GM Cutting Workers, Cars

A decade after being bailed out by the Federal government, the giant automaker is slashing jobs.

A decade after being bailed out by the Federal government, the giant automaker is slashing jobs.

TIME (“GM Is Laying Off 14,700 Workers As it Looks to Cut Costs Amid Restructuring“):

General Motors will lay off 14,700 factory and white-collar workers in North America and put five plants up for possible closure as it restructures to cut costs and focus more on autonomous and electric vehicles.

The reduction includes 8,100 white-collar workers, some of whom will take buyouts and others who will be laid off. Most of the affected factories build cars that won’t be sold in the U.S. after next year. They could close or they could get different vehicles to build. They will be part of contract talks with the United Auto Workers union next year.

Plants without products include assembly plants in Detroit; Lordstown, Ohio; and Oshawa, Ontario. Also affected are transmission factories in Warren, Michigan, as well as Baltimore.

More than 6,000 factory workers could lose jobs in the U.S. and Canada, although some could transfer to truck and SUV plants.

GM, the largest automaker in the U.S. and includes the Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac and GMC brands, said the moves will save $6 billion in cash by the end of next year, including $4.5 billion in recurring annual cost reductions and a $1.5 billion reduction in capital spending.

Those cuts are in addition to $6.5 billion that the company has announced by the end of this year.

GM doesn’t foresee an economic downturn and is making the cuts “to get in front of it while the company is strong and while the economy is strong,” CEO Mary Barra told reporters.

Barra said GM is still hiring people with expertise in software and electric and autonomous vehicles, and many of those who will lose their jobs are now working on conventional cars with internal combustion engines.

Barra said the industry is changing rapidly and moving toward electric propulsion, autonomous vehicles and ride-sharing, and GM must adjust with it.

The factories up for possible closure are part of GM’s effort “to right-size our capacity for the realities of the marketplace,” as consumers shift away from cars to trucks and SUVs.

Detroit News (“GM stopping work at 5 plants, laying off salaried workers“):

General Motors Co. will stop production at five plants next year, including two plants in the Detroit area, and initiate layoffs in its salaried workforce — an effort that will affect some 14,300 jobs across the company — as part of a restructuring plan that the automaker says will save $6 billion by 2020.

The plants that will cease production next year are Detroit-Hamtramck, Warren Transmission, Lordstown Assembly in Ohio, Oshawa Assembly in Ontario, Canada and Baltimore Operations in Maryland. Work will stop, but plants will not officially close. The future of those facilities will be determined during 2019 negotiations with the United Auto Workers.

The plant closures will affect some 6,300 workers globally, including 3,300 in the U.S. These workers will be given the opportunity to transfer to GM’s growth plants. The plants are considered “unallocated,” which means that at this time these plants don’t have a product.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said he was briefed on GM’s plans to stop production at Detroit-Hamtramck Monday morning.

“The news is troubling,” Duggan said in a statement. “I have spoken to UAW President Gary Jones and the city’s economic development team. They are working together to come up with a solution that works for GM and the employees. We all know there is strong demand for manufacturing space in Detroit and we are willing to work with GM to fill all the available manufacturing space at Poletown with either GM-related entities or other companies.”

GM CEO Mary Barra told reporters that the production stops at each plant are on different time frames, but all five will cease production by the end of 2019. All three Detroit automakers are negotiating their contracts with the UAW next year.

GM says the plants ceasing production in 2019 will also signal the end of the products made there.

Oshawa is the only plant building the Cadillac XTS sedan. Detroit-Hamtramck and Oshawa are the only plants building the Chevy Impala. Detroit-Hamtramck is the only producer of the Cadillac CT6, Chevy Volt and Buick LaCrosse as well. Lordstown only makes the Chevy Cruze sedan; the hatchback model is made in Mexico.

USA Today (“GM to kill Chevrolet Volt, Cruze, Impala as Americans ditch passenger cars“) frames it differently:

General Motors is killing multiple passenger cars, including the Chevrolet Volt and Chevrolet Cruze, two vehicles that were held up as examples of the automaker’s post-bankruptcy revival.

The move — part of a sweeping cost-cutting plan unveiled Monday — comes as Americans are abandoning passenger cars in favor of crossovers, SUVs and pickups.

The automaker will no longer make the Volt semi-electric car and the Cruze compact sedan for sale in North America beginning in March, Chevy spokesman Kevin Kelly confirmed.

GM will also discontinue the Chevrolet Impala full-size car in the fourth quarter of 2019, Kelly said in an email.

He declined to say whether the company would sell any of those products in markets outside North America.

The company is also likely to end sales of the Cadillac XTS, Cadillac CT6 and Buick LaCrosse.

GM is actually late to the party, as Ford and Chrysler canceled most of their passenger cars months ago. The American car market has shifted such that the demand and profitability is in pickups, SUVs, crossovers, and sports cars with some room in the luxury passenger car segment.

Still, this seems to signal that the goal of permanently saving these well-paying jobs in the manufacturing sector is going to be hard to achieve. According to one report, “Taxpayers lost $11.3 billion on the $50.7 billion General Motors Co. bailout,” which may not be terrible in the grand scheme of things; a lot of jobs were saved temporarily. But these companies are shedding jobs and physical plants, turning as much production as possible to automation or cheap overseas labor.

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. JKB says:

    $11.3 billion. It would have been cheaper to put those workers on welfare.

    $11.3 billion is only 11,300 workers if you you estimate their compensation cost $100,000/year for 10 years. Not a lot of workers in the grand scheme of things. And even fewer when you estimate how much of that went to UAW corruption.

    17
  2. James Joyner says:

    @JKB: I opposed bailing out the Big 3 and thought at the time we’d have been better off letting them get sold off for parts and simply compensating and retraining the workers. But the bailouts overall weren’t a bad deal. It didn’t work out for GM but, overall, the 2017 report linked above found that “In total, $623 billion in taxpayer money was dispersed via bailouts and roughly $698 billion has come back via dividend revenue, interest, fees and asset sales. It doesn’t take a math genius to see the bailouts ultimately earned taxpayers more than $75 billion in profit, and that number is still growing.”

    24
    1
  3. Michael Reynolds says:

    Gee, I thought a trade war with China and threats to the EU were going to make the American auto industry great again?

    US car manufacturers, listening to the advice of money manipulators and with eyes fixed firmly on just the next quarter and the stock options and paychecks of executives, produced godawful cars through the 70’s and 90’s and when it finally dawned on them that Toyota and Nissan were eating their lunch, they tried to catch up. Sadly this was not a tortoise and hare tale where GM wins either on speed or by persistence and consistency. This is just a case of stupid, short-sighted greed-heads, mostly at the corporate level, but more than a view in the union, throwing their business away.

    I rent a fair number of cars in any given year and I always try to avoid American cars. They just aren’t as good as Japanese, German or Korean. In the luxury car segment they’re a bad joke. Show me an American luxury car that deserves to be in the same class as Mercedes, Infiniti, BMW, Audi or Lexus. Show me a US sedan that competes with Toyota’s Camry.

    We are now forgoing car production to focus on trucks – you know, like the old Soviet Union did.

    27
    1
  4. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    So.
    Much.
    Winning.

    13
    1
  5. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @JKB:
    Another case of you not knowing what you are talking about.
    It never fails to amuse me when people like you have such strongly held beliefs regarding things they know nothing of.

    9
    1
  6. mattbernius says:

    Relevant, below is a well source article from the Wharton School of business on how the Auto Bailouts will probably always remain a cypher — at least in regards to the question of whether or not they worked. Here’s the punchline:

    [D]ebate [continues? – mb] over the necessity of the bailout, the precedent it set, and its economic consequences because the counterfactual is difficult to assess. Policy experts and economists have not reached any sort of consensus regarding what would have happened to Chrysler, GM, or the auto industry in the absence of the bailout. When these researchers employ subtly different assumptions to build their models, they generate vastly different counterfactuals. As a result, both liberals and conservatives can find persuasive evidence in the academic literature to support their praise or criticism of the bailout.

    https://publicpolicy.wharton.upenn.edu/live/news/1779-a-reflection-on-the-2009-american-auto-bailout

  7. Michael Reynolds says:

    @JKB:
    So, let’s see, using Joyner’s numbers, that’d be W turning a profit while saving thousands of jobs for a decade. . . and Trump presiding over the loss of 14,000 jobs while throwing temper tantrums and vowing to create manufacturing jobs. Have I got that basically right?

    17
    1
  8. Kathy says:

    “We’re gonna need a bigger tax cut.”

    6
    1
  9. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    I thought tax cuts and tariffs were going to create all kinds of jobs?
    Jobs were going to come pouring back into the country.
    Auto plants were going to be saved.
    6 or 7 new steel plants were going to open.
    Coal jobs were coming back.

    The truth is that plants were going to close, and those kinds of jobs weren’t coming back, no matter who got elected. But Dennison promised those things…and still is, at his rallys.
    When are the sycophants going to admit they’ve been conned?
    And in the meantime they are getting fvcked while the rich got a tax cut.

    6
    1
  10. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    When are the sycophants going to admit they’ve been conned?

    It’s the great advantage con men have: the suckers become complicit. Trumpies lack the strength of character to admit a mistake. They aren’t alone in this, but it’s extremely rare to see such a yawning credibility gap.

    The funny thing (well, kinda funny) is that Trump’s lies are all for his victims. The rest of us in reality have long since tuned him out as a pathological liar whose words have no relationship to reality. Trump lies for the suckers, and the suckers love it. See also: religion.

    9
    1
  11. grumpy realist says:

    The problem with US cars is they are geared towards the “we want cushy rides and all the bells and whistles” crowd. Used to rent various cars to try out. US cars always resulted in the knee-jerk reaction of “I want to drive this thing, not fly it!”

    And when they started down the road of “we’re gonna make trucks!” my reaction has been “you idiots didn’t learn the first time, didya?”

    5
    1
  12. Gustopher says:

    @JKB: Assuming the numbers are accurate — see other comments for details on the difficulty here — consider the impact that having the auto makers fold then would have caused.

    First, those jobs support other jobs, and the processes at the plants support a lot of other companies. Auto manufacturing is one of the linchpins of the economy. Assume ten times the jobs that are directly employed by the auto industry.

    Second, our economy runs largely on credit and consumer confidence. The collapse of the big three auto makers would have devastatated consumer confidence.

    Third, those thrown out of work would have been economically devastated. There weren’t other jobs for them to take, and unemployment pays a fraction of their wages. And, once people are out of work for a long time, it is much harder for them to get a job, and when they do they earn less. If empathy doesn’t help, think about the lost tax revenue.

    Fourth, your numbers are just wrong, and cannot be compared. You have 11,300, when the report was 14,300, and you are using that number — the number who are losing their jobs right now — and comparing it against the possible losses of the bailout during the Great Recession. The number of people whose jobs would have been lost or significantly disrupted was far higher then — this is just a few plants closing, rather than all the plants closing.

    11
    1
  13. reid says:

    Canceling Volt and Cruze? That’s forward-thinking. I drove a Cruze for awhile and could see buying one. Oh well. Obviously, the Volt (or something like it) is the future. I guess ride that truck/SUV gravytrain into oblivion….

    5
    1
  14. Teve says:

    I know a conservative last summer who bragged about buying all Fords for his business because they were the only one who didn’t take government money.

    I could have let it go. But I explained to him that Ford CEO Alan Mulally went to congress to urge the bailout of GM and Chrysler, because the same 5,000 suppliers who build GM and Chrysler parts also build Ford parts, and if GM and Chrysler had gone under, most of the suppliers would have followed, and then Ford would have gone under too.

    13
    1
  15. Monala says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: I wonder if they’ll realize it when they go to file their tax returns, and many of them find themselves owing taxes rather than getting a refund.
    https://www.forbes.com/sites/kellyphillipserb/2018/08/04/report-suggests-more-taxpayers-will-owe-tax-in-2019-due-to-withholding/#889845b5f0f4

    Nah, they’ll just find a way to blame Democrats.

  16. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @mattbernius: I was following this from Korea, where I was living at the time. I can’t comment on how it would have affected the US, but to the best that I can recall, both Honda and Toyota were predicting long-term (greater than 5 years) reductions in auto production of at least 50% based on the loss of parts networks shared with US manufacturers as those parts networks also got pulled into bankruptcy. Korean manufacturers Hyundai and Kia were more optimistic–their manufacturing capacity would only shrink by a third because they have far more domestic parts infrastructure.

    But yeah (and I realize you’re not advocating this), it would have been FAR better to let the market work it’s magic. (And we could have decimated working class wages in the bargain–win-win if ever there was one.)

  17. Tony W says:

    Is America great yet?

    Maybe we’re great enough at this point?

    4
    1
  18. al Ameda says:

    @JKB:

    $11.3 billion is only 11,300 workers if you you estimate their compensation cost $100,000/year for 10 years. Not a lot of workers in the grand scheme of things. And even fewer when you estimate how much of that went to UAW corruption.

    So, ‘UAW corruption’, not poor management decisions is what caused these plant closures and layoffs? You might as well have asserted that the Easter Bunny came early this year

    12
    1
  19. Kathy says:

    @al Ameda:

    Oh, come now. It’s not as though a Republican president bailed out, say, the airlines, which then went on to bankrupt themselves, which led to mass consolidation through mergers and takeovers. Right? I mean, can’t you fly America West, US Air, Continental, TWA, Virgin Ame… oh, wait.

    7
    1
  20. Tyrell says:

    @Kathy: The Chevy Volt has great reviews. My personal choice would be the Camaro. EVs are still too expensive for the average person.
    GM made a mistake in dropping Pontiac. They were making good cars and showing a profit.
    Top engine was the Ford Boss 600 HP motor. I think Dodge now has topped that.
    Other fuel alternative is hydrogen.

  21. al Ameda says:

    @Teve:

    I could have let it go. But I explained to him that Ford CEO Alan Mulally went to congress to urge the bailout of GM and Chrysler, because the same 5,000 suppliers who build GM and Chrysler parts also build Ford parts, and if GM and Chrysler had gone under, most of the suppliers would have followed, and then Ford would have gone under too.

    This.
    I had to explain that to my parents and most of my siblings (Trump voters). Not only would have transitioning GM and Chrysler into managed bankruptcy (at a time when credit markets were locked up) have produced thousands more job losses at a time when we were losing over 700K jobs per month, but … the job losses among suppliers to Detroit would have been catastrophic to hundreds of communities around the Great Lakes region.

    Seriously. Obama paid a price for doing the right thing simply because the Tea Party types have absolutely no understanding of basic economics.

    18
    1
  22. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Now it’s come out that Dennison is threatening GM.

    “You’d better get back in there soon, that’s Ohio…They better damn well open a new plant there very quickly. I love Ohio. I told them, ‘You’re playing around with the wrong person…I said, ‘I heard you’re closing your plant. It’s not going to be closed for long, I hope, Mary, because if it is you have a problem.”

    WTF is this? Is he a fvcking gangster? The POTUS threatening private industry?
    Imagine the Republicans if Obama had done this?
    Yet now this guy is gonna get spun as some kind of working class hero because he stood up to GM after screwing them with tariffs.

    12
    1
  23. Matt says:

    @grumpy realist: Yeah they totally didn’t learn from the last time this did this kind of stupidity…

  24. James Brigham (Bigg) Bunyon says:

    What? Stopping production of an electric car? Electric cars were the future and we won’t be able to build enough to meet demand. This is obviously fake news.

  25. Teve says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: WTF? I had to google this cuz couldn’t believe it.

    President Donald Trump tells The Wall Street Journal that he warned GM CEO Mary Barra that her company was “playing around with the wrong person.”
    Trump also says that he told Barra on Sunday night that GM should open a new plant in Ohio, saying, “They better damn well open a new plant there very quickly.”

    CNBC

  26. Slugger says:

    Capitalism is unsentimental, and creative destruction is an important part of the process. Still, I am a little sad that there won’t be anything carrying the Impala nameplate. I am sure that the future holds all kinds of thrills that are hard to imagine, but riding a ’57 Impala with a 283 engine while Tommy Roe is on the radio was pretty cool. Ms. Barra, can’t you save a few? Cars have never been just about transportation, and a cold business approach toward car making might lead to a cold business approach to car buying. Most Americans live in urban settings where an on demand generic auto is the best business decision. The car industry could shrink a lot except for a few hobbyists. Suicide is not a useful business strategy. My first car was a ’53 Chevy; my last Chevy was a ’68 with the 327 engine and a four barrel. The whoosh when all four carburetor barrels opened up would sell cars!

  27. Scott says:

    Meanwhile, also not discussed is the billions in “excess cash” that GM is returning to shareholders in the form of increased dividend and stock buybacks. So follow the money. Enormous taxcuts paid for by borrowed taxpayer money, closed down plants, laid off workers, flowing through GM to its shareholders. Anyone can guess what’s next? Oh yes, pension problems. Not enough money.

  28. @Michael Reynolds:

    Show me a US sedan that competes with Toyota’s Camry.

    IMHO there isn’t one. I bought a new Camry XSE a few months back and I love it. (And my youngest drives a hand-me-down Camry and my middle son a used one we bought).

  29. Gustopher says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Nope, it’s a trick question — the
    American car that is as good as the Camry is the Camry.

    The Camry is built in Kentucky. (Like Bourbon).

  30. Kathy says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I have a 2011 Toyota Corolla. It’s the best car I’ve ever had. In nearly eight years, it hasn’t broken down or given me any issues (aside from a flat tire) even once.

  31. Tyrell says:

    @Slugger: I had a ’63 Impala SS 327 cu. inch mill, 2-4 barrell Holley carb, and a Muncie four speed trans. That thing could burn some rubber, but the best thing was the low rumble Pacemaker mufflers. Just the thought quickens the pulse. Todays young people know nothing of the thrill of those cars.
    Today’s cars last a long time and are safer, but not as exciting or as unique.

  32. grumpy realist says:

    @Tyrell: The problem with using hydrogen is that it’s damn hard to transport and damn hard to store.

    Pillared graphene, anyone?

  33. Jen says:

    I’ve driven Japanese cars since I made my first new vehicle purchase back in the early ’90s. (Toyota, then Honda, and another Honda). Good, reliable vehicles with low maintenance costs. I sunk more money than I care to admit to myself in the Mercury I owned before the Toyota.

    I do think that electric vehicles have a place in the mix–the infrastructure to support them being driven regularly just isn’t there yet, and they remain just a bit too expensive for consumers.

  34. Franklin says:

    I guess I should try a Camry, but the Toyota Highlander that my wife drives is … okay. It’s mostly reliable, which of course is a very good thing, but I hate almost everything “smart” it tries to do. The engineers at Toyota are masters of precision, but they don’t have a clue how I would like the car features to work.

    On the other hand, the last couple Fords I drove, including my daily driver, were actually well thought out. Maybe it’s some cultural thing, that the American engineers understand how I drive and want to operate the vehicle. And I realize it might just be me in particular. Everyone else raves over stupid features on other cars that I don’t need nor want, and certainly don’t want to pay for.

  35. mattbernius says:

    @James Brigham (Bigg) Bunyon:

    What? Stopping production of an electric car? Electric cars were the future and we won’t be able to build enough to meet demand.

    Pst… the Volt was a *hybrid* — still had a gas engine…

    The company is still building the *all electric* Bolt and continues plans to grow/accelerate its *all electric* offerings.

    https://qz.com/1474677/gm-kills-the-chevrolet-volt-as-plug-in-hybrids-lose-market-share/

    But who cares about facts when you want to own Libs, right?

    11
  36. grumpy realist says:

    @Franklin: That’s my problem with American cars. Too many frobbits on the dashboard that I don’t need. I love the rear-view video camera but most of the other available bells and whistles I never use.

    P.S. and has anyone ever figured out how to reset a dashboard clock? I’m now resigned to having my clock off by one hour for six months of the year.

  37. Franklin says:

    @grumpy realist: Heh, in my Ford Escape, it helps to know that the radio must be ON in order to change the clock. No, that doesn’t make sense, since I can see the clock when the radio is off. But the Clock button is on the radio console and I guess the electronics engineer wasn’t too bright there.

    I actually don’t even like rear-view cameras *when compared to some sort of beeping rear-view sensor* (which I have in the Ford). Why? Because the rear-view camera doesn’t have enough peripheral vision, so I still need to look over my shoulder to see things at the side, but now I have to keep glancing forwards as well to see the rear-view monitor.

  38. grumpy realist says:

    @Franklin: I find the video camera more useful than a sensor, but that’s because I’m regularly using it when maneuvering in and out of tight spaces in parking garages. I suspect a sensor would just be beeping the entire time.

  39. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @grumpy realist: On my Spark, there’s a little reverse arrow in the top left corner of the navigation screen. Pressing that takes me to Menu or Home, where I select the clock settings (I believe it’s “time and date” for my system). Then, set the clock.

    Also, my car has a function for automatic clock setting, but I don’t know if it works or not. I only saw it this last time I reset the clock.

    I’m surprised that a scientist like yourself has never explored what the touch screen on your car does. Of course, maybe you already knew all of this and are simply ragging on your car for some reason.

  40. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:
  41. Gustopher says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: I cannot answer for grumpy realist, but I don’t want to be a system administrator for my car.

    If I have to go to three different menu trees, on different parts of the console, just to set the time, it’s something of a complete failure. If I have to look up how to do this on YouTube, that’s another failure.

    I don’t know how to use my iPhone, but I can stumble through it. The car should be similar.

    (Other than the clock, I mostly like my new Forester)

  42. just nutha says:

    I’m glad my car isn’t as complex as yours is

  43. grumpy realist says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: After spending 20 minutes with the manual and pushing buttons on the dashboard I gave up. I’m a physicist, not a computer geek.

  44. Michael Reynolds says:

    What I like about my car is driving with the top down and seeing the look from people that says, “Nice car, I assume you’re a douche.” And let’s be clear: I am. I am aware that I’m a douche, which does not in any way lessen the douchebaggery, but allows me to pretend that I’m only being a douche ironically. Now, some may ask, “In what moral universe would ironic douchery be any less contemptible than sincere douchery? Irony + Douchery is not greater than Sincerity + Douchery. Probably. I don’t know. I do know I like the visible-only-to-me lunacy of me being able to drive a car that actually starts not just some of the time, but every time. Also: no holes in the floor.

    I watched an Eric Ruins Everything on cars. Made perfectly logical points based on a false premise: that cars are transportation. Thus can be compared unfavorably to streetcars and buses and God knows what, maybe bicycles. But cars are not transportation. Cars are your portable home. They’re pretty much all air conditioned, they all have radios and other media, the seats probably recline, there’s a place for your drink, there’s maybe an empty seat to pile food on. It’s like your embassy, a little bit of your sovereign territory that you take with you.

    7
    1
  45. grumpy realist says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: P.S. I fooled around with it enough to discover that a) it’s definitely not a touch screen b) the instructions given in the manual as to how to reset the time don’t work (or are ambiguous enough that my interpretation of them doesn’t work), and c) whoever was the engineer designing the dashboard definitely didn’t think at all about how people would interact with it.

    (I’ve run into worse dashboards. There was one American car (forget the make) where the dashboard designer thought that having all the lit-up-stuff being orange would be “pretty”. The fact that the color they chose was close enough to red that it was like a battery of warning lights screaming at you was never considered. Extremely tiring to drive at night.)

  46. Kathy says:

    Remember when you could get into the car and just go? No fussing with phone charging cables, no audio phone cable/bluetooth sync?

    BTW, a Nissan Altima I owned had cruise control, but I never figured out how to set it. My current Corolla doesn’t have it.

  47. Mister Bluster says:

    @grumpy realist:..I’ve run into worse dashboards.
    This was my first dashboard. The 1956 Plymouth my Aunt Ruth gave me after she bought a new car when her Holly Sue was ten years old.
    Note the heater and defroster controls all the way over in front of the passenger side of the bench seat.
    Who said “form follows function”?
    They just don’t make them like they used to.

  48. Matt says:

    @Kathy: I have a 2018 honda and I sometimes get into arguments with it as I’m trying to drive. The Collision Mitigation Braking System likes to slam on the brakes when someone in front of me turns right. There’s plenty of room and absolutely no reason to stop but the car is convinced I’m facing an imminent collision and thus it must slam on the brakes even if I’m on the gas and in an intersection. I’ve turned the sensitivity to minimum and that gave me a little more room before the brakes are slammed. It wouldn’t be a problem if I could actually disable the system. You can only temporarily disable it by pushing and holding the button after the car is started. Of course once you restart the car you have to disable it again… The lane keeper assist thing CAN be disabled with just one button push so it can be done…

    It feels like my car is basically designed to be driven by distracted idiot children..

    Although the adaptive cruise control and lane keeping stuff is really nice on those very long drives.

    Other than the very rare argument I just get in and go with that car.

  49. Tyrell says:

    The big driver of car manufacturers in the US and other countries is motorsports. Ford, Chevy, Cadillac, Toyota, Honda and Dodge are involved heavily in NASCAR, NHRA, Indy car, and other forms of racing. “What wins on Sunday sells on Monday”. This philosophy drives sales, marketing, and image. The aftermarkets offer many performance parts and motors.
    Despite some decline in TV viewers, racing still draws a huge amount of people. The industry is a large employer.

  50. @Tyrell:

    “What wins on Sunday sells on Monday”. This philosophy drives sales, marketing, and image.

    Which is why American car makers are focusing on SUVs, cross-overs, and trucks?

  51. grumpy realist says:

    @Mister Bluster: What’s the thingamajig with the three square buttons over on the far left?

    Aside from the location of some of the controls, that looks extremely attractive. Better than the black plastic which is all I run into nowadays.

  52. Teve says:

    @grumpy realist: Hydrogen was an interesting idea but the infrastructure build-out will never happen and it’ll be an also-ran. Battery-powered will win for numerous reasons.

  53. Teve says:

    @Franklin:

    On the other hand, the last couple Fords I drove, including my daily driver, were actually well thought out. Maybe it’s some cultural thing, that the American engineers understand how I drive and want to operate the vehicle. And I realize it might just be me in particular. Everyone else raves over stupid features on other cars that I don’t need nor want, and certainly don’t want to pay for.

    I have some experience in the car business with virtually every make, and have also read books and watched documentaries on the subject, and talked to sales managers and mechanics. The only cars I would buy at the present time are Hondas, Toyotas, and Fords. If you want an interesting story about how Ford got their quality from like “#15 out of 30” to like “#3 behind Toyota” Read American Icon. Good stuff.

    I like and have owned european cars, but they’re money pits. VWs are very stylish but if someone gave me one I would sell it immediately. I’ve had porsches, and love them, but they’re best for people who get depressed when there’s too much money in their checking account. Don’t even mention Mercedes.

    I’ve had 3 nissans, but their quality took a nose dive in the last decade, partly due to Jatco transmissions. Mazdas were good but something changed and I’m not sure what. Kias and Hyundais are a million times better than when they were junk 15 years ago, but they’re still cheap. I yanked a chunk of paint off a new Hyundai one time with scotch tape. Cheap.

    I bought my fiesta entirely based on 1) the european reviews before it was sold here, and 2) my understand that those $5/gal gas prices we had a few years ago will come back someday. Fuckin thing gets 42 mpg highway.

    1
    1
  54. Tyrell says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Good point. Chevy races the Camaro in NASCAR and NHRA. Ford will switch to the Mustang next year, which will be Ford’s only car. These race cars are not “stock” by any stretch. And Ford, GM, and Toyota race their trucks. Even Cadillac does some racing. No division for SUV’s. I would like to see a division for electrics. That would really stimulate interest and sales.

  55. Kathy says:

    @Teve:

    Aside from the infrastructure issue, there’s the energy issue. It takes more energy to electrolyze water into hydrogen and oxygen than you get from burning the hydrogen with the oxygen.

    There are other hydrogen sources, like natural gas, but I know little about them.

  56. Kathy says:

    @Matt:

    Other than the very rare argument I just get in and go with that car.

    Fair enough.

    Me, I’m obsessed with keeping my phones charged, and with not charging them at home. So it’s important to hook them up to the car charger.

    Also, I use my commute time listening to audio books and podcasts, so it’s important to hook one phone to the stereo.

    Lastly, traffic can be a killer. The difference between a reasonable commute home and being stuck in traffic for over an hour often lies in running Waze. So that’s important, too.

  57. James Joyner says:

    @Kathy: I use Bluetooth to listen to podcasts and voice navigation, including Waze. This, no need for cables.

  58. just nutha says:

    @Kathy: My situation is still that way. Completely. Mostly because I almost never do anything other than drive when using my car.

    @ Grumpy: Sorry to hear that about your car. Again, I’m glad mine is not that complex.

    ETA: Push button auto tranny. All the rage in the late 50ws.

  59. just nutha says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: No, I think that they’re focusing on trucks and SUVs because of inventory requests. The Chev dealership in my town has a current inventory of :
    3 Full size sedans
    2 Mid-size sedans
    5 Compacts
    1 Subcompact
    27 Pick ups and
    30 SUVs

    This type of inventory mix seems to be common in various places that I have lived over the years–except Korea, where pick ups were considered commercial vehicles and dealers don’t carry much inventory at all unless they sell foreign cars (and I wondered how much inventory they had).

  60. Kathy says:

    @James Joyner:

    My car doesn’t have Bluetooth. It has an AUX port.

    At home I use a Bluetooth speaker while I’m cooking.

  61. Teve says:

    @Kathy: Yeah, it’s not a source of energy, just a storage medium, as you know.

    Speaking of that I wonder if Hydrogen would be a good energy storage mechanism for solar. Solar already produces electricity, so little loss going from one to the other maybe.

  62. Kathy says:

    @Teve:

    Would you then burn the hydrogen, or use it as fuel for fuel cells?

    I should think the efficiency of storing electricity in batteries is higher than storing it as hydrogen. Plus you wouldn’t need a hydrogen-burning generator.

    But, hydrogen might make a good fuel for jet aircraft, if/when any are developed to burn it.

  63. Mister Bluster says:

    @grumpy realist:..thingamajig
    as cracker noted above this is the pushbutton drive PowerFlight automatic transmission control new to Chrysler Motors cars in 1956.
    This is one option available in the 1955 Plymouth. Stuck right straight out of the dash.
    In the past I have heard stories of children impaled and killed on these and other similar ornamental radio control knobs and such the result of otherwise minor fender benders in the “good old days”.
    Child restraints, car seats for kids…who needs ’em!

  64. Teve says:

    @Kathy: batteries are prob more efficient than hydrogen for storage, but that’s way outside my expertise.

    I’m 42. In my lifetime I may see us transition to mostly battery-powered transportation. Sadly I’ve read enough Vaclav Smil books to know that humans take like 3 generations to change energy sources.

    I’m not optimistic w/r/t global warming.

  65. Mister Bluster says:

    test

  66. mister bluster says:

    @grumpy:..Aside from the location of some of the controls, that looks extremely attractive. Better than the black plastic which is all I run into nowadays.

    Killer Good Looks I call it. Hopefully with lap and shoulder seatbelts and air bags you do not run into your dashboard when you have to slam on the brakes or worse.
    Head, meet extremely attractive solid steel dashboard.
    I remember standing up in between my parents on the front bench seat of our 1948 Ford as we wizzed along US Route 20 between New York State and Chicago.
    I couldn’t have been more than 4 years old.
    Don’t know how I made it to 70.

  67. Mister Bluster says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:..Which is why American car makers are focusing on SUVs, cross-overs, and trucks?

    Seems like I’ve noticed more cars and trucks pulling camper trailers on the super slab lately.
    Must be because of this!

  68. grumpy realist says:

    @Teve: I can talk your ear off about electric cars and hydrogen fuel-cell cars. Basically the problem with batteries is a) the range you can get with them b) how many times can you cycle them before they fall apart c) safe storage capacity. To get an idea, one of the standard tests with Li-ion batteries is to use a nail gun to short them out and see if they blow up/catch on fire.

    Range is the killer when it comes to any alternative to an ICE. Hydrogen fuel cells are problematic for cars–at one point it was looking like they would improve range beyond electric cars and there was a flurry of activity but this seems to have died out.

    It’s really hard to get something better than the standard ICE using gasoline.

  69. grumpy realist says:

    P.S. Hydrogen fuel cells can get up to 82% efficiency if you’re using them as part of a co-gen system which also produces hot water. One reason why Japan has been very interested in the technology.

  70. @Mister Bluster: I know that Americans love those kinds of vehicles–I was just making a somewhat snarky NASCAR-related query.

  71. Matt says:

    @Teve: I drove a hatchback fiesta for a few weeks a month and some time ago. I was really surprised at how well built it seemed. It had no off idle guts at all and I kept hitting the steering column stalks but it wasn’t bad considering I’m over 6 foot. The Honda Fit is vastly superior in all ways though.

    @Kathy: I have a USB stick with all my audio files on it. I sometimes pull it out to add stuff but it usually sits plugged into the car. My car’s capable of handling android v4 apps so I don’t even connect my phone to the car.