The 2012 Pelosi GTxi SS/RT Sport Edition
by Eric Peters
Our last experience with a government-designed car (the Yugo - an Americanized version of a Soviet Bloc Special) didn't work out so well. But that was 25 years ago and memories have faded. We're about to get a refresher.
It appears that General Motors will become, for all practical purposes, a state-owned enterprise as part of a "restructuring" deal that is being hammered (and sickeled?) out as this is written. At least 50 percent of GM will become the property of the federal government. The United Auto Workers union will be the junior partner, owning 40 percent. The remaining 10 percent is all that will be left to private shareholders.
Some wags have already christened the resultant operation Government Motors - and unfortunately, this is no exaggeration. Every single decision about what cars to build, how they should be built, what equipment they will offer, how big (or small) they will be - is now out of the hands of consumers because it's out of the hands of the market. It will instead be dictated to them by bureaucrats and apparatchiks.
And what sorts of cars do bureaucrats and apparatchiks love? Well, just remember the Yugo. Designed for the Masses, it was cheap, slow and ugly. Those were the intentional features. The unintentional ones were - shoddy build quality, unreliability and dangerousness. These attributes were the result of putting non-engineer government drones in charge of engineers - which is not unlike putting a husky in charge of a sled driver.
But wait. To be fair about it, there is an example of a government-mandated car that was a lot better than the Yugo. Der KdF Wagen - more colloquially known as the Beetle. Volkswagen, let's recall, literally translates as "People's Car" - or more precisely, the car for the masses. Hitler sketched out the shape and laid out the parameters, including rear-mounted air-cooled engine. Dr. Porsche executed the vision of Der Fuhrer - and the Beetle was born. A highly successful car, it remained in production and was hugely popular for more than 60 years. So, perhaps it won't be so bad.
Then again, to give the devil his due, Hitler and his Nazis were very technically minded people whose competence when it came to the hard sciences cannot be challenged. It was only thanks to the defective operation of National Socialism itself that German inventions and machinery failed to win the war.
Obama's crowd is far less competent in this respect. There probably isn't one among them with a degree in something other than a liberal art. No Dr. Ing Herr Professor Porsche types.
A Yugo-like result is therefore much more likely. And, its parameters will not be - as Hitler's were - cheap, reliable transportation for the average American. That would be easy enough to achieve, after all. Simply rescind the existing federal mandates that force automakers to add hundreds of pounds of weight and thousands of dollars of cost to each new car so that it complies with myriad "safety" and "fuel economy" standards. We could have 50 mpg $7,000 cars in six months. But that's not the objective.
If anything, the cars of Government Motors will be more expensive and less efficient - because the diktats from the DC Politburo will specify they be even more "green" and "safe" - which won't come cheap. Don't think so? Compare the cost of the least expensive new hybrid - the $20,000 Honda Insight - with that of a conventional 30-something MPG subcompact such as the Nissan Versa or Chevy Aveo, both of which cost under $10,000. That price difference buys a helluva lot of gas.
But since the hybrid's tailpipe emissions are 1-2 percent "cleaner" than those of a non-hybrid economy car, Change will be forthcoming. In particular, the decision of the Obama politburo to regulate carbon dioxide as a tailpipe emission will likely mean even more hybrids, regardless of the sticker price. Hybrids you see produce no C02 when running on their batteries - at least, not from their tailpipes. (The fact that much of the country's electrical generating capacity is produced by burning coal, which produces mucho C02, is overlooked.)
Regular cars can't help producing C02 whenever they operate; it's a consequence of burning gasoline and the only way to reduce the output of C02 is by burning less of it. Which will require smaller engines in smaller cars - or more hybrids (and more industrial pollution). Take your pick. Or rather, let Government Motors pick for you.