Friday, December 12, 2008

Lessons from Detroit

As Southerners, we often have a lot of pride about the South. In the case AGAINST a bailout of the Big 3 automakers it's difficult to have much sympathy. How many NEW plants have been built in the backyard of the UAW up North? While you're working on that answer, let's talk about Toyota in Georgetown, KY, BMW in Spartanburg, SC (both have been expanded numerous times), Mercedes and Honda in Alabama (coming soon-KIA) and several others built throughout the South. What's the big deal? Well, in the rust belt, average hourly wages run around $74 per hour. In the South, they run under $50. Why did the bailout fail? The UAW would not think of taking wage concessions under the bailout plan! Sure, I know that the fat cats at the top (who can afford to take cuts) have lived high on the hog long enough--and will continue to do so. They are certainly not without fault. However, I find it tough to sympathize with unions. There, I said it. My Libertarian thoughts come out at last! Every time the UAW stared down the Big 3, management eventually blinked. Wonder what would be going on now if the B3 had pulled a Caterpillar on them (look it up-management did not capitulate to the unions and the company is stronger than ever). I also think back to the end of Eastern Airlines. They went on strike, the company failed (I wonder how Delta and Northwest will fare if they keep playing that game by the way?). In any event, the bailout failed and even though it will be bad for the USA in the short-term, I think that it will be better for the industry as a whole.

While I'm on my automotive soapbox, I have seen hot European models for years--no, not Heidi Klum, autos that are built/sold only in Europe. Ford's European Focus is hot, the US version is not. Saturn's homerun Aura is based on a euro-platform. The Big 3 are getting the idea to a degree but where are the diesels? Why can't a Ford pickup have dual-element turn signals (translation: brake light/tail light and turn signal are all in the same bulb-if you have hazards on, brakes 'cancel' the flashing, etc)? No, we don't want "A" cars (those tiny city cars like the Smart Cars) but there are hot cars that we should have here. But no, we keep getting bloated SUV's (mainly b/c we keep buying them). What do I lust for? Yes, an Aston Martin would be nice, but I'd REALLY like a Mercedes ML or GL 320 Diesel (24.5 MPG) for Christmas (with a new lawfirm, not a chance this year : )