By: Suzanne Elston
General Motors, once the worldÕs largest and most powerful corporation, is slipping. According to Fortune 500Õs 2006 listing, GM is currently ranked third overall behind Exxon Mobile and retail giant Wal-Mart. And while GM shows 2006 revenues of $ 192 billion, it also has losses in excess of $ 10 billion.
This isnÕt news for GM. The auto giant has been consistently losing market share since the early 1970s to Nissan, Honda and Toyota. Each of these companies has been able to produce smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles that appeal to both the car connoisseur and the wallet. Clearly, itÕs high time that GM rethought its game plan.
So, will the worldÕs largest car manufacturer produce a stellar line of hybrid vehicles that will help revolutionize the car industry and help the corporate giant regain its Fortune 500 crown? With oil production expected to start declining within the next decade, will GM aggressively promote alternative fuels and electric vehicles? Will it save not only itself but the environment as well?
I donÕt think so. While GM has put some investment into the development of FlexFuel Vehicles – vehicles that can run on either gasoline or E85 ethanol – the bulk of its energy (both corporately and literally) is going into promotion of gas guzzling monsters. (E85 is a fuel blend that is 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline.)
Take last weekÕs announcement about the rebirth of the Camaro. The car will have a 400 horsepower, 6.0-liter engine and a six-speed manual transmission, which likely wonÕt win it any awards for fuel-efficiency. This newest version of GMÕs popular muscle car of the 70s and 80s was unveiled in January at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
Last week, GM announced that it would be investing $ 740 million to produce the Camaro at the companyÕs Oshawa plant. The move will reportedly save 2,700 jobs and revitalize the Canadian auto industry. If all goes according to plan, the first Camaro will hit the street in 2009, just about the time that experts predict that global oil production will start to decline.
Since the Camaro isnÕt designed to meet everyoneÕs driving needs, GM is currently aggressively marketing the H2, the smaller and more user-friendly cousin of the monster H1 Hummer, as an alternative to the family van. In a current TV ad, a young boy is patiently waiting for his turn at the playground slide when a bully pushes past him and climbs the ladder. When the first boyÕs mother complains that it was her sonÕs turn next, the bullyÕs mother smirks, ÒWell, I guess itÕs my sonÕs turn now.Ó
Clearly embarrassed and ashamed, the first mother jumps into her mini-van and drives to the nearest GM dealer where she trades in her modest vehicle for a Hummer. When last we see the mild-mannered mother, sheÕs smiling brightly from behind the wheel of her new H2, while junior beams in the back seat.
If all of this has you mad as hell and you donÕt want to take it anymore, youÕre not alone. Consider the FUH2 website that states, ÒThe H2 is a polluter. Based on GM's optimistic claim that it gets13 mpg, an H2 will produce 3.4 metric tons of carbon emissions in a typical year, nearly double that of GM's Chevrolet Malibu sedan.Ó
It continues, ÒSo while our brothers and sisters are off in the Middle East risking their lives to secure America's fossil fuel future, H2 drivers are pissing away our "spoils of victory" during each trip to the grocery store.Ó
Wow. But the FUH2 website isnÕt all bad news for GM. Consider this statement, also from the FUH2 website:
ÒThe H2 is also a death machine. You'd better hope that you don't collide with an H2 in your economy car. You can kiss youÕre a** goodbye thanks to the H2's massive weight and raised bumpers. Too bad you couldn't afford an urban assault vehicle of your own. Or could you...?Ó
Which perhaps, sadly, is what GM is counting on.
Check out www.FUH2.com.
It doesnÕt have to be this way. Check out www.renewus.org and watch the mock documentary ÒClimate: A Crisis Averted.Ó This innovative film looks at the climate crisis from the perspective of the year 2056 and tells the story of how in 2006, ordinary citizens realized that global warming was a scientific fact and not just a scientific theory, and took action to demand clean energy and other planet-friendly options.
For more information about GMÕs FlexFuel vehicles, visit LiveGreenGoYellow.com.