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View Diary: No Nostalgia for U.S. Automotive Industry (54 comments)

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  •  There is NOT a simple solution for this... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffW, chrome327

    ... and a recommendation to allow the BIg 3 to just "die" will cause unbelievable chaos in quite a large segment of the middle class in not only Michigan, but in other states who supply the big 3.

    As a former Detroiter, I'm not sure that letting GM and Chrysler die is a good thing - at least Ford seems to be eking out its survival, but we shall see about them, too.

    Perhaps the right idea is to "incentivize" the troubled automakers to rethink their  product line (which has gone in the wrong direction for decades), and start producing 21st century cars, not 19th century cars with 20th century designs.

    And here's another interesting question - why should we allow the American Big 3 to die and let automakers from Japan, Korea and China inherit OUR signature industry, auto manufacturing, without expending time and effort to reshape OUR industries? I"m not sure that America is better off by eliminating our manufacturing economy, even though that's a lot of what has happened in the last 30 years.

    Republicans: YOU'RE the PROBLEM, WE'RE the SOLUTION.

    by dagnome on Sun Apr 26, 2009 at 10:20:39 AM PDT

    •  It's Good for the Dollars and Good for the Owners (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      chrome327

      --Isn't that the Republican platform in a nutshell?

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Sun Apr 26, 2009 at 10:26:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Do you mean letting the non-US mfrs survive? (0+ / 0-)

        Republicans: YOU'RE the PROBLEM, WE'RE the SOLUTION.

        by dagnome on Sun Apr 26, 2009 at 10:31:20 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Ummm ... are they in danger of bankruptcy? (0+ / 0-)

          And don't they employee Americans?  You should poll some of the workers at Toyota and Honda in the US and ask if they want to keep making "Japanese" cars.

          No quarter. No surrender.

          by hegemony57 on Sun Apr 26, 2009 at 11:14:54 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  They're not in danger of bankruptcy...yet (0+ / 0-)

            But the foreign automakers are hurting.

            And how long do you think those U.S. factories cranking out Hondas, Mazdas, Mitsubishis, Hyundais, BMWs, etc. will stay open once their American competitors are gone? Answer: Not long. Remember why they opened those plants - to avoid import quotas on their vehicles and other "protectionist" measures. If there's no U.S. auto industry to protect, there's no incentive for foreign automakers to guard against protectionism.

            I agree that we need to rethink our culture of sprawl and not be so dependent on the automobile. But the individual automobile will continue to be part of our transportation landscape for the foreseeable future, and there will always be a niche for auto travel.

            In your initial post, you spouted all the typical rhetoric and right-wing spin about the U.S. industry. Has management made some bone-headed decisions? Yes. Chrysler partnering with Mercedes was probably the worst of those decisions. But I will stand by the American auto industry - they are building excellent cars that get good fuel economy, and they have some very innovative vehicles already on the market and in the pipeline.

            Finally, allow me to make two points:

            (1) If even two of the Big Three go down, the repercussions for our economy will make the year we've just been through seem like a cakewalk.

            (2) Do you really want the end of the U.S. auto industry to occur on Barack Obama's watch?

            •  What "right-wing" rhetoric is that? I'm a (0+ / 0-)

              union man (DC-37) who thinks that we need to build sustainable companies and industries and ways of life and work for the American people.  I don't see how throwing around names moves us towards a better future and if you are worried about the "who lost the American auto industry" meme as a potential political liability for Obama I think you're worrying about the lesser political danger.  

              The bigger danger is that an unsuccessful auto fix/bailout gets wrapped around the Obama axle.

              No quarter. No surrender.

              by hegemony57 on Sun Apr 26, 2009 at 01:15:55 PM PDT

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              •  I didn't accuse you of being a right-winger... (0+ / 0-)

                ...I said you're using the same spin as the right wing where the auto industry is concerned. In your original post, you put up some links... American cars are "too big" (with a link to a page of GM's big Denali SUVs), and valued an "outmoded sense of style" (with a link to a page for the Pontiac Solstice).

                Then you linked to the Smart USA page and an article about a small start-up company in Indiana seeking federal money to produce plug-in hybrids as examples of the kind of "innovation" and "21st Century function" you maintain are lacking from the Big Three.

                All well and good. I love the Smart. I've driven one, and if I had the money, I would seriously consider buying one. But for all its appeal, it is still, at its heart, a conventional, gasoline-powered car. Yes, it gets 40+ mpg. But it runs on premium unleaded gasoline.

                As for Bright, great, they could produce 50,000 vehicles a year. But even Bright admits they're not talking about "a highway car intended for the masses."

                Meanwhile, you ignore the products from Chrysler, Ford and GM which don't fit your stereotype of the American industry: UAW-built cars such as the Dodge Caliber, Ford Focus and Chevy Cobalt, and the excellent fuel economy numbers turned in by bigger cars such as the sporty Chrysler Sebring Convertible (up to 29 mpg), the full-sized Chevy Malibu (up to 33 mpg)and the CAW-built (Canadian Auto Workers Union) Ford Flex Crossover, which has more cargo and passenger capacity than a Honda Pilot but gets better mileage (24 mpg vs. 23 mpg).

                You also ignore the electric, hybrid, plug-in hybrid and fuel cell technology already being put on the road for testing by the Big Three and which could be mass-marketed as soon as the infrastructure (such as hydrogen fueling stations) is there to support them.

                That's what I meant. You're gung-ho for a sustainable future. I'm with you. I just disagree that killing the Big Three - "creative destruction" to use your term - is the best way to get us there.

                •  Okay. So we are in agreement on the need for (0+ / 0-)

                  a sustainable future.  Good.  But I don't think that I saying ...

                  In your initial post, you spouted all the typical rhetoric and right-wing spin about the U.S. industry.

                  ... really gets to the heart of the matter.  I am not against the American car companies per se, I just think they have been so badly managed (and for the sake of long term sustainable survival not always best served by the unions or the contracts they negotiated ... remember, I put the Lion's share of the blame on management and the investor's who should be forced to make HUGE concessions that are equally or more painful than those of the unions) for so long that if it turns out that we can't sustain a big 3 and/or they have to be leaner than that is better than treading water.

                  I hope they are able to pull themselves out of this death spiral but my bet is that we will have only big 2 (smaller) companies and a host of small start ups in the coming years instead of the "big 3" we've known since the 70's (so AMC ever considered part of a big 4???).

                  No quarter. No surrender.

                  by hegemony57 on Sun Apr 26, 2009 at 01:59:00 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  No, there was no "Big Four" (0+ / 0-)

                    There was the "Big Three" and AMC. The distinction was always made because (a) AMC never had the worldwide market reach of the other three companies, (b) they were based in Wisconsin, not Detroit, and (c) while they had their own distinctive chassis, engines and bodies, many of the individual parts on their cars were purchased from the Big Three.

                    The collapse of AMC didn't have the impact the collapse of all three "Big Three" automakers would have because they were a smaller part of the industry.

                    That said, AMC produced some good cars (my family owned an Ambassador station wagon, my brother briefly owned a Matador and, at one time, my dad, my brother and I all had Gremlins), and I was sad to see them fail.

                    You may well be right about the Big Three becoming the Big Two, and GM will likely lose Pontiac and Saturn, at least. If Chrysler goes, it will have been, in my opinion, corporate suicide. When Iaccocca left, the company was in an excellent financial position. The deal with Daimler-Benz was totally unnecessary and damaged Chrysler's finances greatly, and the sale to the Cerberus Group, while perhaps staving off the company's demise in the short term, has done nothing to restore it.

                    All of that said, I hope you will rethink your position that you will be "none too displeased" if they "go the way of Wang Computers and the Montreal Expos."

                    I am no fan of unfettered free market capitalism, but I do believe we need a manufacturing base to sustain a healthy middle class, and I, for one, am tired of us ceding the field in manufactured goods - first cameras, then TVs, now automobiles - to other countries.

                    •  Okay, I will have some pangs if they go away (0+ / 0-)

                      completely, but think that they must reform to such a great extent that we don't actually recognize them as the same companies they were pre-2007.

                      To your other point I share you view that manufacturing is a critical part of the economy (and for a long time a critical way to the middle class ... although the notion that only industrial and trade unions could make middle class jobs and lives is something that needs to be analyzed and critiqued) and while it has become less central in the past 3 decades it has never actually gone away.

                      I suspect that we will now see a resurgence of a manufacturing economy as the banking crisis has disabused MOST americans of the idea that we could prosper as be a finance based post-industrial money and knowledge economy only.

                      No quarter. No surrender.

                      by hegemony57 on Sun Apr 26, 2009 at 06:59:51 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

    •  Not saying that we shouldn't have a manufacturing (0+ / 0-)

      base in the US.  I am saying that we can't do unsustainable anything thing (cars, food, energy, homes, et al) and that this is an opportunity to start the change we need to make as a nation.

      No quarter. No surrender.

      by hegemony57 on Sun Apr 26, 2009 at 11:13:31 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You talk as if the death of the Big 3... (0+ / 0-)

        ...will mean the death of the automobile. It won't.

        It will simply mean the loss of more jobs, more havoc wrought through our economy, and, by the way, one more sector of our middle class economy given away to foreign competition.

        Absolutely, we need to build a more sustainable future. But the problem with the concept of "creative destruction" is the "destruction" part ... in this case, what would be destroyed? Not the automobile or our reliance upon it. Just the American automobile industry, and with it, more people's lives and livelihoods.

        •  But i dont understand what you are proposing (0+ / 0-)

          to do at this point.  Do you think we should support the automakers as they are?  What is your short, mid and long term plan?

          No quarter. No surrender.

          by hegemony57 on Sun Apr 26, 2009 at 01:17:35 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Read Chrysler and GM's plans! (0+ / 0-)

            It's all there - the innovative products and the changes in corporate structure and culture.

            As for what I would propose, okay, you asked, I'll answer:

            Short-term: Smaller, high-mileage "city cars" (like the Smart); electric cars and plug-in hybrids. The Big Three already have more hybrids than their foreign competitors on the market, and city cars, electric cars and plug-in hybrids are in the pipeline.

            Mid-term: Hydrogen fuel cell cars. The Big Three is already on equal footing with their foreign competitors in the testing of these cars.

            Long-term: The creation of sustainable cities which will reduce our dependence on automobiles. This does not, however, mean elimination of the automobile. I believe the need for flexible, personal transport will always be with us. As will, I hope, Chrysler, Ford and GM.

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