Bush to GM and Ford: Build a Better Car

The US auto industry has not been particularly good at building car models that are well suited for fuel efficiency. The cheap oil boom they experienced in the 1990s combined with the easing of truck fuel economy standards created Minivan and SUV lines that are distinctly ill-suited for rising oil prices. As a result, a peak oil related economic transition is already underway the auto-industry. President Bush added today that they should not look to the Federal government for assistance.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal published today, President Bush said that G.M. and Ford executives have not asked him for federal aid and that he would not look favorably upon such a request. Mr. Bush said he would instead encourage the automakers to build "a product that's relevant. I would hope I wouldn't be asked to make that decision," he told The Journal.

We'll see about that when the moment comes that Ford or GM has to file some sort of backruptcy, which could be as early as this year.

The rise of gas prices from $1.25 to $2.50 / gallon has hit hard at big automaker's profits, forcing them to downsize their payrolls.

Since 2000, G.M., Ford and the Chrysler Corporation have cut or announced they would eliminate up to 140,000 jobs, or a third of their payrolls. Earlier this week, Ford announced that it would cut 30,000 jobs and close 14 plants over the next six years.

But you can only cut so deep into the workforce before you cease effective operations at economies of scale.

If just one of the major automakers files for bankrupcy, it could throw the whole auto-industry into a race to the bottom similar to what we've seen in the Airline industry. If the company continues to operate during its re-organization period - as the courts let the company break its contracts with creditors, workers and retirees - automobile prices could plummet as they will only have to cover the marginal cost of production, not the fixed asset costs.

What could avoid this scenario is a buy-out by another major automaker, perhaps one that can build a better and more fuel efficient car, like Toyota or Honda.

Jeez, people have been telling Detroit to get a clue for the last 30 years, and they just arrogantly keep putting badly built energy-wasting dinosaurs.

Gore and Lovins presented all the world's automakers with the hybrid concept back in the 1990s. Detroit ignored it; Japan embraced it.

Are we supposed to cry for these people now?

These are the same insular echo-chamber morons who thought GM could be saved by putting a "GM" badge on every GM brand. As much as I hate to see yet ANOTHER US industry collapse and be replaced by foreign products, this has largely already happened.
There was plenty of crying for them back in the 70s and eighties when imports started getting popular.  It even led to various regulatory disadvantages for the foreign manufacturers.  In the end this may have only been political as it didn't reverse the Big 3's first slide.

What is most interesting to me is that the importers were clearly making US inroads before the first oil crisis hit.  Even once it did occur, real fuel price driven growth among import sales didn't take hold until the second shock in 79/80.  

I don't have data for the current situation but I'd venture a guess that it looks similar to the 1970-1984 period.  Toyota alone has about 20% of the US market.  You're right Don, the Big 3 deserve no sympathy.  They learned nothing from their past mistakes and made few efforts to learn from their rivals.  They have repeatedly shown very little aptitude for relevant innovation (bigger engines, heavier trucks??) and business foresight. This is why no matter how much it may hurt the North American economy they must be allowed to die so that something better may take their place.

Good post...

i recently heard a few years ago, (on Paul Harvey) the Big Three are now:

Ford, GM and Toyota.

Good day!

I have yet to hear of a Honda or Toyota hybrid that met its actual EPA mileage rating.

The VW TDIs are an outstanding example of a clean diesel that does what the manufacture says in a car that is reasonable. The downside for greenies is the "diesel" fuel.

The Prius and Insight also face a recycling challenge given the lead acid batteries at the core of the cars' electrical systems.  When there are enough of these "nice trys" in circulation, then that nasty issue will surface to blemish the hype.  Right now, they are merely the rich man's feel good and the greenies' example of "doing it right".

The problem is resolving the major use of hydrocarbon resources by replacing power generation with . . . NUKES.  Yeah, nuclear power plants to replace all of those NG power plants.

Good point(s). VW deserves credit. They always have. VW is the "real" GM.
Actually, this is what hybrid owners usually classify as FUD.   Sewing of Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt.

The fact is that in all the statistical measures of real-world performance, in the US market, hybrids claim top mileage.

So the EPA overshot in their euphoria.  Big deal.

Diesels are also very good, and if the California EPA had let me buy one, I probably would have had one before my Prius arrived, but they didn't.  FWIW,

real-world Prius mpg: 47.6
real-world Jetta TDI mpg: 40.3

I compared 2005s to 2005s, and chose a pretty much random VW.  Feel free to pick another:


Battery recycling has already been factored into Toyota's life-cycle analysis of the Prius. Even with it, the Prius' total lifetime energy consumption is half or less than that of a similar-sized conventional car.

Most people are unaware that the Prius' #1 design goal was to create less pollution from cradle to grave. High fuel economy was a secondary result of that design premise. See Hideshi Itazaki's "The Prius that Shook the World," about the original 1998 Prius. (Available somewhere online as a PDF - I'll look for the link if anyone's interested.)

As for the Prius and EPA numbers - they're highly variable, but yes, some owners achieve or even comfortably exceed them. My 2005 Prius gets about 95% of the EPA estimate - 52.5 mpg versus the EPA's 55 - which is closer than most drivers of conventional cars get. One's particular driving conditions have a huge impact on mpg.

Nice post peakman.

When Mr. Bush stepped in the White House one of his first actions was to impose quotas on the imports of steel and other metals. By then some economist said: "that will kill the american auto industry in a few years".

A guess we are at those few years later. If oil has a bigger role on that I don't know, but it's important to aknowledge this steel war thing.

Another paralel can be made with the aerospace industry, where Boeing has been losing ground to Airbus, competing in the same market. With the same fuel costs.

You are absolutely right. That episode is exactly what scares me about Bush reconsidering and trying to prop up a failing / uncompetitive industry.
An industry that is 5% of GDP is a little too much to just give entirely away to foreign competition.  The world wants to buy vehicles of some sort; you better have a way to make them.
No problem. just expand the existing Japanese plants in Ohio, TEnnessee, etc.
Do you have any data to support the claim that auto manufacturing is 5% of GDP? It may be, but that does sound a bit high to me.
(GM sales: $193B) + (Ford sales:$178B) = $371B

US GDP = $11,750,000,000,000

So Ford and GM = 3.2%

I gues if you added in Chrysler and the American components of foreign firms manufacturing here that would bring it to 5%.

Plus you forgot AC Delco / Delphi, Philips Magnavox, Direct TV... to name a few under GM's vast umbrella.
Excellent topic.

I have included a link to the Public Radio show On Point from this past Monday, Jan 23rd. The topic of discussion was Japan, but there is an excellent segment on Japanese vs. American auto manufacturers that starts 30m30s into program(just fast forward). You need RealPlayer or Windows Media to listen.


The good news is the Japanese are replacing Ford and GM's marketshare, introducing more efficient vehicles. Detroit will be forced to follow. If only they would get rid of their incompetent management.

In my opinion, these guys in Detroit have done the country as bad a disservice as those at Enron.

Nice post peakman.

When Mr. Bush stepped in the White House one of his first actions was to impose quotas on the imports of steel and other metals. By then some economist said: "that will kill the american auto industry in a few years".

A guess we are at those few years later. If oil has a bigger role on that I don't know, but it's important to aknowledge this steel war thing.

Another paralel can be made with the aerospace industry, where Boeing has been losing ground to Airbus, competing in the same market. With the same fuel costs.

I tend to agree, but I'll offer these "yes, but" comments:

We loved the stuff they were selling!  Big SUVs and trucks, lousey mileage cars, we couldn't get enough.  Even the imports are making this stuff, but some still sell fuel efficient cars here too - mostly because they sell them elsewhere and they're already designed.  Interestingly, Ford and GM have such vehicles too, they just don't bring many over here, I guess because the profit margins are too low, etc.  

And part of the reason the profit margins are too low is health care costs, and another part is that US workers are paid more.  Now we can watch as many of those workers experience the wonders of globalization, and their salaries move downward towoards those in 3rd world nations.  No,no, it's a good thing, really - maybe not for you, but.....

I'm not even done with it yet, but I recommend "The Culture of Make Believe" by Derrick Jensen to everyone.  Really puts globalization, capitalism, etc. in perspective.
Hey, when I lived in the US I had a VW passat 1.8T; 35 mpg at 70 mph, the ability to overtake anything it needed to. And with fuel at $1.50/for a 4L gallon, for a european, it was essentially free.

Now I am back in the UK, paying $6/ for a UK 4.5L gallon. I'm back in a diesel toy that does an even better 50mpg at 80mph.

The country always had the option of going for fuel efficient toys, but instead they went for the V8 pickup. Why? advertising? because its cheaper to deliver speed from a v8 than a turbocharged 1.8L engine? Or because with cheap fuel it didnt matter?

on the subject of health care, I'd argue the underlying problem is that in the US, health care for retirees comes from the current revenue of the individual company. Whereas in Europe, it comes from the entire tax base of the country. This still causes disadvantages with other countries, but it doesnt penalise shrinking revenue companies with a large retiree workforce.

ps, bush said "build a better product". Maybe he meant bicycles :)

Actually we did get a bit of bicycle-promotion funding out if the federal government last year.  It could have something to do with the President being an avid cyclist.
American car manufacturers have long known they couldn't compete against foreign makers (the most expensive health care system in the world with an infant mortality worse than Cuba only being part of that equation) ... so they hid behind "light truck" tarrif walls, and made hi profit margin SUV's for years.

And ya know, I wouldn't have minded if they used this lucky tarrif respite to get their act together: but they didn't. I'm not entirely sure who's fault that is, but a lot of it has to do with this "free market as god" nonsense I keep hearing ... sure free markets are great and deserve respect, but Toyota certainly didn't leave it to them alone when coming up with the Prius. This is a large part of why America is loosing: it's believing it's own BS.

George Bush is a fool if he thinks just letting America's car companies fail is a smart thing to do (and I seriously hope he isn't really contemplating this): Imagine, America, most powerful nation on earth, put men on the moon, but can't compete with Korea when it comes to making cars!


If not cars, or aircraft any longer - what it is that America really can produce?

Why American Dollars of course ... and without any sort of real manufacturing base to speak of, how long can that continue?

Get it together guys - and if that means eating a little crow when it comes to free market rhetoric and doing something - temporary - to get your manufacturing back on track, do it.

Highly paid corporate types provide the strategic vision for more and bigger SUVs. Yet the working stiffs pay for management's brainstorms.

An academic interviewed on Democracy Now this morning mentioned that health care for Ford's predominantly over-50 workforce adds $1200 to the cost of each Ford. Honda in America has a much younger workforce and their health costs add $400 to each vehicle. If Ford had younger workers in America it would still be profitable. The U.S. has no universal health care like a civilized country like Sweden. Healthcare and civilization only matter if you are a human, but soon it will all be moot because China has the lowest wages, a cash only healthcare system and it is poised to move into the American auto market by 2008. Say hello to Chinese worker's living standards. Public transit and health insurance would have been nice but now ...

The pension obligations are bonds. That is, they borrowed the money from the employees in the form of pensions to avoid having to pay them cash in hand.
So the employees are creditors, not parasites.
One more reason we should have instituted that $0.50 gas tax a few years back.  It would have given an incentive earlier than now to build for something other than horsepower.  

Having said that, listen to what Bill Ford is saying now about Ford Motor Co. He has a vision on how to compete with Toyota and Honda.  If I am not mistaken Ford Motor has lost market share, but is profitable.  They might be closing plants so they can remain profitable and retool.  I think Ford is in a position to trade intellectual property with Toyota on Hybrids, especially trucks and 4x4's.

I see no hope for GM.  No vision.  No vehicles.  Not enough intellectual property in hybrids and alternative vehicles.  They are generations behind in building fuel efficient vehicles even if the have concepts.

Hurray! Somebody finally mentioned a gas tax. I was wondering when that was going to happen. Congratulations, NC. It has always surprised me that for all the talk here about things we could do to "transition," nobody ever suggests the obvious. But I think it needs to be more than 50 cents.
It's a start.  It could be ramped up $.05 cents every year thereafter.
Better yet, have the same said tax go into a separate pot, specifically earmarked for Alternative Energy development.
Ah, if only I were el-presidente-and-dictator-for-life.....
You've got my vote. What I envision is an immediate 50 cents tax, to be increased by 25 or 50 cents each year until the total retail price equals about 5 dollars. This would give people plenty of time to switch vehicles and acclimate financially.

The key, however, is giving every driver in the US an equal and large percentage collected from a gas tax in the form of an income-tax refund, say $1500 every year. That way nobody can complain that lower-income citizens are getting screwed - I believe economists call that "regressive."

So if you decide to drive a Hummer 20,000 miles a year, you'd be subsidizing someone driving an Echo only 6,000 miles.

I think this would seriously put the brakes on US gasoline/deisel consumption, pressuring trucking companies and other heavy users to, in turn, force the auto industry to develop more efficient engines and expand CNG use in trucks and buses.

Some might say this is complicated, but the truth is, it is a lot simpler than the rest of the present US tax code.

Oil CEO and I are in almost complete agreement here. The only change I would make to his post would be: "The key, however, is giving every person in the US an equal and large percentage collected from a gas tax in the form of an income-tax refund..."

I commute by bike in order to conserve and because I'm a cheap bastard who needs to lose some weight. Why shouldn't I be able to pocket the complete $1500 each year?

Yeah, I was worried about that part. I'm going to have to look at the math details a little more closely. Your solution may actually be better because it would encourage car-pooling.
I understand and agree with the theory of a gas tax. I also appreciate your idea of a refund, so the poor are not further able to save for that shiny new EV. HOWEVER, I cannot caution you strongly enough against tunnel vision. Outside of these forums, peak oil is not a commonly known or believed issue. Furthermore, the last time prices went up on oil, the public went looking for scapegoats, and crying 'price-gouging'. Do you really believe that the public would accept such a large tax on something so critical to their daily lives, especially when they already think said thing is too expensive? Thoeries and talk are great, but I think you should spend a little more time thinking politically... maybe between everyone here we can devise better ways to further the message.
- Stop the Iran war -
Considering that public outcry over gas prices in the wake of Hurricane Katrina forced the governor of my state (Georgia) to repeal the state's gas tax for a month, I am afraid you a probably correct.
This is actually an excellent point and something I'd like to address.

If Gasoline were say $6/gallon as it is in parts of Europe, and 60% of that was tax, think of the enormous potential there would be to actually stabilize the price.

Much the way Federal reserve manipulates the interest rate, stimulating and slowing the economy, in order to keep economic stability, we could cut the tax by a dollar or two temporarily in times of a crisis - hurricane, OPEC embargo, etc. - and raise it when the wholesale price dropped.

This may sound madness to those opposed to government interference in the market, but if our predictions of peak-oil and the possible consequences are correct, I for one believe we are going to need this level of control to successfully transition to the next level - whatever that may be.

IMO the other measure taken was much more idiotic:
They closed the public schools for two days. Consider the savings from a couple of thousand school buses opposed to a couple of million SUV-s, each day creeping slowly down the overloaded GA highways... pure madness. God help us if education is the thing we are going to start to save from when times get worse.
Look I was just talking about a gas tax. We can get way more political, if you like, but I already saw the problem you mentioned.

The last thing Americans want to hear is tax, especially not "gas tax". If anything, the aversion stems from the fact that you actually see this tax as you stare at the sign in front of you while you fill up the tank.

Politicians hate the idea, are cowards when it comes to facing this issue, and in many ways are worse than the citizens of this great nation when it comes to the issue of gasoline.

However, that being said - the key component here is the "revenue-neutral" aspect of my proposal. The average driver drives 12,000 miles at 25mpg, that makes 480 gallons per year. Let's round that to 500 and make the gas-tax $3 a gallon. $1500 per year. That's what that same person gets back, a $1500 check, on say December 1st, every year. So if you use more than 480 gallons, you are being wasteful and you pay more. If you use less, you make money. If you use the average amount, nothing changes.

If I can explain that to you in that time, why couldn't John Kerry or John McCain do it in the Halls of the Senate, on TV, or on the campaign trail?

Believe me, gasoline is going to $6, anyway. You may as well tap that money now to drive down demand, finance your own country, and keep it away from the Saudis and Iranians.

Driving down that demand will keep the overall price down in the long run. Americans are not stupid as our friend from Brazil likes to think. They just need a little straight talk about the situation. It may take gasoline rising a little more before they notice, but they'll notice.

Explain it in terms of Energy Security and National Security. The American people can relate to that.

The New York Times has already published at least two editorials suggesting a $1 gas tax. I think we need bolder measures. Get on the winning team, man.

You have hit on the fundamental with virtually ANY meaningful large scale effort to alleviate the damage, when TSHTF, because career politicians, especially in the US, cannot make the hard choices necessary and are now totally in bed with K-street lobbyists, multinational corporations, the neocon/military/industrial complex, rich banking interests, religious fanatics, the house of Saud, each other, you name it.
This has been discussed many times before. IMO if there is a "silver bullet" type of solution to the emerging energy crisis which will benefit us all, this is the one. Unfortunately it is more likely Fidel Castro to become a US president than this to happen. Not because it is idealogically incorrect (BTW are farmers subsidies etc. idealogically correct), but it would be akin to the Roman empire abandoning slavery... cause that's what it is - the cars, suburbia, the uniform factory we live in is equal to slavery to the system - you can not live any other way hence you GOT to live this way.

Like I often say PO is not a technical or economical, but a societal problem and different societies may be able to solve it or not. Ours won't... I'm already pretty much confident about it - we are simply too detached from the reality; worse we are so much addicted to our delusions that we will simply sit around and wait until it's too late and maybe a little after that.

I'm not sure what Green Parties elsewhere believe but a green tax shift (ie. increasing tax on things we don't like (e.g. pollution from fossil fuels) and reducing taxes on things we like (e.g. income) is what the Canadian Green Party believes.  In the 2004 election, they actually proposed increasing the tax on a barrel of oil by $10.

Surprise, less than 5% of us Canadians voted for them.  In fact, we just elected a conservative (conservative?? of what??) government that, if it had gained a majority, would have backed Canada out of Kyoto.  Not that our Liberal government actually did anything positive for the environment why they were in power for the last 12 years.  Anyway, we need to transfer subsidies from oil companies to alternative energy companies or we will get left behind.  

They did build EV1's. An average person could even lease one and make it their daily driver. Full electric, and that was back before Toyota, Honda... etc ever thought about hybrids. Why isn't it around today? No public interest.
A better car still leaves us in the situation of using scarce resources for inefficient transportation. To get from point A to point B doesn't require a better car.

Building a 3,000 pound machine, whether it's diesel, plug-in, or fuel cell, to move a 160 pound human will never solve it... And of course, one needs to calculate the costs of the automobile grid. There's a lot of energy used to build and maintain the road system. There's major, major, queuing costs that occur each morning and evening as motors accererate-decelerate billions of auto-pounds repeatedly in traffic.

Cars caused peak oil. THEY ARE THE PROBLEM.

LOL, they are indeed a part of the problem.  They've created a human that exceeds your 160 lbs, and needs to be hauled around:

"Car seats supersized to fit American bums"


I didn't see it mentioned in this article, but I think we've mentionecd in OD comments before that other studies show that commute-distance correlates well with weight problems.  The more time spent behind the wheel, the bigger car seat you need.

I spotted this yesterday on the energybulletin.net its from the new scientist.


It's better to green your diet than your car

THINKING of helping the planet by buying an eco-friendly car? You could do more by going vegan, say Gidon Eshel and Pamela Martin of the University of Chicago.
They compared the amount of fossil fuel needed to cultivate and process various foods, including running agricultural machinery, providing food for livestock and irrigating crops. They also factored in emissions of methane and nitrous oxide produced by cows, sheep and manure treatment.
The typical US diet, about 28 per cent of which comes from animal sources, generates the equivalent of nearly 1.5 tonnes more carbon dioxide per person per year than a vegan diet with the same number of calories, say the researchers, who presented their results at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco last week.
By comparison, the difference in annual emissions between driving a typical saloon car and a hybrid car, which runs off a rechargeable battery and gasoline, is just over 1 tonne. If you don't want to go vegan, choosing less-processed animal products and poultry instead of red meat can help reduce the greenhouse load.

I agree.  We've got to stop thinking about how we can build better cars and start thinking about how to get by without them.  Even on these boards we have people addicted to what Kunstler calls the "easy-going motoring lifestyle" and desperate to find ways to maintain it.  Suppose we're at peak right now, and also suppose that Ford manages to up its fuel efficiency 10% in the next 5 years.  It won't make a difference because five years after peak, at a 3% decline rate, we'll be down by over 15% with another 3% and up to be added every year.  I think biodiesel will be good for police and fire and other emergency vehicles, but every dime that is going into auto research--hydrogen and other--should be going to building trains.
And suburbia. Don't forget surburbia.
Long commutes, idling in traffic breathing noxious fumes, car culture crapola, cul-de-sac gated subdivisions atomizing society. Madness, pure and simple.  We made this bed for ourselves, perhaps we deserve to lay in it.
The gated subdivision syndrome is a fascinating one. It exists all over Atlanta where I lived for several years. It's not about social pecking though... it's about keeping one's neighborhood from become massive commuter cut-thru.

You have the experience waiting 4 cycles at every stop light and driving huge clockwise detours to avoid left hand turns to appreciate it. Oh, yeah, almost forgot the speed bumps. Every non-gated neighborhood is filled with them...  

All those ideas would be fine as a traffic calming devices in a densely populated area to keep streets safe because most people are either biking or pedestrians. But they are really funny in sparsely populated suburbs that ultimately end up funneling everyone into narrow bands of highway that are dull, boring and are surrounded by blight.

Mixed use, dense urban living makes sense. Rural farms near small walkable towns make sense. Single use suburban sprawl where residential and commercial areas are so spread apart that they require a car to go everywhere is a disaster.

They get around that problem in other areas by simply not making it possible to cut through.  The residential streets come off the main highway, but do not connect up to anything, or to each other.

Of course, this is inconvenient for the residents.  Often, to drive to the house behind you, you have to drive all the way up to the highway, then all the way back down on the next street.

"Often, to drive to the house behind you, you have to drive all the way up to the highway, then all the way back down on the next street."

Ummmm... Shouldn't you just be walking to the house behind you? To me, designing so it is hard to drive to the house behind you makes perfect sense.

Well, it's not just the house behind you.  It's the whole neighborhood.  And you can't necessarily walk.  People have fences.  Or it's just so overgrown you can't walk through.
When I walk to the store, or to work, I save a few minutes by jumping a fence between a cul-de-sac and the larger road.  When I first moved here the top rail was broken, but now I have to vault the whole thing.  I wonder if I'll get arrested someday.
Well, there's the trespass problem, but criminal trespass is  very difficult to prosecute because of the notice required.  But getting beyond that, my experience in suburbia or even any place outside of an urban core is that any walking is considered subversive and un-American.  The gated communities and suburban subdivisions are expressly designed to discourage walking - ("if you want to walk go to the mall").  Effort to put in sidewalks, for example, are often fought strenuously. Cars provide social and political control in addition convenience, privacy and anomi.
Now that OPEC has announced intents for new cutbacks,
And the price of crude is once again
Heading out for the $70 and beyond range,
I was sitting at home,
Holding my breath,
Waiting for the Invisible Hand to work its magic.
The Market always provides.
The prophet Smith, Adam foretold this.

Sure enough,
Just as I was starting to turn slightly blueish,
(or is it called bearish in Wall St. talk?)
I heard clanking and banging from next door.

It was from my neighbor's garage,
Mr. Packnerd's garage.

I went over and peaked in.
There they were,
Mr. Hugewitt and Mr. Packnerd,
Banging away on a new hydrogen-economy-driven, super fuel efficient, hybrid vehicle.

Yes sir eek Bob.
Adam Smith had come through again.

Why just last week, Hugewitt and Packnerd (call them HP for short) were these out of work, C++ software gurus who just had their jobs off-shored because some dudes in India figured out they had brains too and they could code in C++.

Hugewitt and Packnerd were undaunted. Never mind that they had been speaking and breathing in C++ code for the last 10 years. They simply re-trained and "re-engineered" themselves and voila, in less than a month they had acquired the knowledge of several PhD's in nanotechnology, hybrid physics and solid state membrane chemistry.

Never mind that they had no capital of their own. In just a week, they had acquired all sorts of multi-million dollar production equipment and packed it into their garage.

So as I peeked in, ever so quietly into that mythical garage, I could see that the HP dream had come alive again.

Yes sir eek Bob, one just has to have faith and the Invisible Hand will weave its magic!

The Invisible Hand is playing tennis in Palm Springs this week.
Are you sure? I thought I saw him scheduled for a round of golf in West Palm Beach.
He's at the Sundance Film Festival.
Rumor has it that the "Invisible Hand" is actually vacationing in Poland, while his identical twin cousin, the "Grabbing Hand" is strong arming it in Russia:


Suprisingly though, when I called folks in Warsaw, they said nobody had seen him.

Oh my, now they say he's gone "underground":


I tried to respond to one of the posts below and the text entry box extended over the advertisments on the right side of the page.  This made it impossible to see what I was typing over there.  My screen resolution is 1024x768 and I'm running the latest Firefox on XP.  Is this problem fixable?
I'm running the same video resolution, browser, and windows version, but do not seem to have that problem. No idea what might be causing it for you.
I would write to Super G. How big is your screen?
My screen is plenty big - 1024 x 768 - as stated above.  This is only happening on the green Peak Oil NYC website.  Red TOD posts are fine.  I have a very normal setup and the problem occurs both with IE6 and Firefox.  Pretty clear it's a bloglet settings problem.  I can work around it by shrinking the fontsize to around 6 point using the ctl minus key.
Thanks. I'll let Super G. know and perhaps he can fix it.
I saw a political cartoon in our paper this morning that is apropos to this thread.

It shows the interior of a large vehicle identified as a Ford by the big logo on the steering wheel. It took me a few seconds to figure out what the punch line was,  but then I realized that the on the gearshift console each of the four positions of the shift lever are marked with an 'R' for Reverse. To me that about says it all about the future of the US auto industry.

In my environmental consulting work I've had a number of oppurtunities to deal with two of the Big Three auto companies. From that somewhat limited exposure my impression of each one was that of a plodding clumsy bureaucracy run on the principle of management through fear, the primary incentive being to not make waves and get somebody higher up mad at you. They both made the company Dilbert works for look absolutely progressive.

But you see, GM or Ford CAN'T buy Honda or Toyota.

A:  Honda or Toyota's management would absolutely refuse to sell.  These are two companies which have never have (and probably never will) play the Merger game that other makers have.  A Toyota or Honda manager just has to recite the long list of failures (Rover, Volvo, Jaguar, Saab) the short list of Ehh's (Chrysler) and only two success (Nissan, Mazda) to know that getting in bed with GM or Ford is bad news.

B:  GM and Ford can't afford it.  GM's market cap is $13B, Fords is $16B.  In comparison, Honda's is $52B and Toyota's is $167B.

C:  GM has also gone backwards!  My and my GF's 95 Saturn (The "Hamstermobile") still gets 30/40 mileage in practice.  The Cobalt only claims 25/34, and its literally the successor design 2 generations down the road.  Compare with Honda which gets the same power as the Cobalt and 30/40 EPA.

GM is doomed.  Read the The Truth About Cars for the entire GM Deathwatch story.

That's correct. I don't know about Honda, but Toyota has always been very brand-conscious, as opposed to the American companies which own everything.

Those market-cap numbers are absolutely astounding when you figure that GM is still a bigger company than Toyota.

Maybe I wasn't totally clear. I was trying to say that Toyota or Honda should takeover GM and turn them around. Not the other way around.
Yeah.  Kinda missed that.

But Toyota and Honda would never buy GM, EVER.  Toyota and Honda have, to the best of my knowledge, never bought out other car companies. Renault/Nissan might, but wouldn't want to be saddled with all the UAW obligations.

That's the problem. My greatest fear is a "Dead Man Walking" scenerio where GM goes bankrupt, renegotiates huge labor concessions, dumps its pension obligations, etc making it perversely more competitive on price and crowding out more efficient cars with lower initial price deals.

Bankrupcy should be bankrupcy for good, not a legal strategy corporations use to reneg on all their inconvenient contracts. Their assets should be sold off to the highest bidder. End of story.

For future reference: its "bankruptcy" with a "t" - sorry the English teacher overcame me
The grammar police are getting overly intrusive lately. This is blog not a scholarly journal. I don't feel like I should have to print out everything I write and proofread it. If you can't deal with a few errors in fast and casual dialogue, read books.
you forgot to put an "a" before "blog."
*Y*ou forgot to capitalize the first letter.

these are just typos, but I do admit that my blog-speak is not always grammatically correct.

if u cn rd dz, u do 2 much txt mssging
WTF, dude, don't evr talk about that F*** !?*#@ here again! That was going too far.
-> 1, lt TSHTF

(right on, let the you know what ...)


Alright, you got me.
Bankruptcy might make one of the US companies more competitive vs the other two, but this would not produce better cars... in fact, the difficulty to obtain financing might make it impossible to produce better cars. It is important to remember that all Japanese companies are here, making better cars with US workers.  There is nothing we need F, GM or Chrysler for. Their failure will vastly reduce the amount of resources thrown away in making products we would otherwise junk in a couple of years as oil pases 100/b.
I absolutely love GM's answer to consumer's clamor for better fuel economy.  
Rather than actually producing a smaller, lighter, more fuel efficient platform that someone would actually want to buy, they have resurrected a bad idea from the dark days of the 1980's -- "variable cylinder management", selectively de-activating some of the engine's cylinders -- and added it to the same old, tired, large and heavy platforms it has been selling for years (Tahoe, Silverado, Suburban, Trailblazer, etc).
The end result?
Three or four working cylinders trying to haul around the same massive, overweight V6 or V8 powered vehicles.
With three or four cylinders of dead iron under the hood, that only run part of the time, but have to be hauled around ALL of the time. Sheer stupidity.
Variable cylander management works.  Its not a HUGE win, but it is significant, and significant enough that Honda does it.  It takes the Odyssey from 19/25 to 20/28.

But its also a CHEAP win:  with VTEC valves on the Honda, its basically a third camlobe ("OFF") combined with active noise cancelling engine mounts and active noise cancelling stereo.  So the net cost to gain 3 MPG highway is low, even when doing it in a very Honda-refined way.

Thus Honda charges $2.3k more for the odyssey with the ACM, but that also includes leather interior, moonroof, and heated seats.  So given what one would pay for that, its about a $500-1000 additional cost.  Even WITHOUT ACM, having the noise cancelling engine mounts & stereo is a win.

The 4500 lb Odyssey is the dog (mileage-wise) in Honda's lineup, so I'm not surprised that they'd try VCM on it, especially given the VTEC valve arrangement. I am a mechanical engineer by trade, and am not sold on VCM being a success in any sense of the word.

The inherent problem is that it makes no fundamental engineering economy sense, as it is just wasted space and weight on underutilized displacement.
Instead of a heavy VCM 3.5L V6 with 20/28mpg that runs on 3 cylinders two thirds of the time (cruising and deceleration), and six cylinders 1/3 the time (acceleration), put in a lighter, more fuel efficent 2.0L 4 cylinder (with nearly as much horsepower, 244 to 197), and be done with the matter.  You cut vehicle mass, save cost, and eliminate underused components in the process.  
The vehicle's dynamic profile will change some (slightly poorer acceleration, for instance), but this is partially offset by a lighter (and smaller) drivetrain.

The problem is you can't get enough peak power out of the 4 banger to meet the market demand at full throttle.

And gasoline engines are VERY inefficient at partial throttle but rather efficient at full throttle.  Additionally, the drag from the piston is low (I learned to drive on a diesel, which doesn't have an air-restricting throttle).

So what ends up happening is 0-50% throttle you are running in 3-cylinder mode at a real 2x throttle opening, and 51-100% throttle you are running on all cylanders in all-cylander open mode.

And the Odyssey may be a dog by Honda standards, but it is pretty damn good for an 7-8 passanger vehicle with that much cargo room.

I read a bunch of this guy's editorials. Excellent stuff about Detroit and very funny. Thanks for that post.
We need some vision, not more tinkering.  The government must lead.  A Marshall Plan, a Manhatten Project.  Something that galvanizes the country.  

Merely leaving it to CEO's with who are more interesting in their own benefit packages and the immediate profit bottom line is absolutely foolish.  

Extreme privatization has failed, miserably.  Scandal-ridden--both in war-ravaged Iraq--and at home--K-Street, Abramoff, Enron, Katrina--it has become a giant slush fund for the well-connected.

There are some things good government should and must do.  Leading is one of them.  Good government is for the people and by the people.  Give us a Marshall Plan, give us a vision of what we can and must do.  Lead.  Direct the resources and power of this country.  

Government cannot hand off its responsibilities to private enterprise.  It simply cannot.

I bought an electric motor for my bike from Wilderness Energy. Check it out at wildernessenergy.com.

Twenty miles at twenty plus miles an hour. I skip by all the maroons in their bloatmobiles waiting at lights and actually have improved my commute by ten minutes on average. Seven cents to recharge. Let's see, that is about 1000 miles to the gallon. Not bad. The best part is using company power to recharge, not that it rips them off enough to cause budget problems.

On rainy days, I drive the Prius.

The total outfit cost me about 1100$. No insurance, no gasoline, no roadside pollution. If I can get that solar-powered trickle charger, I'll be set. And, of course, I can always pedal.

Imagine if we all bought bikes with electric motors. Traffic congestion virtually gone. Pollution down in the cities. Road maintenance costs drop by a factor of ten or more. Healthier people. Fewer life threatening accidents, which means less strain on our disfunctional health care system. Less noise. Less stink. More smiles.

I have a dream and it does NOT involve enrichment of the trolley system destroying weasels at GM.

Glad to see you thinking a bit more positively now, Cherenkov.
And great idea, putting your money where it will matter, and possibly make a difference, at least in how you live.
I should do likewise.

On an off topic note, but along these lines, can anyone recommend a good inexpensive non-folding bicycle? Preferably one with storage baskets, or the capacity to add them later.
No recumbants, please, I never could get used to them.

I think I missed the other thread, but I hear that it was quite pessimistic.  I get that way sometimes, and let me tell you why:

I walk on some errands, ride my bike for others, and (also) drive a Prius for longer juants.  I probably don't do as well as Cherenkov, but I sometimes manage to leave the Prius idle for a few days.

The thing that gets me (sometimes, not this morning for some reason) is that as I walk to the market or the video store ... I will not see one other person walking ... but SUVs and jacked up 4x4s will buzz by me one after the other ... bzzz ... bzzz ... bzzz ...

At those times it feels like I'm doing my part, but the world is still on another path - mass consumption.

(posting from Orange County, California)

Odo, I know the feeling all too well. Keep up the good spirits and know that there are others cheering you on, even if they are far away. We do the same things where we live, even if the rest of the world is on another path.
Thanks, and since they are listing bikes down below, I'll mention that my Biachi Volpe is relatively inexpensive for a steel touring bike:


I've mentioned it before, but since we're doing bikes again ... the Tubus racks are supposed to take 80lbs, which is a lot of groceries.

Oh, I see now that we are looking for truly inexpensive ... I'd say watch craigslist for a either a real touring bike or a name brand mountain bike that one of us knuckleheads paid full price for ;-).  Just get your size figured out and keep watch until the right combination of bike and size appears.
Prior to Katrina I burned about 6 gallons of diesel per month in my 1982 M-B 240D (manual tranny).  I had 5 places to buy food within 6 blocks, my tailor & insurance agent 4 blocks away, banks, etc.  An easy streetcar ride to the CBD & French Qtr. or Uptown to Tulane, Loyola, the zoo, etc.  With the new Canal streetcar line, I could go to JazzFest, MidCity, etc.

I used my car 2 to 4 times each week.

Now, I burn much more.  One of many losses.

New Orleans was one of the best, if not the best, examples of "Old Urbanism".

Its amazing how comfortable recumbants are, and how much better you see.
There are a bunch of decent bicycles out there for errands and general commuting duty. You might look into the Surly Long Haul Trucker, a modern touring frame that can manage plenty of racking. You need a good bike shop though to help you spec' components.


Or... this company that has a nice line of ready-to-go commuters and good basket options. I like their folders too. Light and fast.



An example of a coming cycling trend. Internal hub gearing. You may also want to investigate a hub dynamo electric system when you get your options narrowed down...


Don't know if this fits your definition of cheap...


However bikes are a product that you definitely get what you pay for.

I have a 2003 model. I commute 4 miles every day on it. I love it, best $800 I ever spent. Mine doesn't have the disc brake in front. Sprung seat and suspension stem are great for commuting, and allow racks to be added easily. Note that my experience with REI bikes shops is that the staff  are pretty clueless, but the bike is great.

Thank you for the bicycle suggestions. Time to start doing some research and pricing.
I know nothing of bikes sorry to say, and have not owned one since the old reliable Huffy 10-speed I had as a teenager. But I used to love to ride, wore the several sets of tires out on it.  Good exercise, even if you did (do?) take your life in your own hands doing it.
No offense to anyone concerned about bike prices but ... you can buy a darned good bike for the average MONTHLY cost of owning a car.  

But I don't like spending $ any more than anyone else so when my commuter quit last fall, I just asked around the office.  After one day, I found 3 people who had practically new bikes sitting in their garages collecting dust, who were offering to sell them for pennies on the dollar.  

How about a bike that can carry about as much as you could possibly want to, and can safely carry a passenger, and can be fitted with a great power-assist?

Check out:  http://xtracycle.com/

Best part is that you can easily convert most 26" bikes (old or new, plain or fancy) with it.

The electric power-assist kit is here:

These type bikes could replace a lot of local trips to pick up Junior from school or go grab a bag of groceries, even if you aren't Lance Armstrong.

Greg in MO

PS: speaking of changing transortation, check this out:
Transport experts have seen the future, and it's got pedals
Published on 27 Jan 2006 by The Times (UK)

Which kit did you purchase?


"....Ford also has seen its U.S. market share slide as a result of increasing competition from foreign rivals.

The company suffered its 10th straight year of market share losses in the United States in 2005, and for the first time in 19 years, Ford lost its crown as America's best-selling brand to GM's Chevrolet.

Ford sold about 2.9 million vehicles for a market share of 17.4 percent in 2005, down from 18.3 percent the year before and 24 percent in 1990.

The restructuring is Ford's second in four years. Under the previous plan, Ford closed five plants and cut 35,000 jobs, but its North American operations failed to turn around.

Ford used just 79 percent of its North American plant capacity in 2005, down from 86 percent in 2004, according to preliminary numbers released last week by Harbour Consulting Inc., a firm that measures plant productivity.

By contrast, rival Toyota Motor Corp. was operating at full capacity."

Excerpt from http://www.cnn.com/2006/US/01/23/ford.restructuring.ap/index.html

From Time's Cartoons of the Week:

Of course the Big 3 deserve no sympathy. The relevant question is, do we care about having a domestic and domestically owned auto industry. I think it is self evident that we should. Certainly China and Japan and Korea, care about this and have done effective things about it.

The next question is, how do we go about getting there. That's the harder one. Should we have a government funded company bring Lovins's designs into production? Or something else?

I don't know how it should be done. I am frustrated as anyone about Detroit being brain-dead.

In the ideal world of classical economics Bush shouldn't have to care what our carmakers do. In the real world, unfortunately, he needs to care. If he really cares about America's strength, that is.

I thought cell phones and drivers were a bad mix, now computers?
Can't anyone multi task anymore?

Ford just won't quit

I love how you people judge GM and Ford harshly while giving Toyota, Honda, and Nissan a free pass.

Toyota gets a free pass because of the Prius.  Meanwhile, they continue to crank out the Tundra, Sequoia (how's that name for irony), Land Cruiser, GX470, and LX470, all gas-guzzling SUV's and pickups.  They're enhancing their "green" image (not) by going Nextel Cup racing next year.  Not to mention the new Truck plant in Texas, where they can crank out even more of the new, bigger, more gas-guzzling Tundra.

Honda is so concerened with fuel economy that they introduced the Honda Ridgeline, which can barely manage 20 mpg.

Not to mention the Nissan Armada and Titan.

Why, you ask?  Because that's what sells.  The vaunted Japanese recognize this and are simply reacting to market demand.  

Meanwhile, the General refines their large SUV for better fuel economy.  They introduce the Saturn Vue Green Line, the first of a line of low-cost hybrid models.  They introduce DOD on the new Impala, improving the highway MPG significantly.  They introduce a serious small car in the Coblat.  All GM models, save the $100,000 XLR-V fall beneath the threshold of the gas-guzzler tax by corporate edict (not so for the Chrysler SRT and some Hemi models).  Their new crossovers will match or exceed Toyota for features and fuel economy.

Here's a cut and paste from GM, some marketing speak, but interesting nonetheless:


"Last week, someone posted: "In view of rising gas prices, when is GM going to get off the gas guzzler wagon and start building, promoting, and selling more fuel efficient vehicles?

Let's explode that myth with some facts.

GM leads the auto industry in providing the broadest array of fuel-efficient cars, trucks, SUVs and vans -- according to 2005 data from the Environmental Protection Agency. GM makes 19 models that get 30 mpg or better on the highway, more than any other automaker. Volkswagen and DaimlerChrysler are next with 14 and 13 models, respectively.

Using 2005 EPA data, for trucks there are 69 unique model/powertrain combinations where the top six manufacturers compete. As a full line manufacturer, GM offers 66 of those combinations and is the fuel economy leader in 41 of them. The second place manufacturer has only nine fuel economy "wins." On a percentage basis, GM wins 62 percent of these head-to-head comparisons (41 of 66) while the second place finisher wins 40 percent (6 of 15).

Using 2005 EPA data, for cars there are 82 unique model/powertrain combinations where the top six manufacturers compete. GM offers 53 of those combinations and is the fuel economy leader in 28 of them. The second place manufacturer has only 18 fuel economy "wins." On a percentage basis, GM wins 53 percent of these head-to-head comparisons (28 of 53) while the second place finisher wins 45 percent (9 of 20).

Using 2005 EPA data across Ward's Automotive segmentation, GM is the city fuel economy leader in 7 of 25 segments and the highway fuel economy leader in 8 of 25 segments.

What's the bottom line? For a given segment of the market, it's likely that GM sells the most fuel-efficient model available."

Ford introduces the hybrid Escape, which, contrary to popular belief, does NOT contain the Toyota hybrid technology.  The system that they developed was close enough in some ways to the Toyota Synergy Drive system that they entered into a licensing agreement, rather than face a legal challenge.  However, this translated into "Toyota hybrid system" in the popular, anti-US car press.  

GM and Ford are building high-quality cars.  I'd venture to guess that those saying that they should build "more desirable" cars (including President Bush) haven't set foot in a dealership in 10 years.

That's a pretty good attempt at defending Ford and GM ... but unfortunately it doesn't put any of their cars above 40 mpg in the real world ;-).  Sure, the Japanese sell some gas hogs, but it's the opportunity to buy those 40+ mpg cars from them (and VW) that earns them fuel consumption accolades.

A handy table of real-world mileages:


The Escape is right there (it's actually doing pretty well for a small SUV) ... and when that Saturn hybrid comes out I'm sure it will be there too.  Too bad Ford and GM can't play in the Civic Hybrid and Prius slot though ...

And of course, we're back to the meat-and-potatoes issue, that Ford and GM are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy because they have not made smart business decisions, by and large.
"You'd venture a guess."

And you would be wrong. Nice Try.

Nobody is giving Toyota a free pass. This community is as critical as they come. The Bottom Line is Ford and GM are losers. They're management has been full of BS for years. They have betrayed the country and more importantly their employees. That is "treason" for short.

Toyota is a foreign company. It(presently)is a success. It does more for the economy, the populace, the consumer, the world, and (US) employees than GM and Ford combined.

Wagoner should be right next to Skilling and Lay.