Thursday, January 5, 2012

Car Talk

Last year was a really good year for the American auto industry.

Strong sales in December capped off a great year for U.S. carmakers – especially Chrysler – and 2012 should be even better.

For their biggest Japanese rivals, a year of natural disasters and other struggles ended on a sour note, with U.S. sales falling and the outlook for this year just as challenging.

Chrysler Group, in the midst of a comeback after its 2009 trip through bankruptcy court, said Wednesday that sales surged 37 percent in December and 26 percent for all of 2011. Demand was particularly strong for the Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Chrysler 200. Chrysler catapulted itself ahead of Honda Motor Co. as the fourth-largest automaker by sales in the U.S.

General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. ended the year with more modest double-digit percentage gains. Analysts say U.S. car and truck sales rose for the second year in a row as buyers’ confidence in the economy picked up, their aging vehicles wore down and their ability to take out cheap loans improved.

Gee, it’s a good thing Mitt Romney wasn’t president in 2009.

If General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout that their chief executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye. It won’t go overnight, but its demise will be virtually guaranteed.

Without that bailout, Detroit will need to drastically restructure itself. With it, the automakers will stay the course — the suicidal course of declining market shares, insurmountable labor and retiree burdens, technology atrophy, product inferiority and never-ending job losses. Detroit needs a turnaround, not a check.

So much for “sound business sense” and being “knowledgeable about enterprise.” If he’d had his way, Detroit would be a smouldering ruin with thousands of people in hundreds of other businesses and towns out of work.

I do hope the good people of Michigan remind him of this every time he sets foot in the state.