Saturday, June 9, 2007

Stop Me Before I Self-Destruct Again

Like lemmings headed off a cliff, Ford, Chrysler and General Motors sent their emissaries to Congress, demanding equal rights among themselves to pound the final nails into their collective coffins. Lacking a sensitivity for irony, no one among the various Senators being strong-armed handed out ‘Been There, Done That’ tee shirts.

Fordgmchryslerexecutives Like lemmings headed off a cliff, Ford, Chrysler and General Motors sent their emissaries to Congress, demanding equal rights among themselves to pound the final nails into their collective coffins. Lacking a sensitivity for irony, no one among the various Senators being strong-armed handed out ‘Been There, Done That’ tee shirts.
Toyotatundra What, you may ask, are they to do with Japanese firms like Toyota putting out big-chassis pickups and SUVs like the Tundra? They never ask such questions, but you may ask. The answer isn’t brain surgery, not by a long shot. Tundra is a sliver of a vehicle line that includes the fuel-efficient and wildly popular Prius. The obvious answer for Detroit is to broaden their product line to include well-made competitors rather than their long history of designed-to-fail econo-boxes.
The chief executives of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler met with Senate lawmakers less than a week before Democrats plan a vote on a sprawling energy bill. They asserted that the bill’s proposed increase in mileage requirements would be impossible to meet and would gravely damage the industry. (NYTimes)
Impossible to meet, although Toyota, Honda, Kia and Hyundai have already met them and are moving on from there to divvy-up what’s left of the American-built automobile industry.
The bill would raise the average mileage requirement for passenger cars to 35 miles per gallon by 2020, up from the current 27.5 miles per gallon, and it would include light trucks and sport-utility vehicles in that requirement.
Wolfatdoor Seven and a half miles per gallon over thirteen years and American automotive engineering and executive sweat just can’t figure it out. Two percent a year, not even compounded, and the best and bravest of Detroit’s brain-trusts come up brain-dead. Mileage, performance and quality—the big three that the Big Three just haven’t been able to get right over the past 35 years, are once again the cast in the role of wolf at the door.
Rather than solve those issues, rather than innovate, lead and prosper as they once did, Detroit has (yet again) flung itself on the floor of Congress and thrown a screaming fit. Essentially, they're pulling a Wolfowitz--groveling at the feet of whoever will give them just one more undeserved chance.
Lockheedp38_2 My old daddy worked at Douglas Aircraft during World War Two. Douglas built bombers, but back in those less fearful days, when America was up to any challenge, Grumman answered the Jap Zero dominance in the Pacific with the Wildcat and Lockheed pulled the P-38 out of its hat.
Not only did they design better aircraft, but turned them out in a quantity that overwhelmed the enemy. The Japanese Zero soon became victim to better, more maneuverable and faster American planes. The American warplane industry started out at—you guessed it—Zero.
But all that American innovation and spirit is lost on the white-shoe Detroit automakers of today. Talking to each other instead of deconstructing the competition, they’ve decided that it’s just too hard; Wall Street is just too hungry, the unions just too intractable and their commitment to workers just too burdensome. The Japan we defeated in war is beyond Detroit's peacetime capability.

Teetime They like their Bloomfield Hills mansions. It’s just all so unfair. How ‘bout lunch at the club Thursday and a 2pm tee-off time? Those goddamn foreign makers are kicking our ass and Congress has to be made to realize it’s Pearl Harbor all over again.
But key House and Senate Democrats are pushing a softer standard, and they appear to have a good chance of getting what they want. Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, both of Michigan, are drafting a bill that would raise mileage requirements but give car companies opportunities to escape the requirements if they appeared to be too difficult to meet.
PriusTotally incapable of turning a profit with a well made, performance tuned and extensively optioned high-mileage family sedan (that's also fun to drive), Detroit has left the field to Japan and Korea. Japan and Korea’s answer has been to perfect that template with cars that are fuel-efficient and drive like sports-cars.
And, while Detroit plays golf, they have quietly eroded the American stranglehold on big-platform trucks and SUVs.  Not only is Mo-Town unhappily married to a behemoth mentality, but the Japanese and Koreans are out-King-Konging us in that market as well.
When the competition is that ruthless and innovative, mileage requirements are the least of worries.
John Dingell of Michigan, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, has proposed a bill that also includes numerous escape hatches for car companies — “off-ramps,” as supporters call them.
Repjohndingell Well, John may get some Michigan votes from that proposed bill, but it’ll be a short-term gain. Ford, Chrysler and GM are indeed headed for an off-ramp, but the latest reality check on where that ramp is leading is the embarrassing fact that Daimler-Benz had to actually pay someone to take Chrysler off its hands.  In this day, when a mid-level Kansas wireless carrier (Alltel) brings an acquisition price of almost $25 billion, it’s disheartening to see the Reprickboucher entire Chrysler Corporation packed off for a quarter of that.
The draft proposal issued by subcommittee Chairman Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., contains several provisions automakers will gladly support. It would prevent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from limiting greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks, reversing a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last month granting the agency that power.

It also would block California and other states from setting their own fuel-economy standards as part of their fight against global warming. California officials have threatened to sue the EPA if it doesn’t grant, by October, permission for California’s standards, which would essentially force automakers to hit a target of 43 m.p.g. by 2016. (Detroit Free Press)
Boucher is chairman of the House Energy Committee and if you didn’t think Democrats would be equal-opportunity enablers of wrong-headedness, have a seat while I pour you a drink. This handy-dandy bill will pretend to do its best for the electorate by doing good for 2pm tee-times;
  • It will prevent a congressionally-created bureau (EPA) from doing its job by inventing a contravening congressional law.
  • It reverses a Supreme Court decision by inventing a contravening congressional law.
  • It subverts the rights of states to enact their own laws, solely for the benefit of specific corporations and to the detriment of the general public, by inventing a contravening congressional law.
The Big (and getting smaller) Three may have lost their inventiveness, but not the always-vigilant United States Congress.
Buying special-interest legislation is alive and well in the new and improved Democratic-controlled House and Senate.
____________________________________________________________
Media comment;