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Giving thanks for clunkers


Sure, we all know a lot of those "rice burners" are built right here in the good old U.S. of A. by American workers, who stand to benefit from any increase in auto sales.

But a lot of them aren't. Let's forget that for the moment, and the fact that these companies, regardless of how many Americans they employ, are foreign-owned. Our tax money is going to prop up Japan's and Korea's bottom line. I'm sure that if the situation were reversed, they'd be delighted to return the favor.

But, as I said, let's set that aside. Isn't it sad that when congress bestows $3 billion in free money to American consumers to go out and buy cars, that four out of the top five they choose are Japanese? Are the foreigners that much better at satisfying American demand than Americans are? Do they know us better than we know ourselves?

Or is it simply that they're more nimble and can whirl their factories around like speedboats to start producing the cheaper, more efficient units that we now demand, while U.S. companies are still trying to pull off a U-turn with a freighter?

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Well, having observed GM for a long time, I'd say the real difference is that Japanese companies think "quality" is an engineering problem, and GM thinks it is a marketing problem.

The reason the Japanese will outperform us every time is because unlike in our culture, they actually have to compete against each other to maintain their leadership posts. That means that managers must consistently prove they can outperform their direct reports-- otherwise they are ousted.

In America, we believe in people's "feelings" and they "sensitive side" of our co-workers, instead of focusing on performance and just rewards.

My take? We will continue to fall behind until we focus on what is most important: results.

US car companies produce very reliable gas guzzlers, and the US government provides incentives for buying them (as you would expect from a government owned by oil companies).

- While the IRS was allowing up to $2,000 tax deductions for the purchase of hybrids, supposedly showing government commitment to clean air and fuel-efficiency, they were also allowing up to $50,000 deductions for the purchase of Hummers.

- Cash for Clunkers is a reward for having bought a gas guzzler in the past; not a reward for buying a fuel-efficient car now. It's not available to people who bought a fuel-efficient car before gas went to $4/gallon and now want to buy another one. It's analogous to the subsidy of banks that were recklessly managed and failed. No government help went to competing banks that were managed carefully and didn't cause the financial collapse.

- The list (see of supposedly fuel-efficient cars that you can buy with a Cash for Clunkers rebate includes many gas-guzzling behemoths with V-8 engines, and fuel efficiency is defined as min. 18 mpg combined EPA and min. 4 mpg less than the vehicle being traded in.

The UAW killed GM and Chrysler. Lackluster management did not help, but no management could succeed with the burdens the UAW heaped on them. The UAW did a disservice to the companies, the workers, the car-buying public. US workers in non-union plants are producing successful highly desired cars and earning good money doing it. Companies are not goose laying golden legs to be cut open for the gold. Companies are economic engines in a competitive world requiring the rational self interest and cooperation of management and employees to compete.

Chan, isn't most of the Japanese cars sold here are assembled in factories in the USA? The local economy where these factories are would keep jobs going I would assume. Just my two cents.

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About the author
Chan LoweCHAN LOWE has been the Sun Sentinel’s first and only editorial cartoonist for the past twenty-six years. Before that, he worked as cartoonist and writer for the Oklahoma City Times and the Shawnee (OK) News-Star.

Chan went to school in New York City, Los Angeles, and the U.K., and graduated from Williams College in 1975 with a degree in Art History. He also spent a year at Stanford University as a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow.

His work has won numerous awards, including the Green Eyeshade Award and the National Press Foundation Berryman Award. He has also been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His cartoons have won multiple first-place awards in all of the Florida state journalism contests, and The Lowe-Down blog, which he began in 2008, has won writing awards from the Florida Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists.
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