I used to worry that TTAC was too negative. I’d publish “good” news to try and balance-out our no-holds-bared criticism of Motown’s follies. At some point, I gave up trying to find a silver lining. It wasn’t simply the fact that there wasn’t one. Or that the news coming from Detroit became undeniably dire. It was more of a personal “come to Satan” moment when I realized that making people happy wasn’t my first, best destiny. My job: tell the messy, pay-no-attention-to-the-logical-fallacy-behind-that-PR-curtain truth about cars. But there are times, like now, on the cusp of Chrysler’s C11 (or worse), when I wonder what good can come of all this. Will we ever look back on this time and think that the Motown bailout was, somehow, a good thing?
The people [currently] in charge of propping-up Chrysler and GM would have you believe the federal bailout is accomplishing/will accomplish three main objectives. First, it lessens/postpones the impact of the automakers’ failure on the wider U.S. economy. Second, it protects American jobs (same as No. 1, but who’s voting anyway?). Third, it helps usher in a new era of environmentally-friendly vehicles, creating “green jobs” as hydrogen fuel cells—I mean “the electrification of the automobile” begins.
Of these, only the first is remotely credible, or, if you’re an electric vehicle booster, relevant. And when I say remotely credible, I mean it in a completely theoretical way. After all, how can we really know what the impact of a “uncontrolled” Chrysler and GM collapse would have been without actually experiencing it?
Whether true or not, the proposition that an earlier, non-governmental Chrysler and GM chapter 11 would have unleashed The Great Depression II is hardly what you call compelling. As I’ve mentioned before, only someone suffering from OCD believes that the lack of catastrophe is incontrovertible proof that questionable preventive measures were fully justified.
In other words, if Chrysler and GM’s collapse HAD triggered economic Armageddon, Americans would not have begrudged them their money. As it didn’t, over 70 percent now say your mother and I agree: enough is enough, Mr. Motown. No more loans for you, son. Or, more accurately, you lying, money-sucking, house wrecking, uninvited whore.
The ongoing Detroit bailout bodes badly for the American voters’ relationship with their elected officials.
But what about the bank bailouts, apologists cry. Beyond investing the money people give them, banks are a mystery to most folks. The auto industry they understand. They “get” that Chrysler and GM put itself in this mess by making products people don’t want to buy and/or not standing behind them (the cars) when they broke. They’ve figured out that Chrysler and GM are not victims of circumstance. Otherwise Ford would also be bellying-up to the bailout buffet.
Clearly, voters aren’t happy about Detroit’s welfare checks. They will be even less happy with the next round. And even less happy with the round after that.
Barack Obama and his Presidential Task Force on Automobiles (PTFOA) think it can overcome the public’s growing anger and resentment by appealing to their “can-do” American optimism. Forget the old Chicken Little routine. The PTFOA will sell the “new” Chrysler and/or GM as the second coming on wheels. It’s a new dawn it’s a new day it’s a new life and you should be feeeeeeling good. ‘Cause we’ll always be together, together in electric dreams.
No one will buy it. Literally. If GM and Chrysler had gone through a non-governmental bankruptcy back when they should have, when the U.S. new car market was healthy enough (circa 2005), consumers would have played second life with the damaged Detroit duo. Now? Nope. Sales will tumble. More federal funds will follow. The fed-up factor will flourish. And that’s a good thing.
Think of it this way: the Detroit bailout will sour Americans on government “investment” in private enterprise. Again, AIG what? Credit default huh? But John Q. Public will surely grasp the message coming from Washington re: the “new” Chrysler and/or GM. Their tax money is supposed to lead to dramatically better cars. Better than the opposition’s. ‘Cause that’s how you make money, right? Of course, that won’t happen within this administration’s first term; if only because carmaking requires a three to five-year development cycle. Not to mention all the other reasons.
The PTFOA’s inability to resurrect the automakers’ fortunes will not go unnoticed. With every new cash infusion in “our” car company or companies, with every lost point of market share or red ink-laden financial quarter, Obama’s wider plans for federal interventionism will lose appeal.
Of course, some will see this “failure is possible” scenario as a bad thing. The exception that screws-up the long overdue rules that would lead to a more equitable society for the average working man and woman. But then I have little time or sympathy for that kind of negative thinking.