Saturday, November 22, 2008

Wither the Buggywhip?

I'm certainly conflicted on this proposed bail-out of the Big Three. It's certainly something unprecedented in my lifetime, seeing the CEO's of GM, Ford and Chrysler all but begging before congress for billions of corporate bailout to forestall the inevitable.

There's no winners in this end-game. And every one's to blame.

  • Union Management: I don't blame the worker--for what is wrong with wanting livable wages and benefits, health care and a good retirement. Isn't that the American Dream? Would we all be happier if these workers were Wal-Marted into $10-15/hour jobs with no health care and no retirement plan? It pains me to say this, as Union Member myself for the past fifteen years--in Texas, no less, probably the least-friendly place in the country to a Union worker--but let's point a finger at Union Leadership, who took, and took, and took at every opportunity (just doing the job they were elected to) and created a big benefit monster as a result that can no longer continue to be fed.
  • Congress: It does no one good to set fuel efficiency standards, then create enough loopholes to drive a busload of Big Three lobbyists through. We look to Government to lead us through crises, but for 30 years we've had a looming energy crunch and they've done nothing but superficially address the problem.
  • Big Three Management: They still don't "get it." They sat on their fat asses, adding layer after layer of management while the foreign manufacturers created technologies and manufacturing processes and cars that were more advanced, more fuel efficient, and cheaper to boot. Why does GM need a dozen sedans, all competing with each other? Why do we need both Chevy and GM trucks? Why do we need a Buick, a Cadillac, and a Chevrolet? Doesn't this duplication of effort erode any credibility that "downsizing" and "streamlining" talk that GM makes? Dispensing with Oldsmobile and Pontiac was too little, too late, and they they go around an create Saturn, a "different" type of car company, but, ultimately, produced cars were just as shitty as the ones Detroit built.
  • The American Consumer: We've lived on unicorns and pixie dust in this country for too long. We still believe in that rugged American individualism bullshit sold by Toby Keith and John Mellencamp singing about trucks. We don't want to believe that we're in a global energy crunch, and yet we continue to demand Hummers. What the fuck with that? Whatever happened to our own personal responsibility--that's part of American individualism, too. Just because you can afford it, do you need it? Do we still cling to the notion that you are what you drive? Just because you're an asshole, do you really need a Hummer? The soccer mom loves the feeling of security in a big Suburban, but then is the first to complain that high gasoline prices are making it tough to drive! Didn't you SEE that one coming, or are you so damned myopic with your limited world view?

It didn't take long--less than a generation--for the Big Three to piss away whatever advantage they had. Slow to react, the Big Three were ineffective in getting the wake-up call when foreign manufacturers flooded the US with good, reliable and cheap cars, then built their own factories in largely rural locations to take advanage of tax breaks on domestic manufacturing, negotiating better deals with the UAW to boot.

So, we're damned if we do, and damned if we don't in bailing the Big Three out. And there is the Catch 22. Millions of jobs are at stake. But giving an industry that hasn't proven it knows what their market is, is just pissing billions down a hole. Even if magically they can right the ship, are consumers in the mood to buy automobiles? We're told by the media we either a) can't get credit, or b)are too scared to take on any more debt in a time of uncertain economic news. So who are you going to sell these cars to, Mr. GM?

I wouldn't have imagined a world without GM, or Ford of Chrysler, but the acres of unsold pickup trucks and big SUV's accumulating west of downtown Fort Worth along I820 makes me believe that such a world is possible. There WILL always be American-made cars to purchase. They'll just be coming from Toyota. Honda. Nissan.

1 comment:

SDP45 said...

I drive 2 older Japanese vehicles, though one, a Mitsubishi, was rebranded as a Dodge Colt. The other is a Datsun/Nissan truck. Both get great fuel mileage and are very reliable. My work vehicle is a 2008 Ford E350 POS. I'm glad I did not have to buy it. What a worthless piece of crap. My little truck is more reliable.

I will not bother to drive a vehicle from the Big 3. I hope they go under.