43 minutes ago
Friday, December 5, 2008
Moore is Right, More Crappy Cars are Wrong
As with a recent previous post, this one also grew out of a comment to another blog post. I sincerely thank my fellow bloggers for some inspiring some great of my most epic ramblings. So, here we go...
What a Smell? posted an entry here this afternoon decrying the unions' role in the auto industry crisis and praising Rush Limbaugh for calling them out on it.
Hold it! Beep! Beep! Beep! Back it up just a second.
I'm not sure I would place all the blame for this solely on labor unions. Sure, the culture of American unions has certainly hurt the auto industry. The walk-outs, the shake-downs, the abused grievance system, they all serve to only quash company-wide innovation and accomplish only short-sighted goals. However, both Japan and Korea have labor unions for their autoworkers as well, but they accomplish their goals very very differently. No walk-outs, no "nyet" negotiation style, just social and symbolic pressure and reasoned, stability-seeking deal-making.
A huge part of the equation here are the choices of auto VPs about what to produce. The Dodge Challenger? The Ford Excursion? Are you kidding me? The American automakers are mostly motorized "comfort food" and not enough four-wheeled "health food." It used to be that huge, gas-guzzling, space-wasting autos were only "extra credit" for people who could afford it, but today American auto advertising makes us actually believe that these are practical, everyday cars and SUVs that we all have fundamental right to own. Of course, Nissan and Toyota have both made a pretty penny on this SUV-entitlement culture, their mainstays have always been really practical, small and mid-size cars that focus on reliability and simple taste. When you compare the business plans and products of the American and Asian car industries, it's really clear why we've been blown straight out of the water in this sector.
While this will be a jagged little pill to swallow for the midwest, I hope that Washington lets the automakers file bankruptcy and ultimately shake out into a smaller and (hopefully) smarter new corporate entity or entities that can truly compete in the market. It would be nice to start seeing American automakers setting up shop in the overseas industrialized countries instead of Honda starting up new manufacturing facilities all over the midwest and south. But, if we do bail them out (I hope with a loan instead of a huge check with no strings), I think we should follow the advice of Mr. Michael Moore and tell the American auto industry that, if we give you anything substantial, "we're gonna' own your ass!" Then, we get these companies out of the economic sector they can't compete in (i.e., consumer autos) and into more "public-serving" and "economic development-oriented" sectors: trains, buses, commercial shipping vehicles, and light rail.
Fix the sprawling cities, keep the jobs, keep the secondary markets, just ditch the non-competetiveness. Win-win. Of, course, it will all go just as easy as I explained it, right? Heh. You betcha' not!