To the People

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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Obama Owns Detroit Now; We Get The Bills

The Wall Street Journal is on target describing Obama's auto industrial policy, which is all about forcing Detroit to build the kind of cars he wants to see, not about making the companies viable:
Bankruptcy or not, the larger problem here is Washington's industrial policy. Even if Chrysler merges and GM restructures, Mr. Obama wants the companies to make the kind of cars the political class favors, whether or not consumers want to buy them. "The United States of America will lead the world in building the next generation of clean cars," the President said yesterday. He didn't mention a goal of profitability. To that end, Treasury tapped Fiat's know-how in small vehicles for Chrysler and wants GM to move in this direction.

Yet the Treasury's own "viability summary," released yesterday, points out that "GM's product portfolio is more vulnerable to CAFE [fuel-economy] standard increases than the portfolios of many of its competitors." Only nine of GM's "top 20 profit contributors in 2008" were cars; the rest were SUVs and trucks, which are politically incorrect on Capitol Hill and with the green lobbies. Chrysler has a similar problem. Even GM's much-vaunted electric Volt car is "too expensive to be commercially successful," according to Treasury.

In other words, Mr. Obama's industrial policy vision runs directly counter to a strategy that would get the companies back to profitability as soon as possible. To help them sell those unwanted cars, Mr. Obama yesterday was already pledging that taxpayers will cover new-car warranties. And he urged Congress to pass a new "incentive program" (read: subsidy) for "cleaner car" purchases.

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