I tend to agree with people like Joseph Romm. The management of the Big Three doesn't deserve salvation—which I didn't make that clear in my original post. What I demand is a second chance for the engineers and line workers.
The poor decision makers presently running GM, Ford and Chrysler need to go—as a part of a bailout or bankruptcy reorganization.
GM's heavy-duty hybrid technology would be far more revolutionary than Toyota's.
The Toyota technology can only be applied to smaller, lighter vehicles topping out at perhaps the Highlander SUV. Such vehicles are only suited to commuting. In contrast, GM's technology (developed with BMW and Chrysler) can be applied to huge vehicles pickups, commercial trucks, and buses.
Why is the GM technology superior? The efficiency gains from hybrid technology are vastly larger in big vehicles. A Prius has only about a 20% gain in operating efficiency, compared to a similarly sized and shaped car. In contrast, the improvement for a full-sized pickup is more like 200-250%.
The Prius, in many instances, is replaceable; bicycles for short trips, mass transit for basic travel. Commute-shmommute; abandoning those cars will give us greater gains than switching to slightly better engines. But those larger vehicles, their tasks are still imperative.
Even if you buy into the environmentally clean car commute bullshit, GM's approach here is objectively better than anyone else. The Chevy Volt drives its wheels only with electric motors, supplementing the energy stored in a modest battery pack with a gasoline-fired electric generator.
Electric motors produce all their torque right from the start, obviating the need for any sort of energy-sapping transmission system, particularly the ornate sort required when both gas and electric motors are driving the wheels. The small battery pack is sufficient in capacity for the vast majority of trips taken by people with these sorts of cars. The vast majority of energy in vehicle is stored as liquid fuel that is more weight, space and energy efficient than batteries will ever be. And, since the gas-fired motor is only attached to a generator, it can always operate at its optimal speed using only fixed gearing. The whole package uses each part to its maximal advantage, while being overall simpler than the Prius-hybrid approach. If people are going to continue to commute by car, and live in sprawl, this is the better approach.
Compare these technologies to the bullshit hydrogen fuel-cell cars being touted by Honda. Hydrogen is a total nightmare. It's vastly more difficult to distribute than liquid fuel or electricity. When it leaks out, it acts as a greenhouse gas. And, the vast majority of hydrogen fuel is made by inefficiently converting fossil fuels—still dumping carbon into the atmosphere. The fuel cells require a tremendous amount of rare metals, the mining of which is a total environmental nightmare. Hydrogen cars, from a net environmental impact, are likely worse than a traditional gasoline-fired small car.
In contrast, the technology in the Volt really is revolutionary—a true net environmental benefit when you consider life of the car from start to finish.
The work done by American assembly workers is as good as any around the world. JD Power's initial quality survey tells you that. Or the quality of US-made Hondas and Toyotas. US-made cars are objectively better in build quailty to those made in Europe or even most factories in Asia—on par with the best Japanese-manufactured cars, and have been for nearly a decade. You sound like a fool when claiming otherwise. If you seriously believe American's cannot assemble things, when blessed with a proper management, I suggest not flying anywhere, ever.
I strongly disagree that there can be a healthy post-industrial US economy. A huge contributor to our present woes is the idiotic policy stance that we can somehow transition to a service-based economy, shedding all manufacturing to other nations while living on credit and currency imbalances. Manufacturing jobs allow people willing to work hard to live well—without the burden of years of education, for which many do not have interest, aptitude or access. One in ten jobs in the country is directly related to the auto industry—the sorts of jobs that still provide things like retirement benefits and health care for employees.
The dirty truth is, the migration of manufacturing jobs away from the US has been an environmental, economic and social disaster for the entire globe. Shipping heavy goods around the planet carries a heavy carbon footprint. Allowing imports from countries with lax or non-existant labor and environmental regulations leads to things like the brown cloud of doom choking people throughout Northeast Asia. The state-supported export-based Chinese economy has proven as brittle and unstable as many feared.
I'm not opposed to industrialization around the globe. Just, more of this growth in production needs to be for domestic consumption—where the people assembling can afford and purchase that which they are making. India took this path. China didn't. Compare the states of their economies today.
We've had no industrial policy in this country for decades. Should we be really surprised that the auto industry is a total fiasco? So, yes. It's time for the hand of government to enter into this sector of the economy—promoting manufacturing in the US through good policy. Policy like enforcing the environmental and labor standards in existing trade agreements. Policy like demanding the auto industry prepare for a post-carbon world. Policy that promotes and shares innovative technologies to US manufacturers. Part of this, I still believe, should be a helping hand to those who have done right by all of us—the engineers and line workers—right now when they need it most.