Michael Moore's Advice for the Auto Industry Is Far Too Cavalier for Such a Serious Issue
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This is a response to Michael Moore's essay, published yesterday on AlterNet, "Save the Auto Industry and Kick Its CEOs to the Curb."
Obviously, we were all curious to see how Michael Moore would weigh in on the Big Three’s trip to Washington. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised at the loose, rambling and fairly thoughtless way he has addressed the issue. He’s never really been a details kind of guy. But it is disappointing, if only because it comes at such a serious and critical time.
First of all, while the Big Three are actually quite different from one another, they do share a few important things:
(1) They are unionized, which is why the Republicans are lined up against them (remember the UAW? The guys who helped elect Obama? Thanks Ohio! Thanks Michigan!).
(2) They share a lot of suppliers (we’ll get back to that).
(3) They are stuck in one enormous credit crunch that was absolutely none of their making -- your aunt who’s been flipping condos in Boca is far more responsible than they are.
Over the last few years, these three companies have risen to meet some incredible challenges. But instead of pointing any of those victories out, we get Moore complaining about "big, gas-guzzling, inferior products."
And of course the only problem with that is that it isn’t true.
Right now, Chevy offers more models than Toyota or Honda with mileage of 30 mpg or better. This year, Consumer Reports rated Ford’s quality on par with Toyota and Honda. Last week, it was announced that Ford has more vehicles with five-star safety ratings than any other manufacturer. And while Moore paints a picture of the domestics as terminal losers, the vehicle with the biggest increase in sales last month was actually the Chevy Malibu (the vehicle with the biggest decrease in sales was the Toyota Prius.)
But still, they’re an easy target for Moore. The biggest problem facing the Big Three is that they’re like the beautiful girl in the teen movie who’s hidden behind the glasses and the thick braces. Nobody looks at them. Despite their many successes, most of us stopped shopping American, even considering American, a long time ago. You may love the fact that the UAW helped elect Obama (Thanks again Michigan! We love you Ohio!) but chances are you're not supporting those workers when you shop for cars. And if you happen to see a "Country First" bumper sticker while driving around out there, odds are it's on an import.
You can complain about the fact that the domestics make SUVs and trucks, but the fact is Toyota would much rather sell a high-profit Tundra truck than a Prius any day of the week -- if you don’t believe me, just look at the hundreds of millions of dollars Toyota spends marketing Tundra versus what it spends on Prius. In fact, it takes the profits from the Prius and uses that money to sell more tundra-melting Tundras. And, guess what, its trucks have a lower mpg rating than Ford’s.
We can say we don't want to our government to lend money to the Big Three because they sell big vehicles, but that’s a little hypocritical since that same government was once perfectly happy to take in tax revenue on the sale of those same big vehicles. And we can say they don't deserve a $34 billion loan, yet Wall Street gets $700 billion of our money to toss around like a bunch of blind, drunk monkeys.