Alec Baldwin has written a scathing letter in the Huffington Post titled "The rise and fall of Detroit." In the column, he calls for the end of the three industrial giants, and, like many Americans, the elder Baldwin brother doesn't want taxpayer money to go towards the revitalization of Detroit automakers. His reason? Fuel economy.
"The heads of these corporations did not spend the last thirty years lying in bed each night, sleepless. They did not turn their spouses in the wee hours and say, "How do I serve the automotive needs of the American public and better protect their health and safety AND help them conserve energy?" They never said that."Read on for a few facts that Mr. Baldwin missed and a bit of analysis on his diatribe.
Regarding health and safety, it should be noted that the three-point automotive safety belt was invented by Americans. While American automakers weren't the first to offer standard safety belts (Saab was first, and Volvo was second) front and rear belts were standard issue on all cars by 1968. The first patents for airbag-type devices were filed by Germans and Americans in 1951. Ford had experimental airbag fleets as early as 1971, and GM offered the first airbag for sale to the public in the 1973 Oldsmobile Toranado. Chrysler was the first automaker to offer airbags as standard equipment in 1988.
Furthermore, the catalytic converter was invented in 1950 by a Frenchman living in the US. It seems there was smog 59 years ago in LA, leading him to create the device. That device didn't work in cars of the day because the lead in gas destroyed it, but a company in New Jersey later made the first production catalytic converters in 1973. Automakers had the pollution-preventing devices standard on all vehicles by 1975.
Baldwin goes on to say that Americans have been subsidizing Detroit for decades since a good portion of our military budget goes towards oil "by destabilizing the governments of petroleum rich countries, or outright invading them."
It's difficult to understand why big oil is all Detroit's fault. First off, transportation is about 55% of overall US oil consumption. That 55% includes big-rigs, planes and trains. Heating oil, which is used in the Northeast during the winter, uses about 25% of overall oil consumption. And there are only eight million households in the US that use heating oil. Yet the overwhelming emphasis in the media is on automotive.
With regards to fuel efficiency, it's true that Honda and Toyota are light years ahead of Detroit automakers in hybrid sales, but hybrids make up less than 5% of overall automotive sales in the US. Outside of hybrids, though, fuel economy is very similar across all automakers. The Fusion, for example, has the highest fuel economy of any midsize sedan at 34 mpg, and the Fusion hybrid achieves 41 mpg in the city -- eight mpg better than the Camry hybrid. The 2010 Chevy Equinox promises 32 mpg on the highway, head and shoulders above any other mid-size crossover. The point? Nobody is running away with the fuel economy crown.
Baldwin goes on to mention that while he drove a Tahoe back in the early 90s, he now owns a Prius. Now he's in the market for another new car, and he says he'll likely buy another hybrid from a Japanese transplant making vehicles in the American south. That new car would have to be a Camry Hybrid, because it's the only Japanese-branded hybrid built in the US. He could get an Escape hybrid, though. It's made in Kansas City.
[Source: Huffington Post]