gas tax. We’re all enjoying some relief in this crappy economy, and the last thing we need is for Congress to put the screws to us and make transportation more expensive. Some of are doing all we can, driving cars w/ great MPG, etc, but do not live near public transpo. Don’t punish us with higher gas prices to ‘change our behavoir’. And if someone chooses to drive an American made Suburban, needs/wants a big vehicle (safety anyone?), that’s their choice.

    It’s interesting that Japanese carmakers Honda and Toyota are expanding their U.S. plants and hiring more workers in this crappy economy. They can do this because they’ve been making superior quality (low mileage/emission) cars for many years, and their pay per worker, including benefits, is about $45 per hour compared to the UAW’s $72+ per hour per worker.

    The main problem many of us have with ‘bailouts’ is that we’re giving our money, our tax dollars, to businesses that have huge benefit/worker obligations, are not competitive, and have made poor decisions (like you’ve noted). Who likes to reward bad decisions???? Same reason a majority of Americans don’t like housing bailouts that reward people who took on more than they could afford.

    All of that being said, you have very good insight into why none of us should be happy about the thought of American auto manufacturers going under. We want our brands to succeed. And we need our brands to succeed. But I need to hear the UAW make immediate concessions to make this viable. Along with the corp jets and excessive white collar salaries.

    Good post, Robert, good conversation that needs to take place.

    INNOVATION! No reason we can’t be the best at it, in any industry.

  11. Andrew: I don’t disagree. But we need to make sure our brands have credibility with the world. Right now they are teetering. If we lose our brand leadership we’ll lose a LOT.

  12. I agree with much of the innovative thinking in your post. I do not agree with a gas tax. We’re all enjoying some relief in this crappy economy, and the last thing we need is for Congress to put the screws to us and make transportation more expensive. Some of are doing all we can, driving cars w/ great MPG, etc, but do not live near public transpo. Don’t punish us with higher gas prices to ‘change our behavoir’. And if someone chooses to drive an American made Suburban, needs/wants a big vehicle (safety anyone?), that’s their choice.

    It’s interesting that Japanese carmakers Honda and Toyota are expanding their U.S. plants and hiring more workers in this crappy economy. They can do this because they’ve been making superior quality (low mileage/emission) cars for many years, and their pay per worker, including benefits, is about $45 per hour compared to the UAW’s $72+ per hour per worker.

    The main problem many of us have with ‘bailouts’ is that we’re giving our money, our tax dollars, to businesses that have huge benefit/worker obligations, are not competitive, and have made poor decisions (like you’ve noted). Who likes to reward bad decisions???? Same reason a majority of Americans don’t like housing bailouts that reward people who took on more than they could afford.

    All of that being said, you have very good insight into why none of us should be happy about the thought of American auto manufacturers going under. We want our brands to succeed. And we need our brands to succeed. But I need to hear the UAW make immediate concessions to make this viable. Along with the corp jets and excessive white collar salaries.

    Good post, Robert, good conversation that needs to take place.

    INNOVATION! No reason we can’t be the best at it, in any industry.

  13. Ditto! My lst car was a 1941 Ford which Ford stopped making again until 1946 (after WWII) ended. I found it in 1961 and adored it and wished I still owned it! If you ever are in Santa Fe on a Friday or Saturday night, visit the Plaza and see how our American brands are treasured as they circle our square plaza in a variety of low-rider forms and colors and styles. It is challenging to watch American auto executives be so out of touch with reality to actually “fly” to Capitol Hill in private jets. They need to get off the golf course, out of their private jets and office suites and on to the factory floor and learn about America today by getting to work for a change to save their companies not just themselves. Of course, they should read this blog post and get moving or move out the way from the next tide of auto innovation ready to drive us forward.

  14. Ditto! My lst car was a 1941 Ford which Ford stopped making again until 1946 (after WWII) ended. I found it in 1961 and adored it and wished I still owned it! If you ever are in Santa Fe on a Friday or Saturday night, visit the Plaza and see how our American brands are treasured as they circle our square plaza in a variety of low-rider forms and colors and styles. It is challenging to watch American auto executives be so out of touch with reality to actually “fly” to Capitol Hill in private jets. They need to get off the golf course, out of their private jets and office suites and on to the factory floor and learn about America today by getting to work for a change to save their companies not just themselves. Of course, they should read this blog post and get moving or move out the way from the next tide of auto innovation ready to drive us forward.

  15. Bail them out.

    Make some conditions.

    But give them the cash.

    How come the execs from AIG did not have to undergo this grilling? What about all the Wall Street people, who created the subprime mess that caused much of the economic issues we are seeing today? They got bailed out. Now I hear they are getting year end bonuses on top of fat pay checks.

    All of Michigan has been a donor state for decades because of the auto industry. We have sent billions and billions of our federal tax dollars to take care of problems in other states. We need some help now.

    There is a youtube video on my blog (click on my name) of Rep Thaddeus McCotter dispelling many of America’s myths about Detroit. Please watch it.

  16. Well, this is a tough one.

    I own a Toyota, a Honda before that and Mitsubishi before that.

    The big three have their place in the market, but you’re absolutely right – they don’t need all those brands. Its pointless.

    If any government gives ‘bailout’ money, its pointless unless these stupid union contracts get dissolved. Maybe they should be forced to renegotiate realistic contracts?

    There’s no point in saving the big three just to save jobs. If that’s the argument, then let them die and pick up the pieces after. Use part of the cash you would have used and retrain those workers to other areas. Give relocation costs to move them to areas where there are more jobs. You get my point.

  17. Jeff: if we don’t change our behavior the Saudis and Chinese will have us up against the wall anyway. We MUST get off of oil. This is NOT an option anymore. More on that when I post my thoughts about China.

  18. Bail them out.

    Make some conditions.

    But give them the cash.

    How come the execs from AIG did not have to undergo this grilling? What about all the Wall Street people, who created the subprime mess that caused much of the economic issues we are seeing today? They got bailed out. Now I hear they are getting year end bonuses on top of fat pay checks.

    All of Michigan has been a donor state for decades because of the auto industry. We have sent billions and billions of our federal tax dollars to take care of problems in other states. We need some help now.

    There is a youtube video on my blog (click on my name) of Rep Thaddeus McCotter dispelling many of America’s myths about Detroit. Please watch it.

  19. Well, this is a tough one.

    I own a Toyota, a Honda before that and Mitsubishi before that.

    The big three have their place in the market, but you’re absolutely right – they don’t need all those brands. Its pointless.

    If any government gives ‘bailout’ money, its pointless unless these stupid union contracts get dissolved. Maybe they should be forced to renegotiate realistic contracts?

    There’s no point in saving the big three just to save jobs. If that’s the argument, then let them die and pick up the pieces after. Use part of the cash you would have used and retrain those workers to other areas. Give relocation costs to move them to areas where there are more jobs. You get my point.

  20. Jeff: if we don’t change our behavior the Saudis and Chinese will have us up against the wall anyway. We MUST get off of oil. This is NOT an option anymore. More on that when I post my thoughts about China.

  21. Ok, I see some good point here, but…

    1.) Learn from the british. They’ve put tons of money into their car industry in the 70s and 80s. None of the companies from back then are either exisiting today or have remained british.

    2.) GM’s structure is way to complicated to be fiexd that easily. The GM cars you’ve seen in China were probably Korean built Daewoo’s that are now Chevrolet branded. Most of the modern GM cars on the US market were developed or use technology developed by the European technology center. Same goes for Ford, since they started selling the Euro Spec cars in the US. the Focus and the Mondeo were the first attempts to sell the same cars globally.

    3.) From what I’ve read so far the biggest problem are the unions. Again, that’s what killed the british car industry. The only way to make the neccessary restructuring is to file for bancrupcy an bypass the unions. This will cost a lot of jobs at first, but some of the jobs will be recreated in the long run as business catches on an competitors take over plants and marketshare.

    PS: Letting them buy Tesla and dragging it into the downturn is a bad idea for Tesla.

  22. Ok, I see some good point here, but…

    1.) Learn from the british. They’ve put tons of money into their car industry in the 70s and 80s. None of the companies from back then are either exisiting today or have remained british.

    2.) GM’s structure is way to complicated to be fiexd that easily. The GM cars you’ve seen in China were probably Korean built Daewoo’s that are now Chevrolet branded. Most of the modern GM cars on the US market were developed or use technology developed by the European technology center. Same goes for Ford, since they started selling the Euro Spec cars in the US. the Focus and the Mondeo were the first attempts to sell the same cars globally.

    3.) From what I’ve read so far the biggest problem are the unions. Again, that’s what killed the british car industry. The only way to make the neccessary restructuring is to file for bancrupcy an bypass the unions. This will cost a lot of jobs at first, but some of the jobs will be recreated in the long run as business catches on an competitors take over plants and marketshare.

    PS: Letting them buy Tesla and dragging it into the downturn is a bad idea for Tesla.

  23. Mirco: you’re wrong. The cars I saw in China were mostly the same as the ones we sell in the United States. Oh, and Chinese love SUVs. They are springing up all over the place. They want to be American and buy the same cars our movie stars use.

  24. Mirco: you’re wrong. The cars I saw in China were mostly the same as the ones we sell in the United States. Oh, and Chinese love SUVs. They are springing up all over the place. They want to be American and buy the same cars our movie stars use.

  25. Mirco: but I do agree with you about the unions. The unions need to get a clue. Their jobs are done. Their pensions are done. The Chinese will see to that in the next 12 years anyway.

  26. Mirco: but I do agree with you about the unions. The unions need to get a clue. Their jobs are done. Their pensions are done. The Chinese will see to that in the next 12 years anyway.

  27. I agree with your points and I think you actually laid out a well thought out plan that they should look at. But, I don’t really think we can afford to see thousands more jobs lost. And I say this as someone who is working from temp job to temp job right now.

  28. I agree with your points and I think you actually laid out a well thought out plan that they should look at. But, I don’t really think we can afford to see thousands more jobs lost. And I say this as someone who is working from temp job to temp job right now.

  29. I agree we have to end our dependence on oil eventually, and I look at it as a national security issue. But until a viable alternative that’s affordable arrives (plug in electric hybrids my favorite near future vehicle), it’s not fair to say to low/mid income Americans “we’re going to take $1200 out of your pockets in a gas tax” right now. Some of us can’t afford it.

    I’ve driven low emission, high mileage, high quality Hondas (Civics) for years. Honda’s a great example of what’s right with an automaker. They happily met California air standards (exceeded them) without a fight, and were Green before it became a business trend.

    American car makers still have a few years to rebuild their brands. I’m not going to buy something to please someone or to keep someone working. I”m going to purchase a product that best serves my family (cost, affordable to maintain, long term purchase, low transpo $$). And so far, that’s been Honda for me. Hondas, which incidentally, are built in Tennessee by American workers using top notch Japanese assembly line techniques.

  30. I agree we have to end our dependence on oil eventually, and I look at it as a national security issue. But until a viable alternative that’s affordable arrives (plug in electric hybrids my favorite near future vehicle), it’s not fair to say to low/mid income Americans “we’re going to take $1200 out of your pockets in a gas tax” right now. Some of us can’t afford it.

    I’ve driven low emission, high mileage, high quality Hondas (Civics) for years. Honda’s a great example of what’s right with an automaker. They happily met California air standards (exceeded them) without a fight, and were Green before it became a business trend.

    American car makers still have a few years to rebuild their brands. I’m not going to buy something to please someone or to keep someone working. I”m going to purchase a product that best serves my family (cost, affordable to maintain, long term purchase, low transpo $$). And so far, that’s been Honda for me. Hondas, which incidentally, are built in Tennessee by American workers using top notch Japanese assembly line techniques.

  31. Jeff: did you know that in China they pay $5000 to buy a license plate? Their highest paid engineers make $25,000 a year (most make half that). So, their government is taking real steps to make sure that they invest in their future. Why shouldn’t we do the same? Or, should we just give up our country to global forces? You will NOT be able to stop those forces. But you CAN invest now to get on top again and make sure we have a viable society.

  32. Benefits and pensions. Streamlining the brand lines and eliminating the crappy cars won’t overcome a $72/hr rate versus a $48 rate. So cost cutting must be done.

    A gas tax, from an environmental and US Centric view point isn’t a bad idea. I don’t like high taxes in general, but…. collective action problems like pollution are ONLY solved in three ways; 1) regulatory (laws) 2) social pressure (flogging in the town square) or 3) monetary (taxes, fees).

    One sacred cow not mentioned is the US Automobile Dealership Franchise system. Some estimate the cost of distribution and regulatory protection at up to 2k per car sold. 2k is a lot of friction. This is both for US or foreign cars purchased here. But why can’t I order my car online and save the 2k? Isn’t that the equivalent of a stimulus check? We can improve this.

    I would love to see Jack Welch step in and clean up these companies. It can be done. Americans are great workers, just in a bad system they produce irrational results.

  33. Jeff: did you know that in China they pay $5000 to buy a license plate? Their highest paid engineers make $25,000 a year (most make half that). So, their government is taking real steps to make sure that they invest in their future. Why shouldn’t we do the same? Or, should we just give up our country to global forces? You will NOT be able to stop those forces. But you CAN invest now to get on top again and make sure we have a viable society.

  34. Benefits and pensions. Streamlining the brand lines and eliminating the crappy cars won’t overcome a $72/hr rate versus a $48 rate. So cost cutting must be done.

    A gas tax, from an environmental and US Centric view point isn’t a bad idea. I don’t like high taxes in general, but…. collective action problems like pollution are ONLY solved in three ways; 1) regulatory (laws) 2) social pressure (flogging in the town square) or 3) monetary (taxes, fees).

    One sacred cow not mentioned is the US Automobile Dealership Franchise system. Some estimate the cost of distribution and regulatory protection at up to 2k per car sold. 2k is a lot of friction. This is both for US or foreign cars purchased here. But why can’t I order my car online and save the 2k? Isn’t that the equivalent of a stimulus check? We can improve this.

    I would love to see Jack Welch step in and clean up these companies. It can be done. Americans are great workers, just in a bad system they produce irrational results.

  35. I think its time that we learn from the Chinese. They are pragmatic, technocratic, long-term in perspective and highly protective of their national interests. We should do the same. Pragmaticism means abandoning our free-market deregulation doctrine and embracing industrial policy that works with capitalism. How about learning from the Japanese and Koreans in how their government supported the development of key industries? Or look at our own example of US defense spending spinning out innovation in Silicon Valley?

    I also think the Chinese government is highly protective of its national interest. We have to do the same. This might mean providing support to key industries like clean tech and yes, the auto industry. These companies need to shrink and need to be reformed and floating them a lot of bailout cash make not make the changes happen. But investing in important industries to make sure they are competitive is absolutely something we can do.

  36. As a Brit – with an outsiders view – In response to your first point I think the Big 3 need to become 1 with about 3 brands. I would also say that they would need to become smaller too, so that lends itself to one or two of them going to the wall rather than mergers between the three. The government as a rule should not support sickly (inefficient companies) – nature should be allowed to take its course (it took a decade and billions of pounds before Rover did what everyone knew it was going to do anyway). Touche, with the innovation point – however, when companies get to a certain size its impossible for them to innovate because of all the layers of management and lack of a creative/innovative culture. A lot of this beef needs to be stripped away and there is no easy way for this to be done without the company shedding jobs and becoming smaller.

  37. Interesting insights. I agree with your points about the image problem. When people think about Toyota one word comes to mind – “reliable”. What words come to mind when you think about Ford or GM? I have a few – SUV, gas guzzler, recall, etc.

    I’m vehemently opposed to a bail out for the auto industry. We can’t continue to throw taxpayers hard earned money at companies that aren’t viable. There’s no way in hell these guys can turn it around. Let the markets decide whether or not these companies should survive – not the government.

    Best,

    Jeremy

    P.S. You praised the Beetle in your post. IMO the VW Beetle is a pile of junk. I owned one back in ’99. I’ve never had more problems with a car. It may have been designed in LA, but it was assembled in Mexico. I’m not sure that the production quality in Mexico can rival the US or China.

  38. As a Brit – with an outsiders view – In response to your first point I think the Big 3 need to become 1 with about 3 brands. I would also say that they would need to become smaller too, so that lends itself to one or two of them going to the wall rather than mergers between the three. The government as a rule should not support sickly (inefficient companies) – nature should be allowed to take its course (it took a decade and billions of pounds before Rover did what everyone knew it was going to do anyway). Touche, with the innovation point – however, when companies get to a certain size its impossible for them to innovate because of all the layers of management and lack of a creative/innovative culture. A lot of this beef needs to be stripped away and there is no easy way for this to be done without the company shedding jobs and becoming smaller.

  39. Interesting insights. I agree with your points about the image problem. When people think about Toyota one word comes to mind – “reliable”. What words come to mind when you think about Ford or GM? I have a few – SUV, gas guzzler, recall, etc.

    I’m vehemently opposed to a bail out for the auto industry. We can’t continue to throw taxpayers hard earned money at companies that aren’t viable. There’s no way in hell these guys can turn it around. Let the markets decide whether or not these companies should survive – not the government.

    Best,

    Jeremy

    P.S. You praised the Beetle in your post. IMO the VW Beetle is a pile of junk. I owned one back in ’99. I’ve never had more problems with a car. It may have been designed in LA, but it was assembled in Mexico. I’m not sure that the production quality in Mexico can rival the US or China.

  40. I think its time that we learn from the Chinese. They are pragmatic, technocratic, long-term in perspective and highly protective of their national interests. We should do the same. Pragmaticism means abandoning our free-market deregulation doctrine and embracing industrial policy that works with capitalism. How about learning from the Japanese and Koreans in how their government supported the development of key industries? Or look at our own example of US defense spending spinning out innovation in Silicon Valley?

    I also think the Chinese government is highly protective of its national interest. We have to do the same. This might mean providing support to key industries like clean tech and yes, the auto industry. These companies need to shrink and need to be reformed and floating them a lot of bailout cash make not make the changes happen. But investing in important industries to make sure they are competitive is absolutely something we can do.

  41. In 1873 the long crisis (20 years) was mainly due to two events:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gr%C3%BCnderkrach
    - Europeans had been building houses on crappy loans
    - The US was invading Europe with low priced farmer products in large quantities
    Resulted in the collapse of the Vienna stock exchange.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long_Depression

    The change this implemented:
    - The financial power changed from Europe to US
    - The industrial power also went to US – bye bye UK.
    - Up to that time almost all technologies were invented in Europe, then slowly the US became the leading innovator

    Over the years the US people became rich enough to become the world leading consumer market. Think Ford.

    In 2008:
    - Houses build on crappy loans
    - China had invaded the world with their products at low prices in large quantities.

    China has a large internal market potential. If they succeed in getting their population wealthy enough, China will become the largest consumer market. India maybe the second largest?

    Compared to 1873, communications are now instantly instead of days and weeks. Thus the crisis and recession won’t probably last 20 years.

    As for US cars:
    - Adapt new technologies in production
    - Adjust to change indemand
    - Change concepts
    - Copy European car manufacturers as they have survived even with unions and high labor prices.

  42. In 1873 the long crisis (20 years) was mainly due to two events:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gr%C3%BCnderkrach
    - Europeans had been building houses on crappy loans
    - The US was invading Europe with low priced farmer products in large quantities
    Resulted in the collapse of the Vienna stock exchange.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long_Depression

    The change this implemented:
    - The financial power changed from Europe to US
    - The industrial power also went to US – bye bye UK.
    - Up to that time almost all technologies were invented in Europe, then slowly the US became the leading innovator

    Over the years the US people became rich enough to become the world leading consumer market. Think Ford.

    In 2008:
    - Houses build on crappy loans
    - China had invaded the world with their products at low prices in large quantities.

    China has a large internal market potential. If they succeed in getting their population wealthy enough, China will become the largest consumer market. India maybe the second largest?

    Compared to 1873, communications are now instantly instead of days and weeks. Thus the crisis and recession won’t probably last 20 years.

    As for US cars:
    - Adapt new technologies in production
    - Adjust to change indemand
    - Change concepts
    - Copy European car manufacturers as they have survived even with unions and high labor prices.

  43. I, too, love the U.S. auto industry, but no way should Congress impose a gas tax to save the industry. Historically, we didn’t do this for the aviation or steel industries, and they both survived after a period of necessary internal reformations.

    You’re critique of the many missed PR opportunities is spot on. The auto CEOs didn’t even arrive in Washington, D.C., via their own products, and once there, they weren’t prepared. I watched GM CEO Rick Wagoner painfully stumble and stutter through vague answers to common-sense questions anyone should have been prepared to answer with $25 billion at stake.

    As so often happens, the Big Three actually have the means to help themselves. Let’s take the example of GM. For years, GM has possessed the capability of producing natural gas vehices (NGVs), and, in fact, does successfully produce these cars for othe countres (Brasil, for example). NGVs run clean and, best of all, in this country, we happen to possess the fuel ourselves.

    The question is, why hasn’t GM re-tooled and manufactured these cars here in America? We could kill two birds with one stone: Reduce our dependency on foreign energy sources (oil) AND reduce our carbon footprint without sacrificing U.S. auto jobs. Even better, we begin to put a dent in that $700 billion that’s flowing outside our borders to pay for our oil addiction.

    This is a position touted by T. Boone Pickens in his energy plan, and the message is pretty simple: America needs to depend on herself for energy consumption. Check it out: http://www.pickensplan.com/

    I’m glad you’re discussing this issue. I see it as an energy crisis that is entangled with the economic meltdown. The time really has come to put feet to our words. I’d love to buy an NGV produced by GM, but until the Big Three show some real leadership, enlist the help of visionaries (like Boone or Neil Young) and generally tighten their own (very mammoth) belts like other industries have, I’m not willing to bridge them with my dollars.

  44. I, too, love the U.S. auto industry, but no way should Congress impose a gas tax to save the industry. Historically, we didn’t do this for the aviation or steel industries, and they both survived after a period of necessary internal reformations.

    You’re critique of the many missed PR opportunities is spot on. The auto CEOs didn’t even arrive in Washington, D.C., via their own products, and once there, they weren’t prepared. I watched GM CEO Rick Wagoner painfully stumble and stutter through vague answers to common-sense questions anyone should have been prepared to answer with $25 billion at stake.

    As so often happens, the Big Three actually have the means to help themselves. Let’s take the example of GM. For years, GM has possessed the capability of producing natural gas vehices (NGVs), and, in fact, does successfully produce these cars for othe countres (Brasil, for example). NGVs run clean and, best of all, in this country, we happen to possess the fuel ourselves.

    The question is, why hasn’t GM re-tooled and manufactured these cars here in America? We could kill two birds with one stone: Reduce our dependency on foreign energy sources (oil) AND reduce our carbon footprint without sacrificing U.S. auto jobs. Even better, we begin to put a dent in that $700 billion that’s flowing outside our borders to pay for our oil addiction.

    This is a position touted by T. Boone Pickens in his energy plan, and the message is pretty simple: America needs to depend on herself for energy consumption. Check it out: http://www.pickensplan.com/

    I’m glad you’re discussing this issue. I see it as an energy crisis that is entangled with the economic meltdown. The time really has come to put feet to our words. I’d love to buy an NGV produced by GM, but until the Big Three show some real leadership, enlist the help of visionaries (like Boone or Neil Young) and generally tighten their own (very mammoth) belts like other industries have, I’m not willing to bridge them with my dollars.

  45. I think we absolutely need to bail out the American auto industry-but I want an ownership stake and strong environmental standards attached to any monies if the taxpayers are going to foot the bill.

  46. I think we absolutely need to bail out the American auto industry-but I want an ownership stake and strong environmental standards attached to any monies if the taxpayers are going to foot the bill.

  47. Of course I think we should invest, on infrastructure, etc. But I believe in tax-cutting to incentivise, not tax punishing to ‘change behavior’. No one needed to push me to change my behavior. I’ve been making the best decisions I can, based on family needs and personal beliefs, and the last thing I can afford right now is Big Gov’t stepping in and taking more money I don’t have out of my wallet. It’s ironic that the current low gas prices will actually spur sales of larger cars and SUVs, the ones that are highly profitable to Detroit, and it will allow people to get more for their trade-ins if they want to downsize to smaller cars. So low gas prices actually HELP Detroit, but that doesn’t fit a worldview that hates anything carbon and embraces the most dire Global Warming models at the expense of people being able to pay their bills. (it’s friggin freezing in DC by the way, but I digress :-)

    I think the gov’t causes far more problems that it solves. For it to tax more and make decisions based on special interest groups and particular industries is the worst thing for our economy. It was happy to print more money and write me a stimulus check to cover the high cost of energy. Huh??? Surreal.

    I believe in the free market and entreprenuerial American spirit. That’s what made Detroit great years ago, and it’ll make it great again if we unleash it. It’s tethered right now by high corp taxes, unaffordable pension benefits, brand damage dating back decades, idiot CEOs/execs and gov’t meddling.

  48. Of course I think we should invest, on infrastructure, etc. But I believe in tax-cutting to incentivise, not tax punishing to ‘change behavior’. No one needed to push me to change my behavior. I’ve been making the best decisions I can, based on family needs and personal beliefs, and the last thing I can afford right now is Big Gov’t stepping in and taking more money I don’t have out of my wallet. It’s ironic that the current low gas prices will actually spur sales of larger cars and SUVs, the ones that are highly profitable to Detroit, and it will allow people to get more for their trade-ins if they want to downsize to smaller cars. So low gas prices actually HELP Detroit, but that doesn’t fit a worldview that hates anything carbon and embraces the most dire Global Warming models at the expense of people being able to pay their bills. (it’s friggin freezing in DC by the way, but I digress :-)

    I think the gov’t causes far more problems that it solves. For it to tax more and make decisions based on special interest groups and particular industries is the worst thing for our economy. It was happy to print more money and write me a stimulus check to cover the high cost of energy. Huh??? Surreal.

    I believe in the free market and entreprenuerial American spirit. That’s what made Detroit great years ago, and it’ll make it great again if we unleash it. It’s tethered right now by high corp taxes, unaffordable pension benefits, brand damage dating back decades, idiot CEOs/execs and gov’t meddling.

  49. The American auto industry has made some horrible mistakes. Investing in foreign brands (Ford and Jaguar come to mind) didn’t work.

    We purchased a four year-old low-mileage US-made car with a foreign nameplate because it had a better warranty than the similar new US-made car we were considering. The dealer has always treated us like we purchased a brand new car and we never had to jump through any hoops to get a loaner or had make a co-pay on a warranty repair. The cost of ownership has been less than any other US-made car we’ve ever owned.

    If Detroit wants me back, they’re going to have to match this standard.

  50. The American auto industry has made some horrible mistakes. Investing in foreign brands (Ford and Jaguar come to mind) didn’t work.

    We purchased a four year-old low-mileage US-made car with a foreign nameplate because it had a better warranty than the similar new US-made car we were considering. The dealer has always treated us like we purchased a brand new car and we never had to jump through any hoops to get a loaner or had make a co-pay on a warranty repair. The cost of ownership has been less than any other US-made car we’ve ever owned.

    If Detroit wants me back, they’re going to have to match this standard.

  51. So, 50% of all cars electric? First, there are the range problems (which are worse when you need A/C). Second – and this is a problem for Obama – you’ll need a lot more power generation capability.

    He wants to run the coal industry out of business, and he’s opposed to nuclear power. If you believe that the “Pickens Plan” will solve all of that; well, I have some nice land is south central Florida you’ll also be interested in.

  52. It has nothing to do with the cars, regulation, or the democrats, or the republicans, or management. It has everything to do with the benefits the big three pay thier workers.

    Either level the playing field, by breaking the UAW, or unionize all the auto companies who have factories in America.

    In many segments the Big 3′s products are heads and shoulders over the competition, it’s not the products that are the problem, its the price.

    How many retirees in the U.S. is Toyota supporting? What about Honda? Do the research, run the numbers, this is the real story. How much of the price of a GM car goes to worker benefits .vs. the price of a Toyota?

    If you think companies have an obligation to thier workers, buy American.

    If you don’t think companies should take care of thier workers when they retire, don’t buy an American car.

    Guess what?

    You have all voted with your wallets, and you think pensions, and great health care benefits for workers are a bad idea. You won’t pay a higher sticker price for these benefits.

    When you buy Chinese products at Wal-Mart, you send the same message: Stick it to the American Factory Worker. This is the message you, the consumer, has been sending to Detroit for years and years. Well, you are getting what you paid for.

    All the reform in the world isn’t going to change this… All the money we can borrow from China, to hand to the big three, isn’t going to change this.

    No amount of wealth redistribution is going to change this…

  53. So, 50% of all cars electric? First, there are the range problems (which are worse when you need A/C). Second – and this is a problem for Obama – you’ll need a lot more power generation capability.

    He wants to run the coal industry out of business, and he’s opposed to nuclear power. If you believe that the “Pickens Plan” will solve all of that; well, I have some nice land is south central Florida you’ll also be interested in.

  54. It has nothing to do with the cars, regulation, or the democrats, or the republicans, or management. It has everything to do with the benefits the big three pay thier workers.

    Either level the playing field, by breaking the UAW, or unionize all the auto companies who have factories in America.

    In many segments the Big 3′s products are heads and shoulders over the competition, it’s not the products that are the problem, its the price.

    How many retirees in the U.S. is Toyota supporting? What about Honda? Do the research, run the numbers, this is the real story. How much of the price of a GM car goes to worker benefits .vs. the price of a Toyota?

    If you think companies have an obligation to thier workers, buy American.

    If you don’t think companies should take care of thier workers when they retire, don’t buy an American car.

    Guess what?

    You have all voted with your wallets, and you think pensions, and great health care benefits for workers are a bad idea. You won’t pay a higher sticker price for these benefits.

    When you buy Chinese products at Wal-Mart, you send the same message: Stick it to the American Factory Worker. This is the message you, the consumer, has been sending to Detroit for years and years. Well, you are getting what you paid for.

    All the reform in the world isn’t going to change this… All the money we can borrow from China, to hand to the big three, isn’t going to change this.

    No amount of wealth redistribution is going to change this…

  55. First of all, I absolutely agree that Detroit’s brand lines need to scaled back.

    But I actually do think Detroit should be bailed out. And cleaned out.

    Detroit shouldn’t be bailed out by the government and the people. It should be bailed out by Chevron, BP, Shell, and the other oil companies that coerced Detroit into sticking to an untenable business model for 30 years.

    A coworker of mine started doing car ads for Detroit’s biggest brands in the 70s. He’s presented to plenty of CEO’s and talked to even more engineers while test driving the latest models. According to him, everything that’s happening now, Detroit was actually starting to talk about 30 years ago. But they never managed to navigate towards a sustainable solution. I think we have a good idea why.

    I feel badly for the hardworking Americans that were the backbone of this once great industry. And, after enjoying their most profitable quarters ever, I’m pretty sure the Chevron’s of the world can afford to contribute to a $25 billion dollar bailout for an industry that their greed helped to drive into the ground. Perhaps (as punitive damages) they should be made to support blue-collar auto industry workers who lose jobs and pensions.

    But it shouldn’t end there. These private-jetting Detroit CEO’s should be put out. Replace them with true visionary leaders–like the Hiruka Nishamatsu’s, Neil Young’s, and Willie Nelson’s of the world.

  56. First of all, I absolutely agree that Detroit’s brand lines need to scaled back.

    But I actually do think Detroit should be bailed out. And cleaned out.

    Detroit shouldn’t be bailed out by the government and the people. It should be bailed out by Chevron, BP, Shell, and the other oil companies that coerced Detroit into sticking to an untenable business model for 30 years.

    A coworker of mine started doing car ads for Detroit’s biggest brands in the 70s. He’s presented to plenty of CEO’s and talked to even more engineers while test driving the latest models. According to him, everything that’s happening now, Detroit was actually starting to talk about 30 years ago. But they never managed to navigate towards a sustainable solution. I think we have a good idea why.

    I feel badly for the hardworking Americans that were the backbone of this once great industry. And, after enjoying their most profitable quarters ever, I’m pretty sure the Chevron’s of the world can afford to contribute to a $25 billion dollar bailout for an industry that their greed helped to drive into the ground. Perhaps (as punitive damages) they should be made to support blue-collar auto industry workers who lose jobs and pensions.

    But it shouldn’t end there. These private-jetting Detroit CEO’s should be put out. Replace them with true visionary leaders–like the Hiruka Nishamatsu’s, Neil Young’s, and Willie Nelson’s of the world.

  57. Gas tax? I don’t believe in manipulation to get things done. There already is momentum building towards more fuel efficient technology. All we really want is a higher MPG sticker. The Volt only does 40miles with its battery, what is its total reach?. We need to get rid of the “plug-in” name, it scares the crap out of people. The Chinese don’t care about American car brands, they’re just choosing based on availability, quality, and price like any rational buyer. The only way to have the Big 3 streamline their business is to let them file to restructure; get rid of some of the weight they have from the UAW, get rid of brand redundancy, get rid of incompetent myopic unimaginative management.

  58. Gas tax? I don’t believe in manipulation to get things done. There already is momentum building towards more fuel efficient technology. All we really want is a higher MPG sticker. The Volt only does 40miles with its battery, what is its total reach?. We need to get rid of the “plug-in” name, it scares the crap out of people. The Chinese don’t care about American car brands, they’re just choosing based on availability, quality, and price like any rational buyer. The only way to have the Big 3 streamline their business is to let them file to restructure; get rid of some of the weight they have from the UAW, get rid of brand redundancy, get rid of incompetent myopic unimaginative management.

  59. James: I agree with you that we’re going to need to go nuclear big time. I would also do a “moon shot” that says we get off of coal in 25 years. We MUST do this to save our planet. But, we’ll do it in 50 when our cities are under water due to global warming anyway. I just hope we, as a people, get a clue long before then. Seeing how deep the pollution problem is in China is a real eye opener.

  60. James: I agree with you that we’re going to need to go nuclear big time. I would also do a “moon shot” that says we get off of coal in 25 years. We MUST do this to save our planet. But, we’ll do it in 50 when our cities are under water due to global warming anyway. I just hope we, as a people, get a clue long before then. Seeing how deep the pollution problem is in China is a real eye opener.

  61. James: Neil Young’s car runs on natural gas, which comes into my home, and probably comes into yours. I cook and heat with it. That natural gas runs a generator in the front of his car which charges the batteries. If he’s home he doesn’t even need to do that, he just plugs it in. He probably will get a couple of hundred miles from one battery charge, just like the Tesla does (the Tesla costs $3 in California to go 240 miles). If he needs to go further, then he’ll rely on natural gas.

    But, either way, we HAVE to solve this problem in the next 25 years. If we don’t we’ll see global warming really hurt our cities and all people. And, even if you think global warming is bunk, you need to go to China and see the pollution that’s being generated there (and elsewhere, Los Angeles is almost as bad).

  62. James: Neil Young’s car runs on natural gas, which comes into my home, and probably comes into yours. I cook and heat with it. That natural gas runs a generator in the front of his car which charges the batteries. If he’s home he doesn’t even need to do that, he just plugs it in. He probably will get a couple of hundred miles from one battery charge, just like the Tesla does (the Tesla costs $3 in California to go 240 miles). If he needs to go further, then he’ll rely on natural gas.

    But, either way, we HAVE to solve this problem in the next 25 years. If we don’t we’ll see global warming really hurt our cities and all people. And, even if you think global warming is bunk, you need to go to China and see the pollution that’s being generated there (and elsewhere, Los Angeles is almost as bad).

  63. Ajai: you really should visit Europe. How did they get their nice trains and public transportation systems? Taxing gas. They pay a lot more per gallon than I do. We need to use taxation to both change consumption habits as well as provide funding to invest in our future.

  64. Ajai: you really should visit Europe. How did they get their nice trains and public transportation systems? Taxing gas. They pay a lot more per gallon than I do. We need to use taxation to both change consumption habits as well as provide funding to invest in our future.

  65. US car makers should stop making heavy and inefficient SUV cars and focus on environment friendly, innovative, small and light-weight cars.

    That’s what the Japanese do (and to some degree, also Europeans) and they’re obviously (more) successful.

    Don’t be confused by the Chinese demanding SUV cars. Fuel efficiency and pollution may not be an issue there yet, but they’ll learn quickly. There’s no reason why a car should be inefficient if it can be efficient.

    Anybody surprised? It’s what people have been telling for many years already.

  66. US car makers should stop making heavy and inefficient SUV cars and focus on environment friendly, innovative, small and light-weight cars.

    That’s what the Japanese do (and to some degree, also Europeans) and they’re obviously (more) successful.

    Don’t be confused by the Chinese demanding SUV cars. Fuel efficiency and pollution may not be an issue there yet, but they’ll learn quickly. There’s no reason why a car should be inefficient if it can be efficient.

    Anybody surprised? It’s what people have been telling for many years already.

  67. > Moosemiester. Sorry, we live in a global economy now and I’m going to buy the best products made at the best price. If that comes from China, so be it. It’s up to us to either compete or become a third-world nation. There’s too much American arrogance that says we’re entitled to these things. Hint: we’re not. More than half of the world’s population lives on two dollars a day. It’s very possible lots of us will join “the other half” soon unless we figure out how to innovate and compete in the world marketplace.

  68. > Moosemiester. Sorry, we live in a global economy now and I’m going to buy the best products made at the best price. If that comes from China, so be it. It’s up to us to either compete or become a third-world nation. There’s too much American arrogance that says we’re entitled to these things. Hint: we’re not. More than half of the world’s population lives on two dollars a day. It’s very possible lots of us will join “the other half” soon unless we figure out how to innovate and compete in the world marketplace.

  69. Robert,

    I’m sorry you’ve had a poor experience in Ford vehicles. I’d be interested to know what you define as “crappy.” The excellent Ford Flex that you noted is a crossover not an SUV, btw. :)

    You’re wrong about Ford not innovating. Innovation comes from much more than creating an electric car, which seems to be the idea that you’re fixated on. Let me see if I can enumerate the innovations at Ford that I’m aware of:

    - Ford’s vehicle mix was about 70% trucks & SUVs (largely because we were giving people exactly what they demanded in times of cheap gas); we have restructured to produce 60% cars & crossovers.

    - We’re using our successful European & South American manufacturing models to bring the more of those outstanding small cars to the United States.

    - We’re committed to being best-in-class in fuel economy in every vehicle we produce.

    - We’ve doubled the number of hybrids we offer, and we’re actively testing plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV), battery-powered electric vehicles (BEV), hydrogen, compressed natural gas, and more.

    - We’re environmentally friendly in every aspect of our business. It not only includes the vehicles we make, but the before and after effects as well.
    – We’re using soy in creating seat cushions, replacing plastic with polyol in certain parts (thus reducing our carbon footprint), and creating materials that more easily biodegrade at the end of the car’s life;
    – The lights shut off at the world headquarters at 6:30 and I have to dial a code if I want more power, and tell the system how many more minutes I need;
    – I use Ford pencils made from recycled denim; our Rouge plant has the largest green roof in the world;
    – Our Dagenham, UK facilities are powered by wind turbines; facilities in Spain have solar panels.

    At Ford, we’re committed to making the cars that people want and value, and that comes down to making *affordable* fuel-efficient vehicles. Which is why we want to be sure that if we do make an electric car, it’ll be done in a way that millions of Americans can afford it.

    There is a lot of misinformation out there and many Americans, from Congress on down, are oversimplifying the problem as well as the solution. If it were easy, we wouldn’t be in this situation. But we need Americans to understand the U.S. auto industry’s commitment to the country and its future, and we need to ask the same in return.

    If you haven’t yet had the opportunity, I would recommend that you, and every one of your readers, spends about 8 minutes to watch/listen to this very eloquent statement:

    If there’s more information you need or would like access to some of the subject matter experts at Ford, you know where to reach me.

    Scott Monty
    Global Digital Communications
    Ford Motor Company

  70. Robert,

    I’m sorry you’ve had a poor experience in Ford vehicles. I’d be interested to know what you define as “crappy.” The excellent Ford Flex that you noted is a crossover not an SUV, btw. :)

    You’re wrong about Ford not innovating. Innovation comes from much more than creating an electric car, which seems to be the idea that you’re fixated on. Let me see if I can enumerate the innovations at Ford that I’m aware of:

    - Ford’s vehicle mix was about 70% trucks & SUVs (largely because we were giving people exactly what they demanded in times of cheap gas); we have restructured to produce 60% cars & crossovers.

    - We’re using our successful European & South American manufacturing models to bring the more of those outstanding small cars to the United States.

    - We’re committed to being best-in-class in fuel economy in every vehicle we produce.

    - We’ve doubled the number of hybrids we offer, and we’re actively testing plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV), battery-powered electric vehicles (BEV), hydrogen, compressed natural gas, and more.

    - We’re environmentally friendly in every aspect of our business. It not only includes the vehicles we make, but the before and after effects as well.
    – We’re using soy in creating seat cushions, replacing plastic with polyol in certain parts (thus reducing our carbon footprint), and creating materials that more easily biodegrade at the end of the car’s life;
    – The lights shut off at the world headquarters at 6:30 and I have to dial a code if I want more power, and tell the system how many more minutes I need;
    – I use Ford pencils made from recycled denim; our Rouge plant has the largest green roof in the world;
    – Our Dagenham, UK facilities are powered by wind turbines; facilities in Spain have solar panels.

    At Ford, we’re committed to making the cars that people want and value, and that comes down to making *affordable* fuel-efficient vehicles. Which is why we want to be sure that if we do make an electric car, it’ll be done in a way that millions of Americans can afford it.

    There is a lot of misinformation out there and many Americans, from Congress on down, are oversimplifying the problem as well as the solution. If it were easy, we wouldn’t be in this situation. But we need Americans to understand the U.S. auto industry’s commitment to the country and its future, and we need to ask the same in return.

    If you haven’t yet had the opportunity, I would recommend that you, and every one of your readers, spends about 8 minutes to watch/listen to this very eloquent statement:

    If there’s more information you need or would like access to some of the subject matter experts at Ford, you know where to reach me.

    Scott Monty
    Global Digital Communications
    Ford Motor Company

  71. Peter: I disagree anymore. People want bigger cars around the world. When I was in China I saw a TON of SUVs, both made by American brands along with Japanese and Korean brands. The trick is we’ve got to get these big monsters off of gas and onto electric (and produce tons of nuclear plants) if we’re going to save our planet from both in your face pollution, like i saw in China, as well as global warming.

  72. Peter: I disagree anymore. People want bigger cars around the world. When I was in China I saw a TON of SUVs, both made by American brands along with Japanese and Korean brands. The trick is we’ve got to get these big monsters off of gas and onto electric (and produce tons of nuclear plants) if we’re going to save our planet from both in your face pollution, like i saw in China, as well as global warming.

  73. Nice post, Scoble.

    I agree with a majority of your points. Innovation is certainly needed. The American brands need to have more credibility put on them. Especially since so many people in other countries want to “be American” (which I personally find odd). During my last visit in India, I was shocked by how much everyone loved anything and everything American. A meal at McDonald’s was far nicer than I could ever expect it to be here in the US. People who were wearing jeans and t-shirts/sweaters were mostly wearing American brands. Same goes for the shoes. American brands can play this in their favor if they go about it in the right way. And innovation wouldn’t do anything but help immensely. On the other hand, we can’t really let the unemployment rate go any higher. Though it probably doesn’t matter, as they will head down that path if they don’t get to work anyway, I’m sure those people who have families to support wouldn’t mind having their jobs for a while longer.

  74. Nice post, Scoble.

    I agree with a majority of your points. Innovation is certainly needed. The American brands need to have more credibility put on them. Especially since so many people in other countries want to “be American” (which I personally find odd). During my last visit in India, I was shocked by how much everyone loved anything and everything American. A meal at McDonald’s was far nicer than I could ever expect it to be here in the US. People who were wearing jeans and t-shirts/sweaters were mostly wearing American brands. Same goes for the shoes. American brands can play this in their favor if they go about it in the right way. And innovation wouldn’t do anything but help immensely. On the other hand, we can’t really let the unemployment rate go any higher. Though it probably doesn’t matter, as they will head down that path if they don’t get to work anyway, I’m sure those people who have families to support wouldn’t mind having their jobs for a while longer.

  75. Scott: the taxis in New York City are inferior to those in Europe. Totally inferior. And they mostly are Fords, although I have started seeing Toyotas and they are more comfortable (and more fuel efficient).

    Sorry about calling the Flex an SUV. I don’t get the brand difference between Crossover or SUV anyway. Seems pretty arbitrary. OK, so it’s sort of like a minivan combined with 4-WD Jeep technology. Either way, I really loved the Flex and would love to have one, other than the gas mileage was only about 17MPG in my experience. The BMW gets 28 on average. My Saturn gets 22, which is too low, me thinks. Of course, if I had three kids I needed to fit into something the Flex would be a great answer. It’s really a great vehicle and Ford should be proud of doing it. I just wish we had an electric version.

    I think it is VERY cool that you took time out on a Saturday to answer my blog, by the way. That demonstrates you are listening to the marketplace conversation in a new way.

  76. Scott: the taxis in New York City are inferior to those in Europe. Totally inferior. And they mostly are Fords, although I have started seeing Toyotas and they are more comfortable (and more fuel efficient).

    Sorry about calling the Flex an SUV. I don’t get the brand difference between Crossover or SUV anyway. Seems pretty arbitrary. OK, so it’s sort of like a minivan combined with 4-WD Jeep technology. Either way, I really loved the Flex and would love to have one, other than the gas mileage was only about 17MPG in my experience. The BMW gets 28 on average. My Saturn gets 22, which is too low, me thinks. Of course, if I had three kids I needed to fit into something the Flex would be a great answer. It’s really a great vehicle and Ford should be proud of doing it. I just wish we had an electric version.

    I think it is VERY cool that you took time out on a Saturday to answer my blog, by the way. That demonstrates you are listening to the marketplace conversation in a new way.

  77. If we bail out the auto companies, where does it end? what about the credit companies? the housing/homebuilding industry? Doesn’t make sense to me.

  78. If we bail out the auto companies, where does it end? what about the credit companies? the housing/homebuilding industry? Doesn’t make sense to me.

  79. By the way, I am fixated on electric because I physically was ill in Shanghai from all the car and truck pollution. If we don’t solve that problem millions of people around the world will die and autos are contributing a HUGE amount to that kind of pollution. If we don’t solve the global warming problem we’re all toast and if we don’t get off of oil as our fuel source our economies will continue to be held hostage to offshore interests.

  80. By the way, I am fixated on electric because I physically was ill in Shanghai from all the car and truck pollution. If we don’t solve that problem millions of people around the world will die and autos are contributing a HUGE amount to that kind of pollution. If we don’t solve the global warming problem we’re all toast and if we don’t get off of oil as our fuel source our economies will continue to be held hostage to offshore interests.

  81. I can understand the pollution issue. I was talking with one of our marketing guys who was in Bangkok for about 4 years on a rotation, and he said it was horrible there (and that was 6 years ago).

    I agree that the taxi fleet in NYC does need some updating. Ford has been working with Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office to introduce the Ford Escape Hybrid as the vehicle of choice for the taxi fleet. Plus, with our Ford Fusion hybrid (mid-size car) that was just released, the technology allows you to go up to 47 mph in all-electric mode. That means that in typical city driving, you could get 700 miles between fill-ups.

    If you’re interested in seeing firsthand some of the innovative solutions that Ford is experimenting with, then may be we should talk. DM me on Twitter if you like (@ScottMonty).

    Scott

    P.S. Thanks for acknowledging Ford’s efforts in social media. It’s a start, but we’ve still got a long way to go.

  82. I can understand the pollution issue. I was talking with one of our marketing guys who was in Bangkok for about 4 years on a rotation, and he said it was horrible there (and that was 6 years ago).

    I agree that the taxi fleet in NYC does need some updating. Ford has been working with Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office to introduce the Ford Escape Hybrid as the vehicle of choice for the taxi fleet. Plus, with our Ford Fusion hybrid (mid-size car) that was just released, the technology allows you to go up to 47 mph in all-electric mode. That means that in typical city driving, you could get 700 miles between fill-ups.

    If you’re interested in seeing firsthand some of the innovative solutions that Ford is experimenting with, then may be we should talk. DM me on Twitter if you like (@ScottMonty).

    Scott

    P.S. Thanks for acknowledging Ford’s efforts in social media. It’s a start, but we’ve still got a long way to go.

  83. Robert, thank you for getting my point. We consumers vote with our dollars, and we have spoken. We can whine, cry, pontificate, and point fingers, but everytime we open our wallets, we vote.

    Like it or not, we have voted on the UAW, and their big worker benefit and retirement packages. We SAY we want these things with our mouths, and our pens, and our keyboards, but we are not willing to pay for them.

    Everyone SAYS they want a safe car, very few people will pay extra for it.

    Everyone SAYS they want a car with zero emissions, very few people will pay a premium for it.

    Everyone SAYS they want a car that gets 50mpg or better, we’ve had them for years, they don’t sell as well the F150 full size pickup.

    You are voting with your wallet, and I applaud you, Sir. However you have voted the big three into bankruptcy in thier North American Operations. You got exactly what you paid for :-)

  84. Robert – how’d you get a test vehicle? Also, good to see you pushing valley companies to fix the auto industry. God knows there isn’t anyone outside the valley that could help!

    Putting tesla into ford dealerships would be a horrible idea – get people who already overextend themselves to overextend even further! Why don’t we give them a 2-3 year adjustable rate car loan…. you know what comes next.

    My belief is that for today’s consumer, the US companies lack the style and the profile. No one wants to ride around in a taurus anymore. US car companies missed the fact that people bought the ipod because its sexy.

    BTW – I would disagree with you on the taxi situation – the reliability of the taxis (say in NYC) is a testament to the reliability of the cars. When I heard Consumer Reports talk about cars today on CNN – they pushed reliability for the US auto manufacturers. The problem is that if you ask 100 people where reliability ranks, it’s not first. People want to feel good in their cars, and frankly as you suggest, it’s just not there.

    Before i moved to nyc, I owned a jetta for 7 yrs and absolutely loved it – it made me feel good when i drove it and gave me relatively few problems (except for the recalls). We spend a lot of time in our cars and detroit needs to realize that. Sticking a fancy dvd player into the car isn’t enough.

  85. Robert, thank you for getting my point. We consumers vote with our dollars, and we have spoken. We can whine, cry, pontificate, and point fingers, but everytime we open our wallets, we vote.

    Like it or not, we have voted on the UAW, and their big worker benefit and retirement packages. We SAY we want these things with our mouths, and our pens, and our keyboards, but we are not willing to pay for them.

    Everyone SAYS they want a safe car, very few people will pay extra for it.

    Everyone SAYS they want a car with zero emissions, very few people will pay a premium for it.

    Everyone SAYS they want a car that gets 50mpg or better, we’ve had them for years, they don’t sell as well the F150 full size pickup.

    You are voting with your wallet, and I applaud you, Sir. However you have voted the big three into bankruptcy in thier North American Operations. You got exactly what you paid for :-)

  86. Robert – how’d you get a test vehicle? Also, good to see you pushing valley companies to fix the auto industry. God knows there isn’t anyone outside the valley that could help!

    Putting tesla into ford dealerships would be a horrible idea – get people who already overextend themselves to overextend even further! Why don’t we give them a 2-3 year adjustable rate car loan…. you know what comes next.

    My belief is that for today’s consumer, the US companies lack the style and the profile. No one wants to ride around in a taurus anymore. US car companies missed the fact that people bought the ipod because its sexy.

    BTW – I would disagree with you on the taxi situation – the reliability of the taxis (say in NYC) is a testament to the reliability of the cars. When I heard Consumer Reports talk about cars today on CNN – they pushed reliability for the US auto manufacturers. The problem is that if you ask 100 people where reliability ranks, it’s not first. People want to feel good in their cars, and frankly as you suggest, it’s just not there.

    Before i moved to nyc, I owned a jetta for 7 yrs and absolutely loved it – it made me feel good when i drove it and gave me relatively few problems (except for the recalls). We spend a lot of time in our cars and detroit needs to realize that. Sticking a fancy dvd player into the car isn’t enough.

  87. while working in china on sustainable transportation, I was most interested in the rental-car markets, which have the ability to speed innovation in many ways. (specifically, regulation will be closer; turnover will be faster; and pollution-critical maintenence will be better in managed fleets.)

    Ford has been unwilling to work with rental companies in china. I spoke to several chinese rental companies. Ford percieves the opportunity to gain marketshare, and does not seem to have the imagination to enable other ownership models that are more appropriate fore these dense cities.

    Rental cars and taxis are themselves innovations. In the long term, these will enable ‘electric vehicles’ much faster than focusing on the technology alone.

  88. IMO, the Big Three need a government bailout like an alcoholic needs a quart of vodka – and it will do about as much good, long-term. It’s in pretty much the same position IBM found itself in not long ago: crippled by inefficiencies no longer masked by a market stranglehold, being beaten in the marketplace by more efficient companies making smaller, cheaper products it cannot match while it haemorrhages money at a terrifying rate. Pumping cash into IBM wouldn’t have done anything more than delay the inevitable – perhaps making things worse, by delaying the necessary correction. As plenty of other people have already said, they need to use chapter 11 to restructure properly, shedding obsolete structures and burdens including the excess dealers, brands, factories and workers. Do it properly and ten years from now GM and Ford will be making cars – and money as well – but half their present size. Keep feeding the habit, they’ll follow the trail to oblivion blazed by the likes of Rover when the UK government tried exactly the same strategy: a dead company and a pile of government debt for others to pay.

    Sadly, a government which plans to remove the secret ballot from union elections probably won’t be amenable to fixing this problem. If Scoble is right about the tight deadline, a bailout might just delay a proper solution until it’s too late to save any of the big three!

  89. while working in china on sustainable transportation, I was most interested in the rental-car markets, which have the ability to speed innovation in many ways. (specifically, regulation will be closer; turnover will be faster; and pollution-critical maintenence will be better in managed fleets.)

    Ford has been unwilling to work with rental companies in china. I spoke to several chinese rental companies. Ford percieves the opportunity to gain marketshare, and does not seem to have the imagination to enable other ownership models that are more appropriate fore these dense cities.

    Rental cars and taxis are themselves innovations. In the long term, these will enable ‘electric vehicles’ much faster than focusing on the technology alone.

  90. IMO, the Big Three need a government bailout like an alcoholic needs a quart of vodka – and it will do about as much good, long-term. It’s in pretty much the same position IBM found itself in not long ago: crippled by inefficiencies no longer masked by a market stranglehold, being beaten in the marketplace by more efficient companies making smaller, cheaper products it cannot match while it haemorrhages money at a terrifying rate. Pumping cash into IBM wouldn’t have done anything more than delay the inevitable – perhaps making things worse, by delaying the necessary correction. As plenty of other people have already said, they need to use chapter 11 to restructure properly, shedding obsolete structures and burdens including the excess dealers, brands, factories and workers. Do it properly and ten years from now GM and Ford will be making cars – and money as well – but half their present size. Keep feeding the habit, they’ll follow the trail to oblivion blazed by the likes of Rover when the UK government tried exactly the same strategy: a dead company and a pile of government debt for others to pay.

    Sadly, a government which plans to remove the secret ballot from union elections probably won’t be amenable to fixing this problem. If Scoble is right about the tight deadline, a bailout might just delay a proper solution until it’s too late to save any of the big three!

  91. Robert, Thank God for sanity. I was dreading reading this post. I almost didnt. I thought “here we go another polemic on why the US has the best car industry in the world and why it ought to be saved. With no regard for business or economics or anything rational” – my apologies for doubting you, but everything I have read to date about this issue has fallen into that vein.
    Then I read your post, then I read it again. Obama needs to appoint you Secretary of State for Trade & Industry. Finally someone who has the sense to not say, well lets just let the US car industry go out the window or we must save it at all costs. Finally someone who says, lets get real. Lets apply some real business acumen to this issue and make an industry that will not just scrap by or survive in some form, lets make an industry that booms, that goes into the future with all that implies.
    If someone had give this much thought to the British car industry Tata Industries of India wouldnt know own Jaguar!
    Regards
    Simon

  92. Robert, Thank God for sanity. I was dreading reading this post. I almost didnt. I thought “here we go another polemic on why the US has the best car industry in the world and why it ought to be saved. With no regard for business or economics or anything rational” – my apologies for doubting you, but everything I have read to date about this issue has fallen into that vein.
    Then I read your post, then I read it again. Obama needs to appoint you Secretary of State for Trade & Industry. Finally someone who has the sense to not say, well lets just let the US car industry go out the window or we must save it at all costs. Finally someone who says, lets get real. Lets apply some real business acumen to this issue and make an industry that will not just scrap by or survive in some form, lets make an industry that booms, that goes into the future with all that implies.
    If someone had give this much thought to the British car industry Tata Industries of India wouldnt know own Jaguar!
    Regards
    Simon

  93. Thinking about US auto worker benefits, especially heath and pension and the similarities to those received by members of Congress, especially health care. I am not sure the story is all about cars anymore, but more to do with the nature of our political economy and loss of US manufacturing base due to tax structure and the political power of 20% financial sector in all things made in America. Every time I bought a US auto industry car, I bought someone healthcare and contributed to their pension as it was a fixed cost. Cheap money financial policies made it work without much transparency. Now there is a realignment in play and unfortunately the issue is more than bail or not bail. We are all connected by the fact we drive more than walk. What happens next has to be in a new direction with out-of-the-box initiatives, not a fix to the same old auto/highway path that got us here today.

  94. Thinking about US auto worker benefits, especially heath and pension and the similarities to those received by members of Congress, especially health care. I am not sure the story is all about cars anymore, but more to do with the nature of our political economy and loss of US manufacturing base due to tax structure and the political power of 20% financial sector in all things made in America. Every time I bought a US auto industry car, I bought someone healthcare and contributed to their pension as it was a fixed cost. Cheap money financial policies made it work without much transparency. Now there is a realignment in play and unfortunately the issue is more than bail or not bail. We are all connected by the fact we drive more than walk. What happens next has to be in a new direction with out-of-the-box initiatives, not a fix to the same old auto/highway path that got us here today.

  95. I believe that providing some sort of bridge capital to the US auto industry is as important as the financial bailout of the banks. Ford $F and $GM are as iconic to the United States as Coca Cola. If they go bankrupt, the entire country will be perceived as being bankrupt by the rest of the world.

    I like your idea of Obama calling for a “moon shot” (ala Kennedy) to get the country to have 50% electric car usage by 2020.

    Regardless of where we get the money, the trickledown effect of a bankrupt US auto industry would be disastrous. “One job in Detroit affects seven others elsewhere.”

    We are all in this together.

    Shannon Norrell
    http://twitter.com/thewebdood

    ps – By my calculations, imposing a nationwide tax of $0.298 per gallon of gas consumed would produce $25 billion in one year alone.

  96. On the Taxis… Sure, a big V8 isn’t the most economical choice for driving in a city. This is the only place a hybrid really shines.

    Diff between Crossover and SUVs is: SUVs are build on a ladder oder perimeter frame which makes them really heavy, while the crossover uses a unibody like a regular passenger car.

    On the milage… according to my onboard computer my old BMW 320d made about 43 MPG. I could have gotten it to about 48 if I weren’t driving so fast ;)

  97. On the Taxis… Sure, a big V8 isn’t the most economical choice for driving in a city. This is the only place a hybrid really shines.

    Diff between Crossover and SUVs is: SUVs are build on a ladder oder perimeter frame which makes them really heavy, while the crossover uses a unibody like a regular passenger car.

    On the milage… according to my onboard computer my old BMW 320d made about 43 MPG. I could have gotten it to about 48 if I weren’t driving so fast ;)

  98. I believe that providing some sort of bridge capital to the US auto industry is as important as the financial bailout of the banks. Ford $F and $GM are as iconic to the United States as Coca Cola. If they go bankrupt, the entire country will be perceived as being bankrupt by the rest of the world.

    I like your idea of Obama calling for a “moon shot” (ala Kennedy) to get the country to have 50% electric car usage by 2020.

    Regardless of where we get the money, the trickledown effect of a bankrupt US auto industry would be disastrous. “One job in Detroit affects seven others elsewhere.”

    We are all in this together.

    Shannon Norrell
    http://twitter.com/thewebdood

    ps – By my calculations, imposing a nationwide tax of $0.298 per gallon of gas consumed would produce $25 billion in one year alone.

  99. Some good points, the american car biz is fragmented across far too many brands. They need to kill at least half of them.

    It may help but well probably never buy american cars again, we are now a two audi fam, mostly because im very big on quality and performance. We did own a saturn for many years as well though and were very happy with it. Sure it wasnt the fastest car but it was reliable and looked half decent.

  100. Some good points, the american car biz is fragmented across far too many brands. They need to kill at least half of them.

    It may help but well probably never buy american cars again, we are now a two audi fam, mostly because im very big on quality and performance. We did own a saturn for many years as well though and were very happy with it. Sure it wasnt the fastest car but it was reliable and looked half decent.

  101. I find it interesting that the three men running these companies arrived on private jets with $20 million salaries and blame circumstances. It’s the hubris of a $20 million salary that creates the conditions for these sorts of problems. If any of there staff had the same excuse they’d say “your salary is paid for you to plan for these things and fix them”

    Contrast Toyota – no crazy salaries. They started the Camry say 25-30 years ago. While Ford were in medium cars then out of them, then in them the Camry got a little better every year. Now I understand it’s the best selling car in the USA. No wild innovation – Windows software – who cares, they roll out the first Hybrid, then another and now hybrids are really good. They have one good car in every category not 20 SUV’s because it’s fashionable.

    Toyota is staffed by a team of real people who work to a common set of principles and have over 100 years grown to be the worlds most respected car company. The senior executives fly commercial, they keep in touch with the real world, they have lives that are not totally removed from the lives of the staff and the buyers of their product.

    Interesting Toyota are not closing factories moving to China etc. In fact as I understand it they have increased their manufacturing in the USA over the past 10 years.

    The staff of GM and Ford are the ones that will suffer if these places close but it’s about time there was a new model. If you are on $20 million it’s human nature to think you are special, different, better. The belief money buys the best is clearly nonsense.

    A plan for these should be, get rid of the plethora of brands and stick with the performers, reduce the ranges to make sense, reduce costs starting with the CEO and start making good reliable products people want. Unfortunately for the staff the hubris of management will never deliver a pragmatic plan.

  102. I find it interesting that the three men running these companies arrived on private jets with $20 million salaries and blame circumstances. It’s the hubris of a $20 million salary that creates the conditions for these sorts of problems. If any of there staff had the same excuse they’d say “your salary is paid for you to plan for these things and fix them”

    Contrast Toyota – no crazy salaries. They started the Camry say 25-30 years ago. While Ford were in medium cars then out of them, then in them the Camry got a little better every year. Now I understand it’s the best selling car in the USA. No wild innovation – Windows software – who cares, they roll out the first Hybrid, then another and now hybrids are really good. They have one good car in every category not 20 SUV’s because it’s fashionable.

    Toyota is staffed by a team of real people who work to a common set of principles and have over 100 years grown to be the worlds most respected car company. The senior executives fly commercial, they keep in touch with the real world, they have lives that are not totally removed from the lives of the staff and the buyers of their product.

    Interesting Toyota are not closing factories moving to China etc. In fact as I understand it they have increased their manufacturing in the USA over the past 10 years.

    The staff of GM and Ford are the ones that will suffer if these places close but it’s about time there was a new model. If you are on $20 million it’s human nature to think you are special, different, better. The belief money buys the best is clearly nonsense.

    A plan for these should be, get rid of the plethora of brands and stick with the performers, reduce the ranges to make sense, reduce costs starting with the CEO and start making good reliable products people want. Unfortunately for the staff the hubris of management will never deliver a pragmatic plan.

  103. I believe in America! I believe in GM and American made cars. (I think my Cadillac was made in the US. Buying American insures jobs and a future for America. That is why I am buying American made this holiday!

  104. I believe in America! I believe in GM and American made cars. (I think my Cadillac was made in the US. Buying American insures jobs and a future for America. That is why I am buying American made this holiday!

  105. Pollution is one thing, Global Warming another. China’s a great example of non-regulation of industry crippling air quality. One of the reasons I chose Honda years ago: low emissions, in addition to knowing I could drive it 300,000 miles and get high gas mileage. Ultimately, the car cost less to drive (a wallet decision) and spew less pollutants (an air quality issue, but not a Global Warming decision). No one will convince me to make a purchase out of some feeling of Green Guilt. But when I can make a decision that first and foremost is based on safety, price and quality, and also is a good Green choice, great.

    I care deeply about the air I and others breathe, and get angry when a dump truck passes spewing a thousand times more than my car ever will. And does anyone know that inefficient shipping design (looking for article link, it expired on Yahoo/PR Newswire) is estimated to waste more than 4 million barrels of oil per day? 5% of the world’s daily consumption. All of those massive container ships and tankers are horribly inefficient, and the industry knows it.

    As far as Global Warming, since it’s been raised in this article and is a key driving force behind gas tax, anti-offshore drilling, anti-coal thinking, etc … I encourage you to read the abundance of material offering a different perspective on the causes (not all under our control) of environmental change, and that recent data shows we may actually be entering a long term period of Global ‘Cooling’:
    http://tinyurl.com/6x6k2j (one example)
    http://tinyurl.com/4pf8l3 (another)

    Making fuel efficient vehicles, especially plug-in hybrids powered by an electricity grid powered by Nuclear energy, should be a top priority. But let’s not forget the same focus on trucks, ships, etc., that pound for pound spew much more pollutants and get much worse mileage than cars.

  106. Pollution is one thing, Global Warming another. China’s a great example of non-regulation of industry crippling air quality. One of the reasons I chose Honda years ago: low emissions, in addition to knowing I could drive it 300,000 miles and get high gas mileage. Ultimately, the car cost less to drive (a wallet decision) and spew less pollutants (an air quality issue, but not a Global Warming decision). No one will convince me to make a purchase out of some feeling of Green Guilt. But when I can make a decision that first and foremost is based on safety, price and quality, and also is a good Green choice, great.

    I care deeply about the air I and others breathe, and get angry when a dump truck passes spewing a thousand times more than my car ever will. And does anyone know that inefficient shipping design (looking for article link, it expired on Yahoo/PR Newswire) is estimated to waste more than 4 million barrels of oil per day? 5% of the world’s daily consumption. All of those massive container ships and tankers are horribly inefficient, and the industry knows it.

    As far as Global Warming, since it’s been raised in this article and is a key driving force behind gas tax, anti-offshore drilling, anti-coal thinking, etc … I encourage you to read the abundance of material offering a different perspective on the causes (not all under our control) of environmental change, and that recent data shows we may actually be entering a long term period of Global ‘Cooling’:
    http://tinyurl.com/6x6k2j (one example)
    http://tinyurl.com/4pf8l3 (another)

    Making fuel efficient vehicles, especially plug-in hybrids powered by an electricity grid powered by Nuclear energy, should be a top priority. But let’s not forget the same focus on trucks, ships, etc., that pound for pound spew much more pollutants and get much worse mileage than cars.

  107. Robert, Big Three AutoMakers are not very smart. To arrive at the meetings in their corporate jets was a mistake.

    Yes, they have innovated in the past. But they are too slow to react to the changing marketplace. That is why Japanese and German carmakers are so successful. They ‘Get It’.

    Thank you for a well crafted post, and the Santa Cruz video was cool.

    Respectfully, Nicholas Chase – ‘the video guy’ at BlogWorld Expo 2008
    http://donotreadthisblogunless.blogspot.com/

  108. Robert, Big Three AutoMakers are not very smart. To arrive at the meetings in their corporate jets was a mistake.

    Yes, they have innovated in the past. But they are too slow to react to the changing marketplace. That is why Japanese and German carmakers are so successful. They ‘Get It’.

    Thank you for a well crafted post, and the Santa Cruz video was cool.

    Respectfully, Nicholas Chase – ‘the video guy’ at BlogWorld Expo 2008
    http://donotreadthisblogunless.blogspot.com/

  109. Hi Scott,

    It’s funny that you note the wind turbines at the Ford Dagenham plant East of London. It is instructive to look at what has happened to Dagenham plant which at one stage employed 40,000 people. Today, it’s a much smaller (a few thousand people) operation which manufactures engines only. The site itself is strange to look at as you drive through it on the A40 – deserted for the most part.

    In the end, Ford chose to close Dagenham (which at one stage was slated to build the new Ford Fiesta – a car which went to Spain in the end) for two reasons. First, it was an old plant which is fair enough and second because UK workers are easier to lay-off than their Euro brethren. The UK tends to get jobs first and lose them first but ultimately, we survive without a UK owned car industry.

    What is really interesting though is that today, with a workforce a tiny fraction of it’s 1970s size, the UK produces more cars than it produces in the 1970s. Honda for example has one of their most efficient plants in the world producing the Civic.

  110. Hi Scott,

    It’s funny that you note the wind turbines at the Ford Dagenham plant East of London. It is instructive to look at what has happened to Dagenham plant which at one stage employed 40,000 people. Today, it’s a much smaller (a few thousand people) operation which manufactures engines only. The site itself is strange to look at as you drive through it on the A40 – deserted for the most part.

    In the end, Ford chose to close Dagenham (which at one stage was slated to build the new Ford Fiesta – a car which went to Spain in the end) for two reasons. First, it was an old plant which is fair enough and second because UK workers are easier to lay-off than their Euro brethren. The UK tends to get jobs first and lose them first but ultimately, we survive without a UK owned car industry.

    What is really interesting though is that today, with a workforce a tiny fraction of it’s 1970s size, the UK produces more cars than it produces in the 1970s. Honda for example has one of their most efficient plants in the world producing the Civic.

  111. I wish the Chinese would LOVE my videos more. I could use their traffic stats to wow clients. Maybe I’ll try a Marc Jacobs purse and a Slurpee for my next on-cam moment. Many things to ponder within this post!

  112. I wish the Chinese would LOVE my videos more. I could use their traffic stats to wow clients. Maybe I’ll try a Marc Jacobs purse and a Slurpee for my next on-cam moment. Many things to ponder within this post!

  113. Scott Monty: agree with Robert that’s it’s great to see you here on a Saturday engaging and informing and listening. I can’t imagine an American not rooting for Ford and the other auto makers. We WANT you to succeed.

  114. Scott Monty: agree with Robert that’s it’s great to see you here on a Saturday engaging and informing and listening. I can’t imagine an American not rooting for Ford and the other auto makers. We WANT you to succeed.

  115. I think we have to go further.

    The Big Three should consider bankruptcy and reorganization as a single car company. A leaner one. GM has the drivetrain of the near future with the Volt. Ford knows smaller cars from its European operations. It makes no sense to spend hundreds of millions in competing R&D. Cooperate and start over together.

    I’m with you on getting off gasoline. Prices are rock-bottom right now, but it won’t last.

  116. I think we have to go further.

    The Big Three should consider bankruptcy and reorganization as a single car company. A leaner one. GM has the drivetrain of the near future with the Volt. Ford knows smaller cars from its European operations. It makes no sense to spend hundreds of millions in competing R&D. Cooperate and start over together.

    I’m with you on getting off gasoline. Prices are rock-bottom right now, but it won’t last.

  117. Scott Monty: agree with Robert that’s it’s great to see you here on a Saturday engaging and informing and listening. I can’t imagine an American not rooting for Ford and the other auto makers. We WANT you to succeed.

  118. Scott Monty: agree with Robert that’s it’s great to see you here on a Saturday engaging and informing and listening. I can’t imagine an American not rooting for Ford and the other auto makers. We WANT you to succeed.

  119. Robert, although you say you haven’t seen much support for the US Auto industry, it does bear mentioning that there are several (many) voices that suggest that the best way to “love” the US (which should be North American, BTW) industry is through a highly structured Chapter 11 bankruptcy process. Andrew Ross Sorkin in the NYTimes is one of them (Charlie Rose interview and a link to his original piece on this here: http://dealbook.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/11/21/video-sorkin-on-rescuing-the-automakers/ ) and his proposal is pretty interesting.

    In any case, the important point is that there is a middle position between “let ‘em hang” and “bail em out” – neither of which position seems to be very good.

    No matter what kind of successes the North American industry has had recently, they’ve had 30 years to take into account the changes in the global industry. It’s not like all of this crept up on them. Instead of being truly innovative and moving the market along to where everyone knew it had to go – and the company presidents admitted this before the House committee last week – they chose quarterly numbers every single time. A bailout doesn’t seem right in that context – but you’re right, the industry is too important just to let it sink. So it seems to me that some kind of middle ground is the only real option.

  120. Robert, although you say you haven’t seen much support for the US Auto industry, it does bear mentioning that there are several (many) voices that suggest that the best way to “love” the US (which should be North American, BTW) industry is through a highly structured Chapter 11 bankruptcy process. Andrew Ross Sorkin in the NYTimes is one of them (Charlie Rose interview and a link to his original piece on this here: http://dealbook.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/11/21/video-sorkin-on-rescuing-the-automakers/ ) and his proposal is pretty interesting.

    In any case, the important point is that there is a middle position between “let ‘em hang” and “bail em out” – neither of which position seems to be very good.

    No matter what kind of successes the North American industry has had recently, they’ve had 30 years to take into account the changes in the global industry. It’s not like all of this crept up on them. Instead of being truly innovative and moving the market along to where everyone knew it had to go – and the company presidents admitted this before the House committee last week – they chose quarterly numbers every single time. A bailout doesn’t seem right in that context – but you’re right, the industry is too important just to let it sink. So it seems to me that some kind of middle ground is the only real option.

  121. I agree that we would all love to see american car companies succeed, but not when the fight pollution reduction, CAFE standards at every opportunity. They still have to yet come up with THEIR OWN significant high efficiency low pollution solution… They have dragged their feet, thinking that they could survive with their gas guzzling vehicles. Be careful of the consistent “green washing” that is taking place… Look at their products and evaluate them on that.

  122. I agree that we would all love to see american car companies succeed, but not when the fight pollution reduction, CAFE standards at every opportunity. They still have to yet come up with THEIR OWN significant high efficiency low pollution solution… They have dragged their feet, thinking that they could survive with their gas guzzling vehicles. Be careful of the consistent “green washing” that is taking place… Look at their products and evaluate them on that.

  123. I agree on the point about car rentals. Avis has mostly GM cars and they are all terrible. Even when getting an upgrade.

    As for Tesla, I think they are a blip on the market and who knows if their cars are even quality? Given the issues they have had buying a car from them could be risky. The battery could blow up after a year of driving, no one knows. That is Silicon Valley bias coming in.

  124. I agree on the point about car rentals. Avis has mostly GM cars and they are all terrible. Even when getting an upgrade.

    As for Tesla, I think they are a blip on the market and who knows if their cars are even quality? Given the issues they have had buying a car from them could be risky. The battery could blow up after a year of driving, no one knows. That is Silicon Valley bias coming in.

  125. Hi Scott, out of interest, were you behind establishing the rather great Ford-sponsored “This Is Now” Flickr group that’s been advertised as of late?
    (Apologies for being slightly off topic here)

  126. Hi Scott, out of interest, were you behind establishing the rather great Ford-sponsored “This Is Now” Flickr group that’s been advertised as of late?
    (Apologies for being slightly off topic here)

  127. James and the others who’re talking about power. A recent study found that if we converted to plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs), or hybrid plug-ins (PHEVs), we CURRENTLY have the capacity to power over 70% of the light-duty car and truck fleet.

    IOW, we could convert 7 out of 10 cars to PEVs/PHEVs TODAY, and meet their needs using the existing grid.

    See: http://www.pnl.gov/news/release.asp?id=204

  128. James and the others who’re talking about power. A recent study found that if we converted to plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs), or hybrid plug-ins (PHEVs), we CURRENTLY have the capacity to power over 70% of the light-duty car and truck fleet.

    IOW, we could convert 7 out of 10 cars to PEVs/PHEVs TODAY, and meet their needs using the existing grid.

    See: http://www.pnl.gov/news/release.asp?id=204

  129. Robert, the thing that bugs me about calling for tons of new nuclear power plants to power all these electric cars is that hereby, the world just runs from one wall into another.

    The US never experienced something like “Tchernobyl” in their close neighborhood, but Europeans know what it means (and that wasn’t even the worst case, just an idea of it). Please note that nuclear power plant safety not just a problem of construction and maintenance. There have also been close to catastrophic incidents in Sweden and in France, among others. With every new nuclear power plant being built, the risk of having a catastrophic incident increases.

    Further, there’s the problem of the atomic waste (emitting radiation for thousands of years to come – our grand-grand-grand-sons and -daughters will love to care about OUR waste problem). And the problem that, like oil, suitable uranium is also a natural resource that isn’t renewable and very scarce (much scarcer than oil). There’s also a transportation problem (safety, again).

    Also think about the millions of batteries that will be required to drive all those electric or solar powered cars. They can be partly recycled, but there’s always some waste.

    I don’t prefer fuel driven cars over electric/solar cars, but I would love to see some initiatives that promote mitigation in regard to energy consumption per capita. We don’t need to become tree-huggers, but we should at least start thinking about our overall energy consumption and how we can lower it to a sane level while keeping our lives enjoyable. We should start thinking again about substituting as many of our business trips by teleconferencing. About reducing the space we need for living (world population increases every day). About how to live a less luxurious, yet happy life that is even healthier at the same time (e.g. by walking to the next corner store instead of driving to a huge shopping mall for shopping).

    And last but not least, we should think about whether cars really need to be that heavy and big, as even if they’re driven by environment friendly power sources, energy consumption of a car that weighs the double, will also be doubled, rest unchanged (blame the laws of physics).

    The strategic direction is thus pretty clear (also for China) and those car manufacturers who adapt to this mega trend the quickest will have the best outlook.

  130. Robert, the thing that bugs me about calling for tons of new nuclear power plants to power all these electric cars is that hereby, the world just runs from one wall into another.

    The US never experienced something like “Tchernobyl” in their close neighborhood, but Europeans know what it means (and that wasn’t even the worst case, just an idea of it). Please note that nuclear power plant safety not just a problem of construction and maintenance. There have also been close to catastrophic incidents in Sweden and in France, among others. With every new nuclear power plant being built, the risk of having a catastrophic incident increases.

    Further, there’s the problem of the atomic waste (emitting radiation for thousands of years to come – our grand-grand-grand-sons and -daughters will love to care about OUR waste problem). And the problem that, like oil, suitable uranium is also a natural resource that isn’t renewable and very scarce (much scarcer than oil). There’s also a transportation problem (safety, again).

    Also think about the millions of batteries that will be required to drive all those electric or solar powered cars. They can be partly recycled, but there’s always some waste.

    I don’t prefer fuel driven cars over electric/solar cars, but I would love to see some initiatives that promote mitigation in regard to energy consumption per capita. We don’t need to become tree-huggers, but we should at least start thinking about our overall energy consumption and how we can lower it to a sane level while keeping our lives enjoyable. We should start thinking again about substituting as many of our business trips by teleconferencing. About reducing the space we need for living (world population increases every day). About how to live a less luxurious, yet happy life that is even healthier at the same time (e.g. by walking to the next corner store instead of driving to a huge shopping mall for shopping).

    And last but not least, we should think about whether cars really need to be that heavy and big, as even if they’re driven by environment friendly power sources, energy consumption of a car that weighs the double, will also be doubled, rest unchanged (blame the laws of physics).

    The strategic direction is thus pretty clear (also for China) and those car manufacturers who adapt to this mega trend the quickest will have the best outlook.

  131. Since 1970s, the U.S. cosumer has steadily lost confidence in the U.S. auto industry to produce economical, reliable and eye appealing cars. It sold power, size and glitz, more interested in bragging about complex radios and tape players and other electronic gadgets in them rather than putting emphasis on quality, reliability and economy. In the 90s my new Ford spent half of the time at the dealer for repairs, that lasted for a week or two and back to the garage. It’s my time, grief, and many times very frustrating arguments with the dealer and zone managers about warranty coverage. Many of my friends have had and still have similar experience. On my recent trip to Chicago, my friend rented a Mercury from Hertz. Guess what. He got stopped by police and was ticketed at night for the car’s tail lights not working. On account of that he missed his flight.
    Since my fiasco with Ford, I bought 2 Toyotas and 3 Hondas. In the first five years I never never needed to go back for repairs. Besides, they deliver very good mileage, 26-28 mpg, and I experience very friendly and considered service when I need it.
    Do I need to go back to this kind of aggrevation again? GM, Ford and Chrysler lost almost deliberately through complacency two generations of consumers. They need to convince people that what they offer is more consumer appealing, friendly, more reilable and at a competitive price. The rescue plan is a band aid that would not solve anything, unless the corporations began to convince people and produce evidence to support their wishful dreams.

  132. Since 1970s, the U.S. cosumer has steadily lost confidence in the U.S. auto industry to produce economical, reliable and eye appealing cars. It sold power, size and glitz, more interested in bragging about complex radios and tape players and other electronic gadgets in them rather than putting emphasis on quality, reliability and economy. In the 90s my new Ford spent half of the time at the dealer for repairs, that lasted for a week or two and back to the garage. It’s my time, grief, and many times very frustrating arguments with the dealer and zone managers about warranty coverage. Many of my friends have had and still have similar experience. On my recent trip to Chicago, my friend rented a Mercury from Hertz. Guess what. He got stopped by police and was ticketed at night for the car’s tail lights not working. On account of that he missed his flight.
    Since my fiasco with Ford, I bought 2 Toyotas and 3 Hondas. In the first five years I never never needed to go back for repairs. Besides, they deliver very good mileage, 26-28 mpg, and I experience very friendly and considered service when I need it.
    Do I need to go back to this kind of aggrevation again? GM, Ford and Chrysler lost almost deliberately through complacency two generations of consumers. They need to convince people that what they offer is more consumer appealing, friendly, more reilable and at a competitive price. The rescue plan is a band aid that would not solve anything, unless the corporations began to convince people and produce evidence to support their wishful dreams.

  133. You make a good point about quality, and I 100% agree, but the problems go much deeper.

    These companies couldn’t get rid of the brands, but that won’t reduce costs, just make PR easier (which is still the least of their problems). These companies did such poor jobs negotiating union deals over the past 30 years that a few thousand dollars on every car goes towards pensions and paying people who should have been subject to layoffs and don’t even put in a days work anymore (but still get a paycheck and benefits). On top of that, the large number of dealers essentially being subsidized by the manufactures are strangling the companies.

    Assuming they work out these problems, they still need to figure out how to react to the American energy concerns. Foreign cars are becoming very efficient and affordable. US cars are not nearly as efficient and cost more.

    For China, this is really the perfect time to invade the US market. If they could produce a reliable, energy efficient car that still looked and performed well in the next 5-8 years, it’s over for US automakers unless large taxes were instituted against foreign cars.

    Their problems aren’t just the product, it’s also how it’s made. Fixing both at the same time is nearly impossible legally and technically. A bailout doesn’t fix these problems, it just lets them squander more time, and gives the foreign competitors more time to workout how to kill them off.

    What the US auto industry needs is exactly what it has right now, and ultimatum. Fix it or die. That simple. If it becomes any less dire, they aren’t going to suffer the necessary pain to resurrect these brands.

    I’m hoping they rebound… but I want a true rebound, one that creates a viable industry, not one like we have had for several years that despite records sales they hemorrhage money.

  134. You make a good point about quality, and I 100% agree, but the problems go much deeper.

    These companies couldn’t get rid of the brands, but that won’t reduce costs, just make PR easier (which is still the least of their problems). These companies did such poor jobs negotiating union deals over the past 30 years that a few thousand dollars on every car goes towards pensions and paying people who should have been subject to layoffs and don’t even put in a days work anymore (but still get a paycheck and benefits). On top of that, the large number of dealers essentially being subsidized by the manufactures are strangling the companies.

    Assuming they work out these problems, they still need to figure out how to react to the American energy concerns. Foreign cars are becoming very efficient and affordable. US cars are not nearly as efficient and cost more.

    For China, this is really the perfect time to invade the US market. If they could produce a reliable, energy efficient car that still looked and performed well in the next 5-8 years, it’s over for US automakers unless large taxes were instituted against foreign cars.

    Their problems aren’t just the product, it’s also how it’s made. Fixing both at the same time is nearly impossible legally and technically. A bailout doesn’t fix these problems, it just lets them squander more time, and gives the foreign competitors more time to workout how to kill them off.

    What the US auto industry needs is exactly what it has right now, and ultimatum. Fix it or die. That simple. If it becomes any less dire, they aren’t going to suffer the necessary pain to resurrect these brands.

    I’m hoping they rebound… but I want a true rebound, one that creates a viable industry, not one like we have had for several years that despite records sales they hemorrhage money.

  135. 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.

  136. 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.

  137. 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.

  138. 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.

  139. 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.

  140. 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.

  141. 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.

  142. 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.

  143. 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.

  144. 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.

  145. 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?

  146. 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?

  147. 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.

  148. 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.

  149. 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.

  150. 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.

  151. 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.

  152. 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.

  153. 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.

  154. 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.

  155. 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

  156. 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

  157. 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.

  158. 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.

  159. Re: Gas tax

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

  160. Re: Gas tax

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

  161. 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.

  162. 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.

  163. 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.

  164. 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.

  165. 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.

  166. 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.

  167. 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!

  168. 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!

  169. @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).

  170. @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).

  171. 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.

  172. 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.

  173. (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.

  174. (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.

  175. 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!

  176. 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!

  177. 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.

  178. 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.

  179. 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!

  180. 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!

  181. 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.

  182. 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.

  183. 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

  184. 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

  185. @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

  186. @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

  187. 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.

  188. 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.

  189. 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.

  190. 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.

  191. 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.

  192. 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.

  193. 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

  194. 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

  195. 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….

  196. 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….

  197. 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.

  198. 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.

  199. 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.

  200. 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.

  201. 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…

  202. 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…

  203. (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.

  204. (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.

  205. 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.

  206. 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.