Well, well, well, another year, and another Detroit Auto Show. Are we about to see the resurgence of American car manufacturers on the global stage? Automotive journalists all over the world have indicated this, the 91st annual show, will be the “green” one. Expected vehicles to be showcased at the show include a great variety of electric and hybrid vehicles, some which surprisingly may not cause mass amounts of consumer disappointment.
Rejoice! The future of the automotive industry is here. Surely we can look to Ford, GM and Chrysler to bring us wondrous creations that will allow us to travel across the country on a single tank of gas, with the scent of flowers coming out of our tailpipes and woodland animals prancing along beside the highway as birds serenade our journey.
Well, unless Ford’s new 400-something horsepower Mustang relies on unicorn farts for propulsion, it looks like the Big Three have ignored consumers demands for greener transportation. Indeed, all manufacturers seem to be strongly in the “business as usual” mindset, with supercharged sedans from Cadillac and big SUVs from GM and Chrysler. Perhaps “green” was supposed to mean the paint colour.
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. The North American automotive industry long gave away any illusion of remaining at the forefront of innovation and development. While many have wished for a second coming of the Big Three, the 2010 North American International Auto Show may only represent an epitaph for a dying breed.
So maybe this situation was inevitable. With China now representing a larger market for automotive sales than anywhere else in the world, Chinese manufacturers may be able to make a better case for internal sales than an international car company trying to break into the market.
“Okay,” I can hear my editor saying, “what does this have to do with our readership?” True — unless you had your heart set on picking up a green machine created by an American car company, their decision to stay firmly stuck in the past is unlikely to have much of an effect.
But, as just about every single newspaper reported when the American government bailed out GM, there are too many industries counting on a healthy automotive sector. If 2010 marks the beginning of the end for cars in North America, then things are going to look pretty bleak for the economy.
Worse still is what the Big Three’s backwards mentality represents. It’s an abdication by one of the oldest industries in North America of a place at the forefront of innovation. A cynic may say it’s a muted recognition of our shift from a society of thinkers and innovators to a society obsessed with consumption and the service industry (a hardened cynic may say we’re there already).
So congratulations Ford, Chrysler, and GM. While many had already chalked you up as irrelevant years ago, you weren’t having any of that. No, you stood up and said “Don’t just assume we’re irrelevant, we’ll prove it for you!” Instead of fading away you chose to burn out in an orgy of fossil fuels, proving to the world once again that North Americans rise above the rest in our need to be self-absorbed. Well done.