Deadline Now: U.S. Auto Industry Forecast
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Deadline Now: U.S. Auto Industry Forecast

Friday, December 7, 2012

Kristin Dziczek, Director of Labor and Industry at the nonprofit Center for Automotive Research, and Tracy Handler, Principal Analyst for North American Vehicle Forecasts for IHS Automotive, join Jack Lessenberry to discuss the Detroit Three and issues affecting the industry, labor and more.

Here are Jack Lessenberry's Final Thoughts for this edition of "Deadline Now:"

Back in the nineteen-seventies, some futurist told me that by the year two thousand, most of us would be driving electric cars.

Well, most people on golf courses are. Today they are debating whether to build a light rail system in Detroit. They were also having that debate when I was in high school, in nineteen sixty-eight.

I am not holding my breath. Some things that we expect to change don’t -- or only very slowly. On the other hand, sometimes change comes, and comes fast, when we least expect it.

Nobody twenty years ago ever expected General Motors would go bankrupt. Much less that GM would then rebound and go on to make billions, while getting less than twenty percent of the market.

Fifty years ago, GM had more than half the entire market. We’ve lived to see Fiat save Chrysler; foreign automakers outsell domestic ones in the United States, and expect cars to have a hundred satellite radio stations and complex navigation computers.

But we’ve also seen the era end when the domestic auto industry could be counted on to employ vast numbers of workers with few skills at high wages. That’s had an enormous economic impact on this part of the world, and we’re still dealing with it.

And despite advance, hybrid technology and vehicles like the Chevy Volt, we also haven’t figured out a way to wean ourselves from fossil fuels. When the Great Depression began eighty-three years ago, there were thirty-two million cars and trucks in the world.

Today, that figure is vast approaching a billion vehicles, with the number increasing in China fastest of all.  We will indeed run out of fossil fuel sometime, and even before that, releasing vast amounts of hydrocarbons into the air is bound to affect the environment.

Somehow, I don’t think plug-in electric cars that are recharged by electricity created by burning coal are the answer to that.
Yet we are in love with our cars. Elsewhere in the world, just about everybody who doesn’t have a car wants one. And in America, except for a few of us who live in one of the handful of cities with good public transportation, life without a car isn’t very practical.

What’s clear is that the industry and the world have a lot of automotive problems still to solve. But I am cautiously optimistic.

After all, brains capable of building today’s smart cars ought to be able to figure out how we can coexist with them.