Friday, June 27, 2014

Government Kills Off Four Car Brands

At the start of the 2011 model year, customers will look in vain for four well-known American car brands that were the victim of government policies. While many customers enjoyed these cars and many people had jobs making them, they were unable to withstand enviornmentalists who pushed for higher gas prices and arbitrary fuel standards or government bureucrats who pushed for fewer brands and smaller cars.

The push by environmentalists to make cars smaller and more fuel-efficient is based on the desire for clearner air and to fight global warming. Cleaner air is a worthy goal and speaks to the failures of firm property rights with regards to air, but global warming is a passing fad that is based on religion more so than any real science. And yet in spite of the evidence regarding global warming, the evidence that it is purely harmful, the evidence that humans are the cause of this global warming, or the evidence that government policies will have a meaningful positive effect, the government has acted and put in place 'fuel efficiency' standards that are arbitrary numbers made up by some bureaucrats. In addition to forcing car manufactures to use lighter materials which have led to increases in automobile deaths, for some car brands these government standards are too difficult or challenging to reach.

The second assault on traditional American car brands was waged by government bureaucrats who took advantage of a downswing in finances for GM and Chrysler (caused by government attacks on them through regulation, taxes, cap-and-trade, and other government policies) to seize these formerly private companies, steal the wealth and investments by private investors, and then use the power of government to transfer that power and wealth and investments to government officials and politically-connected unions. Then these government officials, most lacking experience in business in general and almost all lacking experience running automotive companies in particular, decided that these companies they had seized needed 'fewer brands' and 'smaller cars.'

But for the 2011 model year—thanks largely to the huge economic downturn that began in late 2008—four well-known American nameplates have gone the way of the Edsel, so to speak.

And so this year we say goodbye to good American brands such as Hummer, Pontiac, Mercury, and Saturn.
Via Yahoo Auto's:

Of these four, the Hummer brand was the most short-lived. The original Hummer H1 (or Hum-Vee) was a celebrity of the Persian Gulf War. In 2002 came a smaller and (slightly) more manageable version, the Hummer H2. Exactly what made suburbanites decide they needed a four-wheeled facsimile of a machine-gun toting, troop-hauling war machine parked in their driveway is best left to future generations to explain. Perhaps the supersized and fuel-guzzling excess of the Hummer brand will someday look as quaint as towering tailfins from the late-1950s? Or perhaps not.

Pontiac and Mercury always maintained a far more balanced product portfolio during their much longer life-spans. Founded in 1939, Pontiac was introduced as a companion make to prop up sales at GM’s Oakland division. Pontiac immediately outsold, and eventually far outlived, its parent brand. Oakland faded away in 1931. Pontiac’s historical highlights include the 1964 Pontiac GTO (the car that defined the muscle-car era) and the Firebird sports coupe.

Mercury was introduced in 1939, not to boost another brand’s sales, but to fill the price gap that had emerged between Ford and its upscale sibling, Lincoln. Cars like the 1949 Mercury Coupe driven by James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause all but guarantees the brand immortality – even if the nameplate itself has finally driven into the sunset. Years of badge engineering eventually dissolved Mercury’s identity, squeezing the brand out of the Ford Motor Company family tree.

Perhaps the biggest surprise – at least in terms of positive automotive karma – is the loss of Saturn. Created by GM to take the fight to imports, Saturn was marketed as “a different kind of car company,” thanks to a lineup of fuel-sipping small cars and no-haggle pricing policy. If only the cars lived up to the feel good dealership experience. A lack of development and new models left Saturn spinning out of orbit. A list ditch effort to market vehicles built by GM’s German-based Opel division as Saturns proved too little too late.


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