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Full Speed In Reverse

Thu, 08/20/2009 - 4:43am
by Jeff Reinke, Editorial Director, IMPO

Jeff Reinke, Editorial Director, IMPO

I know, I know, the U.S. auto industry has been an easy target for quite a while now, but a release came across my screen last week that made putting it back within the crosshairs of my keyboard way too appealing.

Over the last couple of weeks we’ve all become familiar with the Cash For Clunkers program. Although tempting, I’ll resist the urge to expose all the long-term negative implications of the initiative and instead offer perspective on the damage it’s doing right now, and potentially down the road to industries throughout our country, including processing.

In some respects, I’m sure those who championed this once-environmentally focused legislation are pretty proud of themselves. The $1 billion of initial funding allotted to the program was used up in less than a week, as Americans used the $4,500 rebates to buy more than 250,000 vehicles. As an aside, I’ll also resist the opportunity to demonstrate the irony of how a situation intended to help the flailing margins of GM and Chrysler actually benefited Toyota and Honda – only four of the top ten cars purchased through the program are from Ford, GM or Chrysler. GM barely caught the list as its Chevy Cobalt came in at number 10, but Ford, you know, the one who decided to keep their problems to themselves, landed the number one spot on the trade-in list with its Focus model.

Unfortunately, I’ve got another avenue to venture down in my criticism of the CARS (Car Allowance Rebate System) program. Last week, after cruising through the first billion dollars of funding, our fearless leaders in Washington readily approved another $2 billion to help extend the program through its deadline of November 1. Although financial accountability is a rare inquiry in Congress, I found it both interesting and upsetting that these funds were re-allocated from a renewable energy loan guarantee program. Don’t worry though, administration officials pledged to restore the funding at a later date.

So instead of continuing to invest in programs aimed at expanding the use and implementation of a wider range of energy sources that will combat our country’s dependence on foreign oil, we’re going to strengthen a program that helps preserve the use of vehicles that require a continued dependence on foreign oil in order to operate. Granted, many of the vehicles that were bought are of a hybrid variety, but this simply means less gas, not the elimination of it.

Look, I might be one of the least environmentally-conscious people writing within our industry and am critical when it comes to the feasibility of many renewable energy options, but at least these initiatives are looking to bring about long-term benefits. In my opinion the laundering of these renewable energy funds to the automotive marketplace sends a distressing message about the priorities of our congressional leaders and their attitudes towards current and future energy usage trends.

I can appreciate the jobs that center around the automotive industry and their importance to our country’s financial well-being. I’m also not knocking the use of oil and gasoline-powered vehicles – I happily drive one to work every day. I’m simply disappointed that the mistakes vehicle manufactures have made in the past are now impacting potential energy solutions of the future.

Is Cash For Clunkers a drain on resources or an environmental revolution? Email me at jeff.reinke@advantagemedia.com.

 

Comments:

Doug

I agree with just about everything you said in the "Embracing the Role" article, except you left out the most important part: US manufacturing means QUALITY.  Anywhere in the world you go, US products are perceived as being better QUALITY. Are US made shoes better quality than what comes out of third world sweat shop, where the laborers are paid the equivalent of $2 a day? Of course they are, but instead of touting that QUALITY difference, we try to compete on the price and lower our quality to meet 'theirs. Are US made castings better and stronger? You bet, but we have given up on competing on the QUALITY aspect.

Anyone that buys a product needs to be educated on the QUALITY aspect. Personally, I have American made shoes I bought in 1979, and I have had repaired a few times, but they are still better than any import I can buy. If you want to buy a disposable product, imports are fine, but that just fills our landfills with junk. Why isn't this GREEN aspect brought up in the marketplace?

I do not see "Made in the USA" marketed anywhere. It should be prominently and proudly displayed on every package. Ad campaigns should be built around it. All I see anywhere is "buy me, I'm cheap" advertising. No one mentions Quality and longevity. Why not?

We are letting our competitors define us and "cheap" is the name of the game.

 

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