Friday, May 29, 2009
Try This On For Size?
Today I am going to talk about something I know very little about, the auto industry. I figure that so many people on TV talk about things they know little about, why not me too.
GM and Chrysler and their bankruptcy is in the news this week, but I can not help myself from taking a more historical perspective of this whole problem of the American auto makers.
Coming out of the Second World War, the United States participated in the United Nations and came up with the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe. The Cold War with the Soviets was underway, and the United States was locked in a struggle for the hearts and minds of Europe and Asia. By 1949, China was lost to the Communist block and the chess game was set for the next several years. How many more pieces from the board were we going to lose? Certainly without the Marshall Plan to help rebuild Europe, there is no sure bet that capitalism would have won out over an even bigger socialism. Would the rest of Europe go Communist as well?
It was our foreign policy of Containment of Communism, to see to it that democracy and capitalism won out in Europe as Eastern Europe had already been lost, that drove our commitment to Western Europe and Japan.
Against this back drop comes the American auto industry and the economic playing field that would emerge over the second half of the 20th century. It is my opinion that foreign auto makers had an economic advantage over the American auto manufacturers and that this advantage got bigger and bigger with each decade. The trade policies with regards to those countries that were selling their cars in the United States were hardly a level playing field for a variety of reasons. Could we even sell our American made cars in their countries?
Books can be written and will be written about the American auto industry from the historical perspective, but I am not the person to do it. All I know about cars is how to drive them and how to fill the tank with gas. Yes, I also know how to put in the oil, but beyond that I have no interest. Cars, for me, are a means of transportation, and in my mind, a perfect world, would have trains running everywhere.