Nothing new under the Sun?

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Old sayings are great. They come down through the ages born of wisdom and experience. The amazing thing is how true they always are. For most of my professional life, I have been in the car business. I didn’t exactly plan it that way, but that’s how it worked out. I, like many others back in the day, developed a serious crush early on for the look, the sounds, the smells, and the performance of automobiles. My father was in the business, and so I followed him. Like father, like son, right? It was easy to catch the fever, and it was fun. Through 16 years of watching and dealing with the corporate side of General Motors and then briefly with the Chrysler/Jeep folks, I got a pretty good feel for the mindset of management. Management didn’t have crushes. But in those days, Management still included a small element of true “car guys” that still really loved automobiles. By the early 1970s, however, management was mostly made up of marketing, accounting, and paper-pushing MBAs. The car business was slowly losing heart. The new culture had moved in and was now cast in stone. My “crush” on the American automobile started to turn a little sour. The quality and engineering of new vehicles was diving while prices were steadily climbing. So much so that in 1982 I wrote a letter to Mr. James McDonald who was then President of General Motors. Not expecting anything, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a reply wherein the President thanked me for writing to him but assured me that General Motors was just fine, and no changes were called for. So, I got exactly what I expected, nothing. If you don't expect much, that's what you will get. I stayed with the new car business until the mid-90s then moved to used cars.

So, with this background information, you might understand how mystified I have been with the “crush” that all the major auto manufacturers now seem to have on radically changing how this country handles personal transportation, i.e. EVs (electric vehicles). Let me rephrase that. It’s not a crush, it’s more like a four-alarm, X-rated fire of unbridled passion. General Motors, Ford, Chrysler and all the imports are falling all over each other like Jerry Clower's hunting dogs trying to tree a raccon. They are barking and snapping and chasing each other's tails trying to re-invent the automobile. The strange thing is, for 5 decades GM, Ford, Chrysler and the imports have been at war with the Environmental Protection Administration over emissions and government regulations. Now, all of a sudden, they are willing and anxious to lay down, roll over and snuggle up with the EPA and the green new deal progressives? Something's not adding up here. I couldn't figure it out, and I am embarrassed that it took me this long, but I finally got it, and it was as simple as that little smirk on Ben Franklin’s favorite hundred-dollar portrait. Just, follow the money.

It's every bit, all about the money.

An old car man recently educated me after rolling his eyes at my dullness. “Man, don’t you get it, this is the best time ever for carmakers! They can’t wait to get EV’s going out the door. Electric cars have been around since 1920. There's nothing new under the sun. They are much cheaper to build, and the profit percentage on EVs is higher than ever before, and they don’t even have to give rebates.” Well, I had to admit, I should have known. Some things just never change. I argued that the electric power grid won’t be able to stand the demand, and that enough charging stations can’t be built in time and maintained. “They got that all worked out,” he assured me. “people will pay state and federal taxes to cover the charging stations, and the Department of Transportation will be in charge of building them.” It was time to stop. I told him I was glad to see him, but just answer one last question. When all the cars at the Daytona 500 are EVs, how exciting will it be to watch them all go "humming" by the grandstands? Hmmm. . . something to think about ?

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