11 August 2007

Alan Mulally Is So Wise- He's Like A Miniature Buddha, Covered With Hair

The Freep had this to report from Ford boss Alan Mulally-

Ford Motor Co. Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally created a stir in Traverse City on Wednesday among auto industry leaders and the news media by expressing interest in a 50-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax proposed a day earlier by U.S. Rep. John Dingell.

He then went on to make some vague comments about $9 gas in Europe as a way to let the customer decide on what vehicles they wanted.

All of this is amusing on a number of levels, because it's quite obvious as to what is going on here- Ford is playing a public relations game. Mulally didn't just shoot off randomly here- he is priming the pump so to speak. Exactly what benefit would $9 gas or increased gas taxes have for Ford? About the same as the increased CAFE regulations they and others such as GM are so vehemently again- zero, zilch, nil, nada. The domestic manufacturers, who coincidentally are the sheep bleating the loudest in regards to the proposed CAFE regulations, would be hurt massively by either upgraded CAFE standards OR greatly increased gas taxes.

None of them have any serious pipeline to small cars on the way, and all of them rely on big profit but relatively bad fuel economy trucks for their continued existence.

So how is this a PR move? Well for one, Ford comes out looking like roses by trying to solve the problem- they aren't just shrieking uncontrollably, they're providing options! Furthermore, if there's one thing that Mulally and Ford know, it's that taxes aren't something that the majority of the American electorate are fond of. So they'll tout gas taxes all day long, secure in the fact that the number of politicians who would support $9 gas is about the same as the number of politicians who want to lose their jobs next election. All the while, they can go to the press with the news that Ford is very concerned about the environment and gas consumption, but they did their part and offered up the idea of gas taxes, because CAFE is a horrible idea.

And no one will call their bullshit.

The truth of the matter is, Ford/GM/Chrysler are going to feel the pain either way because either CAFE or high gas taxes are essentially the same thing for them- they don't have the cars necessary for good fleet fuel economy in their pipeline right now to compete with the Toyonissondas of the world if CAFE comes in soon, and consumers would shun their profit drivers (trucks) if gas went up to $9 a gallon. They're screwed either way.

A more realistic and truthful way of doing things would be admit that their product lineups are tilted too far towards the wrong kind of vehicles, and announce a REAL move towards smaller more fuel efficient rides. And then follow through on it within 2 years. If they worked with the government on the subject of CAFE, there would no doubt be leeway given towards their cause, with a stepped regulation probably being the best thing. Instead, by kicking and screaming every step of the way, some of them end up looking petulant and ignorant, while others look condescending and untrustworthy.

Looks like Detroit is going to have to pick their poison.

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