Julia Hailes MBE

Sustainability Pioneer


Good riddance to US car companies (Nov08)

I sat next to a chap from Citicorp Bank for Sunday lunch at a pub last weekend. His company was apparently waiting to hear about the $20 billion cash injection from the US government. But he was more struck by the news about America’s car giants and their approach to getting a government bail out.

I could hardly believe my ears. With no shortage of regular flights available, all three CEOs – from Ford, Chrysler and General Motors – chose to fly to Washington in their own company private jet. My banker friend said that news of this profligacy flew around the City – the sheer crassness shocking even high earners.

Apart from the cost of three separate jets at an estimated $20,000 a piece, what about the environmental impact? At the very least, these corporate gluttons could have shared a private jet between them.

To me it was symbolic of the American car industry’s whole approach to fuel efficiency. They don’t understand it. If every car in America averaged 45mpg, apparently they wouldn’t need to import any oil. It’s currently 25mpg, which is even less than in China. And Americans travel further than the rest of us too – and own more cars.

With less than 5% of the world’s population, Americans own about a third of all cars. I don’t want to prop up their car industry – let them go. How are we ever going to reduce greenhouse gas emissions when the whole world is focused on maintaining current consumption habits at the same level as they are today?

Selling less cars, driving less miles and making cars more fuel efficient will all reduce global warming impact. Let’s spend the money on better public transport, re-designing cities and tele-commuting.

So I say ‘good riddance’ to Ford, Chrysler and GM – and let’s get rid of their bosses while we’re at it….

Comment Section

0 Responses

  1. Interesting post. Do you realize the economic implications of bidding “Good riddance to U.S. car companies?” How about the loss of 3 million jobs? Or the cost to local, state, and federal governments reaching $156.4 billion over three years in lost taxes, and unemployment and health care assistance?

    I know it’s easy to make us a scapegoat, but please don’t forget about the human side of this. Surely you don’t advocate for people losing their jobs.

  2. With plants in North America, China, Europe, India and other locations including Russia, the Middle East and South East Asia Hyundai-Kia have climbed into the top ranks of the world’s biggest car companies in less than 50 years. Both companies began making automobiles in the 1960s and didn’t start exporting their products until the 1980s.
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  3. Julia,

    I doubt if you are even in a small way propping up their car industry. But if a bailout elicited a similar response as yours from US taxpayers, perhaps that would be a powerful way of catalysing a faster change in American car buying and usage behaviour, without which the fundamental problem of fuel-hungry cars which you put your finger on will persist? What would be even more powerful is if they were to use the bailout to impose conditions on a transition to lower emission vehicles but my guess is that powerful oil company interests will strongly oppose (but more chance now than under the Bush regime). I agree with your other comments by the way.

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