Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Big 3 (Auto) Mobility?

Andrew Sullivan has a question raised on his site at the Atlantic; should we just let the big 3 American automanufacturers die on the vine?

My brief letter to him that I composed while getting ready for work:
While I agreed with your inital assessment regarding the big 3 automakers, here is why we can't simply let them die, NOR just give them a check. First, the obvious one, is the jobs issue and some of your readers are right, we can't let them just die off and be reborn another way? Why because it will be too painful and too long of a transition.

BUT, we can't let them stay their course as they seem to be implying. Give them $25 billion, buy up all the cars in a market where there is no demand. The issue is that they are not being adaptive enough to the market. Governments role when markets fail is to guide them toward the future.

If we're going to give them taxpayer dollars, our ultimate representative (President Obama) will have to make some demands for that money. Our country has managed to essentially ruin all of our cities with the transportation decisions over the last 60 years. We need a complete overhaul and we can begin by renaming the "auto industry" into the "mobility industry."

If I'm President Obama, I say to them "if I'm going to give you that much money, I want to purchase something I can use with it, a product that makes the employees proud and helps our nation rebuild its substandard infrastructure." These factories (as WW2 showed) are the only that can scale up to the level of service we need to provide high speed trains that connect our cities, commuter rail that connects our megalopoli, light rail for our cities, and modern streetcars for our inner cities.

We will be heading in this direction anyway (as rail is the most efficient form of transit - and the most spatially responsible with the most positive effects on real estate and land use) so why not buy these products from US manufacturers rather than France, Japan, Germany, or Sweden?