Congress should not go easy on GM if it does approve a bailout, but Congress has shown no sign of going easy on the auto giant. The idea of setting auto executives scurrying to produce a business plan is nothing short of brilliant. I've got suggestions for what such a plan should include. But first and foremost, it should be focused on one word and one word alone: green.
No more SUVs and gas guzzlers. Even in the truck division, GM could make its heavy-duty vehicles much more fuel efficient and price them so that they could only be purchased by commercial ventures. Private citizens who want to drive guzzlers should be priced out of the market and should instead be forced into low-mileage cars. GM got into this mess because instead of leading the consumer market in the right (read that: green) direction, it catered to America's sick addiction to gas guzzlers. Now's the time to lead, not cave in.
Dan Beuke of BusinessWeek writes:
End of discussion about higher mileage rules. For years, honest efforts to boost fuel efficiency were snuffed out in Washington by Detroit and its fellow travelers in Congress. Enough. I say we build right into bailout legislation a 40-mpg average for cars by 2020. That's up from 27.5 today, and a big step up from the 35 mpg goal that Detroit is supposed to achieve. I don't care how they get there: Build cars that burn corn cobs—or For Sale signs, for that matter. Just get there.
America cannot afford to have GM go under any more than it can afford to lose Citicorp and AIG and all the rest. And the market seemed to understand that on the day before Thanksgiving, when GM stock was up by about a third in midday trading on hints that Congress was closer to acceding to GM's come hither pleas. I know there's no such thing as fairness when it comes to business and money, but what's sauce for Citicorp ought to be sauce for GM, too.