Monday, November 24, 2008

Q: How many vehicles does it take to make a point?

A: Thirty

There’s been a lot of hubbub in the works lately about the plight of the Big 3 Automakers. Will they survive? Should we bail them out? What will it mean to the American economy? The questions seem endless.

So the other day I got this idea to practice some empiricism and get some data on the situation. I decided to take it to the streets, literally.

I enlisted the aid of my dog, Itchy. Itchy is shown below.

While we were out walking, using my trusty Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS, I photographed every car that we passed on the way to the corner of my street.

I live in a neighborhood that is, according to Experian and ZipWho, somewhat white, somewhat Hispanic, somewhat African-American, somewhat Asian and somewhat professional, with a median income of around $37K. In the scheme of Los Angeles, California we’re not Beverly Hills and we’re not South Central. We seem to be sorta in the middle.

I photographed thirty cars. The results of my investigation are consolidated into a single graphic shown below. (You can click on the image to see an enlargement.)

Here are my findings: Of the thirty vehicles photographed, eight were made by a Big 3 Manufacturer. Of the eight Big 3 vehicles, six were either an SUV or a van.

So what can be said? Try this out for size. An overwhelming number of people parked on my side of the street (75%) do NOT drive a Big 3 vehicle. And of those that do drive a Big 3, most drive a gas guzzler (75%).

And people wonder why the Big 3 can’t make any money? From my unscientific inference, it’s not a profit margin problem. It’s a sales problem. Most people are just not buying Big 3 cars. No sales, no business. It’s that simple; it really is.

Being American means buying Toyota.

So here is an idea that is somewhat painful to express. Let the Big 3 go the way of Pan Am, Commodore Computer, Orion Pictures and the IBM Selectric. Hopefully the vital auto manufacturers will buy up the factories, dealerships and customer lists. All will be as it was. The people on the line will keep on working, if not on making cars and trucks that people want to buy, then on a transcontinental light rail system that runs on solar/magnetic power and carries folks and freight from coast to coast at a cost that is a fraction of fossil fuel based transportation. Profits will flow and 401Ks will rise.

All will be well.

It’s that simple; it really is.


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