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Solar Company Offers to Buy a Piece of GM

Jeff Siegel | Thursday November 20th, 2008 | 2 Comments

rusty-car.jpg You know times have changed when a German solar energy company is offering to throw General Motors a bone and shell out $1.26 billion for one of its subsidiaries.
German solar powerhouse, SolarWorld issued a press release yesterday, stating that the company plans to bid on four German production facilities and Opel’s Ruesselsheim development center and headquarters. (Opel is a German automaker that was acquired by GM in 1929, and continues to operate as a subsidiary) The company wants to make this Europe’s first true “green” auto company. Here’s what SolarWorld representatives had to say about their plans:

“With the restructuring of the product pallet, the traditional German auto builder would offer in future especially electric and hybrid automobiles and the newest technology combining extended-range electric and combustion motors highly efficiently.”


Had GM just gone this route a decade ago, the company would likely be able weather today’s market meltdown. Even with all those costs attributed to higher wages (in comparison to their Japanese counterparts) and bloated benefits packages the company had to contend with, they still would’ve had cars to sell – instead of trucks and SUVs sitting on dealership lots, collecting dust.
But instead, the overpaid suits in Detroit sat in their boardrooms, forcing gas guzzlers down our throats, refusing to offer vehicles with better fuel economy. And now they have the stones to ask the taxpayers to shell out $25 billion so they don’t go under.
If we truly believe that a free market should dictate winners and losers, than clearly, letting them fail should only be seen as nothing more than survival of the fittest. However, if the US automakers do fail, then we’re looking at massive economic devastation, and the loss of roughly 1.4 million jobs. With unemployment already at 6.5 percent, this doesn’t help matters.
Either choice is a tough pill to swallow. And I certainly don’t have the answer. But if Congress does decide to throw Detroit a lifeline, let’s hope our elected officials have the good sense to attach some teeth to the deal. In fact, if they hand over that money, at least two conditions should absolutely be met:
1.)The automakers have three years to retool their facilities to produce nothing but fuel efficient vehicles with a minimum fuel economy requirement of 60 miles per gallon. Don’t care how they do it. Whether its hybrid, plug-in hybrids, lightweight materials, better aerodynamics, etc. – not a single vehicle coming out of those factories should be inefficient. And no exceptions either. If your SUV can’t deliver it, then you can’t sell it. I guarantee you, the market will find a contender that’ll deliver that kind of fuel economy if they can’t. Don’t kid yourself on that one. That’s the beauty of competition. It forces progress.
2.)Every single penny of that $25 billion is paid back to the tax payer.
When I threw this idea out to my colleagues, they laughed at the 60 mpg minimum. But this is not a laughing matter, and 60 mpg is not out of the question. Not when we’re already seeing small start-ups pumping out all-electric sport utility trucks and sports cars delivering between 100 to 230 miles on one electric charge. Not when high school students at the 2008 Eco-marathon build a vehicle that can get 2,843 mpg. Yes, you read that correctly – 2,843 mpg. And definitely not when we continue to send billions overseas to continue our dangerous reliance on oil.
Listen, there can be no more excuses. These automakers need to get their acts together now. Enough with the lobbying efforts, enough with the complacency, enough with the handouts!
And by the way, since we’ll require the US automakers to produce nothing but 60 mpg vehicles, we should make this a mandatory requirement for all automakers. You want to do business in this country? Fine. Do it by our rules. They’ll have no choice. Without the US hardly any of these automakers could survive. It’s time we start making demands instead of excuses.


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  • j19756

    “But instead, the overpaid suits in Detroit sat in their boardrooms, forcing gas guzzlers down our throats, refusing to offer vehicles with better fuel economy.”
    -This is a ridiculous statement. No one forced anything down the American consumer’s throats. Where are these consumer’s who had these vehicles forced down their throats, I am curious? Please show me 1 who was taken to a dealership and forced to buy a vehicle. American consumer’s gladly purchased SUVs and large pick-ups when gas was cheap. What you and every other blogger fail to realize is the complexities involved in producing a vehicle en masse that is reliable. I applaud these small start-ups and ambitious students that produce these vehicles, but will these cars last 100,000 or 200,000 miles with no reliability issues-doubt it.
    Ridiculous statement number 2
    “not a single vehicle coming out of those factories should be inefficient.”
    A 2,000 pound vehicle that achieves any MPG above 20 MPG I would say is a highly efficient machine. So what is it that you want? Do you want to pay less at the pump or save the environment? If you want to pay less at the pump, the US sits ont he largest oil deposit outside of Saudi Arabia and some estimates say it exceeds the reserves found in Saudi Arabia. This being the shale oil deposits. Now if you want to save the environement, I suspect that you should look at the evidence we have for global warming. The Mann hockeystick is clearly a fraud that has been pepetrated against the world. It is a maipulation of data that paints a picture the “scientist” (I use this term lightly) wanted. The interesting thing about average temperature is that it really never sits at the average, it undulates above and below mean. Occassionally it sits at the average but not for very long. Mann used a data set and weighted it to achieve his desired results. When that data is removed all of a sudden we see the truth. The warming currently going on is dwarfed by the middle agges warming period. If you want to address polution, coal polution would be where I would put my efforts. BTW-and before you go crazy on me, no one has been able to reproduce his results and he will not supply the algorithm he used.
    I am not in favor of a bailout, I believe the all knowing government (sarcasm) has put in place a “bailout” called bankruptcy. The problems with the big 3 are:
    - They continue to support brands and a dealer network that is unsustainable.
    - They are burdened with UAW contracts that are unsustainable. I know they agreed to these contracts but the union can and has brought them to the brink of disaster before through strikes; offering them with no real alternative but to sign.
    A bailout does not address these issues, it merely prolongs the inevitable. Bankruptcy on the other hand does.

  • Jeff

    Thanks so much for your comments. It’s always great to hear what people think.
    I would like to respond to your first comment in two parts:
    RE: “But instead, the overpaid suits in Detroit sat in their boardrooms, forcing gas guzzlers down our throats, refusing to offer vehicles with better fuel economy.”
    -This is a ridiculous statement. No one forced anything down the American consumer’s throats. Where are these consumer’s who had these vehicles forced down their throats, I am curious? Please show me 1 who was taken to a dealership and forced to buy a vehicle. American consumer’s gladly purchased SUVs and large pick-ups when gas was cheap.
    True, no one was forced to buy a vehicle. But certainly you know that’s not what I meant. If not, let me clear that statement up. My point was, Detroit did not deliver a truly fuel efficient vehicle that so many consumers wanted. And if you want proof of that demand, look to Toyota’s success with the Prius. No one forced anyone to buy an SUV. But they certainly made it perfectly clear that if we wanted to buy an American car, it would have to be one that was not very fuel efficient.
    RE: What you and every other blogger fail to realize is the complexities involved in producing a vehicle en masse that is reliable. I applaud these small start-ups and ambitious students that produce these vehicles, but will these cars last 100,000 or 200,000 miles with no reliability issues-doubt it.
    I suspect the reliability issues would be no different than the reliability issues of any new vehicle. And if we were to disregard new vehicles that came on the market because of “potential” reliability issues, then we’d still be driving Model Ts.
    RE: “not a single vehicle coming out of those factories should be inefficient.”
    A 2,000 pound vehicle that achieves any MPG above 20 MPG I would say is a highly efficient machine.
    20 MPG is NOT a highly efficient machine these days. Especially when you look at all the other vehicles out there that are getting 40, 50, 80 mpg. It’s not as if we don’t have accurate comparisons. You just choose not to look at those. And Detroit can do better. In fact, American manufactured vehicles in Europe already get 60+ mpg while the same models here get under 35.
    RE: If you want to pay less at the pump, the US sits ont he largest oil deposit outside of Saudi Arabia and some estimates say it exceeds the reserves found in Saudi Arabia. This being the shale oil deposits.
    Ah yes, the tar sands scam. Actually, there’s quite a bit of sands development in Canada right now. Specifically in Alberta, where, at current levels of production, those operations consume about 4% of Canada’s natural gas supply. My friend, you’re forgetting the massive energy inputs. It’s a net energy loser when you add that to the equation. And don’t forget the water issues. Tar sand operations use roughly two to four barrels of water to extract one barrel of oil. At the Alberta operation, the projected tar sands expansion could actually kill the Athabasca River…which is the only abundant source of water in this area. Is oil more important than water? So I’m not too excited about similar operations here in the U.S.
    RE: Your comments on global warming.
    Sorry, but I no longer debate that one. The majority of reputable scientists have spoken. The few coming out of the halls of the Heritage Foundation and ExxonMobil have zero credibility. And for those of you reading this who have chosen not to put your head in the sand when it comes to global warming, greenhouse gas emissions from tar sands production are three times those of conventional oil and gas production.
    Thanks again for your comments. Despite the fact that I think you’re way off base here, I certainly appreciate you taking the time to voice your opinion.
    Jeff