September 1, 2010
By the people, for the people…oh, never mind.
By Peter M. De Lorenzo
(Posted 8/31, 8:00PM) Detroit. As we stumble into the final weeks of the summer around here, the hot and steamy weather has begun to resemble the economy, as in slow-to-stagnating. To make matters worse, people in this business clinging to a glimmer of hope that the good times are just around the next bend are now having to deal with the fact that this so-called auto industry “recovery” is going to be excruciatingly painful and drawn out, with nothing resembling instant gratification on the horizon, or even close for that matter.
But it isn’t just the weather or the economy causing the lingering late-summer headaches right now for this business, it’s the stark realization that the U.S. government is hell-bent on becoming a direct, hands-on player in this industry – well beyond the existing bailout/overseer role it already occupies – and it’s a role no one in this business wants to see expanded. And it shouldn’t sit well with consumers out there in the real world either.
Let me start by asking a couple of key questions: Are there people out there who actually believe in their hearts that they know what’s best for the rest of us? Or do they just get off on telling us not only what to do, but how it’s going to be when we’re doing what we’re told, too?
How does all of the above sound?
The latest sign that The End is near as far as the automobile - or at least the freedom associated with the automobile - is concerned? The government wants to change the now ubiquitous EPA mileage stickers on our cars and trucks so that they’ll be even more nanny/nag-like, assigning an actual “letter” grade to our cars and trucks that will rate fuel economy and emissions performance.
In other words, if your vehicle isn’t a Shiny Happy Prius or one of the zippy new electrically-enhanced modes of transportation, your vehicle will be assigned an average-to-poor grade. In other words, our government regulators plan on shaming us into buying a better grade of transportation – at least in their minds anyway – then we’d normally opt for.
Because we are, after all, too stupid to figure it out for ourselves.
This, in case anyone wants to delve into it any deeper, makes perfect sense in the minds of regulators in Washington. After all, as Gina McCarthy, the EPA’s assistant administrator for air and radiation – nice title, by the way – told the Wall Street Journal, the rules are designed to reflect major advances in car technology, “We think a new label is absolutely needed to help consumers make the right decision for their wallets and the environment.”
I see it a little bit differently. I see it as an example of the classic - albeit tragically typical – bureaucratic regulator mindset that seems to thrive in places like Washington and in The Free Republic of Sacramento. The same mindset brought to bear on our behalf each and every day, unfortunately, that automatically frets about the fact that we - the general citizenry “out there” in the hinterlands - are barely capable of negotiating our typical day without the guidance and suckle of the all-knowing and all-seeing regulators who are charged - at least in their minds - with saving us from ourselves.
And that if it wasn’t for these aforementioned regulators and well-meaning benevolent bureaucrats we’d all be wandering around in a daze, careening though life unfettered, unruly and incoherent, generally causing societal chaos by our abject refusal to follow the rules. Or to be even blunter, generally screwing things up because we don’t acquiesce to the whims and wishes of the bureaucratic regulators who after all, know what’s best for us.
The undertone in all of this nonsense is that this ugly bureaucratic mindset operates under the assumption that collectively we - meaning you and me - don’t have the faintest of clues about anything to do with our cars and trucks, and that given our feeble state we can’t possibly understand even the most rudimentary issues when it comes to the environment, or anything to do with our transportation choices.
But even worse than all of this? Now the table is being set to have these same regulators, with that same we know what’s best for you bureaucratic mentality in full flower, veering from giving us emissions/economy ratings on our vehicles - that presumably we can all understand now that they’ve been distilled down to elementary school levels of comprehension – to actually ladling out opinions on which vehicles are worthy of our consideration.
Just off the top of my head, this is a Cowboys Stadium-sized bowl of Not Good.
Next thing you know, they'll be requiring the manufacturers to actually add the grade as a decal on the vehicle somewhere, which will be followed by decal grades on our garage doors - like scarlet letters for all the world to see.
Between now and then, however, I predict yet another giant disconnect between the bureaucratic regulators and the rest of the American driving public, as the Shiny Happy “A”-graded vehicles are left collecting dust in showrooms all across the country as the “C,” “D” and “F” vehicles fly off of the lots.
As the Wicked Witch of the West once famously said, “Oh what a world! What a world!”
And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this week.
See another live episode of "Autoline After Hours" hosted by Autoline Detroit's John McElroy, with Peter De Lorenzo and friends this Thursday evening, at 7:00PM EDT at www.autolinedetroit.tv.
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