Getting Back to Being American
On a Matt Allen Violent Round Table back in December state Senator Leonidas Raptakis (D, Coventry, East Greenwich, Warwick, West Warwick) and Paul Tencher opined knowingly that, if only American automakers had had the foresight to rush forward with fancy environmentally friendly automobiles, instead of pushing those darned gas guzzlers, they wouldn’t need a government bailout. I pointed out that those gas guzzlers were what people actually wanted, and I’d caution GM’s new union-and-government-backed executives that, however “new” they want to claim to be, Americans’ tastes haven’t changed all that much.
Amidst the descriptions of structural changes (and the oddly front-loaded gimmicks of eBay sales and “Tell Fritz” Web site to move customer suggestions directly to the new CEO) comes this observation from which conceptual brainstorming ought to proceed:
“For 100 years General Motors was among the world’s greatest companies. It deserves to be there again and it will be there again,” [Obama-picked Chairman of the Board Edward Whitacre, Jr.,] said. “I agreed to take this job because I know most Americans want this company to succeed.”
One can picture the commercial: soft electric guitar in the background as the interior door to a sunrise-lit garage opens; the driver passes photographs of folks and their Chevys, a couple magazines with classic cars pass the camera, while that guy (you know that guy) with the deep voice and the vaguely Southern accent talks about America’s car company — the memories, the confidence. A car door closes and the garage door opens. The music switches to the driving rock sounds of Americana, and into the morning sunlight rolls… a glass-and-metal bubble hybrid.
No. There’s a reason that jars against the imagination:
One of his first customers was Scott Wilbur, a 40-year-old elementary school principal who bought a silver V-8 Camaro in June.
Mr. Wilbur had not purchased a G.M. vehicle in a decade, and traded in his Honda Civic hybrid to buy the Camaro.
He even gave up his California-issued sticker to drive in hybrid-only carpool lanes to get behind the wheel of his new muscle car.
“I might not be as environmentally friendly, but at this point I don’t mind waiting in traffic to drive this,” he said.
Almost as a means of absolution — a personal cap and trade, you might say — Mr. Wilbur put a deposit, sight unseen, on the hybrid Chevy Volt due out next year. Most Americans will stop with the first purchase and wait a number of years to reevaluate, which means that they’ll skip the Volt, perhaps hoping that technology will bring them environmentally friendly muscle, but they’ll be more interested in the muscle than the friendliness.