North American Auto Makers

Do they still not get it?

On CBC radio’s As It Happens, General Motors CFO and Executive Vice-president Ray Young stated with enthusiasm that “in 2009, the main products that we’re going to launch in General Motors in North America will be coming out of our Canadian plants!”

What are these new products that the “new” General Motors is set to proudly launch? A new Chevrolet Camero and Chevrolet Equinox/GMC Terrain. A remake of a 1960’s muscle car and a duo of SUVs. Yahoo. After dumping over ten billion tax dollars into GM, Ontario’s portion of which threatens the province’s credit rating, Canadians will be able to buy the car of yesterday tomorrow!

Ford at least manages to disappoint me without my tax dollars. When unplugged from the Matrix I’m an electrician. I drive a 1993 Ford Aerostar. It’s the most fuel efficient vehicle I can get that gives me the cargo capacity, ladder rack and towing capacity I need to work. But it’s worn out. When I saw that Ford is bringing the Transit Connect to Canada this year I was thrilled! The Transit Connect is a small commercial van that has been winning awards for years in the rest of the world. It carries about the same as my Aerostar, can have a ladder rack. Has no tow rating. Hmmm. Well, maybe I don’t really need to tow. Then the kick to the groin — the North American version will have a gasoline engine that gets about the same fuel economy as my old Aerostar. A little over 20 miles per gallon. For thirty thousand dollars or so I can have a van that does less than my old one and uses about as much fuel.

The rest of the world get a choice of turbo diesel engines that get over 40 miles per gallon in the Transit Connect. At the Vancouver International Auto Show I was told that Ford has no plans to bring the diesel engines to North America. Are the oil companies at work here?

There will be an electric version, with a range of about 160 km. Many work days I drive more than that. Canada won’t let me import a new vehicle that is not made for the Canadian market originally, ie the diesel Transit Connect. Brazil has a turbo diesel Ford Ranger and I think the Ranger and Aerostar share a chassis. Perhaps I could import a Brazilian Ranger turbo diesel engine and fit it into my old Aerostar?

Whatever I do I expect to get eight or ten years out of it and I expect fuel prices to increase substantially in that time. With that in mind, North American auto makers, I’m not looking for the vehicle of yesterday, or even for the vehicle of today. I’m looking for the vehicle of tomorrow. Get it?

postscript: Could anyone have predicted the current North American auto makers troubles? Or are they victims of the terrible economic times we are in? Check out this BusinessWeek article from 2005!

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