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.