Attention American Auto Makers

I think the first thing you need before you get a dime of our hard earned tax dollars is some very plain, honest talk.  Talk you should have listened to and heeded years ago.

I'm retired now.  That means I live on a combination of social security and monies I have saved and invested years ago in preparation for the days when I would stop working and kick back a bit.  I'm not wealthy; I am comfortable, although my comfort level is diminishing each day that our congress and folks like you want a piece of what I have saved to bail your sorry asses out of a fix of your own making.

One of my vehicles is a 1994 GMC Z-71 pickup truck.  It has 4 wheel drive and I bought it new.  Right now, it has about 212,000 miles on the odometer and you couldn't tear that thing out of my hands.  I love it. It's been a faithful friend that has never let me down.  I've taken care of it, just as the book said I should.

I only mention it because I want to demonstrate that America can make some pretty good, durable, vehicles.  I know because I own one.

My other vehicle is a 2005 Honda Odyssey... a mini van.  It's my second Honda.  It's a wonderful vehicle; comfortable, smooth, powerful, reliable and well made.  I'm a Honda guy now.  I even own a Honda lawn mower and Honda 4 wheelers. They make good vehicles and stand behind them.  Don't try to take any of them from me either. 

Funny, my Honda was manufactured in Alabama.  You know Alabama, the state where everybody who is not from it thinks that everyone who is from it is a redneck who talks funny and eats too much fried food.  Well, those good ole folks over there turned out a pretty good car and, if memory serves, I don't think are looking for a bailout.  My car was built by American auto workers, so don't tell me that American auto workers can't turn out good products.  Nonsense.

Back in the 60's, I was a pretty ardent race fan. I remember when a retired race driver named Carroll Shelby started building some really exciting sports cars based upon American engines stuffed into light, English bodies.  His efforts caught the attention of Ford Motor Company and before you knew it, Ford GT-40's (a car built from scratch) powered by huge 427 cubic inch Ford engines, swept the top three positions at the 24 Hours of Lemans endurance race in 1966.  They came back in '67, '68 and '69 and won it again.  They kicked all the major European car makers' tails and then retired.  I suspect that there are still some French folks who vividly remember the white caps in their wine glasses when those big Fords thundered by the grand stands.

So, don't tell me that with focus, talent, engineering and persistence, we can't compete with any auto maker in the world.  More nonsense.

So what the hell happened here?  We have eliminated the fact that we can't build great cars; we've eliminated the fact that we don't have capable auto workers and we've eliminated the fact that we can't compete and win against the very best in the game.  I ask you, what happened here?

The common thread of failure seems to be traced back to two root causes; management and labor.  You should know that I am not a union guy.  I always figured that unions have long since outlived their usefulness and, in these days, any company who gets a union deserves it.  Forget the advocacy stuff, they are money makers.  Despite this fact, I am not going to lay all this at the feet of the unions.  Last time I checked, every labor contract had spaces for two signatures; labor and management.

Now on to management: you folks flat missed it.  If you took the time to slip away from the perches in your garish, ivory towers, you would have seen that the huge grab of market share by companies like Honda and Toyota did not happen accidentally.  No, they came here and their initial offerings were pretty cheesy.   I bet you had a lot of laughs about these attempts way back in the day.  But, here's where the Japanese left you in the dust.  They studied their consumers and listened to what they said they wanted.  They streamlined production and took cost of the process. They understood the need to produce more fuel efficient cars and package them in such a way that people began to see them as well defined alternatives to the larger vehicles you folks were pumping out.  They made the phrase "Made in Japan" a sought after logo.  And each year, their products made percentage improvements over the preceding models.  How their cars were evaluated in consumer oriented publications such as "Consumer Reports" meant something.  Do any of you care that there have been a disproportionate number of American cars who seem to make the "10 worst cars" list time after time?  Do you think we don't pay attention to this stuff?

And what about the unions; did you think that the day of reckoning would never come?  Did you honestly believe that having a $75.00 all-in an hour auto worker slapping air dams on a Pontiac wasn't going to bite everyone in the behind some day?  Didn't you understand that holding management hostage by requiring obsolete, inefficient plants to remain open to protect your folks' jobs was the beginning of the end?

And finally...did anyone believe that embedding several thousand dollars of fully paid health benefits in each and every car you build and assuming that, we as consumers, would gladly pay it while ignoring cheaper, faster, better foreign made alternatives would fly?

You guys deserve each other.  The problem is that your avarice, short sightedness and arrogance have now put at risk the jobs of hundreds of thousands of your own employees and those of others whose jobs rely on your industry for their existence.