If I Were Car Czar

Auto execs have been more interested in golf than cars. Forget the annual bonus—schmoozing with PGA superstars has been their biggest perk. Wooing Tiger to Grand Blanc and posing with him during the meet-and-greet is a career highlight. “Boy, I can’t wait to have this picture framed for my desk! And I’ll make some wallet-sized copies to show the guys back at the club in Bloomfield!” Never mind that the Buicks Tiger endorsed were among the least compelling cars in the market. Even though he couldn’t help to sell them, they were still good enough reason to stage a tourney. What will the ascetic Senator Bennett think of using bailout money to perpetuate the Buick Open? Spending for the Super Bowl and Academy Awards is out, but the last thing those guys will let go is their golf.

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How many members of Congress have flown on GM’s planes over the decades? GM has operated its own decent-sized airline for more than 50 years. (Company planes have been deemed essential and economically advantageous since the Ford Tri-Motor in the late 1920s.) Not only were there Convair jets in GM’s fleet during the late 1950s, but also Grumman amphibious craft that probably saw the majority of their hours devoted to transporting executives to duck marshes.

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If I were appointed federal car czar, I would daily repeat Henry Ford’s maxim: “Fat men cannot run as fast as thin men but we build most of our vehicles as though dead-weight fat increased speed! A deal of poverty grows out of the carriage of excess weight.” He wanted to subtract the extra lard from the machine and add it to the load that the machine is designed to carry. Imagine a 2000-pound pickup that could carry an 8000-pound payload. A 1200-pound car with seating for five occupants. A 1500-pound, seven-hedonist SUV. Instead of miracle powerplants, why isn’t Slim, Fast! the emphasis for Congressional oversight? Which goal could be attained first?

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I’m waiting for the auto execs to return to D.C. tomorrow and claim they used no energy and emitted no carbon dioxide en route. That should be worth yet a few billion more. “Congressman Waxman’s Hollywood coterie got us here by sending us through a wardrobe!” they could claim. “Did you know that Burger King is the exclusive fast-food restaurant in Narnia?” Indeed, the most viable plan they might come up with is to turn over the management of their companies to a studio’s special effects department. Yep, Waxy Henry is sure to like this, for he will justly claim to have brought home transportation research dollars to Beverly Hills.

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