Monday, November 17, 2008

Please do your homework, Mr. Friedman

Dear Mr. Friedman,

First of all, I'm from Flint, Michigan, and like so many others from Flint, I come from a GM family. My Grandma worked there, my Dad worked there, most of my friends' parents have worked or work there, and I've worked there too. So though I won't claim that I have an unbiased opinion, I will point out that I'll be the first one to talk intelligently about the domestic auto industry's problems and I try to avoid defending the Big Three if they don't deserve it. They're far from innocent. I will, however, defend Detroit when the industry is written off as "un-inovative" and a column suggests that its far behind/more guilty than any of its foreign rivals.

In your most recent column, "How to Fix a Flat," you suggested that the most recent $25 billion in loan guarantees to the domestic auto industry was a U.S. taxpayer bribe to innovate. In fact, in 2007 GM spent only slightly less than Toyota on research and development and was the second highest spender in the world (Ford was 6th). As a percentage of sales, GM and Ford both outspent Toyota, and since 2006 GM has increased its research and development budget by almost 23%.

I think we can agree that the most radical innovations in the car industry over the past several years have been the emergence of hybrid engines and the improvements in fuel efficiency. Therefore, I'd like to point out that though Detroit came to the hybrid game a little late, GM and Ford now offer more hybrid models than Honda or Nissan and will have more hitting dealers in 2009. GM also offers more models that have 30mpg or better than any other car company. The $25 billion in loan guarantees aren't bribes, but rather money that will be invested in companies that lead the world in innovation and in many cases are leading foreign rivals in new technologies.

And please, Mr. Friedman, spare me the easy to find headlines that make the foreign companies look like the only ones currently investing in new plants fitted to meet the growing demand of fuel efficient models. A few weeks before your headline ran in, a similar one ran on "GM to invest $370 mln to build new engine plant." This larger investment than the Honda investment you touted will help GM offer a four cylinder engine in a third of its models and is in line with the drastic measures GM has taken to realign its product lineup.

Now that I have that off my chest, I'd like to remind you that you conveniently forgot to mention the foreign car companies that were every bit as guilty in blocking efforts to raise fuel economy standards. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers was a major player in lobbying efforts and includes, Toyota, BMW, and Mercedes Benz. These are the same companies that have all recently invested heavily in large pickups and SUVs, although GM, Ford, and Chrysler all offer a full-size pickup with better fuel economy than Toyota's equivalent.

Lastly, I hope we keep Silicon Valley away from Detroit. Detroit has major problems that aren't being addressed quickly enough, but the current crisis is largely due to the global economic slowdown and the freezing up of credit. The current crisis and the ongoing problems won't be solved by Steve Jobs. Silicon Valley can build a cool iPod, but it's apparently not that good at building cars.

David Anderson

Sunday, November 09, 2008


I finished the Peace Corps on July 8. Tomorrow, November 10, is my first day of work. That means I've spent a third of the year, unemployed/traveling/hanging out/enjoying no responsibilities. I'm excited and ready to start working, but the past four months "readjusting" were a lot of fun. Now if I could figure out a way to get paid while "readjusting" I will have found my "career."

In the meantime, me a young professional.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Joe Dumars is a Genius

Thanks for the link, Doug. This sounds like a pretty legitimate argument; especially when a rival GM says, "Damn it, I am afraid Joe has this whole thing wired. He’s got everything in place to pull this off."

When will the Lions wise up and hire Duuuuuuumars as their GM?