The Corner

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Micromanage Automakers? Us?


Detroit, Mich. – “I don’t want to run auto companies,” President Obama says. His outgoing car czar, Steve Rattner, has reinforced this point, saying that “we are not going to micromanage or get involved in day to day decisions.”

For those familiar with Obama-speak, you know that every day is opposite day.

To update, here’s how Government Motors has been run and micromanaged by the U.S. government in just the last 90 days:

*At the request of the UAW, the President’s Auto Task Force forced GM to build its new “small-B segment” compact car in the United States instead of in the Far East. This despite the fact that not one manufacturer — not even the Asian companies — builds a small-B in the U.S., due to lack of market demand and high labor costs.

*GM likely would not build a small-B at all (since companies just emerging from bankruptcy usually try to build profitable products) were it not for the president’s personal distaste for GM’s lineup of “bigger, faster” cars. To correct this, Obama has mandated the cars Detroit automakers “still refuse to make” — that is, a fleet of vehicles that average 35 mpg by 2016.

*After a one-on-one meeting with Rep. Barney Frank (D., Mass.), GM chief executive Fritz Henderson will delay the closing of a parts-distribution center in Norton, Mass., preserving 80 jobs.

*The House has passed a bill reversing GM’s decision to shutter 2,000 auto dealers. Taking advantage of bankruptcy protection, GM undertook the cost-saving measure because state franchise laws had crippled its ability to reduce its bloated, 7,000-dealer network. By contrast, Toyota — with the same market share as GM — has fewer than 1,500 dealers.

Even the New York Times — which advocates socialized health care, for goodness sake — thinks this last bit of micromanagement was too much.

– Henry Payne is a writer and cartoonist for the Detroit News.