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Monday, December 8, 2008

American Automakers and the Left

Tiring ShitI am so damn sick of hearing all this pro-Detroit propaganda from the left in the lead-up to the (regrettably necessary) bailout of the pathetic American car industry.

Personally I think of it as a short-term jobs program; we're not paying 30+ billion (or 15 now, more later, or whatever they come up with) to make cars, we're paying 30+ billion to keep the biggest resevoir of old labor in work until the Obama admin is forced to nationalize the 'BIG 3' (god what an annoying nickname) and turn their companies toward making something... anything... that we actually need.

Trains? Buses? Actual fuel efficient vehicles? (the Volt doesn't count and is a myth, more on that later)

We retooled the auto industry before, in World War II. They made great planes, terrible tanks, but basically, they made what we (thought) we needed, and they made a lot of it in a hurry. Under competent leadership there's no reason they can't be expected to make a decent product again.

The issue here is management. Make absolutely no mistake; we cannot trust the current morons at the top of the BIG 3 to do anything right. They've been fighting higher CAFE standards for years, they've been preventing California from regulating carbon emissions (because the Bush administration won't), and most famously, they beat down California's desperate, literally gasping effort to force them to manufacture *any* decent, high-efficiency vehicles so that their citizens wouldn't have to choke to death on carbon emissions. (Naturally Bush lent a hand with that one too)

Destroying the EV-1 was just the icing on the cake. GM's head tool Wagoner claims he feels just awful about that now. Riiiight. That makes it all better. (though apparently he did accept that his own poor decisions are to blame for the lead the Japanese automakers have in actual hybrid technology.. why is he still employed, again?)

While the Japanese companies aren't free of sin on these matters either, note that they capitulate to the will of the people on things like CAFE, while our AMERICAN companies subverted democracy using the Bush junta and the courts to stay in the big SUV business as long as possible.

Obama, to his credit, got out in front of this issue long before he was the President-in-all-but-Name, though I disagree with his idea to, for example, let bigger vehicles slide a bit on fuel economy ratings (that would only encourage people to buy, well, overly large cars).

The institutional culture at the American automakers is *sick*. Profit at any cost, style entirely over substance, and when they cannot compete, they simply double down on bad ideas (SUVs, Hummers/H-2s, etc).

At no point does our national security concern them, nor our health and environment. Ultra-capitalists might respond, 'Why should it?' Well, for one thing, if their cars destroy our environment and ruin our health... we won't be around to purchase them in the future, will we?

The best response for this line of argument, though, is simply historical. The automakers won every battle on pollution and regulation; they got to destroy the EV-1, they got to sell as many fuel-guzzlers as they could make, they got to keep the ludicrously low CAFE standards, they had the full might of the federal government brought to bear to beat states that, in their naive embrace of democracy, sought a better future for their citizens... in short, they operated the full Ferengi business model for the last 30 years.

What did that get them? They were all going bankrupt BEFORE THE CURRENT CRISIS, that's what. Ford, GM and Chrysler, destroyed themselves with their own lack of foresight and terrible business decisionmaking.

It really isn't hard to understand the plight of the American automakers. They made lousy cars that fell apart and cost a fortune to maintain for thirty straight years. They responded slowly to market forces, lagging behind their competitors, especially wherever efficiency and reliability were concerned. They gorged at the glut of SUVs and H2s and super large trucks, a glut that relied on a temporary abundance of very cheap oil... which the automakers relied on to last forever.

As if oil is a renewable resource, or OPEC a bunch of powerless buffoons.

Ask yourself: who do you know who drives American cars and *likes* it?

My family always bought American cars, and they almost always came to regret it. My stepdad has had a series of GM cars over the last decade, and they always suffer from mysterious sensor failures that require them to spend extended periods in the shop, at great expense.

Nothing actually breaks, mind you; it's the sensor. (I wonder when GM will cut the randomness out of it and make the sensors activate according to their stock price; whenever they drop more than 5%, sensor-powers-activate! and thus the revenue kicks up)

My dad had a series of abysmal Dodge cars, particularly a Talon that was tiny, cramped, and riddled with engine troubles; I drove a used Chrysler that broke down 13 times in one year. Et Cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

The best American car anyone in my family has ever owned is an old Dodge Caravan I still have as a used car. It's falling apart but refuses to die despite being over twenty years old... but even it was defective when it was driven off the lot, as they used bad primer on all the Caravans of that era (which led to a later recall that my grandfather, who originally drove this van, didn't take advantage of for some reason. You still see lots of dodge vans on the road with the same distinct pattern of paint peeling from that era to this day. An otherwise solid vehicle that will always suffer from a bad reputation as a result of cheap paint. Nice.)

There's a happy ending though; my father purchased a shiny new Prius a few years ago, and has had nothing but driving bliss ever since. He claims to get an average of 50 mpg, and can drive from his home in Indiana to Alabama for vacations on one tank of gas.

You see this same, sad story wherever you look. Automakers haven't just destroyed their brand; they stomped it into the ground, set it on fire, and pissed on the ashes.

Even in a friendly forum, you get this same litany of complaints. I was actually shocked, way back in November, to see how quickly the comments on a post about whether or not to save the auto industry, on a BIG 3 friendly liberal site, turned into a bitchfest about American cars.

But it did.

Even the author, who worked FOR the American automakers for years, won't drive American -- they love a particular Honda to death (like a classic romance, the very type of foreign car they were supposed to analyze so the Americans could copy and corrupt it).

It's like a comedy of errors, when even your natural allies can no longer overlook your decades of greed and excess.

Here, have some handy examples from Left Blogistan:

A man who found an American car he liked -- until they canceled the model (no worries though, he could always buy a big truck!)

Another person who drives German cars -- because they never break on him, not after years of driving.

A prominent writer for the site who hasn't driven American for 30 years because they suck -- and would only buy American as a masochistic last ditch to save the industry

On and on and on.

The question isn't how can we save the American auto industry. The question is; how can we save them from themselves?