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Saving The Big Three

October 31, 2008

While one can make a reasonable argument that the recent bailout of the financial sector was necessary to prevent a massive blow to the national and global economies as a result of a situation that came about unexpectedly and had to be handled decisively, one cannot make that argument about the U.S. auto industry ("Saving the Big Three," editorial, Oct. 25).

General Motors, Chrysler and Ford have spent the last four decades fighting the kind of innovation that would have made them viable, profitable car producers today.

They have consistently failed to anticipate consumer needs and desires in technological, aesthetic and environmental trends, and they have lost consumers' confidence as a result.

The credit crunch may make it more difficult for the Big Three to function today. But the vast majority of the reasons the carmakers are in trouble are problems of Detroit's own making.

Detroit has lost out to Japanese, German and South Korean auto manufacturers simply because those manufacturers make the cars that consumers want. They anticipate, adapt and deliver, and they invest in the future.

A massive federal loan to the Big Three is a monumental waste of money: We will never see a return on our dollars.

Detroit has already benefited from billions in loans and subsidies over the past three decades, yet it remains bogged down in an unresponsive and irresponsible corporate culture.

It is not the government's job to bail out companies that refuse to adapt appropriately to the market, especially not when the taxpayer is already on the hook for two wars and a meltdown in the financial markets.

Detroit has itself to blame for its situation, and there is no sense in spending taxpayer money to prolong the agony.

Brandon Neblett, Baltimore

The American automobile companies need and should get help from the American taxpayers, but that help must come along with a revamping of their way of doing business.

If the Big Three are to survive, money must be put into engineering to develop fuel-efficient, long-lived equipment with true mechanical design improvements, not electronic gee-gaws, super-complicated hybrids or plug-in battery models that would strain our already overburdened electric utilities.

The technology is available.

The car companies need to hire some real engineers and go to work.

David Heston, Glen Arm

Finally, the taxpayer bailout of U.S. carmakers with $25 billion in low-interest loans is getting some ink in the press. But don't be surprised if that's just the first installment of aid for the auto industry. The automakers are already angling for more aid to help build the high-mileage cars they should have been building all along.

That's outrageous. Talk about rewarding bad behavior.

For years, the automakers and autoworker unions consistently opposed proposals for cleaner and more fuel-efficient cars.

Instead, in pursuit of short-term and short-sighted profit-making, they pushed gas-guzzling behemoths, such as SUVs with off-road capabilities few of us need or will ever use.

Perhaps taxpayers have no choice but to save the Big Three automakers from themselves because of the many thousands of jobs at stake. But if that's so, let's get something meaningful for America out of it.

The current federal auto fuel-efficiency standard is a pathetic 27.5 mpg, and this standard is scheduled to rise to just 35 mpg by the year 2020. (A Toyota Celica I bought in 1986 got 33 mpg.)

Let's stop coddling the carmakers and require them to build the cars America and Americans need for the 21st century.

Let's up the 2020 standard to one easily achievable by plug-in hybrid electric vehicles: 100 mpg.

George J. Maurer, Annapolis

In response to the editorial "Saving the Big Three," I say: Let 'em fail.

The Big Three have done nothing to stay ahead of the curve in new technology. They have not produced more durable vehicles, and they even protested against higher standards for average fuel economy.

Get real, Detroit. You don't deserve a bailout.

Crystal Parsley, Takoma Park

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