POINTS THAT DIDN’T QUITE MAKE THE MAIN COLUMN:
* This column has been harping on the themes that electric cars are heavily subsidized and that average people are being taxed to support battery-powered luxo cruisers that will be marketed to the well-to-do. Since my latest table-thumping on same, the press has noticed this issue – must have been on the agenda at the latest Media Conspiracy meeting. (Knock three times, the password is “swordfish.”) See here and here and here. But where’s the populist outrage against taxpayers being compelled to subsidize electric playthings for the rich?
* General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner, ousted during the 2009 restructuring, received $11 million in taxpayer money as a severance bonus: had the company dissolved, he would have received nothing. Wagoner did one of the worst jobs in management history – General Motors lost about $65 billion in his final three years. Wagoner invested billions in one of the worst ideas in corporate history, the Hummer brand: a ridiculous rolling gimmick that had no long-term sales prospects even if gasoline was free. (The last Hummer was built in May, and good riddance.) For a spectacularly poor job, Wagoner was handed $11 million forcibly extracted from the pockets of taxpayers whose median family income is around $53,000. Why did the Obama White House approve this obscene tax-funded reward for failure? Why was there no populist outrage?
* Blame some of the near-collapse of Detroit on auto reviewers.
Traditionally, they swoon for high-horsepower, low-mileage cars that offer acceleration and top speed that is irrelevant – or even dangerous – in real-world driving. Because auto reviewers fixated on speed, carmaker executives paid too much attention to horsepower, not enough to manufacturing quality, MPG and safety. The excellent 2002 book High and Mighty by Keith Bradsher not only offers what reads, in retrospect, as a prescient warning of Big Three arrogance and slipshod management. The book also contains a hysterical description of an auto-reviewers’ junket during which Big Three publicists lavished favors on reviewers who, wagging their tails like lap dogs, later wrote press-release-like “stories” exalting the huge engines of the most wasteful new models.