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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

November 20, 2008 at 3:37 PM

Bailing out the Big Three

Tim Sloan / AFP / Getty Images

United Auto Workers President Ron Gettelfinger, General Motors (GM) CEO Richard Wagoner, Jr., Chrysler CEO Robert Nardelli and Ford Motor Company CEO Alan Mulally, left to right, wait to testify before the House Finincial Services Committee on Wednesday.

Spit out the razzle-dazzle

Editor, The Times:

The U.S. auto industry has a handful of gimme and a mouthful of Mustang razzle-dazzle, with continually increasing horsepower and falling miles per gallon [“Auto-industry bailout facing a rough road,” Politics, Nov. 18]. If there is to be a federal bailout, it should be with the condition that fuel-efficient vehicles must be the priority.

The government cash should go to purchase stock in the companies, which is probably a pretty good bargain right now. Then the new administration will have added leverage to achieve its goals of combating global warming and moving this country toward energy independence.

— Roger Lippman, Seattle

Demand better

I am against the idea of infusing cash into the automobile industry as it stands today. This is an industry that has historically shot itself in the foot with R&D, labor and marketing.

Who’s to blame? The management and the unions, and to a lesser extent, we the consumers.

An infusion of taxpayers’ cash without a complete restructuring of business practices is only the postponement of the inevitable. What is truly needed is for these companies to go through the bankruptcy process, which will force the restructuring they have avoided. Yes, countless suppliers will be hurt, jobs will be lost and social services will be strained. But in the long run, is it not healthier to take the hurt/pain now than just throw cash at them and hope they fix it?

The current management and union leadership will fight against such a process tooth and nail, only looking out for their own interests, which seem to be 180 degrees apart. But wouldn’t it be better in the long run to make some cars than make absolutely none? Wouldn’t it be better to keep your union members employed, even if it requires lower wages and benefits?

As consumers, we should demand an increase in the fuel-economy standards from our elected representatives. This would help reduce our dependence on imported oil. Forcing fuel-efficiency standards that set the bar high for cars and SUVs and pickups will spur innovation in design and technology.

Federal mandates for new technologies need to be ironclad, with no exceptions. Tax incentives need to be tied to production of new modes of powering vehicles and only be given when the minimum thresholds have been met — no exceptions. Set strict percentage standards of new technology-powered vehicles to the total output and inside of that standard, percentages by type, across the board — no exceptions. Set these new standards now with a due date no later than four years from now.

We should also take a look at what we’ve been buying. With multiple SUVs and pickups in every driveway, we have helped lead them down the path to where they are today. Our voracious appetite for bigger, stronger, faster needs to be tempered with a healthy dose of what do I need versus what I want.

In the long run the survival of these three companies and their multitude of suppliers will require a complete mindset change for everyone involved. It will be painful for almost everyone, but the end result will produce jobs, profits, a safer country and a cleaner environment.

— Dave Herrington, Edmonds

Let’s be winners

The automakers are asking for a $25 billion bailout.

If Congress wants to help the auto industry, the answer isn’t to give them this money. The answer is to take the same $25 billion and pay the first $5,000 of a vehicle cost for the first 5 million Americans who purchase a new vehicle that is at least 50 percent manufactured in the U.S. from GM, Ford or Chrysler.

This way, Congress would help the automakers and their suppliers sell more vehicles, support workers, directly help individual Americans get safer transportation and boost consumer spending by encouraging purchases by consumers who might otherwise not have bought a car this year.

It’s called win, win, win, win.

— Christopher Hodgkin, Friday Harbor

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