The movement of the crowds at the semi-funereal 2008 Los Angeles Auto Show said it all. No one, it seemed, wanted to hang out with the most beleaguered of the Detroit automakers, Chrysler and GM. As plenty of attendees noticed, Chrysler's large expanse of showroom floor was all but empty most hours of the day. Same across the room at the General Motors stand: Aside from a small group milling about the Chevy Volt, all was quiet. The mob of journalists appeared smaller than normal this year, and they congregated around the imports: Nissan attracted a good crowd, as did the German manufacturers and Hyundai. Aside from Ford, which did its best to put on a happy face, Detroit was present mostly as the constant subject of grim conversations. "This is the last auto show ever, you know," joked a journalist friend. We laughed, sadly, and then thought ahead to January—what will the Detroit auto show be like?
During Nissan CEO Carlos Gohsn's keynote address the opening morning, it was possible to imagine a post-Detroit future. While the CEOs of Detroit's Big 3 were in Washington, taking their lashes before an unsympathetic congress, Gohsn was speaking soberly and authoritatively about the challenges at hand and convincingly about Nissan's plans to deliver mass-market electric cars within the next two or three years. In a post-Detroit future, Asian automakers would probably rule the mass market with their small, sporty, fuel-efficient cars, while German brands like Mercedes, BMW, and Audi will continue to dominate the luxury market. And then there are the wild cards: What about Tata? What about China? What about small automakers that don't yet exist?
Neither GM nor Chrysler gave a press conference. Ford unveiled a new Mustang and an impressively practical Ford Fusion; Mazda, which is owned by Ford, revealed the new Mazda 3, one of the nicest looking small cars at the show. These are good cars that should sell, as soon as people are in the mood to buy cars again. Yet the crowd at the show seemed most excited about clean diesels from Germany (like the Volkswagen Jetta TDI, which won Green Car of the Year), and the electric cars available for test drive—the Mini E, the Mitsubishi iMiev.
This was the backdrop on the second day of the auto show's press preview: Detroit's Big 3 CEOs left Washington with nothing more than an order to present business plans to Congress in early December. California Rep. Henry Waxman, an ardent environmentalist from Los Angeles, replaced pro-Detroit congressman John Dingell in his post as chairman of the house energy and commerce committee, making it all the more likely that automaker will soon face much more stringent environmental and fuel-economy regulations. The Dow dropped to nearly 7,500. And by mid-afternoon most journalists had left the showroom floor, wondering what on earth the automotive industry is going to look like this time next year.
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We seriously need to get on with the business of becoming energy independent. While we are doing the happy dance around the pumps with the lower prices OPEC is planning yet more production cuts and will not quit until they achieve their desired price per barrel. The record high prices this past year have done serious damage to our economy and society. WE must move forward with energy independence. We have the knowledge, we have the technology, what America lacks is a plan. Jeff Wilson has a new book out that is beyond awesome. The Manhattan Project of 2009 Energy Independence NOW. He walks you through every aspect of oil, what it is used for besides gas, our depletion of it. The worlds increased need ie 3rd world countries becoming more modernized and consuming more. He explains EVERY alternative energy source and what role they can play to replace oil. His research is backed up with hard data and even includes a time frame and proposed legislative agendas to wean America off oil. www.themanhattanprojectof2009.com
I agree, we need to get on with this. The car companies need to change now, as does the rest of our infrastructure.
When someone says "America lacks a plan", what they mean is they don't want to drill. Increasing domestic supply of course would be a plan, would use existing infrastructure, and would utilize the cheapest form of energy. Oil. It would make supply adjust to demand quickly, lowering prices. But I'm sure you hate oil for some emotional reason I can't fathom. The problem with any plan that involves giving priority to alternative energy is you can't get around the fact that it will be expensive. Extremely expensive. Subsidizing it with tax dollars doesn't make it less so. It just means someone else pays. This "plan" will take an enormous bet on which speculative technologies will dominate in the future. Bet wrong and you've wasted an awful lot of money investing in infrastructure that is useless. Bet right, and it will still take years if not decades to bring the cost down to where oil is today. I say drill, and keep investing in promising technologies until there's a breakthrough.
The LA Auto Show was truly pathetic. The Big Three are a real embarrassment and do not deserve booths. Especially when compared to Japanese firms.
Ford's hits are thanks to the European branch of Ford, who actually makes great cars and the Japanese company Mazda.
By the way the new Mazda3 was not the best looking small car, in fact it is one of the ugliest cars I have seen in quite some time.
I look forward to the day when the overseas branches break off from the Big Three and take over the American market. We will finally have "American" cars that do not suck.
I mean come on Korean brands are better than any of the Big Three, and they were a laughing stock up until only a few years ago. Just wait a few more years and Chinese companies will surpass the Big Three as they are begging for change on the street corner. On that note, a couple of experts (economists, automotive and such) who attended the Big Three's pleading to Congress for another bailout said that even if the $34million is given the Big Three will still fail. They claim that it will take $75-125million to save them.
I say we let them die, use the money for government funded projects toward alternative energy development and let the European and Japanese companies that the Big Three own to take over. The result will be better vehicles, lower dependence on foreign oil, new industries with MASSIVE potential and the LA Auto Show can recover from the shame of the last couple years.