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Monday, March 16, 2009

Don’t Tell Mom: GM Has Been Drinking from the (Gas) Hose Again

I keep trying to figure out General Motors, and mostly this just makes my head hurt—possibly from gritting my teeth, possibly due to the head-spinning nausea that contemplating the utter collapse of American industry induces.

The new Chevy Camaro Z/28 is the cover story in the April issue of Motor Trend Magazine (the blessing of paltry air miles is abundant magazines you could never justify paying actual money for). And it’s one of those mixed message images: tough looking pony car on the cover—red, with a white stripe down the middle of its bulging hood—a couple of lines in explanation at the lower left, in smaller and smaller type: “The Z/28 Returns: The Ultimate Camaro is ready to go. There’s just one small problem. . .”

And you don’t have to be a rocket scientist (or even an automotive pr flack) to figure out what that might be.

This *is* a Good Looking Car—not my preference, but I understand the appeal. But. . . It Doesn’t Look Good for GM, tin cup waving tremulously in the direction of Congress, to be launching a project like this at a time like this.

Just a few more gallons and I swear I’ll stop. C’mon, man, look at those fat, low profile tires! It’s a thing of beauty—listen to the engine, *feel it!* Just a few more gallons. . .

It isn’t that “GM insiders” think this is the wrong way to go, as the president of the Maldives begins to make contingency plans for evacuating the entire population of his low lying island nation. It’s that “it doesn’t look good.”

We’ll just let the guy from Motor Trend in on this—who’s he gonna tell, anyway? When we get to DC, we’ll talk about the Volt the Volt the Volt the Chevy Volt the Volt. The Volt is coming! The Volt is coming! Well, a few anyway. . . eventually.

And in the middle of the mag: it’s the Cadillac Converj, a hot looking electric prototype (based on the Volt the Volt the fabulous Volt), which Motor Trend believes would be worth $60K-$70K in 2014.

I don’t expect to have $70K jingling around in my cup holder any time soon. I still don’t understand why the Volt needs a bigger engine to charge its batteries than my car uses to propel the whole machine. And—near as I can tell—the batteries that “will” make the Volt possible still only exist on Sugar Candy Mountain. Just a tiny bit of reality (or response to reality), that’s all I’m asking.

It’s as if cancer-ravaged GM keeps telling us they’re stepping out for their weekly chemo, and instead they sneak down to the tuxedo store at the mall, blow their HMO money, come back with a smart new wedding outfit and try to hide it in the front hall closet—like we’re not going to look there! Like we can’t see that they’re not getting better!

Americans used to build things. Real things. Things that worked.

I miss that. It’s not clear that we can survive without it. Certainly, General Motors can’t.

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