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Car buying habits

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General Motors was the largest corporation in the world when I first went to work for them at the BOP Assembly Plant in 1963 in Arlington.

I began as a scheduling clerk, eventually attaining reliability engineer status.

The BOP stood for Buick-Oldsmobile-Pontiac and Texas farm boys came from all around to earn top wages for putting together those particular vehicles, along with the Chevrolet.

Work there was steadier than picking cotton, for taking a little break to straighten the kink out of your back might throw you in the hole on a line-job.

In the cotton patch, you had to take little breaks from time to time, so you just worked a little later to make up for it. Not so in the automobile assembly business.

In those early days at Arlington, upwards of 3,000 men worked two shifts, producing the most popular cars in the world. I remember closing the doors on 50’s-model GM vehicles just to hear the quality click produced by their closings.

But now the GM’s are in trouble and on the verge of closing their factory doors altogether. We’ve come a long way from eagerly awaiting the announcement of new GM, Ford, and Chrysler model announcements to a possible closing announcement.

The government is debating, even today, on the whether to bail out GM or let her sink. Never mind that same government in Washington was the one threatening monopoly action against GM back around the middle of the last century for edging up over 50-percent of the market share. How dare them become that popular!

So GM had to pull in her horns because Chevy, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick, Cadillac, and GMC trucks were just too popular with the American buying public. Though it might sound simple, the pulling in of one’s horns is not as elementary as one might think. What do you do, lower your quality standards so people will buy a Dodge or a Ford instead?

Well, no, you didn’t have to do that; the government would cripple you in other ways. So, along comes the EPA, or some other governmental alphabet soup agency telling you how to build automobiles for fuel mileage. Let the buyer decide? No, Uncle Sam would get in the car business.

Then, along come the tree-huggers from DC saying tailpipe emissions would also be controlled from there. Who would know better what the car-buying public wanted than a baggy panted wide body from Washington, right?

And, not ones to leave well-enough alone, the controllers in DC came back year after year, placing ever-stricter standards on the GM’s, Fords, and Chryslers. We’re from the government and we’re here to help, don’t you know...

Then, though I don’t know exactly how, you have to know government action of one kind or another had an earthquake amount to do with the so-called gas shortage emergency of 1973. If you were of adult age back then, the long lines at the gasoline pumps are unforgettable ... along with the quickly rising prices.

So, Americans panic and rush to their car dealers looking for something small and more fuel efficient, but Chevrolet Vegas, Ford Pintos, or Plymouth Spuds were not exactly on everybody’s lips.

After all, Americans were and had always been into ever-larger and sleeker vehicles. Small automobiles were not in our vocabulary. Neither had it been in Detroit’s plans for the future. But small is the middle name for Japanese automakers.

So, in my mind, at least, Washington, DC has been the chief perpetrator of the demise of the purely American automobile.

The lion’s share of the blame lays at their feet for the transfer of American buying habits from Detroit to Tokyo.We are currently seeing a repeat of history in the shut-down of American factories, of every stripe, in favor of factories in Communist China. Much of that shift has been due to the same government intervention factors as has mostly defeated our auto industry.

So, our own government has been the source of drying up American manufacturing and turning us into an "information" producing or info-based society. I wonder how long we can hold that title ... with government "supporting" us?

And, yes, I do wish to keep my retirement check from GM coming (I worked there for 30 years), but my more important wish is that Americans would go back to buying Chevys, Fords, and Dodges instead of Toyotas, Nissans, Kias and Hondas. Let’s dance with the one who brung us and support fellow Americans in the process.

We hear energy tycoon Boone Pickens lament the negative flow of billions of dollars back across the Atlantic pond to the Middle East over their oil, encouraging us to go wind-power, and we should all be concerned about that. But what about additional billions flowing back across the Pacific pond because of American foreign car buying habits? We the People, not Washington, are the ones in control of that particular purchase item. Shouldn’t we make a mid-stream correction in our car-buying habits?

We could, you know, exchange our Toyotas, Hondas, Kias and Nissans for Chevys, Fords and Dodges. That little item is completely in our hands, but will we do anything about it and just let Uncle Sam do the bailing out instead and with our money? May God bless.

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