Interesting article in the WSJ about how Detroit drove the American automotive industry into the ground. The American car companies are losing money hand-over-fist while the Japanese, Korean, and German companies are building new factories. Expect GM and co. to be the next big corporations demanding bailouts in order to "save" the economy, probably sometime next year. Once you open up the bailout trough every pig wants a share.
On a semi-related note, had an interesting conversation over lunch yesterday about the direction of the car industry. There’s a good chance that Tesla Motors, with their all-electric vehicles, is creating the future of cars. It’s worth noting that Tesla is a private company, working with technology (battery power) that experts had largely dismissed as a dead end. Instead, we got public investment in hybrids (an interim solution), the "hydrogen economy" (remember that?), and Ethanol, which even environmental groups are now acknowledging was an unmitigated disaster – environmentally, economically, and diplomatically. This is one of the reasons I don’t trust the government to move us towards a more sustainable future – when the government works on something they pick one or two golden solutions (usually with the "help" of well-funded lobbies), throw all the money at those, and ignore any and all other innovations until long after their chosen path has been shown to be a debacle. Experience is more and more showing that "X-prize"-style competitions between independent organizations yield more diverse and promising innovations. Yet most "X-prizes" are still privately funded.
It’ll be interesting to see if the Detroit/Autoworkers Union lobbies try to put up roadblocks to the success of electric transport in the US. Electric transportation will also drastically change the auto maintenance market – another potential source of push-back. Will an Obama campaign allow more-sustainable alternatives to move forward, or will it "protect" American business by propping up dying industries and regulating nascent ones? Time will tell.