All May Not Be Lost for the American Automobile

Not only is the technology of the automobile changing, so is how we think about them.

Published: 01-Feb-2009

It’s not news that Detroit is in the ditch, battered by both a frightful economy and self-inflicted woes. General Motors and Chrysler have already tapped Washington for $17.4 billion in emergency loans to avoid bankruptcy, and given the plight of the American auto industry that looks like a first installment of taxpayer funds.

The prognosis seems grim indeed. Yet is there a hopeful note amid the gloom? Is there a case to be made that the car industry actually could revive itself, instead of ending up in a coffin?

History and technology suggest that there may be — provided, of course, that the Big 3 can survive the next few years. And that’s a big if. The hopeful path, auto and labor experts say, requires rethinking not just old-line management and work practices but also how cars are sold, serviced and powered — that is, reinventing the industry and the car itself.


Hero Motors Ultra Maxi uses a 250 watt motor to avoid falling into category that would require license fees, road taxes and registration.

The scooters currently come in two models, 1000 and 1500 watts, and retail for NZ$2200 and NZ$2400 including GST. Photo courtesy of Scoop.

Piaggio Porter pictured at right has electric driving range of 7-120 km with a top speed of 60 km/hr.


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