Open Letter to U.S. Auto Makers
by David Karlsruher
Posted on November 20, 2008
Dear Car Guys,
It was a good run while it lasted, boys. Now it's time to face the music. You've got to make a change whether you want to admit it or not.
You guys have a lot to be proud of and only few things for which the American public is expecting an apology. The '70s were really your dark time. In that decade Chevy made a 150 horsepower Corvette that was slower than a rickshaw carrying an elephant. Ford came out with something called a Mustang II, which nearly doomed the fabled line for ever. And Chrysler… redefined big and ugly, at least until Rosanne Barr came along.
You survived that era because the Japanese cars hadn't established themselves as the cheap and reliable staples in the market that they are now. The German-made cars weren't much of a threat to you back then either. We simply didn't have that many pricks here in the states to support that market. Of course, that's all changed since the dot-com boom and real estate speculation explosion in the last 10 to 15 years – now we've got more pricks than Germany can ship cars.
I guess what I'm getting at here, boys, is that we all changed and you didn't. Now you're on the edge of losing it all and you want some money to keep the dream alive. I hate to break it to you, but things change. The Dodgers now play in L.A. and the Yankees no longer take batting practice in the house Ruth built. America has proven it can move on.
I, like many others, have a problem handing you $25 billion dollars to keep doing the same unsuccessful thing you are doing. Part of this whole credit crunch we're in is the fact that we loaned money to people who had poor strategies to pay it back. If we hand you this $25 billion today, are you going to need another few billion next year if your business model is still unsuccessful?
I hate to be the first one to tell you this, but you're doing something very wrong. Do you know how I figured that out? Well, you're in the business of making money and you aren't making any. At what point were you planning on rectifying that little hitch in your plan?
I hate to pry into your business here, but your relationship with the unions is one of the reasons you're in the position you are. Your poor negotiating skills put you in a world of hurt. It costs you way too much to build a car. You're paying nearly as many people not to work (retirement) as you are paying to work. I didn't get a master's in business or anything like that, but I'm pretty sure a company is likely to do better when the majority of the people they are paying are actually working. Maybe I'm wrong.
That's not the only thing you need to change, but it's a start. I've decided that I want to give you the money, but I want you to change some things. Here's my list of things you must agree to before I call my buddy Henry (you know, Paulson, the Treasury Secretary) and ask him for that favor he owes me.
1. You've got people turning lug nuts for $18 an hour on the assembly line. I've got a whole army of people down here in El Paso that'll do it for $10 and they'll be the happiest workers you ever met in your life.
2. Tell Chrysler to stick to what it knows best -- Dodge Trucks, Jeeps and Minivans. Their cars are awful. It's well known that two things keep you from getting laid in America, bad breath and a Chrysler Sebring.
3. Stop with the commercials. You'll save millions of dollars on advertising if you just let your vehicles do the talking. I don't need to see another Chevy truck bouncing through the mud with an impossibly heavy steel beam in the bed of the truck. Tell Bob Seger I'm sorry, but he'll have to find another gig.
4. Build an extremely fast car that is dirt cheap. No amenities needed. No radio, no power windows or seats. Make the car the same price as a crotch rocket and every GI in America will buy one. Bonus points if you make the exhaust obnoxiously loud.
5. Dedicate one subcompany like Buick to making cars for old people. Also, realize that Cadillacs are only purchased by Rappers and Hip Hop artists and get over it. Stop trying to sell them to white guys who play golf every day.
6. Know your demographics and how much disposable income they have. Your average hippie has already dropped $3,000 on a mountain bike. They can't afford a $40,000 hybrid to complete their Earth-loving image. Give them a $15,000 hybrid car and for God's sakes make bike racks standard on them. I'm tired of my nature-loving neighbors asking my redneck ass to install their bike racks.
7. Beat the foreigner's warranties. Your three year/30,000 mile warranties are laughable compared to the Honda folks. They agree to service your car for free until you die. If something breaks -- they fix it for the first five zillion miles.
8. Build a better vehicle – period. No more recalls of any kind. The AP could start a wire dedicated to just your notices.
9. Stop flying around on private jets. Especially when begging for money from the American people. Take a drive in Downtown Detroit to see some of your former employees – they aren't wearing tuxes out to clean your windshield with a dirty rag, are they?
10. You've got too many dealers out there ordering too many cars and trucks they'll never sell. Every rancher with land abutting a highway has a Chevy dealership in Texas. Your demand for dealerships far outpaced your demand for your cars. Maybe you should have been in the dealership business and not the car business.
11. If you come to the conclusion that the unions are the reason you're in this mess, get rid of them. Just don't count on them running out to buy a new Ford truck each year like they used to.
12. If you're going to stick with the unions go buy them a million copies of the movie "Gung Ho." It's a great example of what a little xenophobia can do for the American worker. And there's no doubt that Michael Keaton could use the royalty checks too.
Once you get all these items worked out, we will be ready to start handing out cash, boys.
Changing your habits will be hard, but necessary. We can't go on just pretending that you're doing things right and that all this has been bad luck. We also can't bring Lee Iacocca out of retirement either – he's 150. You either do things my way, or it's the highway (pun intended).
Good luck to each of you and if I see one Super Bowl ad this year, the deal is off!
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