September 17, 2008, - 6:36 am
By Debbie Schlussel
Yesterday was the 100th birthday of General Motors, a big deal here in the Motor City, but not as big a deal as it would have been 20 or even 10 years ago.
A local newspaper asked four auto industry experts and economists what kinds of innovations and new products are in store for GM in the next century. I laughed because it’s beyond foolish optimism to believe that GM will actually have another century.
But I didn’t laugh with glee. I live in Detroit and am sad that our once-great industry is crumbling, and much of Michigan is going with it. My fortunes and that of my father and other family members were very closely tied to the automotive industry–many of my Dad’s patients were autoworkers. When they lost, he lost, and so did we. Many were good people with class Reagan Democrat values and a good work ethic, despite the many stories we’d read about UAW shenanigans.
I’m sad we’ve lost so many manufacturing jobs. But Michigan was fifty times more dependent on this one industry than any other state in the Union is on any other industry. Never smart to put all your eggs in one basket. The Golden Goose eventually dies or retires.
Right now, the top three American auto industry execs are asking Congress for a $25 billion bailout, while they and their top minions continue to collect gazillions for poor performance. The auto industry is failing, and I really don’t believe any of the big three will be around–in their current configurations–fifty years from now.
It’s hard to imagine Americans continuing to subsidize $1,500 per car in bloated healthcare plans that pay for Viagra and Cialis ($17 million in GM auto sales pays for Viagra). Although the salad days of the automotive America are gone, the salad days’ benefits are still livin’ large for autoworker retirees.
And although GM and the other big auto companies are selling growing numbers of cars elsewhere (China, India, etc.), their market share will continue to decline here as gas prices go up and the economy continues its tailspin. People are going to hold onto their cars longer, too.
Fifty years from now, we might have electric cars like Tesla Motors’ product at a more economical price, complete battery power cars, or some other way of getting around that we don’t even dream of now. The guy who changes my oil believes there will be 11 smaller companies selling a few models each and none of the big three will still be around. He may be right.
What do you think? What is in store for our automotive future? Will any of the (formerly) Big Three be around?
Read my related piece: Is it Patriotic to Buy American?