Sunday, January 11, 2009

Bail-outs and bullshit

One day last year I was filling up my Jetta at a local Sheetz. I went into the station to pay for my fuel, and as I was walking back to my car there were three people standing next to a Chevy Silverado. One of the three spouted the typical, narrow-minded, and I'm sorry, but redneck (I can't think of a better word) mantra, "I hate foreigners, and I hate foreign cars," obviously directing his comment toward me. I replied, "Hey, this thing gets 40 MPG. How much do you get?" My question was met with silence.

Game, set, match.

If you have been watching television over the past few weeks, you may have come across any number of auto ads pushing the latest behemoth on wheels. Dennis Leary pimping for Ford's F-150, Howie Long pushing Chevrolet's Silverado, and a bunch guys of with hyper levels of testosterone getting their freak on with the Dodge Ram 1500 in the Dodge Ram Challenge. The latter is the real winner of the three: every guy is wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with some form of occupation that would be deemed "manly." Cowboy, firefighter, etc. I can only assume that the message of the ad is only real men drive trucks. Frankly, these ads insult and infuriate me to no end. I'd like to think that using your brain instead of your testosterone makes you a true man. Sadly, there are millions of men who will run to their nearest Dodge dealer and jeopardize their credit to buy one, just because of this commercial. I'm glad that I can say my masculinity doesn't hinge on the latest automotive fecal matter that rolls off of Chrysler's assembly line.

Like most people, I'm upset about the bail-outs that are being dished out by Washington. But I'm torn about the bail-outs. On one hand I say, "Screw the Big Three! It's their dishwashing liquid, let them soak in it! I hope they go belly up!" On the other hand, however, I feel there is a necessity for the bail-outs, because if they didn't go through millions of people would suffer. Not only would the employees of Ford, Chevy, and Chrysler suffer, but manufacturers of the products needed to make the cars would suffer as well, and likely go belly up. As a result, a lot of people would be put out of work, and not be able to put food on their table or a roof over their heads.

Personally, I blame the CEOs and engineers for holding out on us. We can send a man to the moon, create satellite communications, GPS, the Internet, cure diseases, and even create synthetic molecules in a lab that can evolve. But, damned if we can build a truck that can get 40 MPG!

Ford Motor Company Europe has released the Fiesta Econetic, a car that gets at least 65 MPG. You would think that with the public demanding such a car to ease their fuel bills, FMC would be tripping over themselves to get this car onto US soil. But wouldn't you know, they can't afford it. But they can pump billions of dollars into research to make the biggest, baddest F-150 to date. Oh, and this monstrosity. Yeah, I still don't get it. If you own an one of these things, you know deep down inside there is no way you can justify owning one. Period.

GM produces SUVs with technology that improves fuel economy through hybrids like the Cadillac Escalade, Chevy's Tahoe, and the Yukon. They'll be happy to tell you that the hybrid technology that goes into these vehicles will offer a paltry 20 MPG on the highway. But what they don't tell you is that the size of the vehicle has actually increased, practically negating any advance in fuel economy. Even the cupholders in SUVs are getting larger, a testament to the American waistline. I can't help but wonder why, if GM really wants to make an impact on increasing fuel economy, they can't transfer this technology into something like the Chevy Cobalt. By the time Chevy releases the much anticipated Volt around in 2010 along with a slew of electric hybrids from Chrysler, Ford, as well as GM, Toyota and Honda will be three steps ahead. As usual.

And the fat cats in Detroit have the audacity to crawl on hands and knees, begging for hand outs from the Feds.

Toyota has announced plans to introduce a battery-operated car to the US market. Personally, I'm glad. Toyota is no perfect angel when it comes to increasing fuel economy, but at least Toyota has their finger on the pulse of the American consumer. I showed my wife a picture of this car, and she stated that it looks like a roller skate with a roof on it, which earned a laugh. She's right, but in a place like State College, a car like this would a welcome sight for sore eyes. But you don't have to wait for Toyota to bring an electric car to the US. It's already here.

So in the meantime, listen up, Big Three! You've had decades to fix this problem. But all you've done is waste time, floundered your research, squandered your money, pandered to the braindead troglodytes of the far right, and helped lead this country's economy down the toilet. Toyota, Volkswagen, Honda, even Zenn and Tesla are listening to those of us with sensibility, and they're coming to take your market away. One day when you all stop fellating each other and offer us a car that we can all be proud of, then maybe, maybe we'll talk. Until then, I'll stick to my Jetta.

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