Washington mandates that Detroit must build cars for which there is much less demand than Washington demands that there be. Then Washington tries to manufacture demand with a $7,500 tax credit for purchasers of the electric Chevrolet Volt, supposedly GM's salvation. So, GM is to be saved by a product people will not buy without a cash incentive larger than the income tax paid by 83.4 percent of America's families.
It is reasonable to assume that GM will become profitable — if you make unreasonable assumptions about annual vehicle sales and GM's share of the market. Besides, the government that runs Amtrak (which has lost $23 billion, in today's dollars, just since 1990) vows to make GM efficient.
But one reason Amtrak runs on red ink is that legislators treat it as their toy train set, preventing it from cutting egregiously unprofitable routes. Will Congress passively accept auto plant-closing decisions? Rattner says that Washington's demure vow is: "No plant decisions, no dealer decisions, no color-of-the-car decisions." He is one-third right. Last week, under the headline "Senators Blast Automakers Over Dealer Closings," The Post reported, "Because the federal government is slated to own most of General Motors and 8 percent of Chrysler, some of the senators said they have a responsibility, as major shareholders do, to review company decisions."
Washington's "rescue" of GM began because GM is "too big to fail," and bankruptcy is (well, was) "unthinkable." Big? GM's market capitalization, $375.8 million on Wednesday, is about the size of California Pizza Kitchen's ($340 million) — is it too big to fail? — and one-eleventh that of Harley-Davidson ($4.3 billion). Fail? If GM has not already failed, New Coke was a success.
Comment: A better idea .... now that we have poured billions into GM: Senator Lamar Alexander Wants Taxpayers, Not Lawmakers, to Have Control of GM