“One thing we know is that for (Detroit) automakers to succeed in the future, these companies need to build the cars of the future,” Barack Obama said in Iowa on Earth Day.
Think about that statement a moment. Since this guy is supposed to be our “smart” president, let’s assume he doesn’t believe auto engineers are studying how to return to the Model T’s hand-crank starter technology. In fact, automakers are always building the cars of tomorrow with teams of employees looking years into the future, listening to focus groups, testing fuels, assessing new technologies.
But our omniscient president already knows the future. It’s a future, he says, where Americans should not be “ever more dependent on the supply of foreign oil.” So what post-gasoline car would he recommend Detroit build?
Would it be the General Motors’ 1996 electric EV-1, which cost the company millions and was discontinued after three years for lack of a market?
Would it be the 80-mpg, battery-diesel hybrid GM Precept, which Vice President Al Gore test drove in 2000 and applauded as a car that “will dramatically reduce our dependence on foreign oil?”
Or would it be GM’s fleet of ethanol-capable cars — an industry-leading 3 million on the road already — announced with much fanfare at the 2008 Detroit International Auto Show, and an investment that has proven a bust as biofuel prices have been uncompetitive with gasoline?
As these “cars of the future” attest, there is no shortage of technology to meet Obama’s future, only a shortage of customers willing to buy them. Which means that the automakers of the future must be lean, efficient companies with competitive labor forces and work rules so that they have the flexibility to adapt to changing market demands.
Unfortunately, that is the opposite of what our CAFE-regulating, union-beholden president has in mind.