Saturday, April 3, 2010

不是你父亲的奥兹莫比尔

Sorry--especially if you speak or write Chinese, as (obviously) I don't. The above is an attempt by Google Translate to render "Not your Father's Oldsmobile" into Chinese, because General Motors, one of our too-big-to-fail bailed-out manufacturing dynamos, chalked up a third consecutive month of sales in the People's Republic of China that exceeded those here in The Land of the Round Doorknobs. That sharp intake of air, just now? Nothing more than your body reacting with star-spangled pride to the idea that this tradition-bound artifact of the Industrial Revolution is weathering the transition into the Brave New World in fine fashion.

As Dylan noted,
money doesn't talk-it swears (it's alright ma, I'm only bleeding...the brake lines to get the air out). And when you look at a GM balance sheet and see the whole dollar cash infusions given to the guys who brought us the Fiero, the Aztek, and, going back a bit here of course, both the Corvair and the Vega, you can only applaud the pluck it takes to just keep going. I don't even want to imagine what time you have to get up and go to work when you're jettisoning not just car models, but whole companies for a return on investment to your shareholders. With all due respect, Mr. President, for many of us, that's the change some of us believe in.

There are towns and counties across this country which overnight became ghost towns, or close to it, when Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Saturn and more went the way of high-button shoes (come to think of it, why didn't those guys ask for federal money?). And it wasn't just the guys and gals on the swing shift in Tennessee who watched all their tomorrows disappear. There were countless others, in 'related industries and services': the grocer, diner operators, gas station owners, dry cleaners, bakers, butchers, insert candle-stick makers joke here, Realtors and home improvement companies, to name just a few. Thanks for playing. Here's a voucher for a free lunch, because as we all know, Virginia, not only does Santa Claus exist, he's flipping burgers at the In and Out to help pay off that free lunch thing. Take a napkin and Bon Appetit.

Here's a phrase of the day for you, 旧车换现金. That's Cash for Clunkers and the Chinese government has just such a program going on right now-and GM is very grateful for its existence and its effect on their bottom line. You know what else is helping their bottom line? Working smarter and not harder? Being leaner and cleaner? Yeah, sure. But kidding aside, you lower the manufacturing overhead. There's a lot of ways to do that, of course, and you needn't have gone to the
LSE to decide swapping out labor costs in Michigan for those in Guandong or someplace in Brazil is a winner. Okay, not for anyone in Michigan (the commute will kill you) but for the folks clipping coupons back home in the big house on the hill, and that's where the priority is.

什么是好,是通用汽车公司对美国有利。(
What's good for GM is good for America) Still, for an estimated 13.4 billion (with a "B") American taxpayer-supplied Federal dollars, what did we really expect would happen? To be honest, the question that keeps me up at night is what do we expect to happen next?
-bill kenny

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