Such A Thrill When Your Radials Squeal

I’ve always had great interest in the auto business and many years back I thought I may want to make a career of it (not selling them, I mean at the corporate level). I think it’s probably because here in the modern day, cars say a LOT about who we are. They are a decent indicator of someone’s personality and in most cases, one’s financial status. I say “in most cases” because there are the frivolous folks out there who go beyond their means. But whatever, I’m not judging, just stating fact. My point is that I believe you can get a good read on someone if you just look at their car.

If you were to look at my ’02 Camry for instance, you’d think, “safe, right down the middle, takes little risks financially, loves stability and doesn’t need flash to keep him happy.” And you’d be about 90% right – I admit to needing a little flash (hello, 42-inch TV and Apple TV)! My long-winded point: it saddens me greatly to see what’s happening to the American auto companies. I’ve said before in this space that I would like nothing more than to see them succeed and I really, truly believe they will. I also believe that GM’s stock is a STEAL right now, though I haven’t put my money where my mouth is…..yet.

The issue with the U.S. car companies is purely one of trust. American cars were bad for a whole generation (mine) and now that they’re starting to be seen as mostly solid and dependable again, they may be turning the corner. But have you ever tried to turn a corner while driving a cruise ship? Takes some time. That’s why I hope that they get some funding from the government. In addition to the horrible trickle-down effect on our economy if one of these companies shuts down – and I don’t mean Chrysler – I think it would just take more wind out of our sails. Given everything that’s gone on the last 8 years, we simply don’t need that.

But the money should come with conditions. HUGE conditions. If the Obama administration is smart, they will have the foresight to look well into the future and see a world where electric/hybrid/whatever vehicles will be the norm. Where cars that get not 30, not 40, not 50, but 60+ miles per gallon are the way to people’s pocketbooks and pride. Again, this can’t be done overnight – mandating car companies to short-term, unattainable goals will only cripple them more – they need to equip factories to make such vehicles, they need to work out the technologies and they need to adjust the workforce to accomodate it all. It will take time, so some some sort of tiered plan must be the way. 

I’m 76,500 miles into my Camry now. I suspect I have a few years left. As tempting as it is right now to go out and upgrade, I think my options will be tenfold better in five years than they are today. I also truly believe that by the time I’m ready, American cars very well may be positioned far better. Like they said on the X-Files, I WANT to believe.