Thursday, February 19, 2009

What To Do About GM

E. J. Dionne, a Saturn lover like myself (we have three of them), writes about the need to maintain our domestic car industry, at least for a while (he is also very sad that Saturn is being cut loose by GM):

The unions have made enormous concessions, and the dealers are likely to do the same. But how hard a bargain will the banks and the bondholders drive? Will banks being subsidized by the federal government make life difficult for car companies being subsidized by the same government? Do the taxpayers get nailed at both ends?

Free-market advocates would argue that such agonizing complexities inevitably arise once the government gets deeply enmeshed in the workings of the market. True, but I'd still rather accept the messiness involved in giving Detroit one more chance than risk the human and financial costs of letting the domestic auto industry implode. Sometimes, the market's "creative destruction" is more destructive than creative.

As for me, I've put my own money where my columnist mouth is. With my Saturn interred, I am now the proud owner of a 2009 Chevy Malibu LTZ. It is one of GM's comeback cars, and reviewers say it is thoroughly competitive with the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.

I'll never feel quite the same way about the Malibu as I did about my Saturn, even though the LTZ is a much nicer car. But as long as GM stays unionized, I'll drive with a clear conscience.

The next car I hope to buy is a plug-in hybrid. I'm holding out until then.

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