Monday, November 24, 2008

Slamming the Big Three

The Big Three U.S. automakers have taken a beating in the news lately. They are taking a lot of heat for asking for money when they appear to be in trouble because of their own mismanagement. They are also being chastised for building vehicles that nobody wants and gas guzzlers. I'm not going to be an apologist for them but lets look at things a little more objectively.

Giving money to companies because of their own mismanagement appears to be the norm these days so I don't think we need to debate that one too much. The automakers, like any business, make mistakes and get so large they become an inefficient, bloated bureaucracy. The automakers suffer even more because they could still be profitable when they had more market share. Now that they have lost so much they can't support the bureaucracy they've created over the years.

They did build vehicles people wanted. They built trucks and SUVs. People wanted them so much that just about every other automaker on the planet started selling their own versions in the U.S. market. The much celebrated Toyota, Honda and Nissan all made bigger SUVs and came out with a full-size pickup truck. They all clued in that people wanted them so they built them. However, the Big Three are lambasted for their gas guzzlers. It has come to the point where there will likely be strings attached to any bailout money to make fuel efficiency a priority. Nothing wrong with that but I think one conditions should be attached to all government money going out to any private business: pay it back with interest.

While the U.S. automakers are not without fault in this mess, we need to be careful how much scorn we heap on them. They are a reflection of the economy and society we all want and we all relied on the cheap oil to keep it afloat. If we are going to attach conditions, like those suggested at Treehugger, we need to have similar conditions attached to everything in the economy and society to really do anything productive. Otherwise it becomes just another set of government regulations.

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