Sunday, March 1, 2009

Car Commisars

Outside the box thinking....Literally

You'd think that if one were to enlist a task force to focus on developing a solution to a problem, such as the Detroit Auto manufacturers, some of the people selected would have familiarity with the subject; maybe own American-made cars; maybe even own cars. Apparently that's too colloquial an approach for the Obama White House.

The Auto Task Force established to save GM and Chrysler is filled with "know-nothing's" about the auto industry, except for one guy, and he's been a special advisor to the UAW.  What could go wrong here?

The Detroit News has some more insight on this issue:

Where are the car guys on U.S. auto task force?
It's bad enough that few of the White House auto task force members drive American cars. But the bigger concern is that task force members have little background in the auto industry, and the group seems staffed with people who may be out of touch with industry realities.
Just four of the auto team's 22 members own a domestic vehicle, an initial survey by The Detroit News found. And two of them weren't from the main group of 10 task force decision-makers, but the support staff. Two key members of the task force -- Energy Secretary Steven Chu and White House climate czar Carol Browner -- don't even own cars.
But the backgrounds of the task force members and their staffs and advisers are more troubling.
There is not one auto industry expert on the panel. The closest the task force comes is Ron Bloom, an adviser to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. Bloom, a former investment banker, used to be a special adviser to the United Steelworkers president. He may know a lot about labor and steel, but that comes from a supplier's perspective.
The task force is populated mostly with individuals from highly congested urban areas on the East and West coasts. Ten task force members hail from the Washington, D.C. area. Three more come from New York and New Jersey. Another four come from California and one from Washington state.
Only two members come from areas close to Middle America -- Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood of Illinois and Bloom of Pittsburgh. Commerce Department adviser Rick Wade comes from South Carolina. Not surprisingly, they all own Big Three cars.
The backgrounds of the task force members are important because they are supposed to be helping GM and Chrysler executives fix their finances and reconnect profitably with the driving public. Half of Americans still drive trucks. Most of the members of the task force and support staff don't.
Many Americans don't live in congested areas and need larger vehicles to haul their families. Workers and businesses need sport utility vehicles and other large vehicles for their jobs.
If task force members demand that the automakers produce vehicles that don't meet the needs of consumers, they are subjecting the automakers to a death sentence.
The Obama administration is fixated on driving fuel economy beyond the 35 miles-per-gallon standard Congress set to take effect in 2020. Very few vehicles get the 40 miles per gallon or more that the president is committed to achieving. No truck or SUV -- foreign or domestic -- now approaches that standard. Neither do most sedans. Only the smallest gasoline-electric hybrids do.
Tellingly, only one member of the Obama auto task force drives a hybrid -- Environmental Protection Agency Director Lisa Jackson. Perhaps this is a silver lining.
If small hybrids don't appeal to the great majority of the task force, maybe the members and their staffs will realize it is foolish to try to force the market for these vehicles. Hybrid sales have stalled because of the recession and $1.90-a-gallon gasoline, and comprise only 2 percent of all vehicle sales.
Guiding Chrysler and GM back to profitability is a daunting task. We hope the task force members show some humility about their backgrounds and lack of automotive expertise as they make loan extension decisions and determine conditions for any further government aid.


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