Industry expert John McElroy suggests that Ford, GM, and Fiat-Chrysler should merge their powertrain operations. Heresy? Maybe. But hear him out.
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This is going to be a serious effort, and the early signs are encouraging. The Ford Motor Company is finally marshaling the resources and money to transform Lincoln into a true luxury brand again. While the company is guarded in discussing the full details of its plan, it's divulging enough for now to let the world know that this is going to be a serious effort. And the early signs are encouraging.
Ever since automobiles first appeared over 100 years ago, every automaker has tried to make them go faster. And they succeeded. Nearly every year, cars became more powerful with higher top-end speeds. But then, in the mid-1950s, we hit a plateau. The national speed limit was set at 70 miles per hour, and we've been stuck at that rate ever since. As a result, the automobile has made absolutely no progress as a transportation device in over half a century.
It took ten months. It involved the best brains in the nation. They conducted exhaustive tests. And Lord knows what it all cost. But when it was over, the results were totally predictable. The U.S. Department of Transportation could find nothing wrong with Toyota vehicles that would cause them to suddenly accelerate out of control.
Test driving an electric car at an automaker's media event is one thing. Taking one home and living with it is a completely different experience. Nissan just loaned me a Leaf for several days and I came away with a new appreciation for the potential pitfalls and rewards of owning an EV.
While every other major automaker in the world is pouring billions of dollars into research for electric vehicles, Fiat doesn't seem to be all that interested in electric cars. Instead, it's putting its efforts into producing cars that can run on compressed natural gas. Even more importantly, it's offering what it calls bi-fuel cars, which can run on both gasoline and CNG.
Back when I was a UAW member many moons ago, earning my college tuition by busting my ass in the factories, the union was an incredibly powerful labor organization. With nearly 1.3 million members, it had enormous political clout in Washington, D.C. And thanks to a monopoly on automotive labor, it could bring the entire American auto industry to a grinding halt by merely snapping its fingers. But then the world changed.