Monday, November 17, 2008

Responses from Readers: Auto Industry Bailout

Chevy Suburban

Last week we posed a simple question to readers of some of the new discussion boards on LinkedIn:

Do you think funds from TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) should be used to help the U.S. automotive industry? How about other troubled industries, like retail?

Readers from the Strategic Business and Competitive Intelligence board had the least sympathy for the industry. Eric Garland's first post favored the market-oriented approach:
If we really believe business is about innovation, then having businesses "too big to fail" is likely incompatible with future success. Plus, as a U.S. taxpayer, this is starting to get maddeningly expensive. Break them up, or let them fail.
Jorge Buhler-Vidal added a few populist licks:
I am generally not sympathetic to a bailout to an industry led by people that have consistently ignored trends towards better quality, higher fuel efficiency and safety, while collecting high bonuses and keeping their golden parachutes.

Some cited the high cost of U.S. health care and the generous U.S. auto industry benefits packages as factors that reduced American competitiveness.
The US does not have "socialized" health care, the costs are directly in the vehicles. For Europe and Japan, the health care costs are a bit removed and spread out in the form of higher taxes for their national health care. - Bryan Gavini

The cost structure of health in the U.S. is strangling the nation's ability to compete. Once we lose a few vital industries, corporate executives will be crying out for some form of social net that doesn't sit on their balance sheets. - Eric Garland

Until the Big 3 can at least shed the legacy costs saddling them from the UAW, I don't see why they should get relief from us. - Anders Bjork

Responses to the University of Michigan Alumni board tended to show greater concern for the welfare of workers and pay less heed to free market thinking.
I would support a bailout if the funds were used to lessen/deplete the legacy costs (retiree benefits) alone. We're going to pay to support the retirees if the companies go under anyway. We're also going to pay a ton to support the 3 million unemployed. If we could remove the legacy costs from the balance sheets, re-negotiate the UAW contracts and fix our trade agreements, maybe we could pull out of it. -Jennifer Ray

The financial bailout has done nothing to help credit markets as of now. No credit markets have been thawed and the banks are being admonished for not lending the money. This has led to the further spiral of the auto industry because customers with good credit are being turned away because they cannot qualify for a loan.
I am disturbed by anyone who invokes the "free market" as if we are a purely capitalistic society. We are not. There is no such thing as a pure capitalistic society because each and every system has some sort of government control to either prevent catastrophic success (i.e., a monopoly) or catastrophic failure (what is going on now). The US did not emerge from the Great Depression by letting the free market have its way. -Jon Liu

Guy Powell on the Executive Decision board wondered how best to manage our way out of the crisis.
If the auto industry goes bankrupt, then it takes money out of the banks. Will this then ripple over to the banking market again causing another higher bailout of the banks. It would seem that 'in for a penny, in for a pound.'

Respondents to our board, A Management Consultant @ Large, took a long-term view.
The longer term fix is to retool that work in Michigan to cars that fit a better vision of low energy usage and elimination of emissions. -Rudy Westervelt

Consolidation appears inevitable, given the ferocious international competition and sustained overcapacity in the industry -- so why not have two (or even all three) of the Big Three merge together as part of the bailout? -Ben Petree

What if GM & Ford could "draft" assets from Chrysler--would they take any? How about people? -Joe McKinney

The US auto industry (as distinct from the auto industry in the US) reminds me of the UK situation 40 years ago. Government bailouts failed. The lesson learned is that the best government involvement is that which greases the skids of change, and not that which just delays the change. Tax policy can be used as an incentive for value-added entrepreneur progress, and for humane retraining. -Robert Munro

A collection of posts about the US Economy is maintained here.

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