Karma's a Bitch.

by: canadian gal

Sat Aug 08, 2009 at 22:16:44 PM EDT



Note: I originally wrote this one year ago and yet - it still seems more timely than ever.

With last week GM reporting a $15.5 billion loss in the second quarter, it is quite clear that American car manufactures are getting their come-uppance.

Edmunds.com published a list of the top 10 most efficient 2008 sedans available.  They ranked the cars based on EPA fuel economy numbers.  And sweet moses would you guess that not one from an American manufacturer made the list!  Even the Wall Street Journal, not known for its criticism to big business, has sharp words about American car manufacturers.

canadian gal :: Karma's a Bitch.
Now we see the results of the myopia that has afflicted Detroit auto executives. These are the people who staked their companies' futures on gas-guzzling, heavyweight behemoths.

Auto execs claim they were giving Americans the products they wanted. Really? For proof to the contrary, look at their U.S. market shares, which are slumping to historically low levels as Japanese auto makers gain ground.

In lieu of GM's stunning losses, I was reminded of the complete and utter arrogance they displayed when they crushed its fleet of EV-1 electric vehicles in the Arizona desert.  The EV-1 was among the fastest, most efficient production cars ever built. It ran on electricity, produced no emissions and catapulted American technology to the forefront of the automotive industry.

The story of the EV-1 is documented in the amazing film Who Killed the Electric Car?  It chronicles the life and mysterious death of the EV-1 and it examines the cultural and economic ripple effects caused by its conception and how they reverberated through the halls of government and big business.

A summary:

The film deals with the history of the electric car, its development and commercialization, mostly focusing on the General Motors EV1, which was made available for lease in Southern California, after the California Air Resources Board passed the ZEV mandate in 1990, as well as the implications of the events depicted for air pollution, environmentalism, Middle East politics, and global warming.

The film details the California Air Resources Board's reversal of the mandate after suits from automobile manufacturers, the oil industry, and the George W. Bush administration. It points out that Bush's chief influences, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, and Andrew Card, are all former executives and board members of oil and auto companies.

A large part of the film accounts for GM's efforts to demonstrate to California that there was no demand for their product, and then to take back every EV1 and dispose of them. A few were disabled and given to museums and universities, but almost all were found to have been crushed; GM never responded to the EV drivers' offer to pay the residual lease value ($1.9 million was offered for the remaining 78 cars in Burbank before they were crushed).

Embedded below, the film in its entirety:

However its not all bad news.  In the same WSJ piece - it would seem that some have climbed aboard the bus.

In a recent meeting with Ford executives, CEO Alan Mulally dared to challenge the Detroit gospel that you can't make money on small, fuel-efficient cars.

At last Ford appears to be making bold moves to design and sell vehicles that people want. In Paris earlier this summer I spotted an unfamiliar car so attractive that I went over to see what it was. It was a Ford. Presumably this is one of the six European models that, as part of the "Drive One" campaign, Ford will introduce in the U.S. Ford is also boosting production of its fuel-efficient "EcoBoost" and four-cylinder engines, speeding up hybrid introductions and converting three truck plants to small-car production.

Even GM seems to be facing reality. It said it's planning for oil prices in a $120-$150 range for the foreseeable future, boosting light vehicle production, and suspending production at four truck plants. It, too, is accelerating production of efficient four-cylinder engines, and announced a global Chevrolet small-car initiative.

While promising, what pulls my chain about the above is that rather than take responsibility for the planet and in the role these car companies play in emissions, the American car manufacturers are only taking these steps because of the price of gas.  Let's hope their successful.  However as they say, karma's a bitch.

(cross-posted at kickin it with cg)

Tags: (All Tags)
Print Friendly View Send As Email

Karma's a Bitch. | 6 comments
it's hard... (2.00 / 3)
to believe all the crap that happened in the months following the original writing.

"I spend my days and nights pondering the meaning of life, the state of the universe, and the Home Shopping Network." -- Donald Roller Wilson

There are a lot of things left unsaid here. (2.00 / 2)
One main fact that is missing is that the U.S. gov't encouraged production of pickups and suvs by putting tariffs on imported ones. The American companies didn't need to sell as many vehicles when they were making greater profits off the big ones.

A second point, is that if oil prices hadn't gone up as high as they did then the market for big vehicles would still be there.

Another point that seems to always get overlooked is that the American car companies outsell imports. How can anyone claim that American companies don't build what consumers want when they sell more than 8 million vehicles a year (most recent numbers from 2007)? In 2007, GM sales in the U.S. surpassed Toyota's by more than 1,200,000 vehicles. Now what was that about building vehicles no one wants?

The problem isn't primarily about number of car sales. There are other underlying issues. Legacy costs and old infrastructure are a big part of the problem. The foreign companies operating in the U.S. have newer factories and fewer retirees. I worked in 2 GM factories that were built in the early '20's. Toyota's first U.S. plant started production only 21 years ago.

This is not a recession. It's a robbery.


thanks for the insider's view. (2.00 / 1)
i am more referring to poor and unethical business decisions rather than exterior factors that lead to the current problems of US car manufacturers.

"I spend my days and nights pondering the meaning of life, the state of the universe, and the Home Shopping Network." -- Donald Roller Wilson

[ Parent ]
Most business people would agree with selling what people are buying, wich was SUV's and pickups. (2.00 / 1)
The American auto industry made lots of mistakes, but had they tried selling smaller vehicles when the public didn't want them they would no longer exist.

[ Parent ]
In general (2.00 / 1)
People buy what they are told they want, through advertising. There is a reason so much is spent on it. If they had previously wanted to sell medium sized economy vehicles, they could no doubt have done so.

[ Parent ]
That explains republicans but ignores the american car culture. (0.00 / 0)
 Americans have been in love with cars and trucks forever. The bigger the better. We pull boats, campers, snowmobiles, etc like no other country in the world except maybe Canada. Big suv's work better for toting families around than sedans. The only reason we are turning away is the price of fuel, and as an afterthought pollution.  

[ Parent ]
Karma's a Bitch. | 6 comments
Search




Advanced Search
Menu

Make a New Account

Username:

Password:



Forget your username or password?


Blog Roll
Angry Bear
Angry Black Lady
Balloon Juice
Black Kos
Booman Tribune
Charles P. Pierce
Crooks and Liars
Daily Kos
Five Thirty Eight
Huffington Post
Juan Cole
Maddow Blog
P.M. Carpenter
Political Wire
RumpRoast
Scholars & Rogues
Smartypants
Stonekettle Station
Talking Points Memo
The Field
Washington Monthly
Wonkette
Moose With Blogs
Atdleft
Barr
BorderJumpers
BTchakir
Canadian Gal
Charles Lemos
Cheryl Kopec
Curtis Walker
Douglas Watts
Hubie Stubert
Intrepid Liberal
ItStands
Janicket
JoeTrippi
John Allen
LibraryGrape
MichaelEvan
National Gadfly
Peter Jukes
Senate Guru
Zachary Karabell




Back to Top

Posting Guidelines  |  FAQ  |  Privacy Policy  |  Contact the Moose  |  Contact Congress
Powered by: SoapBlox