Auto Service World
News   February 28, 2006   by Auto Service World

“Executive Mastodons” to Blame for North American Auto Industry Woes

Automotive industry critic Ralph Nader says that North American auto companies’ downfall is the result of management standing in the way of innovation.
“We all have a role in confronting the executive mastodons of the auto industry who are stuck in their own traffic. It is time to put the federal cop back on the auto companies’ beat,” says Nader.
Nader uses a new report by associate Rob Cirincione, a Princeton-trained engineer, is titled “Innovation and Stagnation in Automotive Safety and Fuel Efficiency” from the Center for Study of Responsive law in Washington, D.C., to support his point.
“With few exceptions, a vast wasteland of technological stagnation and junk engineering from domestic automakers has destroyed over three decades of opportunities for increasing the health, safety and economic efficiency of the motoring public,” says Nader. “This ‘dark age’ of the domestic motor vehicle industry was not the result of a series of omissions. It was the product of a deliberate expansion of the auto giants’ power to block innovation.”
Nader calls on the Americans to send a wakeup call to the industry to fight the same type of stagnation that characterized automotive engineering in the 1960s.
Nader first made his name with his 1965 book “Unsafe at Any Speed,” which chronicled the problems and engineering coverups of the 1960 Chevrolet Corvair, as well as other examples.
Nader says the same attitude has resulted in the more recent loss of market share by the Big Three.
“During this period, the Big Three, with all their autocratic hierarchical bureaucracies, managed to continue losing market share to foreign manufacturers. General Motors and Ford are experiencing massive annual losses, which would be even more immense absent their profitable financing arms. Their bonds have been downgraded to junk statussomething unthinkable a decade or two ago.
“One might think that such a state of affairs would itself constitute an internal wake-up call to change directions and provide annual value improvements in their products. No way. Notwithstanding the ‘talk’ in their advertising campaigns, it is still business as usual.”
Rather than addressing the issue, says Nader, energies have been focused on freezing regulatory activity while they continue to construct “jerry-built junk, profitable junk, called SUVs.
“Over thirty years of stagnation are quite enough. An entire new corps of the top executives is needed to provide a leadership of receptivity to, if not of outright initiation toward a new generation of motor vehicles.”

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