I suppose I have to admit when I first heard reports that General Motors and Ford in the US were close to bankruptcy I was a little surprised. Not surprised that such high profile examples of the US capitalist dream had gone radically sour, but surprised that the management of these corporations didn’t seem to have seen this coming.
Back in the 70s (yes, thirty three years ago!) when the world experienced its first ‘oil shock’, great gains were made towards more efficient vehicles, but once cars reached the goals set by legislation, the manufacturers stopped trying. Instead of continuing to create more efficient cars, gains in technology went towards speed and features.
In the past 10 or so years, the writing on the wall has been getting larger and larger. People still need cars, they still want to buy them, but they’re less and less interested in the stuff being offered by the big manufacturers.
It’s another non-surprise, because I think we’re at a time where the running costs are a greater proportion of the total cost of ownership than they have been at any time in the history of the car. No small consideration when you’re buying a car.
So, should governments be ‘bailing out’ the car makers in these straitened times? Maybe, maybe not, but if they do (and it seems they are), it should be to turn the antiquated concept of the car around and mould it into something appropriate to the next era. Not more of the same thanks.