Tuesday, June 3, 2008

GM forced by consumer demand to finally get a clue

In all fairness, it isn't just the auto makers who are at fault - responsibility is shared with a stupid and self-centered American public - but they sure didn't plan for the energy economy that we have known was coming since 1956. (I haven't been mocked for espousing peak oil lately, mostly because every fucking thing I have been predicting since I learned about the subject from a science teacher in 8th grade and spent my summer in the library learning about it - has born out, right down to air lines limiting the number of bags a passenger can bring aboard for free.)

I am one of those cranks who has spent the last 25 years screaming that Hubbert was an optimist, and by the way, a double whammy (the nexus of climate change and peak oil) was coming down the pike. (Sorry for the mini-rant, but the "I-told-you-so's" are getting harder to stifle.)

Driven by abrupt changes in consumer demands, GM is closing four manufacturing facilities that manufacture pickup trucks and SUVs, and are considering dumping the Hummer line entirely.

The moves, announced Tuesday by the company chairman G. Richard Wagoner Jr., will slash 500,000 units from the automaker’s overall production, and pave the way for increased investment in smaller cars and passenger vehicles.

Mr. Wagoner said that rising gasoline prices had forced a “structural shift” by American consumers away from truck-based vehicles built by G.M.

“These prices are changing consumer behavior and changing it rapidly,” Mr. Wagoner said at a briefing before G.M.’s annual meeting in Wilmington, Del. “We don’t believe it’s a spike or a temporary shift. We believe it is, by and large, permanent.”
Previously GM had announced that shifts were being cut back on two other truck lines. Wagoner refused to comment on whether workers would be relocated, but did say that it would be "unlikely" that the facilities would reopen manufacturing other products.

Now I am no econ wizard, but I'm good at interpreting data. And if I were going to make any guesses, I would guess that this signals a sea change at GM. I would also guess that the only reason for abandoning existing infrastructure is a decision to take the road less traveled, and the existing facilities are so inadequate that starting from scratch would be the better bargain on aggregate.

If Detroit accepts that the salad days are over, then the salad days are over. That is reality. And you know what us peak-oil cranks say about reality...If you don't deal with it, it will deal with you.

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