• Nov 29, 2008
Remember the growing movement to caravan a few hundred of Detroit's most fuel efficient vehicles to the automaker's next meeting with Congress? Not happening. Interestingly, it wasn't for lack of support. In fact, it was just the opposite. So many people had voiced their support and announced their intentions to join in that the event's organizers just weren't able to keep up. Talk about a logistical nightmare.

Organizers have not given up on the idea completely, launching a new website called TheEngineofDemocracy.com that's supposed to drum up support for Detroit and fuel efficient cars in general. Along with an outpouring of support via the interwebs, a list of 51 people from various suppliers, dealership workers and Union officials will accompany the CEOs of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler to Washington - one from each state plus one from the capital itself - to prove that the loss of the American auto industry would affect everyone. At this point, we think it's safe to say that Wagoner, Mulally and Nardelli will be, ya know, driving to the proceedings.

[Source: The Detroit News Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty]


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  • 37 Comments
      • 6 Years Ago
      Let's make it clear again for the bunches of retards out there who continue to misconstrue the situation.

      The Japanese were able to build small cars and sell them here for a couple reasons: #1, that's where all of their product development was already aimed (due to the economy and infrastructure of their domestic market) and #2, their corporate structure was decades younger than the big 3 and not taxed by all of those years of retired employees who were given pensions (pensions were common place in Corporate America until the last 10 years) and health care benefits (also expected of the employer until recenty).

      The big 3 did still build cars and those that matched up to the Japanese segment vehicles were and are as fuel efficient (a Focus or Taurus is just as efficient as a Corolla or Avalon, for example). The difference is that the Japanese cars were able to spend probably 2/3 of the price difference (the Japanese are able to build the car for $3k less due to the lack of retiree obligations) on the small cars, making them of slightly better quality and pocketing the other 1/3 making them profitable here in the states.

      The longer this went on, the further the perception gap between the domestics and foreign makes became in the car segments. The domestics focused PD money at trucks (where they could make money instead of lose it) and sold them by the truckload.

      They let the cars linger on their platforms longer because that is the only way those products could be profitable (again due to their obligations to their retirees, etc.) which further hurt their desirability. Finally when the writing was on the wall that the truck (SUVs included) would lose it's place as the dominant vehicle of choice, they renegotiated their UAW contract to move the retiree burdens onto the union, leaving the domestics in a position to introduce cars that were of better quality and materials because the price to build the vehicles would now be on par with or better than the Japanese.

      We are a little over a year into that plan. A plan that could only come together once the union understood that the companies would fail without some compromise and agree to the newer contracts. High quality small cars are on the horizon (Fiesta, Cruze, 2011 Focus, etc.) but the bottom dropped out of the industry with the gas price hike and subsequent economic meltdown.

      Because the market dropped nearly a third in a couple months, these companies are now in trouble because the upcoming products aren't in place yet and they are now sustaining losses that no one (Japanese included) could have forseen.

      A bridge loan is necessary to keep the lights on, the plans moving ahead through the current economic situation. These companies stand a very good chance to become profitable again once the market does recover and the industry sales numbers right themselves.
        • 6 Years Ago
        You might want to add that the Japanese Government supported the development of those small efficient cars with huge amounts of money. While the Detroit 3 did not get the same treatment.
      • 6 Years Ago

      Also think of the security required for the participants.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I read nothing of a Dodge Caravan cancellation within the article. I am, therefore, very disappointed.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Wow, does detroit pay people to post messages related to blogs? Seriously, this car is so pro-Detroit I expect them to spontaneously combust Pinto-style.

      Yeah, people never forget that kinda stuff. Unsafe At Any Speed, exploding Pintos, diesel Caddies, the Catera, the K-Car, the Aztek, Fiesta, AMC... you can't undo 40 years of bad and expect people to accept suddenly the product is worthwhile. The harm done to these brands is irreparable. They lost a block of customers in the 80s and 90s forever. Those people - Gen X, Gen Y are not coming back. And they're raising kids with the same views. Yes, some Gen X and Gen Y still buy American but not in the numbers of the boomers. GM's lost 25% of its marketshare in 7 years. The trend will continue as the boomers die off.

      Sadly, part of it is the past and part of it is the fact that the big 3's products aim for the middle. They can get the middle but to some people, they're not on the radar.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Very well said Youfacethetick. It is a fact that the only "Domestic" brand loyalty left is people who drive pick-ups and seniors.
      • 6 Years Ago
      What? I really don't understand what the hell they're talking about.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I have been in the livery business for quite some time and have driven Town Cars at least 60K per year for years. These cars, (we have over 20 at our firm) perform flawlessly with regular oil changes and maintenance out to about 200K when they are sold off.

      In July, when gas was at $4.00 per gallon, I picked up a Grand Marquis for personal use, loaded, it was $11,750 out the door. That's an '07 with 19K on the clock.

      I commute from North Carolina to south Florida twice monthly and couldn't be happier and have full confidence in my North American, body on frame V-8. I turn about 25 mpg at 78 mph on my 753 mile trip. Inexpensive, comfortable and very reliable transportation at it's best.
        • 6 Years Ago
        So wait...if you post about how you like boring, reliable, and comfortable cars, but it's a Camry or an Avalon, people accuse you of not being a real auto enthusiast. But if it's a Grand Marquis of all cars, you can be a car enthusiast?!?
        You got a great price on the Grand Marquis, and hell I'd even drive a Crown Vic/Grand Marquis/Lincoln Towncar myself since they're damned comfy and cheap to buy/maintain. But the double standard is a little ridiculous. People can be car enthusiasts even if they like boring cars-they have their own charms that don't lie in sports handling.
      • 6 Years Ago

      The fact is that there are too many people who wanted to join in this caravan - those of you who doubt this are just hiding your heads in the sand and believing your own hyperbole.

      Get over it - you are in the minority on this one. There are so many jobs on the line here that it is the height of arrogance to suggest that there are not enough people who would participate in this.

      The fact is that the 'Ambush Setup in Washington' that was the alleged hearings, was simply a way for those who structured the true bailout - you know, the one "For the Finance Industry" (read those who destroyed the economy for their own personal greed) to deflect the attention away from their horrendously idiotic lack of oversight in the $700+ BILLION bailout.

      So - here we are, don't provide the loans to the American OEM's - and our illustrious 'political leaders' (Gags) truly screw hundreds of thousands of families in this country. It the economy wasn't currently in the toilet thanks to Wall Street, this wouldn't even be on the table. If Chrysler went down in a normal economy, it would be at least tolerable to absorb the workers at Chrysler, various suppliers and their dependent economy (you know, Elmer the butcher et al).

      But we are NOT IN A NORMAL ECONOMY and this cannot be allowed to happen now.

      A tremendous number of people from all walks of life are suffering right now because of Wall Street and their global brethren. It is high time all of you understand this and get over your petty, ludicrous comments of "Detroit must die" because they "just don't get it" and the rest of your clueless comments that you repeat like trained parrots. The real issue here is to stop the hemorrhaging of our economy and the real possibility of the loss of our middle class and deal with the true problem - the out of control financial community!!

      Maybe you like your 401K's and the value of your homes tanking, but I am not too happy about it.

      Yes, I think that there are some real problems with leadership at many of our companies in this country - but not just the domestic OEM's - the financial companies are much worse.

      There are also a great many smart, hardworking people who - given the right leadership - can right the ships that are listing all over our economy without going to ridiculous extremes of letting entire segments disappear along with the technical capabilities that are absolutely essential to continuing our way of life.

      You can talk all you want about how some of the foreign cars are built here, but the true value of a domestic auto industry is the sheer level of technical capabilities that this entails. And I have been in virtually every R&D center of both the foreign and domestic OEM's and a majority of their tier one suppliers - the foreign OEM's (and suppliers) do the vast majority of their true development in their home countries - that is why every country works hard to develop and NURTURE their own auto industry - it is the key to a middle class lifestyle and leads to numerous opportunities for other types of industry to develop and thrive.




        • 6 Years Ago
        +++++

        A lot of you haters out there want death for Detroit. You don't have any idea how devastating that would be for us here in Michigan and you don't care. But the fact is, regardless of how trumped up the numbers may or may not be, the ripple effects will be felt from coast to coast and north to south. I reiterate what I keep saying, the union has made huge concessions and likely more are on the way, as they should be. If it hadn't been for this abnormal economy, great thing would be on the way for the American automobile business, thanks to those concessions. I'm not tooting a horn for the union because they should have given back a long time ago. A thousand lashes for the union and shame on them for their part in this mess. But the fact remains, the concessions are done deal and if those crooks on Wall Street hadn't f*cked it up for everyone, we here in Michigan wouldn't be staring down the barrel of a gun with all you haters on the trigger. IT'S A LOAN and it needs to happen, and after all the bullsh*t political posturing it will happen so get over it.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I wish I could have said it as well as you did.
      • 6 Years Ago
      That is a common sentiment, that the "Big Three" were just building what the public wanted. I agree their tactic seems like a smart thing to do, build products that people want to buy. The point of contention is with the claim that these corporations are too big for America to let them fail...that the damage will be too extensive. If you are so big that your own failure will require billions of taxpayer dollars to fend off, then you owe it to those taxpayers to see beyond today's market. No one is saying they should have crystal balls, but when you as a company have had 100 years of experience servicing your market, your balls should tell you something.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Sorry, I meant the above comment to be a reply to Tom.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Its irrelevant that the Big 3 are now making efficient cars. They should have been doing it 5-10 years ago, like all their competitors. Now those competitors have established a brand reputation in that segment that will take a decade's worth of effort to challenge. This silly press stunt accomplishes nothing except to discredit those lobbying for a hand-out. Save the theatrics, hang your heads, clean house, and then get to work.
        • 6 Years Ago
        It's quite clear that their audience (the government) is all about theatrics. Substance - not so much. So it's only understandable that they want to make some kind of symbolic gesture to impress them.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I can tell you with all certainty and experience that these types of stunts DO NOT impress law makers. In fact, they do just the opposite - it upsets the citizens of DC as it makes a mess of traffic for those who work on and around the Hill. Law makers have other, much more effective tools to gauge public opinion. These types of things serve no purpose. It just speaks to the absolute inemptitude of the American auto industry's executives.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Well since the US is largely based on Christian values, theatrics will always be popular in a highly interpretative society.


        • 6 Years Ago
        "They should have been doing it 5-10 years ago"

        How do we get past this misconception? THEY WERE, but no one will believe it. Ten years ago, they had cars that were EPA rated in the 40's on the highway.

        Everything that people say the big 3 should have done, they did do. The problem with the big 3 has never been the product, but the popularity of belittling the big 3.
        • 6 Years Ago
        You say "Its irrelevant that the Big 3 are now making efficient cars. They should have been doing it 5-10 years ago, like all their competitors"

        People are so fickle. Just a year or so ago, SUV and pickup truck sales were huge and customers bought them to go with their monster-sized homes in the suburbs so they can carry home their 52" plasma TVs. Now the same people are bashing Detriot saying that it doesn't listen to customer needs. Hello??? They were! The Japanese just started to jump on the oversized vehicle bandwagon where they should have been 5-10 years ago. Titan, Tundra, Sequioa anyone?

        If fuel prices suddenly tanked to 50 cents per gallon (rather than jumping to $4 per gallon), Detroit would be considered SO SMART, while the import companies with their portfolio emphasizing mostly fuel efficient "irrelevant" cars and just a few first generation SUV options would be the ones being hung out to try.
      • 6 Years Ago
      The Asian auto makers went to a lot of the Southern States that offered "right to work." The states offered them a lot of money to build brand new state of the art factories in the last 25 years, Detroit on the other hand has 100 year old building sites in some cases and the cost to update would have had to come from in house. Now many of the Southern Senators who are anti-union and have these Asian companies in their backyards are attacking Detroit and UAW. Its hypocrisy at its best, no we cannot subsidize auto factories if they are not in our state.
      On top of that you have most of the Asian nations have protectionist policies against American companies. So they can sell her but find ways to ban American companies from competing in their home markets. This gives them many unfair benefits, just read up on how socialized the Korean car makers are.
      I'm not 100% for any further bailouts but think the facts are always important. I hope that autoblog can try to do a good job of maybe doing a weekly round up of political statements about the automotive industry and whats true and false. I understand this is a car blog but thats what makes it the perfect vehicle to do this.
      • 6 Years Ago
      No matter how green and efficient a car is, no matter how high its miles it does per gallon, it is still using up the gallons by doing the miles, so not doing miles and not using gallons is greener.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I can picture any one of these guys getting in their respective company's top-of-the-line car for the trip, fidgeting around with the controls, and being pissed that it's "nothing like my BMW...."
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