In the midst of a financial crisis, where banks have stopped lending money, people can’t buy homes, foreclosures on every horizon, and the recently-approved $700 billion bailout package for AIG, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, there’s another business that’s getting money from the government: the auto industry.

Back in October, Congress passed a $25 million bailout package for the big three automakers in America (Chrysler, Ford Motors, and General Motors), despite the fact that their sales have continued to drop against heavy competition from foreign markets. What’s even more interesting, however, is that the automotive industry magnates won’t have to repay the money for five years or more – definitely a better deal than the big money loaning firms.

But where does this leave the American people? With gasoline prices still hovering around $2.50 per gallon (a relief, to be sure) and the constantly lowering prices of foreign cars, where do you think the people are going to turn to? The three major automakers are lagging behind the times, with Toyota, Kia and Hyundai consistently out-selling them, and with so many hybrid cars being built by foreign makers, who can blame the American people? It’s an interesting idea, to be sure: bailing out the major auto manufacturers so people can keep their jobs (and believe me, it’s a good thing that they are keeping their jobs), but we need to take a look at the underlying cause of why these auto companies are failing so miserably.

Last year, at the end of summer, I bought a new car. It was a 2008 Toyota Corolla, and it was easily the best car I’ve ever had the pleasure to drive. But I did my homework when I started looking (about a month before, the timing belt on my Ford Contour blew, leaving me stuck with the bus), and I was consistently finding that Toyota, Hyundai, Kia and Nissan were ranking much higher than Ford, GM and Chrysler in terms of gas mileage, maintenance fees and overall reliability. After test-driving some Fords, some Chryslers, and some GMs, it dawned on me that these cars, in effect, were way behind the competition, and I didn’t want to buy one. They were more expensive than my current car, got worse gas mileage, and were in the shop twice as often.

But why would Congress push so heavily against one bill (the $700 billion bailout) and let another one slide right through with hardly any press at all? While twenty-five billion may not be up to the task of bailing out the beleaguered banking industry, it will (hopefully) do enough to stimulate the flagging automotive sector into action, and right now we need some big changes from our automakers.

We need the Big Three to start pushing out more hybrid vehicles and investing in alternative energies for vehicles. We need them to show us, the American people, that they’re still the best at what they do – and then prove it to us. If we want the economy to get back on track, we’re going to need to start buying American; but in an era when so many quality cars are coming from overseas, what can we do but buy foreign? It’s not like picking up a toy at Wal-Mart; buying a car is a big deal, and it can potentially change the course of a family for years to come. They go with the best vehicle that can save them the most money, and that’s the bottom line. But tell that to the guys in Detroit; hopefully, this time they’ll listen.

 

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