Apparently not. Edmunds.com reports that in 2008, sales of fuel-efficient hybrids dropped 10.3 percent. Small cars are languishing on dealer lots, The Wall Street Journal notes. That’s astounding, since throughout 2008 the price of gasoline reached levels most Americans had never dreamed it could. Yet as soon as gas prices tumbled, so did hybrid sales.
Meanwhile, in November GM had workers at its auto plant in Texas -- the only one where its big SUVs are made -- working overtime to produce the vehicles that people were actually buying. Half the cars sold in the U.S. in December were SUVs.
Consumers are fickle. They haven’t wanted enough of the cars GM has made in recent years, so the company’s market share has eroded. There’s no reason to expect Americans will be eager to buy the cars a government committee orders it to build.
Quite the contrary, in fact. One of GM’s problems has been that it can’t change its product line as quickly as its competitors can. Honda, for example, runs a plant that can switch from making compacts to crossover SUVs in an afternoon. It takes GM and Ford months to switch over a line, and costs hundreds of millions of dollars. If GM’s problem today is that it’s inefficient, wait until layers of federal bureaucracy are added to the company’s management structure.
It’s ironic that President Obama is now hinting that GM and Chrysler could end up in bankruptcy court. After all, that’s the very solution some of us suggested even before the government poured billions of tax dollars into the companies.
Americans don’t need government in the business of building cars, or telling us what type of cars we can buy. GM and Chrysler should go into bankruptcy, reorganize and return as smaller but healthier organizations -- and do so without any additional taxpayer dollars. The bureaucrats in Washington have plenty of other things to do, don’t they?