Tuesday, March 31, 2009

In Which I Speak Of Things I Know Nothing About

I went downstairs for coffee and scanned the covers of the (surviving) morning papers as I checked out. The US auto industry is in bad shape, I guess.
The economic downturn can take some of the blame, I'm sure, but that whole system has been failing for as long as I can remember. I have avoided domestic cars since I bought my very first new car (a Honda) due to concerns about reliability. Patriotism makes sure that I always look over my options again when the time comes to buy another car, but that's the point where the US auto industry breaks for me.
I haven't seen a car produced by an American company that I'd want to buy in forever.
And some of them are nice! And the warranty (especially now that it is tax payer backed) is certainly fine.
They got a ton of money from the government to put together a plan on restructuring and they failed to come up with one so the CEO of GM was asked to resign. By the White House. In a situation which is increasingly starting to freak me out.
Sure, people aren't buying cars right now, and that sucks. But how much of it is related to the fact that American car companies have failed to offer anything which is a must-have kind of vehicle?
Instead of shuffling a current GM executive into the CEO role, I think they need to put an outsider in charge.
Someone with a vision of some kind.
Someone with a track record of making products people want.
Someone who can take a brand-name and create a term which replaces a whole class of consumer product.
Someone willing to work for one dollar, since funds are a little tight right now.
The White House should totally hand the reigns of GM over to Steve Jobs.
Steve Jobs turned a reliable little computer into a veritable icon. Even people who are dedicated Windows users will admit that Apple products have the market cornered on style. They are a status symbol, geeky enough to satisfy the hard-core yet stylish enough to please the fashion-conscious. And that was the idea all along, not some accident of the market.
The iPod is the media device of the people, even though it was far from the first portable media player. The white earbuds are as much fashion statement as sound-delivery mechanism at this point. People refer to MP3 players as iPods, because that is the assumed type. The first was sold at the end of 2001 and by the middle of 2007 Apple had sold 100 million of them, creating a tiered product line hitting several price points and encouraging an upgrade cycle of about one iPod every two to four years, an upgrade cycle the automotive industry would positively "squee!" over.

I'd totally drive an Apple-inspired car.
Apple products have had an emphasis on environmental awareness since forever. And style.
There would be next-to no learning curve, either, since an Apple car would function pretty much the same as a regular old boring car, if simpler.

Behind the scenes of that stick would be enough power to satisfy a driving enthusiast, but actually changing any of the default settings would be optional.
If they put someone with a clue in charge at GM, my next car would be one of theirs.
And if there was an Apple logo on it, I'd buy a matching shirt possibly.
An Apple-branded car has long been the dream of a large portion of the internets. There is no better time for that to happen than now, when crisis demands a new direction.

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