Among the eight appointees and ten policy aides appointed to President Obama’s Presidential Task Force on the Auto Industry, all but two drive foreign cars. This says more about how out of step the Big 3 automakers are with the market, than it does Obama’s team.
According to The Detroit News, two members of the task force don’t own a car, and two other members have yet to be appointed. Task force co-chairs Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner and White House National Economic Council Director Lawrence Summers each own Japanese cars. Geithner owns 2008 Acura TSX, and Summers owns a 1995 Mazda Protégé. Geithner’s car preference speaks volumes, as one of his grandfathers was once a vice president at Ford.
A lot of Hondas and Toyotas show up on this list. The Honda Odyssey makes the list twice. Other cars include Toyota’s Prius and Highlander, a Subaru Outback Highlander, a mini Cooper, a Volvo, a Lexus, and a Saab. The two American cars that are owned are a 2003 Lincoln LS, and a 1998 Chevy Cavalier. Conservatives may blast this task force for buying American, but I contend that it would be difficult, if not impossible to put together a proper task force that owns American cars. By the way, the term American car doesn’t really mean that the cars were made in America, only that the automakers are based in the United States.
This revelation is more of an indictment of the automakers who kept producing big gas guzzling trucks and SUVs long after demand had started to drop for these vehicles. Even today, when you are watching television, the ads you see for American vehicles much of the time are for trucks. Beyond not understanding consumer demand, one of the biggest mistakes Detroit made was over saturating the market with trucks and SUVs. Most people don’t buy a new truck every year. In fact, trucks are usually long term purchases.
The Big 3 were already in bad shape before gas prices shot up, and the recession took hold. The CEO’s of these companies tried to blame the economy, but this was a lie. The problems in the industry involve cost of production, quality, and consumer demand. I think that it is a good thing that the members of this task force aren’t in the automakers’ back pockets. What this list reveals to me is that the people on this task force behaved like many other consumers. When they want a quality car, they look overseas, because the Big 3 hasn’t provided many options.