Monday, November 10, 2008

Boo Hoo Detroit

Yet another American moneymaker wants a massive federal bailout. The American automakers have been behind the curve for years. And now they're in trouble.

We're supposed to feel sorry for them.

While Japan was making hybrids that were snapped up like hotcakes, Detroit was placidly cranking out gas guzzlers - giving the market what it liked right now instead of preparing for what it was going to want next.

Dodge trucks are Ram Tough. And they suck fuel down like drunks on a bender. Soccer moms need their minivans. Men with self esteem issues drove SUVs built for the Amazon down four lane highways. And then gas spiked toward five dollars a gallon and everyone stopped driving.

And Cadillac is still trying to convince us that what women want is a car that can go faster than anything else on the road. Zero to sixty in .8 seconds isn't sexy anymore folks. Not when you can't afford to fill the tank.

No one's buying cars. Either they can't afford to, or they can't get credit even if they're willing.

And because the auto industry employs so many people, we can't afford to let them sink.

But boy do they deserve to.

They've been late on everything. Late to address fuel economy. Late to address pollution. Late to see what everyone else saw - that the days of the boat on wheels is over.

So they're pleading for help and without that help (and watch them - I guarantee that even with a massive cash infusion this'll be next anyway) there will be massive layoffs. Because god forbid they should take pay cuts at the top, increase the efficiency of their operations or invest in vehicles that might suit the new market....they'll just close factories and lay off workers.

Chevy has the Volt, you say? Yes what - 2010? And the company admits that it won't make money. It's too expensive to build. Where was the investment in research and development? It should have been happening since the 70s when we saw the handwriting on the wall.

So little startups are showing Detroit how it can be done. That strange little vehicle pictured here is an Aptera. It's electric. It's already cruising the streets of California and company head Tony Kirton tells me he has an ambitious goal of small factories all over the country building Aptera's that run on electric or fuel cells.

It's not cheap. None of this is. But it will, just like any new technology, become cheaper as we learn more about it and find better ways to create it.

America's car makers, just like America's financial markets, have been gluttons. They've been greedily sweeping in all the dollars they could based on current demand and not preparing for the future.

We're the ants...and the grasshoppers are now demanding we keep them alive as winter comes on.

I say if you want to eat, work for it. Show us your books, show us how you're changing your business model and show us your plan for cars that meet the environmental standards that will be in place in thirty years.

No free rides, Detroit.

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