The Auto Industry As a Play

While the auto industry meets in DC with Congress, I thought I would bring you the story of the auto industry, in the form of a three part play. From the comments yesterday:

THE TRAGEDY OF THE AMERICAN AUTOMOBILE INDUSTRY:A Play in Three Acts

Dramatis Personae

BIG THREE, a manufacturer of automobiles
UAW, Big Three’s employee
MITT ROMNEY, an idiot

ACT ONE

BIG THREE: I have plans to build automobiles, but I need labor to do so!

UAW: I will labor for you if you will pay me $40 per hour.

BIG THREE: I will not pay you $40 per hour.

UAW: But I need to save for my inevitible retirement, and any health concerns that may arise.

BIG THREE: I will pay you $30 per hour, plus a generous pension of guaranteed payments and health care upon your retirement.

UAW: Then I agree to work for you!

ACT TWO

UAW: I am building cars for you, as I have promised to do!

BIG THREE: I am designing terrible cars that few people want to buy! Also, rather than save for UAW’s inevitible retirement when I will have to pay him the generous pension of guaranteed payments and health care that I promised, I am spending that money under the dubious assumption that my future revenues will be sufficient to meet those obligations.

ACT THREE

UAW: I have fulfilled my end of the deal by building the automobiles that you have asked me to build.

BIG THREE: Oh no! I am undone! My automobiles are no longer competitive due to my years of poor planning and poor judgment!

MITT ROMNEY: This is all UAW’s fault!

Discuss.






151 replies
  1. 1
    Ned Raggett says:

    Can I play the part of the Fool or Clown?

  2. 2

    […] Cole pretty much sums it up. […]

  3. 3
    Legalize says:

    The funny thing is, Mitt Romney can revist his role in pretty much any discussion on teevee when, for some reason, he is asked his opinion on matters of importance.

  4. 4
  5. 5
    John PM says:

    As I said yesterday, this play deserves the title of Best Short Play of 2008 and the Pulitzer.

  6. 6
    Balconesfault says:

    You forgot to add:

    Big Three: I will support politicians who undermine unions and favor unlimited free-trade deals, in the mistaken assumption that undermining unions helps make me more competitive (actually, it makes your non-union competition more competitive), and that unlimited free-trade that erodes my market share is worth the tradeoff to get lower taxes for my high paid executives.

    Score!

  7. 7
    Zifnab says:

    If you can just do this with stick figures, we’ll have some pretty layperson-friendly explanations for all bailouts to date.

  8. 8
    John PM says:

    @Zifnab: #7

    No, not stick figures, but sock puppets. That way you could use the real Mitt Romney!

  9. 9
    random asshole says:

    Genius. Pure genius.

  10. 10
    The Moar You Know says:

    Oh no! I am undone!

    What I’m sure I’ll be saying about my decision to purchase a Lincoln.

  11. 11
    PeakVT says:

    Discuss.

    A perfect summary.

    The UAW is somewhat to blame for being very inflexible on work rules and on other finer details, but the fall of the ex-Big 3 is primarily a colossal management failure. That should be obvious to everyone, but Americans have been well conditioned to hate all unions.

  12. 12
    Barry says:

    Excellent! Would add only this:

    Democratic Chorus: You won’t play us for suckers!

    Republican Chorus: Die! Die! Die!!!

    Democratic Chorus: Wait there while we ponder!

    Republican Chorus: Die! Die! Die!!!

  13. 13
    Incertus says:

    OT, but Florida’s 2010 Senate race just got a lot more interesting.

  14. 14

    […] Auto Industry: A Play By Doug Balloon-Juice has a nice explanation of the auto industry’s current situation in play form. The gist is […]

  15. 15
    aimai says:

    Sock puppets, definitely and I think you can take this on the road. I see broadway in your future.

    well deserved.

    aimai

  16. 16
    Xanthippas says:

    Can I play the part of the Fool or Clown?

    I don’t know, but the part of "sucker" is presently being played by all Americans.

  17. 17
    Crusty Dem says:

    Post of the year.

    I feel the need to point out that in addition to the obvious "Mitt is a moron" parable, there is also the more important lesson: Don’t trust your company to take care of you in the distant future, because they just don’t give a fuck. As much as everyone wants to complain about the union corruption, no union would (or even could) screw over their members to the degree that the employer can.

  18. 18
    JL says:

    @Incertus: Do you think that Jeb will run?

  19. 19
    binzinerator says:

    Saw this in the other thread’s comments too. I read the Dramatis Personae and got to the part of…

    MITT ROMNEY, an idiot

    ..and knew it was going to be gold. I had to grab the whole thing and print it out. It just says all that needs to be said.

  20. 20
    Nate McVaugh says:

    And just this morning, Renee Montaigne of Morning Edition parroted the UAW line. Perhaps the chorus should be ‘media chorus’?

  21. 21
    boonagain says:

    This post is the exact reason that I read this blog daily.

  22. 22
    Shinobi says:

    Republican Chorus: Die! Die! Die

    The chant is "Die BABY Die!"

  23. 23
    JWeidner says:

    Fricking awesome. There’s nothing to be added to this, except possibly Barry’s addition of the Democratic and Republican Chorus parts.

    Nicely done.

  24. 24

    Detroit dramatized…

    JasonF wrote this gem in the comments at John Cole’s Balloon Juice: THE TRAGEDY OF THE AMERICAN AUTOMOBILE INDUSTRY A Play in Three Acts Dramatis Personae BIG THREE, a manufacturer of automobiles UAW, Big Three’s employee MITT ROMNEY, an idiot……

  25. 25

    One little problem with the "play:" It doesn’t represent any part of the reality of the last 40 years, at all.

    And I don’t see how it serves any purpose to give it that additional attention.

    The play does not even mention, much less address, the true issues related to leaving the Big Three to basically act as a small country trying to take care of its retired workforce in the face of public policy that leaves citizens to fend for themselves for economic and health security. This is not some abstract nutview, it’s bottom line and adds $1-2k to the cost of every Big Three car, a cost which cannot be sustained at the low end of the car market. You cannot ask them to build more Focus cars (a fine product, not a "shitty" one as people here seem bent on calling these products, a car that was the world’s largest selling platform just a few years ago, worldwide, and still remains a top seller worldwide as we speak) when they are losing money on every car they build because they have to fund a retirement system on the back of the sale.

    The play does not mention, much less address, the fact that the Big Three had no choice but to sell to a market that demanded SUVs and pickup trucks … pickup trucks outselling car models by huge margins … for years thanks to cheap gas we could have while our presidents were literally kissing Saudi royal rings and making us a nation of oil crack whores.

    And that’s just for starters. Also not addressed is the fact that huge manufacturing capacity to make trucks and SUVs CAN NOT be turned into small, light car production in any economically feasable way. The kind of construction and the kind of equipment and tooling is completely different. The reason why Toyota and Honda prospered at building those smaller cars is that they didn’t start with the old capacity, they started with capacity and markets that didn’t want big trucks and SUVs and paid 3-4 times what we pay for gasoline. Not because they were geniuses, because they had no choice.

    Where is the government in the play? Where is the car buying public that shunned small, cheap cars and spent lavishly for trucks and SUVs? The play fails right at the Dramatis Personae.

    The play is a load of crap. It may come as a huge surprise that the problems of the economy and the auto industry might require more than second-rate street snark in order to solve them.

    Just a suggestion.

  26. 26
    Joe Beese says:

    ACT IV

    [BIG THREE petition KING SAM, a decrepit tyrant.]

    BIG THREE: I am unable to manufacture cars at a profit. Give me $25,000,000,000 so I may manufacture more cars.

    KING SAM: I will not give you money unless you sell your private jets.

    BIG THREE: But I need private jets to facilitate my car manufacturing!

  27. 27
    J. says:

    Reminds me a little of

    "But you must pay the rent!"
    "But I can’t pay the rent!"

    "But you must pay the rent!"
    "But I can’t pay the rent!"

    "But you must pay the rent!"
    "But I can’t pay the rent!"

    "I’ll pay the rent!"

    Except I don’t want to pay their or anyone else’s "rent," especially as I’ve been dutifully paying my own for years.

    And I get that it’s not a good analogy at all. Just reminded me of this. Though maybe some nice Japanese company will save at least one of the big three’s boots.

  28. 28
    Incertus says:

    @TheHatOnMyCat: Well, that’s one factually-challenged way to look at it, I guess, at least as far as the "the market made us do it" line is concerned. And a far-sighted industry would have looked at their legacy costs a couple of decades ago and started pushing the federal government to make changes then, as opposed to bitching about it now (and honestly, they’re not even bitching at this point, not hard, anyway). I mean, if you’re not going to admit that the Big 3 created some of that demand for SUVs, then why even pretend like you’re arguing honestly?

  29. 29
    JL says:

    Wagoner was on NewsHour a few years back bemoaning the fall of the auto industry. Rather than take responsibility for lower sales, he said that by producing SUV’s he was manufacturing what his customers wanted. It wasn’t his fault that he could not compete with Honda.

  30. 30
    jenniebee says:

    build more Focus cars (a fine product, not a "shitty" one as people here seem bent on calling these products, a car that was the world’s largest selling platform just a few years ago, worldwide, and still remains a top seller worldwide as we speak)

    Sorry, I can’t let this one go. My husband worked as an auto mechanic up until a few years ago, and the name the guys in the shop had for that car was the "Ford Fuck-us." They actually started refusing to work on them unless the owners signed away the shop’s liability for damages because the car is so full of cheap plastic parts that the chance of breaking one thing while you’re fixing something else is approximately 100%.

    The car’s ok up until the moment that the first thing goes wrong. After that, it will never run right again.

  31. 31
    Shinobi says:

    TheHatOnMyCat,
    I think you’re missing out on the part where the Big 3 continued producing SUVs because they were exempt from certain CAFE standards, which is part of why they were cheaper to produce. They manipulated regulations selling SUVs as work vehicles and light trucks to allow them to circumvent fuel standards. It was also not the market that was hungry for SUVs it was the Big 3 that were hungry for the much larger profit margins on SUVs.

    People have been saying for my entire lifetime that we were going to run out of gas eventually. It does not take a genius to figure out that eventually they might need to find a way to downsize their production. And if they had paid attention to the CAFE standards and applied the passenger standards to SUVs to begin with then gas prices would have been irrelevant to the sale and purchase of SUVs.

  32. 32
    john b says:

    i was under the impression the american focus is an entirely different car from the international focus (ie the american one is far worse)

  33. 33
    John Cole says:

    @Incertus: No. You are all wrong. People actually just spontaneously craved SUV’s. There was no attempt to market them to families who had no use for them, or to even re-brand them as “SPORT UTILITY” vehicles, when before they were called “TRUCKS” or “CARRY-ALLS” and only rednecks and working stiffs had them. There were no massive media campaigns to market them.

    And there was no effort by Congress to write and expand tax loopholes providing incentives and tax write-offs for people who purchased SUV’s.

    None of that happened. You are all wrong. Only the Cat’s alternate history is accurate.

  34. 34
    jrs says:

    Seems like might be taking the wrong way or raining on someones parade–but unions have contributed to the sad state of the auto industry. Before being beheaded I was a union member for many years including being a local president and involved in many contracts.
    The auto unions demanded and were granted unrealistic pay and conditions. The pay was well above rates for persons with much higher training/education and skill levels —conditions and terms of work–just try to get a union member to put in extra effort including actually seeking to maintain a level of output that would insure need for overtime or more days of work. If teachers or most professionals tried the same thing they would be out of work quickly. Know of UAW workers that bragged about how little work they were doing and bringing in $70,000+ and with overtime some were breaking 100grand. Benefits also well above anyone else.
    American auto makers have continued to put out products that consumers did not want at prices they could/would not pay—-now they want saved.
    Thing I will buy some more stock in any of the other auto makers.

  35. 35
    blogenfreude says:

    @TheHatOnMyCat: I fear you are not aware of all Internet traditions.

  36. 36
    Shinobi says:

    Thanks for clearing that up John. The cognitive dissonance was killing me.

  37. 37
    Tony Blankley says:

    I am American and I can have whatever I want, and forever. I am also fat and need a big SUV to house my fatness. And I am rich and can buy all the Raghead Terrorist Gas I want, and forever. And when I crash, because I am arrogant, and fat, and American, and entitled because I’m rich and white, I want to make the pointy head lieberal is the one who dies in his itty bitty pussyfied Prius. Long live the Hat Cat.

  38. 38
    Comrade Kevin says:

    @John Cole: The Cat has a Steve Jobs-like Reality Distortion Field that he employs when he’s determined to write one of his posts where he tells everyone else that they’re stupid.

  39. 39

    […] Cole has a pretty funny post taking aim at the critics of the […]

  40. 40
    Eric S says:

    I never got around to reading it but I never forget this quote from the book High and Mighty

    Few boomers would be flattered by the portrait that auto industry market research has painted of the typical SUV buyer:
    "They tend to be people who are insecure and vain. They are frequently nervous about their marriages and uncomfortable about parenthood. They often lack confidence in their driving skills. Above all, they are apt to be self-centered and self-absorbed, with little interest in their neighbors or communities."

  41. 41
    Don says:

    CAFE wasn’t the only thing SUVs didn’t have to match; being classified as trucks rather than cars allowed them to dodge having to meet some safety requirements too.

    The play doesn’t represent reality, but I think most sane people would recognize that it’s an amusing myth in the sense that it’s true on the inside while not being true on the outside. One big way it’s true is in how it reflects the bizarre standard we have about labor compensation in this country.

    We’re okay – usually – with the concept that capitalism means you get to charge what someone will pay for something. We admire the corporation that finds clever ways to cut costs and raise profits. Yet somehow we’ve been bamboozled into thinking less of workers when they manage to apply the same concepts and get more for their labor.

    There’s certainly problems with unions in this country, but it never seems like those aspects get picked on. Instead we sneer at people who want to negotiate in order to get as much for their product – their time and effort – as they can. Why? More power to them.

  42. 42
    Trollhattan says:

    This is correct. The Your-peen edition of the Focus is a popular car of good quality. Ours: not so much. GM makes fine cars in das Vaterland, Sweden, Austrialia, the UK and the like. A scant few trickle over here. Chrysler appears unsalvageable since the Daimler split, based on their hopeless lineup.

    @ john b

    i was under the impression the american focus is an entirely different car from the international focus (ie the american one is far worse)

  43. 43
    germ78 says:

    @John Cole: Never mind the saturation advertising showing trucks and SUVs to be…
    A. the Manmobile and only manly-men with the menniest of intentions drive them and if you don’t drive one, well you’re a pussy.
    B. the ONLY safe way to cart Timmy to football practice and Jenny to cheer, because if you’re driving a little tin can, they will be mauled in an accident. (not mentioned: by someone driving an oversized SUV).

  44. 44
    Trollhattan says:

    Emissions as well. In total, light trucks trod a vastly different regulatory path, which leveraged many profit advantages over passenger cars. It became interesting to see the makers game the system, morphing passenger cars into light trucks, e.g., the Neon (can) became the PT Cruiser (truck). Even fricking Subaru did it.

    @Don

    CAFE wasn’t the only thing SUVs didn’t have to match; being classified as trucks rather than cars allowed them to dodge having to meet some safety requirements too.

  45. 45
    jenniebee says:

    @John Cole:

    You’re forgetting Detroit’s refusal for decades to manufacture a well-appointed small car. Want a good quality commuter car with a nice options package? Do you want to be comfortable in a reliable small gas sipper? Detroit offers you… the Geo Metro. BMW offers the 3 series, Mercedes has the CLC-Class, and the Japanese have more than I care to list. But Detroit decided that if you want a little car, it’s just because you’re poor. If you want a nice car and you want to buy American, you get to choose between a Lincoln and an Escalade.

    Brilliant!

  46. 46
    ezdidit says:

    Easy ‘play,’ but the truth is that Henry Ford II announced his resignation from Ford upon his return from the Trilateral Commission meeting in Osaka in the seventies. This was our heyday, when LIFE declared we just had to feed the world and share our prosperity.

    The truth is far more sinister: autos have been trading off their tech edges for over 35 years, awaiting the day that the bankruptcy of the U.S. would be declared…it was a fait accompli in 1973!

  47. 47

    You’re forgetting Detroit’s refusal for decades to manufacture a well-appointed small car. Want a good quality commuter car with a nice options package? Do you want to be comfortable in a reliable small gas sipper?

    The Ford Escort was the world’s largest selling car for a good deal of its lifecycle, and not by accident.

    If you want to do intelligent product criticism, picking out the worst possible example from 30 or 40 possibilities and then pretending that it’s typical of the class is not really the way to go about it.

    The Geo Metro is a car that was never well suited for the general American market at any time during its lifecycle.

    Among other things, the Geo Metro was a version of the Suzuki Cultus product, the engineering was Japanese all the way. It never had any particular sales success in the US. It was marketed worldwide under a number of nameplates, with varying degrees of success.

  48. 48
  49. 49

    Detroit offers you… the Geo Metro. BMW offers the 3 serie

    OMFG, you are comparing a rebadged Suzuki engineered as a cheap lowend product in 1983 with the BMW 3 series?

    Are there no rules in here for people having any fucking idea what they are talking about? At all?

    Why not compare the Geo with the Ferrari? That’s a small, really nice car. Same thing, right?

    (rolls eyes and passes out)

  50. 50

    i was under the impression the american focus is an entirely different car from the international focus

    That is true now, not so true when the car was first introduced in the late 1990s. Today, the Euro Focus is quite a different platform.

    The car’s ok up until the moment that the first thing goes wrong. After that, it will never run right again.

    We’ve already established your complete ignorance on the subject of autos, see above. But this about the Focus is just nonsense.

    Among many things you don’t know about this car, there were two versions of it, one of which was sold only to the rental fleet market. The rental Focus units were beaten to pulp by their fleet owners and then dumped onto the used car market at bargain basement prices and sold to the subprime used car buyers who did not take care of the their cars. This was a marketing decision by Ford that drove down the value (and condition) of a large percentage of the Focus fleet in keeping with Detroit’s practices at the time. The retail car was a different product with a different engine and was quite competitive with its peers, the Civic, Corolla and Sentra, to cite three top selling examples. I drove a new Focus for three years and it compared more than favorably to the 06 Civic I drive now.

  51. 51
    Rommie says:

    @jenniebie:

    Hey, I like the Metro – my 95 Suzuki Swift has been a reliable car for years – oh, wait..

    Bagging on the unions for getting generous terms way back when is like criticizing pro athletes like, say, situational bullpen left-handed pitchers in baseball, getting millions a year to throw 7-10 pitches a game. There was an Other Side that said YES and paid.

    It’s *now* that the unions have to live in Reality Land, or they deserve mocking. If the UAW clings to the current contracts and NEVER EVAR will give them up until they expire, they should get kicked around. That not the impression I’ve gotten they are doing, however.

  52. 52
    Sloegin says:

    Good production, but missing a big preamble to this play;

    Wherein the big three help kill single-payer healthcare when it was first floated out way back in the middle of of the previous century, thus sealing their eventual doom versus the wiley foreigners who never had to bear the healthcare cost.

  53. 53
    comrade rawshark says:

    You cannot ask them to build more Focus cars (a fine product, not a "shitty" one as people here seem bent on calling these products, a car that was the world’s largest selling platform just a few years ago, worldwide, and still remains a top seller worldwide as we speak)

    Wrong. The US Focus is a piece of crap. The euro Focus is a quality car. If you want one here buy a Mazda 3. It’s not as good but it’s close.

    Detroit offers you… the Geo Metro. BMW offers the 3 serie

    OMFG, you are comparing a rebadged Suzuki engineered as a cheap lowend product in 1983 with the BMW 3 series?

    Euro 3 series is comparable. They sell them with cloth seats, roll up windows and low power 4 pot deisels over there. Over here the 3 is a luxury car comparable to a cadillac or Lincoln.
    At least understand the comparison before you soil yourself trying to refute it.

  54. 54

    Neon (can) became the PT Cruiser (truck)

    The Cruiser is not a true truck. A true truck is a frame and rail vehicle, designed to carry weight and operate in rough conditions.

    You may be referring to some elements of the Cruiser that were classified by NHTSA as a "truck" as part of, in my opinion, a ruse by Chrysler to get it into a different fuel economy category.

    The Cruiser is a car, of unit-body construction, the autmotive opposite of a truck. It’s a car made to have the style (if you can call it that) of a truck, but it is in no way a real truck. The unit body design model can’t handle the loads and stresses imposed on a true truck’s frame-and-rail foundation.

  55. 55
    Ben says:

    jenniebee: I think you’re a few years out of date, but you’re largely right. GM and Ford have finally started to put out some stylish and non-garish sedans. It’s definitely a case of too little too late.

    The gas milage advantage of Japanese cars is largely just good marketing. Outside of the Civics and Prius of the world. The Chevy Impala and Malibu lines compare favoriably with the Accord for instance. GM should have beaten the world to hybrid technology… You just have to wonder about these idiots should be saved. (I still think we have too)

    I’ve always thought that American cars have gotten something of a bum rap.. having owned nothing but American cars since I started buying cars in 1995… but they did it to themselves.

    The idea that we HAVE to give Citibank $20 billion but we should just let GM burn is the worst part of this whole equation. Let the market do it’s work except when it hits the assholes who caused the mess?

  56. 56
    libarbarian says:

    Warning: The following post make gratuitous use of the F-word.

    A 1997 provision in the U.S. tax code (Section 179) provided small businesses with a tax write-off of up to $25,000 for a vehicle weighing more than 6,000 pounds- used 50% of the time for work purposes. The original intent behind this provision was to encourage investments in pickup trucks, minivans, and other needed service vehicles. A far smaller incentive was provided for cars—less than $7,000 over two years.

    ……..

    In 2003, the Bush administration proposed increasing the tax deduction to $75,000. Lawmakers responded by expanding it to a whopping $100,000 as part of the $350 million tax cut package. Yet Congress did not change the weight-based classification of the vehicles, creating a huge benefit for the largest, least efficient vehicles.

    Holy Corporate-Fucking-Welfare Batman!!

    Who wouldn’t buy an SUV if the gov’t was promising to refund the full fucking cost? Its a free car!!!

    Are there no rules in here for people having any fucking idea what they are talking about? At all?

    -TheHatOnMyCat

    With all due respect dude, considering you claimed "Three had no choice but to sell to a market that demanded SUVs and pickup trucks" but failed to mention the very relevant fact that the Gov’t was blatantly manipulating this demand at the behest of the Big Three, right now you don’t look like you are in a position to criticize other people for not knowing what they are fucking talking about.

  57. 57
    Snowwy says:

    Cat’s not much with the reading comprehension, is he?

  58. 58
    blogenfreude says:

    Focus was, I believe, one of the most recalled cars ever, especially in the early years. You can’t have faulty first execution when Toyota makes a perfect Corolla on the first try.

  59. 59
    blogenfreude says:

    Sure enough – among other things, rear wheels fell off.

  60. 60
    ThymeZone says:

    With all due respect dude, considering you claimed "Three had no choice but to sell to a market that demanded SUVs and pickup trucks" but failed to mention the very relevant fact that the Gov’t was blatantly manipulating this demand at the behest of the Big Three,

    Oh no, absolutely not. That’s just bullshit. The government was not then, and is not now, manipulating that demand.

    The carmakers did a series of experiments in the last 30 years, the first of which was the minivan, a car unit body vehicle that had the interior dimensions of a truck-van. The public snapped them up, and the other makers followed suit.

    Then we had the small Bronco and the Chevy Blazer, another set of experiments, and the public snapped those up. This was especially good news to manufacturers whose capacity was leaning toward frame and rail truck construction, because they could now sell a cheap truck for the price of an expensive car. But it was the public’s demand that drove the history, not the government.

    The public wanted the big vehicles because gas was cheap, and also for the same reasons they wanted bigger houses. Bigger was better. Safer, more comfortable.

    It’s you who have it backward. If you think the government erred by "manipulating" this market for big vehicles, for whatever reason, then you must be in favor of having the government correct its mistake by repairing the damage now, and rescuing the automakers. Right?

    No, the fact is that the US market has always been a bubble, brought on by cheap fuel and easy credit. What you are seeing now is a bursting of that bubble. That’s not the automakers’ fault, or the unions’ fault. If the government wants to sit by now and claim that it is their fault, then the government should resign en masse in disgrace for not doing its job all these years.

    That won’t happen. What will happen is a structured bailout, call Chrylser Iacocca Redux, that will give the carmakers the opportunity to survive a while longer, and give the commentariat in here time to wave their ignorant pitchforks a little higher.

    And now, since it is BJ, the World’s Worst Website, I’ll just copy this post into a text editor so that when the site crashes again and I lose it, I can resurrect it later. It is so much FUN posting here. Really.

  61. 61
    libarbarian says:

    The rental Focus units were beaten to pulp by their fleet owners and then dumped onto the used car market at bargain basement prices and sold to the subprime used car buyers who did not take care of the their cars.

    These dame "subprime" people are always fucking shit up for the rest of us.

    First took advantage of the banks by applying for big loans that the banks were forced to give them (or else be called a "racist" by ACORN and Jesse Jackson) thereby single-handedly creating the credit crises.

    Now I find out that they are behind ruining the reputation of good American cars like the Focus and thereby taking down Detroit.

    Jesus, whats next.

  62. 62
    Cassidy says:

    @TheHatOnMyCat: Bullshit. The Focus is straight garbage. Your anecdote doesn’t equal evidence.

    @ jenniebee

    Your not entirely accurate. The Big 3 have always had smaller, more efficient (comparatively) vehicles in thier lineup, but they’ve never been marketed beyond the "first car" set. Hell, approx. 5 years ago, Chevrolet had so many cars in its lineup, it was hemmorraging money.

    Something else to consider. The consumer says I want economy. Then they say, I want economy, but it’s got to look sporty. Then, sporty is cool, but a 4 cylinder doesn’t sound sporty, etc. We dug our own hole.

    Disregard TZ. He is a dishonest phony, who cannot live up to the smug challenges he throws out. SImply ignore is the best course of action.

  63. 63
    ThymeZone says:

    Focus was, I believe, one of the most recalled cars ever, especially in the early years.

    That was the myth. When I researched it, the Focus was on a recall par with the peer Civic.

    Another thing you might want to look deeply into is the fact that recalls are the product of a political process more than a technical one. There were not (not sure about today) uniform standards and triggers ten years ago. You also want to look into the relationship between trial lawyers, liability, and recalls. You will find a lot of murk there. Liability is an industry in this country, not everything is as it seems.

    As for Toyota making "perfect Corollas on the first try .."

    Heh. I commend you to the Corollas of 25 years ago, and also to the fact that most of those early Japanese vehicles sold here were in fact established products from Japan that had already been through their early and flawed versions. I drove Japanese vehicles in the 70’s that were best followed by a large net to catch the pieces falling off of them as they went down the road.

    There’s no question that in the period between 1980 and 2000 most Japanese cars were better made than American cars. However, that gap is pretty much closed today.

    Of course, you might want to look into the problems Toyota has been having with the Tundra. The myth of Japanese perfection is just that … a myth.

    I worked for a giant Japanese manufacturing firm for a long time. Let’s just say, I don’t believe everything I read in Consumer Reports Magazine.

  64. 64
    Trollhattan says:

    One shouldn’t forget that the Focus replaced the (ahem, cough) Pinto, so the bar was sufficiently low to appear as a groove scored into the pavement.

    "Hey, it doesn’t burst into flames when struck from behind. A winnah!"

  65. 65
    ThymeZone says:

    The Focus is straight garbage. Your anecdote doesn’t equal evidence.

    Your assertion is just an assertion. Produce evidence that the car is "garbage" please.

  66. 66
    geg6 says:

    Brilliant!

    I think we should pitch this to Hollywood. Think of it! It’s got tragedy! Conflict! Comedy! We’ve got cars for all the adolescent males and I’m sure we could throw in some romance along the way. After all, we all associate a car (well, at least it’s back seat) with romance!!!!!

    Come on, people! We can do it! It’ll be box office dynomite!

  67. 67
    Cassidy says:

    @ThymeZone: I don’t debate smug phonies and cowards.

  68. 68
    blogenfreude says:

    @ThymeZone: Statement about Focus is correct – see link above. And why talk about 25 year old Corollas when what’s relevant is the current model? I would also point out that it’s hardly the fault of trial lawyers when a rear wheels falls off.

  69. 69
    Trollhattan says:

    @Catsnhats

    PT Cruiser is a "light truck" in the eyes of the regulators. Same as an eff one fiddy, even if no leaf springs. Toyota Sienna minivan: light truck.

    It’s a crazy world.

  70. 70
    ThymeZone says:

    One shouldn’t forget that the Focus replaced the (ahem, cough) Pinto

    Nope, it replaced the Escort. Last Pinto was made in about 1980, nearly twenty years before the first Focus was manufactured for US consumption.

    There is no similarity between Focus and Pinto. One is a frame and rail rear wheel drive car of essentially 1950’s design, and the other is a unit body front wheel drive vehicle of 1990’s design.

    Not even apples and oranges. More like potatoes and truffles.

  71. 71
    libarbarian says:

    Oh no, absolutely not. That’s just bullshit. The government was not then, and is not now, manipulating that demand.

    WTF????

    The fact that the product was already popular does not change the fact that the Gov’t then went ahead and offered rebates which further incentivized the trend.

    Offering rebates off up to 100% of the purchase price of one type of vehicle, but not competing types, damn well meets the definition of "manipulating demand" because it has the direct effect of making SUVs cheaper than competing choices which would have been cheaper than SUVs if the gov’t hadn’t interfered.

  72. 72
    ThymeZone says:

    I would also point out that it’s hardly the fault of trial lawyers when a rear wheels falls off.

    Really. The only car I know about with a rear wheel problem is the 2006 Civic I am driving now. I never had a recall on my Focus. I have had two on the Civic.

    You also might want to talk to my neighbor and her Honda CRV recall for the things, um, catching fire. Like I said, there is a lot more to recalls than meets the eye.

  73. 73
    Trollhattan says:

    @TZ

    Forgot about the Escort. My bad.

  74. 74
    Roger Moore says:

    @TheHatOnMyCat:

    You may be referring to some elements of the Cruiser that were classified by NHTSA as a "truck" as part of, in my opinion, a ruse by Chrysler to get it into a different fuel economy category.

    That’s exactly the point he’s making. The automakers blatantly gamed the rules to make as many vehicles as possible "trucks" by government standards and "cars" by consumer standards. IIRC, the PT Cruiser went one step further by meeting the truck standards of one government agency and the car standards of another in a way that was most beneficial to Chrysler.

    That’s not to say that the auto industry can’t and shouldn’t be used as an argument for conservative principles. It’s clear that part of the industry’s problem- or the Big Three’s problem- is that they’re operating in a heavily regulated environment, and that they’ve been in political position to manipulate the rules to their benefit. The Big Three have been able to get as degenerate as they are precisely because they’ve been hiding behind the regulatory barriers that conservatives hate. We can argue all day about pension funding and model designs without getting anywhere. The underlying problem is that politically driven over regulation has protected Detroit from the consequences of its mistakes for too long.

  75. 75
    blogenfreude says:

    @Trollhattan: Easy to do – it’s forgettable.

    As for the Focus (from Consumer Reports – link above):

    Ford’s attempt to focus on safety and reliability isn’t getting much help from its recall-plagued subcompact, the Focus. With nine safety recalls and five defect investigations so far, the Focus is turning into a major black eye for Ford.

    The latest investigation announced by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) has to do with wheels falling off the 2000 models, the right and left rear wheels to be precise. There’s already been a recall for a similar problem involving only the left rear wheels in some 203,000 2000 models.

    Some 350,000 2000 models were recalled because their roof pillars could cause head injuries in crashes. Other problems include airbags that deploy inadvertently, engine compartment fires and engine stalling.

    It’s the most recalls for a single manufacturer since General Motors’ notorious X-cars (the Buick Skylark, Chevrolet Citation, Oldsmobile Omage and Pontiac Phoenix) racked up 13 recalls in the their first two years, according to the Center for Auto Safety.

    Sorry TZ – pwned again.

  76. 76

    The automakers blatantly gamed the rules to make as many vehicles as possible "trucks" by government standards and "cars" by consumer standards. IIRC, the PT Cruiser went one step further by meeting the truck standards of one government agency and the car standards of another in a way that was most beneficial to Chrysler.

    There is some truth in that, but first of all, the PT Cruiser is not even a hangnail on a footnote of automotive history. The thing is a dud and has no real estate on the marketplace grounds.

    But the general idea of an SUV of frame-rail construction being called a "truck" under regulation is not all that goofy. The thing is a truck, built on a truck platform and in a truck plant, usually right alongside … trucks. There is no doubt that the manufacturers made the best of the regulatory environment that went with these new trucks that had car interiors and drove like cars. As one would expect them to do. I don’t fault them for that.

    But the regulatory jungle is the responsibility of government, that was my earlier point. The government can’t cave to the lobbyists, and then come back later and say, the lobbyists ruined things, therefore we are putting their parents out of business. Especially when doing so basically kills the American economy. We are going to need a little more accountability than that. If government caved to lobbyists, then let it repair that damage without throwing the working class under the bus.

  77. 77
    Zifnab says:

    The fact that the product was already popular does not change the fact that the Gov’t then went ahead and offered rebates which further incentivized the trend.

    Didn’t the Hummer – coming in at over 6000 pounds – constitute a "small truck"? I think the scam was actually an abuse of the business tax code. You could incorporate yourself and thus start a small business. Then you buy the Hummer and pick up a $25k small business tax credit. Suddenly, your brand new $80k car costs you about as much as a nice mini-van. You file your return, pick up your $25k tax credit, close down your business, and Joe Taxpayer foots the bill so you can drive around in your own personal tank. Republicans then proceeded to block any attempt to close this loophole because they were just looking out for the American taxpayer or some such bullshit.

    Imagine if the US Government had been giving out $25k rebate checks for Cadillacs and all you had to do was file for government assistance. That’s all I’m saying. Reagen’s Welfare Queens were alive and well in the Summer of ’05.

  78. 78
    blogenfreude says:

    Sorry – cut off the best part of the piece:

    The latest investigation announced by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) has to do with wheels falling off the 2000 models, the right and left rear wheels to be precise. There’s already been a recall for a similar problem involving only the left rear wheels in some 203,000 2000 models. Some 350,000 2000 models were recalled because their roof pillars could cause head injuries in crashes. Other problems include airbags that deploy inadvertently, engine compartment fires and engine stalling. It’s the most recalls for a single manufacturer since General Motors’ notorious X-cars (the Buick Skylark, Chevrolet Citation, Oldsmobile Omage and Pontiac Phoenix) racked up 13 recalls in the their first two years, according to the Center for Auto Safety.

  79. 79
    Laura W says:

    @Trollhattan: Pinto! Wow. Nice trip down memory lane there. A high school gal pal was lucky enough to own one of the burnt orange models…remember that pukeish color? She loaned it to me for a week when she went on vacation and swear to Shiva, I thought I rocked the world.
    My lifelong, boy-across-the-street, pathetic school girl crush drove an Opel GT in the same color.
    Surely that’s why I now prefer black to any other color car.
    (Not auto related but how great is Chinese 5 Spice anyway?)

  80. 80

    Sept. 14 (Bloomberg) — Honda Motor Co. is recalling 182,756 Civics, the automaker’s second-best selling U.S. model, to fix a wheel-bearing seal that may leak and cause the wheel to fall off.

    The recall, covering 2006 and 2007 model-year Civic sedans and coupes, was reported on the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Web site. The affected models were made from March 24, 2005, through Feb. 8, 2007, Honda said.

    Water may be able to seep past an O-ring seal on the wheel bearing, damaging the bearing, Tokyo-based Honda said in a letter on the NHTSA Web site. This could cause a wheel to fall off of the vehicle, possibly resulting in a crash,” Honda said.

    Like I said, the Focus compared quite favorably with the peer Civic. By peer, I mean the cars being sold in the same time frame. I think you will find that the recall history is pretty similar. The difference is that the press shits on the American carmaker and doesn’t tell you the whole story.

    And the Focus continues to be a solid seller in the retail market even as we speak:

    DEARBORN, Mich., March 3 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — Ford’s new Focus and
    SYNC are connecting with small car buyers. Focus retail sales were up 36
    percent in February — the fourth month in a row of higher retail sales.

    The trend continued ….

    DEARBORN, Mich., June 3, 2008 – For the second time in its nine-year history, Ford Focus sales eclipsed the 30,000-unit milestone in May.

    Focus sales totaled 32,579, up 53 percent compared with a year ago. Retail sales to individual customers more than doubled (up 105 percent). The first time was October 2001, when industry sales soared in response to zero-percent financing.

    "Our dealers are selling the Focus at unprecedented turn rates," said Jim Farley, Ford group vice president, Marketing and Communications. "In fact, Focus’ retail sales were 91 percent of beginning inventory, which puts it in the same league as the industry’s best-selling small cars. This is a strong statement about customer demand for Ford’s newest small car."

    Ford is moving to increase Focus availability. In early April, Ford announced plans to produce 245,000 Focus units in 2008, approximately 30 percent more than in 2007. Ford now is targeting to produce 280,000 Focus units in 2009.

    The car is still up there in Civic and Corolla territory in terms of unit sales. It’s a fine product that has been lauded extensively in the car magazines for good reason.

    Which is interesting from the thread point of view, but misses the most essential point: Profit. Ford doesn’t make much profit on these cars for the reasons stated earlier.

    That fact is the reason why Ford is begging for money today. Not because the product is uncompetitve, because their business model is uncompetitive.

  81. 81

    Offering rebates off up to 100% of the purchase price

    I’m sorry, did you mean to say that?

    If so, then I think I missed out on the free SUVs that must have been given away?

    Can you point me to some of those rebates you reference?

  82. 82
    Laura W says:

    It’s the most recalls for a single manufacturer since General Motors’ notorious X-cars (the Buick Skylark,

    Jesus Freakin’ Christ. My mother owned a Skylark (or two) and I drove/stole them all the time.
    Pinto, Skylark, MGB-GT…I am just very lucky to be alive, sitting here BJ surfing, watching David Gregory on tee vee.

  83. 83
    libarbarian says:

    Didn’t the Hummer – coming in at over 6000 pounds – constitute a "small truck"? I think the scam was actually an abuse of the business tax code. Then you buy the Hummer and pick up a $25k small business tax credit. Suddenly, your brand new $80k car costs you about as much as a nice mini-van. You file your return, pick up your $25k tax credit, close down your business, and Joe Taxpayer foots the bill so you can drive around in your own personal tank.

    I wasn’t even referring to that level of fraud.

    I was simply referring to the many small businessmen / self-employed whose jobs require them to do a lot of city/highway driving and who really only bought an SUV because the massive tax-rebate made a big SUV cheaper than a Civic.

  84. 84
    blogenfreude says:

    @Laura W: I had an MGB-GT and a Skylark as well. The latter had the steering problem that plagued the entire line – so-called morning sickness. I ran the car off an entrance ramp when the steering failed.

    As for the Civic/Focus kerfuffle – can anyone say w/ a straight face that offered a choice, you’d take the Ford?

  85. 85
    demimondian says:

    @Laura W:

    Pinto, Skylark, MGB-GT…I am just very lucky to be alive, sitting here BJ surfing,

    It sure sounds like you’re lucky.

    watching David Gregory on tee vee.

    …or maybe not.

    –demi "I rolled a Pontiac T1000 off a cliff, though" mondian

  86. 86
    libarbarian says:

    If so, then I think I missed out on the free SUVs that must have been given away?

    From the article cited by Prof. Cole.

    Accountants, SUV dealers rush to capitalize
    Around the country, auto dealers such as ‘the Car Guy’ Jerry Reynolds in Texas and hundreds of accountants and online tax management sites have been encouraging small business owners such as doctors, lawyers, and realtors to rush out and take advantage of this tax windfall. One advertisement from Dugan & Lopatka, an accounting firm in Wheaton, IL, reads, ‘Write-Off 100% of Your New SUV? Yes, If It’s Under 100,000!’

    According to a November 7, 2003, article in the Washington Post, Dugan & Lopatka were so inundated with phone calls regarding their advertisement they nearly had to shut down their switchboard. Industry analysts predicted a spike in purchases last November and December due to the typical year-end rush to claim the deduction for tax returns.

    Yes, it was (at one time) a $100,000 tax write-off. Not "pre-tax income adjustment" but "tax write-off" meaning that $100,000 was taken off your final tab.

    Even after they rolled it back, they still provided hefty incentives

    In October 2004, after the House Ways and Means Committee approved a three-year extension of the $100,000 loophole, a House-Senate conference committee negotiated a roll back in the deduction to its original amount of $25,000 as part of the larger Corporate Tax Bill. While tightening this loophole is certainly noteworthy, it is by no means the end of significant tax breaks for gas-guzzling SUVs. According to an analysis in the Detroit News, besides the $25,000 basic equipment deduction, SUVs will still qualify for "bonus depreciation," an added write off of 30 percent of the purchase price above $25,000. Beyond that, additional costs can be deducted according to regular depreciation rules, or 20 percent in the first year. For example, a business owner purchasing a Hummer H1, with a sticker price of $106,185, would be able to deduct $60,722 in the first year under the revised rules: a $25,000 equipment deduction, $24,356 in bonus depreciation, and $11,366 in regular depreciation."

    Im not an expert. I’m drawing conclusions from the facts I know. If you want to dispute them go ahead, but right now this all looks like clear "manipulation of demand" to me.

  87. 87

    As for the Civic/Focus kerfuffle – can anyone say w/ a straight face that offered a choice, you’d take the Ford?

    Can you say with a straight face that the 2000 Focus had a substantially worse recall record than the 2000 Civic?

    When I researched it years ago, the recall count was about the same. A recall search I just made reveals a total of 15 for Focus and 14 for Civic for the same model year, over the last 8 years that they have been on the road. Like I said, not that much difference.

    When I first made this comparison, 7 years ago, I got basically the same result.

    I have recalls on file for both my Focus and my Civic for "rear wheels that might fall off" but of the two cars, only the Civic recall actually affected the configuration I am actually driving. But that’s just the luck of the draw.

    As for which car I would pick today if all other things were equal (price, features, etc) …. hard to say. I like both cars. Both have been excellent vehicles for me personally.

    The Civic Coupe I am driving is very low to the ground and aerodynamic and gets a measured 41 mpg on the highway. Not many straight gasoline powered cars can beat that. The Focus got 35 or so. But other than that, I can’t say that either car has a clear edge over the other one.

    The Focus definitely handled better. Its brakes felt stronger. The Civic is quieter and is a better all-day highway car for me (I tend to get uncomfortable in a car seat all day).

    For all purpose use, the cars are hard to pick between for me. And I am one of the pickiest car guys in the world, I complain about everything. I know, that’s hard to imagine.

  88. 88

    I had an MGB-GT

    OMFG you had an MG and you are talking about car quality?

    I had several MG’s in the Midget, and MGA category, and a relative had an MGB. Without doubt the worst cars I have ever driven, quality wise, in my life, and I have driven some serious trash.

    But here’s the catch …. I loved those fucking cars. For fun, you couldn’t beat them.

  89. 89

    In October 2004, after the House Ways and Means Committee approved a three-year extension of the $100,000 loophole, a House-Senate conference committee negotiated a roll back in the deduction to its original amount of $25,000 as part of the larger Corporate Tax Bill.

    Wow, I wish I had known that at the time.

    My first impression is that it must have been a little-known thing, and cannot possibly have had much of an impact on actual sales. Sounds like something some politicians slipped in there to help a few buddies. I am not aware of the general public getting huge rebates for buying SUVs.

  90. 90
    passerby says:

    CrustyDem@17 said:

    "…because they just don’t give a fuck. As much as everyone wants to complain about the union corruption, no union would (or even could) screw over their members to the degree that the employer can."

    True, I agree that less and less we should depend on employers to reward loyalty with pensions. Management needs all the $$$ it can get to make sure they look good on the Big Boards while creaming as much as they can for their own salaries and bonuses. Bonuses!!

    And I think it’s unfortunate that Unions have to fight for "health" benefits to begin with. We’re socializing the banks and offering corporate welfare to every other CEO millionaire. If we could have socialized medicine, then the purpose of unions would be fight for wages and working conditions.

    Then there’s this aspect:

    "BIG THREE: I am designing terrible cars that few people want to buy!…"

    I drove an ’81 Accord for 12 years and a ’97 Jetta for the past 11 years. I’ve got the impression that American cars are POS and Lemony. Don’t know how I could be convinced otherwise.

    I wish congress could come up with a way to protect auto manufacturing without a bailout. And I don’t care if the CEO"S all agree to receive $1 in pay–they’ll find a way to get plenty of $$$ for themselves some other way.

    Oh yeah, and Mitt Romney = A Poor Politician

  91. 91
    demimondian says:

    @TheHatOnMyCat: I had a neighbor whose MG-B had the Greatest Win Bumpersticker: "All the parts falling off this car are of the finest British manufacture."

  92. 92
    jenniebee says:

    Your not entirely accurate. The Big 3 have always had smaller, more efficient (comparatively) vehicles in thier lineup, but they’ve never been marketed beyond the "first car" set.

    But that is exactly my point. They put together a "first car" small car, but if you wanted a car that wasn’t a "first car" that was still a small car, SOL or go German/Japanese. Even the sporty stuff was big – what did Detroit bring out that was comparable to the Toyota MR2 or the Mazda Miata?

    No, Detroit’s offerings to the public, in every circumstance, was that if you want something nicer, you’ve got to take something that’s also bigger.

    Fooling around with Mercedes and BMW’s Build Your Own car feature is really cool. The BMW 1 series is a cute, cute car. Me wanty! Also.

  93. 93
    Laura W says:

    @demimondian: My best friend’s MGB-GT was a total piece of crap. I was driving it all alone in West LA one day and no one told me about this downshifting thing so I went from a peppy 3rd or 4th to a standing still 1st, like any 17-year-old girl would, in the middle of a busy intersection. I was told I "dropped the transmission", but that doesn’t even make sense. Lying car makers.

    Shortly thereafter, my dad’s mom died and I inherited a 1963 white Dodge Dart with red interior, a steering wheel as big as the moon, and push button ignition. Downshifting (and my need for peppy speed) issue solved.

  94. 94
    HyperIon says:

    TZ wrote: It is so much FUN posting here. Really.

    fun for you.
    what about the rest of us?

  95. 95
    Roger Moore says:

    @TheHatOnMyCat:

    Can you say with a straight face that the 2000 Focus had a substantially worse recall record than the 2000 Civic?

    Sure. The only way you could conclude that the Focus is close to the Civic is by counting the number of recalls without bothering to read them. The Civic has 14 recalls while the Focus has 15. That looks very close.

    When you bother to read the details, it turns out that 10 of those Civic recalls are for aftermarket/replacement lights lacking amber reflectors. This looks like a problem affecting after-market parts, and not something caused by Honda at all. Two are for seat belt buckles that would be difficult to unbuckle after a crash but would otherwise perform properly. One covered only CNG vehicles, but could be serious in the event of a bad fire. The remaining recall was a problem with the ignition that could cause stalls.

    In contrast, the Focus had just three recalls related to the same replacement/after-market headlamp issue. The other 12 include two related to defective cruise control cables, two related to lug nuts (one of which could cause a wheel to fall off), a bad wiring harness, a defective hinge on folding rear seats, plugging fuel filters, an A pillar that could cause injury in the event of a crash, battery cables that could cause a short, badly installed bolts in the steering assembly, a defective switch in the windshield wiper assembly that could cause the wipers to fail, and a corrosion problem with rear door latches.

    I don’t know about you, but that looks a lot better for the Civic than for the Focus. I certainly have no trouble saying that I prefer the 2000 Civic’s record to the 2000 Focus’s with a straight face.

  96. 96
    JasonF says:

    Wow. I posted this in the comments yesterday and haven’t really had a chance to read BJ since then. To find that John liked it enough to promote it to a post, that so many of you have heaped complimented it, and that it’s been Tracked Back to other blogs — all of this has really made my day.

    As for substance, I’m struck that the whole debate over pensions and benefits is really modern conservatism (at least the privatization aspect of it) in a nutshell. What President Bush calls the "ownership society" is nothing more than an attempt to shift the risks from the employer (under a defined benefit system) to the employee (under a defined contribution system). If that’s what the employer and the employee want, then that’s OK, but we shouldn’t pretend that one system is morally superior to the other.

    Put another way, a car company should be indifferent between providing me $X today or providing me $Y today and future benefits with a present value of $Z, assuming $X=$Y+$Z. The UAW asked for (and received) $Y and $Z. Once that deal was made, the auto makers agreed to bear the risk that $Y+$Z would turn out to be more than $X. On the other hand, they stood to reap the benefits if $Y+$Z turned out to be less than $X. We shouldn’t be sympathetic to their complaints that $Z turned out to be bigger than they thought any more than we would be sympathetic to the workers if the workers had agreed to take $X in lieu of $Y and $Z and then spent all their money before retirement instead of saving.

  97. 97
    Roger Moore says:

    @jenniebee:

    what did Detroit bring out that was comparable to the Toyota MR2 or the Mazda Miata?

    There was the Pontiac Fiero, which seems broadly similar to the MR2. It suffered from typical 1980s Detroit engineering and QC problems, so I assume that you’re failure to remember it is the result of protective amnesia.

  98. 98
    jenniebee says:

    @TheHatOnMyCat:

    My first impression is that it must have been a little-known thing, and cannot possibly have had much of an impact on actual sales. Sounds like something some politicians slipped in there to help a few buddies. I am not aware of the general public getting huge rebates for buying SUVs.

    The general public didn’t because the general public couldn’t. To get the credit (not deduction), the vehicle had to be purchased for business purposes. It wasn’t little-known among the people who could benefit from it, though, and it definitely made it out on major news channels to the rest of us too (ABC News, Business Week, etc.).

  99. 99
    That One - Cain says:

    @Laura W:

    Shortly thereafter, my dad’s mom died and I inherited a 1963 white Dodge Dart with red interior, a steering wheel as big as the moon, and push button ignition. Downshifting (and my need for peppy speed) issue solved.

    Hah.. I drove one of those. Man, talking about a tank. I wouldn’t say it was 63, I think mine was a 68 or something. It was back in the late 80s. No power steering and disc brakes. Bleah. But I was not afraid.. I could have hit anything and it would have been fine.

    cain

  100. 100

    I certainly have no trouble saying that I prefer the 2000 Civic’s record to the 2000 Focus’s with a straight face.

    I concede. Shut down the American auto industry, throw millions out of work and fry the economy.

    Your argment, like The Man, is Too Strong.

  101. 101
    Roger Moore says:

    @JasonF:

    What President Bush calls the "ownership society" is nothing more than an attempt to shift the risks from the employer (under a defined benefit system) to the employee (under a defined contribution system).

    Or, to quote our President Elect (from his acceptance speech), ‘In Washington, they call this the "Ownership Society," but what it really means is that you’re on your own.

    That said, I think that the problems that Detroit is facing show the limitations of traditional defined benefits pensions. A defined benefits plan would better be described as a promised benefits plan. The employer is supposed to be investing wisely to provide for the future, but there’s still a huge assumption about future returns built into the system. If that assumption is wrong- and there’s always a temptation for the employer to make overly optimistic assumptions that will later prove to be wrong- trying to keep the promise may wind up breaking the company. In that case, both the retirees and the current employees are screwed.

  102. 102
    DecidedFenceSitter says:

    @TheHatOnMyCat:

    My first impression is that it must have been a little-known thing, and cannot possibly have had much of an impact on actual sales. Sounds like something some politicians slipped in there to help a few buddies. I am not aware of the general public getting huge rebates for buying SUVs.

    It was every local radio station in the DC Metro area blaring continually about the tax benefits. I realized that’s why every realtor (I had just finished house hunting) had a huge honking SUV when they were showing houses. Major tax write-offs.

  103. 103

    what about the rest of us?

    I feel your pain.

    Honestly. I really do.

  104. 104

    I think maybe I’ve wandered into lala land. The truck depreciation doesn’t result in a FREE truck, it results in a tax free truck, there’s a real difference, the thing still cost you 39K, but you didn’t pay taxes on the 39K. Otherwise you depreciate the damn things with milage. Eventually you get to the same place of not paying taxes for buying a business tool, but quicker is generally better.

    I keep reading the same bullshit over and over and nobody pays the least attention to the facts on the ground faced by the Big 3 management that are politically produced. There is no import control over the components the Japs use in their plants, it is an internal transfer. Those components are made by socialized medicine workers.

    Now if the competition is paying less for an assembled product in the US directly due to governmental policies it would seem a little odd to blame management for trying to work around it. You cover higher costs by building a more expensive platform – trucks & SUVs and lose money on the cars. You can’t lose much on the cars so you have to cut where you can and product quality suffers versus peer foreign cars.

    The whole damn mess has more components to it that any of this simplistic nonsense recognizes – but simple solutions to complex problems appeal to a certain mindset. I’d hoped it was more Republican and right wing in nature – evidently not.

  105. 105
    Church Lady says:

    My husband was replacing his company car (SUV) back then and looked into purchasing, to get the tax advantage, versus his usual lease. His accountant told him to stick with the lease, due to the mileage he puts on annually. I have no idea why, but the accountant said the lease would be more beneficial, tax wise, over the three years he would drive the car.

    Over the past thirty some odd years, I have driven a variety of both American and Japanese cars. I can honestly say that I have not had any major problems with the American cars that we have owned (GMC, Chevy, Lincoln), nor do I have complaints on any of the imports (Nissan, Mazda, Toyota, Lexus). However, I will offer the opinion that nothing, and I mean nothing, beats German engineering.

    For the first time in my life, I own a German car and it absolutely ROCKS! I love this car. Five years from now, as long as I can afford it, I’ll replace it with another one, just so I can continue the love affair.

  106. 106

    Gonna throw this in here, just because.

    This whole QC topic is an empiricist’s nightmare. There is only one source of real life data about car reliability for the first three years or so of a model’s life, and that is …. the manufacturer’s database. And they ain’t talking.

    After working for such a company and being one of the caretakers of such data, let me tell you, these guys guard this data like it was the gold in Fort Knox. They are totally paranoid about it. They are so uptight about it, they don’t even like the idea that they are keeping it, it is so radioactive.

    One of the reasons they do warranty service for a long time is that they get to own the service data for that period of time. I learned this while working at the American headquarters of one of these companies, a large Japanese firm with a name familiar to every household in America.

    NHTSA press releases are not a very effective way to judge car quality. IMO, neither is J.D. Power and Associates information.

    And then there is good old Consumer Reports Magazine. They said this about the 2000 model:

    the Focus was a bright star, with excellent driving dynamics and a well-thought-out and spacious interior. It was sensible, capable, and fun to drive.

    Now the media mantra on this car is that Ford has let it go stale while other competing models have passed it by.

    The cars CR tout now as the exemplar of wonderfulity are the Suzuki Impreza and Toyota Corolla. Hmm. Well, I have never given serious thought to any Suzuki product, for whatever that is worth, and the Corolla? I climbed into one last week at a car show and found that it failed my most basic test before I even put my weight down in the seat. I couldn’t get in and out without mashing my legs against the bottom of the steering wheel, which did not go high enough to give me room for a comfortable ingress-egress.
    I have long legs which are wired directly to a crankyassed disposition.

    Once in the car, I have to say, I was pretty shocked at how spartan and dull it looked in there …. reminded me of my mother’s old Corolla, which I hated. When compared to my Civic, I am driving a space ship, compared to a mule-driven Borax wagon. But hey, these things are subjective.

  107. 107

    Tax liabilities depend on the business types C-corp, S-corp, LLC, sole proprietor, etc. An S-corp has a peculiar problem in that at tax year end any money left in the corp is a direct pass through as income to the holder.

    I have taken advantage, in 04, of the 6K GVW weight limit resulting in an 04 SSR. Yes, despite contrary opinions it is a 1/2T pickup, 6K on the nose. 22mpg @ 65mph. It also was a case of avoiding pass through, purchased 12-15-04 as the window for investment opportunity closed, which was the down on the truck, since the property for improvement moved outside the tax year meaning a 25% tax liability on that money. I’ll admit I wanted that very cool vehicle, but I’d have passed on it if not faced with that liability.

  108. 108

    Tax liabilities depend on the business types C-corp, S-corp, LLC, sole proprietor, etc. An S-corp has a peculiar problem in that at tax year end any money left in the corp is a direct pass through as income to the holder.

    I have taken advantage, in 04, of the 6K GVW weight limit resulting in an 04 SSR. Yes, despite contrary opinions it is a 1/2T pickup, 6K on the nose. 22mpg @ 65mph. It also was a case of avoiding pass through, purchased 12-15-04 as the window for investment opportunity closed, which was the down on the truck, since the property for improvement moved outside the tax year meaning a 25% tax liability on that money. I’ll admit I wanted that very cool vehicle, but I’d have passed on it if not faced with that liability.

  109. 109

    Tax liabilities depend on the business types C-corp, S-corp, LLC, sole proprietor, etc. An S-corp has a peculiar problem in that at tax year end any money left in the corp is a direct pass through as income to the holder.

    I have taken advantage, in 04, of the 6K GVW weight limit resulting in an 04 SSR. Yes, despite contrary opinions it is a 1/2T pickup, 6K on the nose. 22mpg @ 65mph. It also was a case of avoiding pass through, purchased 12-15-04 as the window for investment opportunity closed, which was the down on the truck, since the property for improvement moved outside the tax year meaning a 25% tax liability on that money. I’ll admit I wanted that very cool vehicle, but I’d have passed on it if not faced with that liability.

  110. 110
    Comrade Kevin says:

    This post was just mentioned on Rachel Maddow’s show, incoming!

  111. 111
    Laura W says:

    Rachel just read Act Three on her show! And ref’d Balloon Juice.
    But you all know that by now since we will never get back onto this site again.
    But anyway, BJ on Rachel’s Show.
    And JasonF, was it? is now infamous!!!

  112. 112
    Incertus says:

    @That One – Cain: Prolly had the slant-six engine that’ll take you to hell and back, slow. We had one in ’76–first new car my parents ever bought.

  113. 113
    Conservatively Liberal says:

    I heard it…lol. Rachel Maddow is a fan of John? You are now an Honorary DFH John. Congrats! :)

  114. 114
    edub says:

    @Conservatively Liberal:

    Now you can put it to music and take it on the road.

    Maybe there’s a small theater in San Diego that premiers up-and-coming operettas.

  115. 115
    DRD 1812 says:

    Chuck Butcher wrote:
    There is no import control over the components the Japs use in their plants, it is an internal transfer.

    Is it still the Forties over there in Baker County, Chuck? Please make your argument without the use of racial slurs.

  116. 116

    I drive a VW Passat. Love it. I’d have been perfectly happy to buy an American car, but a manual transmission is a must in my book. No American manufacturer I could find offered a manual version of anything but their lowest end car. I wanted my friends to be able to get in and out of the back seat.

    It’s a pity, really, because GM was practically giving their cars away, and I could have saved a lot of money.

  117. 117
    Cain says:

    Is it still the Forties over there in Baker County, Chuck? Please make your argument without the use of racial slurs.

    You could have at least made some argument as well rather than just point out his remarks. Regulars know that Chuck ain’t no racist. So let’s move along shall we..

    cain

  118. 118

    Oh, I missed an ‘ese’ , sooooo very sorry.

    I’ve watched this predatory crap for years, it is illegal to do it in the US and yet other than the punitive tarriff finally instituted that drove them to put assembly plants here to avoid it and still play the same game nothing has ever been done to address it. The goal is to drive the Big 3 out of business and it is effective as you may have noticed. I do not discount their stupidity in contract negotiations that put them in line for pension costs versus wages – some real short term greed thinking.

    It is fashionable to see corporations as souless behomeths and that’s not too far off, but there also is some sort of unwillingness to recognize that some of them operate in a state of warfare, beating a competitor into dust is the goal for long term success. If the Big 3 can be broken and bought up at fire sale the largest market in the world is theirs.

    Five years ago you’d have called that conspiracy loonyness, now half the commenters are recommending it. Our own damn government has encouraged it with one hand and promoted stupid alternatives with the other. You people seem to assume that the people running, say GM, are complete idiots rather than look at them realistically as trying to deal with the hand dealt them. Maybe not as well as possible, but you ignore the underlying issues completely.

    And yes, it has been common knowledge in some circles what exactly has been going on in regard to the Japanese car companies and fuck ’em they’re Japs and they build Japcans and I won’t buy one for the simple reason that I won’t be a part of it.

  119. 119
    CIRCVS MAXIMVS MMVIII says:

    And why talk about 25 year old Corollas when what’s relevant is the current model?

    Because the discussion about Corollas was about how Toyota made excellent Corolla cars from the beginning? Just saying.

    I have a question, I was at the car show with TZ last week where he couldn’t get in and out of the Corolla (he made his thoughts on that clear as soon as he sat down in it) and I saw the new Dodge Challengers (kinda pretty, but OMG they look huge) – why is Dodge bringing back Challengers now? The mpg aspect will kill that car when gas starts to head up again. Is this American car manufacturers idea of doing a responsible thing?

    And for the record, I swear by Mitsubishi products myself.

  120. 120
    eyeball says:

    Mitt Romney, as those of us who know and observe him in Mass. have stated many times, is a truly rotten person and one of the worst demagogues on the national stage. Worse than Palin, frankly. Because Romney tries to put the sheen of ‘savvy businessman’ to his utterly vacuous efforts to play the class card against labor unions. Romney thinks the notion of a longterm relationship with labor is just plain bad business. Labor is there to be a) broken; b) replaced by cheaper labor. He cannot see that the opposite is true. He is utterly blinded by this arrogant posture. He completely lacks the feel for working people that made his father, George, a generally good Republican. He surrounds himself with lowlifes as well.

  121. 121
    CIRCVS MAXIMVS MMVIII says:

    I drive a VW Passat. Love it. I’d have been perfectly happy to buy an American car, but a manual transmission is a must in my book. No American manufacturer I could find offered a manual version of anything but their lowest end car. I wanted my friends to be able to get in and out of the back seat.

    I only purchase manual transmission vehicles as well. I learned to drive a stick on a Ford Pinto in 1978. (Yes, my father put me into a Pinto he purchased second-hand when I was 16. I wonder if he was trying to get rid of me). It was my father’s idea to make sure I knew how to drive a stick, if I wanted a car and a way to get around (and we had just moved five miles from civilization), I would have to learn to drive a stick.

    Best decision he could have made, I think. My ex could never drive my car because he never drove a stick and was concerned about learning how (whimpy, glad I left him).

  122. 122
    CIRCVS MAXIMVS MMVIII says:

    Romney thinks the notion of a longterm relationship with labor is just plain bad business. Labor is there to be a) broken; b) replaced by cheaper labor. He cannot see that the opposite is true. He is utterly blinded by this arrogant posture. He completely lacks the feel for working people that made his father, George, a generally good Republican. He surrounds himself with lowlifes as well.

    Oh, it’s just because he’s a bloviating rich asshole. If he were born into serfdom, he’d feel differently.

  123. 123
    crazy says:

    come on people. the reason the big 3 are in the mess they’re in is because people are not buying veh, any veh. if people are out of a job and others are worried about losing their job the last thing anyone wants to do is buy a new veh.
    it is called a recession. it happened in the 70’s/80’s and it is time for another one.
    the big 3 lost their truck/suv market share, that is why they are in trouble. honda/toyota/nissan started out making small cars, still do & took a bite out of the truck/suv market about 10-15yrs ago, that’s what hurt. their suv/truck mpg isn’t effecient. heck, minivan’s aren’t any better.
    big 3 were never worried about the small car makers because americans like big cars. we have a big country w/ lots of open road. no need for a small car that one can’t carry much of anything in. hell, i don’t like small cars, unless it is a sports car.
    the big 3 didn’t take it upon themselves to provide the public w/ a better veh. they are a step behind & try to play catch up. most of the imports are made in america, but we don’t consider it american made.
    americans like big cars and forgein cars because forgein seems like a better product(some are but not all).
    all talk about gas prices but yet one will buy a toyota w/out caring one has to use 93 octane, but wait, can put 87, just won’t run the same. the car no longer is fuel effecient.

    big 3 talk about how they will streamline – eliminate over 30k jobs & not pay retirement/hlth care dues. yeah, that is how we are going to get the economy on the right track. kick people to the curb, people that worked hard builidng the cars we ride in. that is the problem w/ americans, we don’t care about eachother, just about ourselves, how i will survive not how can we survive. but the big 3 need help, because millions of people out of work is not acceptable, just 30k is ok, ends justify the means. right?

    not their fault, it is ours. we bought houses like it was the last one driving prices up. fed raised interest rate to slow it down but brought it to a stop instead. gas prices were out of control & nothing was done. then we paid for our gas w/ our cc. then the bills came in, pay cc bill or mortgage? well, need cc to buy gas & groceries. now milk is 6$ a gallon. food is expensive, gas is expensive everything costs more & no cost of living increase. then, people stop buying the luxuries. business start to go under. people stop buying cars. law of supply & demand. now we are in a recession, high unemployement. where to go for a job. hey, lets join the military.

  124. 124
    JasonF says:

    Holy crap! Rachel Maddow!

  125. 125
    joel says:

    This entire subject came up at the Thanksgiving table this past week. (I swear, I got way more indigestion from the conversation than from the food this year.)

    I like your dramatization better than mine, but the plot is nearly identical. (I staff and hire people for a living, so I consider the employment agreement to pretty much be sacrosanct. If you’re going to make a promise in order to secure the talent, then you have to hold up to the promise. No take-backs when the ink is dry.)

  126. 126

    Holy crap. Maddow’s labor official guest gives rock solid defense of UAW in this context. Says clearly and bluntly, it’s not their fault. Wall Street melts down, credit dries up, people stop buying cars, and all of a sudden everybody, even the Dems, are shitting on labor?

    Luckily for all of us, the real Dems, the ones in Washington who still understand that jobs are votes in this country, are not going to let this barking hyena bullshit prevent a solution to this problem.

    It is worth noting the history of the car business and the rise of the middle class in this country. Henry Ford himself understood that the long term success of the whole scheme depended on the people who worked in the factories being able to buy the things made in the factories.

    If the Big Three close their doors, Toyota and Honda aren’t going to be selling any cars either. The middle class will be broke.

  127. 127
    TenguPhule says:

    My first impression is that it must have been a little-known thing, and cannot possibly have had much of an impact on actual sales.

    Your first impression is almost always the wrong one.

  128. 128

    Your first impression is almost always the wrong one.

    Ah, so you subscribe to the notion that the two largest selling vehicles in the country for about 25 years, Ford’s F-150 pickup and Chevy’s Silverado class pickup, were big sellers along with Explorers and Tahoes, because the government was manipulating demand in thrall of powerful lobbyists?

    Because that’s what we’re talking about here.

    Not that what we are actually talking about would interest anyone, but you know, let’s say it did.

    Okay, if the actual topic isn’t of interest, maybe we can morph this into container gardening, or … golf? Do you like golf?

  129. 129
    Mike G says:

    Labor is there to be a) broken; b) replaced by cheaper labor.

    Most corporate executives in America seem to take this attitude to their competitors, workforce, suppliers and fellow executives. Bullying psychopath assholes. Bush is a classic example of the self-entitled MBA mentality.

  130. 130
    CIRCVS MAXIMVS MMVIII says:

    not their fault, it is ours. we bought houses like it was the last one driving prices up. fed raised interest rate to slow it down but brought it to a stop instead. gas prices were out of control & nothing was done. then we paid for our gas w/ our cc. then the bills came in, pay cc bill or mortgage? well, need cc to buy gas & groceries. now milk is 6$ a gallon. food is expensive, gas is expensive everything costs more & no cost of living increase. then, people stop buying the luxuries. business start to go under. people stop buying cars. law of supply & demand. now we are in a recession, high unemployement. where to go for a job. hey, lets join the military.

    Not me. I didn’t buy up any houses in the bubble (I rent), I didn’t charge up massive debt on credit I don’t have (I have a debit card, and don’t want a CC) but, I watched it all unfold before my very eyes seeing the trend that was happening, and even though I didn’t partake in the credit party, I still have to go down with this sinking ship along with the rest of y’all. Thanks a lot.

    Signed:
    A Responsible Consumer

  131. 131
    CIRCVS MAXIMVS MMVIII says:

    Most corporate executives in America seem to take this attitude to their competitors, workforce, suppliers and fellow executives. Bullying psychopath assholes. Bush is a classic example of the self-entitled MBA mentality.

    Bush would have advanced from bagging groceries to a used car salesman without his family name and money.

  132. 132
    AnneLaurie says:

    Never mind the saturation advertising showing trucks and SUVs to be… the ONLY safe way to cart Timmy to football practice and Jenny to cheer, because if you’re driving a little tin can, they will be mauled in an accident. (not mentioned: by someone driving an oversized SUV).

    Another interesting sidelight on our modern You’re-On-Your-Own-ership Society: Thanks to the sprawlization of America, very very few kids live within safe walking/biking/public-transporting distance of their schools — which provide not only their (mandatory) education, but also most of their communal recreational opportunities. However, when school budgets get crunched, school bus services get cut, especially for those "optional" activities like sports & band & chess club. So the parents (i.e., the moms) need to chauffer the kids everywhere, and that means carpooling wherever possible. BUT the auto advertisers have done a great job of convincing people that *only* SUVs are "safe" enough to transport our delicate & irreplaceable teenagers, so Mom can’t get a spot in the network of neighborhood carpools *unless* she’s driving an SUV. Since most families can’t afford a third vehicle, that translates to five or six women driving their Pontiac Lardasses everywhere, just so they can fulfill their weekly carpooling duties. Drill, baby, drill!

  133. 133
    TenguPhule says:

    Do you like golf?

    Only if I’m swinging behind a bunch of corporate assholes.

    Bonus points if it’s for charity.

    I shoot a solid 180 strokes after handicap is deducted and the ten stroke mercy rule is applied, which means I hit everything except that dinky little hole in the ground. :P

  134. 134
    ChrisB says:

    @JasonF: Yeah, Rachel Maddow, You are now officially a legend.

    Fantastic. :-)

  135. 135
    Conservatively Liberal says:

    @ChrisB:

    No shit, I ought to get his autograph so I can say I knew him when he was just another loudmouthed blogger. ; )

    Kudos JasonF, your play was a hit…lol!

  136. 136
    lovethebomb says:

    Maddow mentioned BJ and said "Yes, I read these things deeply." Very odd turn of phrase. I didn’t realize celebrities surf amongst us. I first listened to Maddow on Air America and recognized big talent – then she got her MSNBC gig. Now she shows up here. Whuda thunk.

  137. 137
    Dennis - SGMM says:

    Still having trouble understanding why none of the financial institutions receiving hundreds of billions in Federal money and even more hundreds of billions in loan guarantees have not been called upon to produce plans for their recovery, haven’t had to flog the corporate jets, stop paying dividends, limit CEO pay, cut employee pay and benefits, etc., even though they fucked up categorically. Now Congress is demanding that Detroit wear sackcloth and ashes, hit an inside-the-park home run with a Whiffle Bat, and otherwise prove that they deserve to get loans worth a fraction of what’s been doled out, no strings attached, to the financial sector. It strikes me that no one, including Congress, had any idea of how to actually structure constraints in the financial bailout or who should be blamed so they simply didn’t. Detroit, OTOH, was a visible, easily criticized target – and they have those damned, dirty unions too.

  138. 138
    joe from Lowell says:

    I laughed, I cried. Better than Cats!

  139. 139
    28 Percent says:

    I am Rachel Maddow.

    No, not really, but wouldn’t it be cool if I was?

  140. 140
    CIRCVS MAXIMVS MMVIII says:

    Still having trouble understanding why none of the financial institutions receiving hundreds of billions in Federal money and even more hundreds of billions in loan guarantees have not been called upon to produce plans for their recovery, haven’t had to flog the corporate jets, stop paying dividends, limit CEO pay, cut employee pay and benefits, etc., even though they fucked up categorically. Now Congress is demanding that Detroit wear sackcloth and ashes, hit an inside-the-park home run with a Whiffle Bat, and otherwise prove that they deserve to get loans worth a fraction of what’s been doled out, no strings attached, to the financial sector. It strikes me that no one, including Congress, had any idea of how to actually structure constraints in the financial bailout or who should be blamed so they simply didn’t. Detroit, OTOH, was a visible, easily criticized target – and they have those damned, dirty unions too.

    In the minds of many people, financial heads/bankers = joos, so it would be anti-semitic to question their motives (sorry I went there, but, it’s true).

  141. 141

    I shoot a solid 180 strokes after handicap is deducted and the ten stroke mercy rule is applied, which means I hit everything except that dinky little hole in the ground. :P

    Damn, you’re better than I am. If I could swap my bowling and golf scores, I’d be happy.

  142. 142
    Alex says:

    128: Yes, it’s almost as crazy as saying that the government pretended Iraq was going to nuke everyone so they could start an unwinnable guerrilla war for pure partisan advantage.

    Anyway, Ford Escorts were a Ford of Europe job, manufactured in the UK, Germany and I think also Spain. Notably, the various baby Fords and GMs – European Ford, Vauxhall-Opel, Holden etc – actually make some very reasonable cars, it would be a pity if they were to go down the tubes with World O’Humvee.

  143. 143

    […] 3, 2008 in history and current events | by eric See here. But here’s the program, as it were: THE TRAGEDY OF THE AMERICAN AUTOMOBILE INDUSTRY:A Play […]

  144. 144
    Bob W. says:

    Your characterization of Mitt Romney as an idiot is pretty harsh. Normally the posts here are extremely informative, and arguments backed up with fact. THis was a rare exception.

    I am also surprised that most commenters in here are cocooning themselves in and going along for the ride. Maybe it just feels good to do so. . .

    So Romney wrote an Op Ed recently (which I assume is the basis for this ad hominem attack post), lets examine what he wrote; let’s say for argument sake that w eboth agree to disagree about Romney’s organized labor points; was everything else in the Op-Ed so terribly wrong that you know characterize him as an idiot??

    Romney’s key points in the Op Ed:

    1. [ American automotive] management must be replaced/recruit new and innovative leaders; that seems pretty reasonable, and even people who enjoyed the play would agree to that, I would think, no? If American taxpayers provide billions of dollars to bail out these companies, we should at least demand competent management to safeguard our investment. What is idiotic about that?

    2. Focus on long term R and D vs short term profits/EPS. Again, maybe there is a reason to disagree with this point on some logical ground, but why call the person who suggests this an idiot?

    3. Fed Govt should increase materials research budget (presumably helping auto and other industries) by $20 bill/year. OK, is that idiotic, and why?

    4. Provide assurances/loans for automakers AFTER they go into bankruptcy to reassure consumers/allow companies to reorganize under the protection of bankruptcy laws. OK, perhaps there are reasons to disagree with this point, too, but there are economists, business leaders, other politicians making the same point, and Romney is an idiot because. . .

    Maybe Romney is completely wrong about organized labor, but what about his other points, are they the nonsensical musings of an idiot?

    If there are any idiots in your play, it is the multiple generations of management at these three corporations who drove them into the ground.

    Someone also commented about free trade being an issue as well; correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that right now roughly 1 in 3 cars sold in the U.S. were made in U.S. plants owned by foreign automakers. Is free trade really the issue here, or is it the systemic collapse of the American automotive industry for a multitude of reasons?

    Cheers! I really like this Blog, I hope you enjoy getting criticized as much as I like writing it!

  145. 145
    MDtoMN says:

    Mr. Cole,

    I think I just fell in love with you. In the past, I feared that you might become a Republican again. Never will I fear that again — you clearly understand what is going on.

    Best,

    A Radical, Left-wing Progressive Nerd.

  146. 146
    rentedpony says:

    In the minds of many people, financial heads/bankers = joos, so it would be anti-semitic to question their motives (sorry I went there, but, it’s true).

    Wow. I’m embarrassed for you.

  147. 147
    Cassidy says:

    @CIRCVS MAXIMVS MMVIII: Very simple. American’s love muscle cars. Plus, the revamped Mustang sold through the roof, showing that the consumer public still has a bit of nostalgia about those old cars.

    The Challenger, specifically, is almost impossible to pick up as a classic muscle car. Usually, they are priced well beyond the usual 45K for a restored muscle car, generally in the vicinity of 60K. Secondly, very few of the old engines sound like and run as well as the 440 big block; the closest comparison andrival being your Chevy 350. Todays big daddy engine is the 6.1 Hemi, which is what you find in the new Challenger.

  148. 148

    […] in Business, Daily life at 11:45 am by LeisureGuy From John Cole’s Balloon Juice: THE TRAGEDY OF THE AMERICAN AUTOMOBILE INDUSTRY A Play in Three […]

  149. 149
  150. 150
    CJS says:

    It seems to me that the government needs a roll in Act I, trumpeting the Wagoner Act and refusing to let the Big 3 fire the workers who won’t accept their pay offer and hire those who would…

  151. 151
    megadrive says:

    Holy crap! Rachel Maddow!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] in Business, Daily life at 11:45 am by LeisureGuy From John Cole’s Balloon Juice: THE TRAGEDY OF THE AMERICAN AUTOMOBILE INDUSTRY A Play in Three […]

  2. […] 3, 2008 in history and current events | by eric See here. But here’s the program, as it were: THE TRAGEDY OF THE AMERICAN AUTOMOBILE INDUSTRY:A Play […]

  3. […] Cole has a pretty funny post taking aim at the critics of the […]

  4. Detroit dramatized…

    JasonF wrote this gem in the comments at John Cole’s Balloon Juice: THE TRAGEDY OF THE AMERICAN AUTOMOBILE INDUSTRY A Play in Three Acts Dramatis Personae BIG THREE, a manufacturer of automobiles UAW, Big Three’s employee MITT ROMNEY, an idiot……

  5. […] Auto Industry: A Play By Doug Balloon-Juice has a nice explanation of the auto industry’s current situation in play form. The gist is […]

  6. […] Cole pretty much sums it up. […]

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