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Thursday, July 31, 2014
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Published: Friday, 5/7/2004

The evolving automotive industry

In the 1950s, Ford and Chevy forced a price war on the American market, squeezing out independents Packard, Studebaker, Hudson, and Nash. American Motors was formed from some of their remains, but was never a competitor.

The "Big Three" then ruled nearly 20 years, yet their myopic vision of "choice" meant that Chrysler followed Ford which followed GM.

The vacuum of quality and innovation left by U.S. independents was the back door through which VW, Toyota, Honda, and others entered the arena. Arrogant Big Three managers accused these makes of dumping, and using "coolie" labor. If only they had to build them here, they said, they would be on a level playing field.

Build them here they did, and they own the field. The "Great American Sedan" hasn't been displaced by an SUV - it's a Camry or Accord.

Your Tuesday editorial, "The Olds says good-bye," rightly accused Oldsmobile of the "middle child" syndrome. Historically, it was the engineer's car - a testing ground for those radical developments such as HydraMatic and front-wheel drive. Cadillac only got them after Olds had worked out the "bugs." (For your information, though not a "family car," the 1929-1938 CORDs were all front-wheel drive, derived from Miller Indy racer technology).

Changes in automotive fashion and demographics are nothing new. Pontiac, notably, was an "old ladies'‚óŹ" car until the late 1950s. GM (and other makers) have used some form of "badge engineering" for generations. Toyota and upscale Lexus still do it.

The biggest problem facing the industry worldwide is overcapacity, from manufacturing through distribution. GM simply eliminated the smallest part of its domestic capacity.

Thanks from a car nut.

Paul Peters III

Cherrywood Lane

When I read that BP has requested permission from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to dump thousands of gallons of "extra" grease, oil, and ammonia into Lake Erie, I had two thoughts. The first was why BP should be dumping any of these clearly very detrimental substances into our great lake. The second was the realization that, given Ohio leadership's lack of interest in environmental protection, the Ohio EPA was probably going to approve the request.

Patriotism is at a very high point in our country right now in the wake of 9/11 and the Iraq war. But I see precious little love of our country itself - the soil, air, and water.

Maybe it would help if we started using the term "matriotic" to describe our duty and devotion to our country itself - that part of Mother Earth within our boundaries.

Maybe then we would be able to see that dumping ammonia into Lake Erie, or approving BP's doing so, is every bit as bad as burning an American flag, which is, after all, only a symbol of the real land we love.

Tom Barden

Kenwood Boulevard

Your editorial on the ambitious Republicans down in Columbus was a gas. You seem to view ambition and one-party rule as something unique or strange.

If you want to look at how disastrous one-party rule is, take a look at the old Soviet Union, or Iraq, or Toledo, Ohio.

Democrats have ruled over the feudal system of Toledo forever. The plain result: horrible infrastructure, schools in crisis, people and businesses fleeing, and politicians like Ray Kest, Linda Furney, Marcy Kaptur, and Louis Escobar.

The Blade scrapes the bottom of the barrel with every endorsement of these pathetic pols.

Bob Troll

Holland

After reading about the anniversary of the 1995 Alfred Murrah federal building bombing in your April 20 issue, I read on to the Readers' Forum where a writer suggested the biggest news "during the peaceful Clinton years" were shark attacks off the Florida coast.

Where has he been? Here are a few that I recall that happened during the "peaceful" Clinton years: 1993 World Trade Center, six killed, 1,000 wounded; l995 bombing in Saudi Arabia that killed five U.S. military personnel; l996, the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia, 19 killed and 200 U.S. military wounded; 1998 bombing of U.S. embassies in Africa which killed 224 and wounded 5,000, and last but not least, the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole that killed 17 and wounded 39 US Navy personnel.

If those responsible would have been hunted down and punished as Mr. Clinton promised, perhaps the Sept. 11 terrorist attack would not have happened.

There were many other incidents during those "peaceful years": cattle futures, real estate transactions, records lost, and an intern.

Those, as I recall, made some headlines, too, along with the shark attacks.

Merritt Higbie

Perrysburg

I, too, served in Vietnam. My involuntary enlistment in the Navy provided me the opportunity to do boot camp in sunny San Diego rather than the wintry Great Lakes.

During my service I contracted what is called the "stress recuperative phenomenon." It is defined thusly: The mind of the survivor typically moves toward resolution of post-traumatic responses through a series of normal and predictable phases. Thus, stress reactions do tend toward evaporation. When this normal process is unsuccessful, the sufferer enters into a phase of residual stress disorder, classified as chronic (duration of symptoms six months or longer). Those individuals suffering from this phenomenon will find that it will not be "fungible."

Clarence Page's column took Donald Rumsfeld to task in a most righteous and relevant manner, especially as I have read that the military-industrial complex of the Vietnam War era earned $80 billion. Increasingly, my perception is that those "fungible" persons who are in the National Guard and Reserve units in Iraq are used as if they were temporary employees hired by one of the Pentagon's no-bid companies.

Many of the military personnel now in Iraq will return, eventually, to the United States suffering from post-traumatic stress, clinical depression, and the stress recuperative phenomenon. Those who keep having their Iraqi tours of duty extended are naturally more susceptible to experiencing stress-related problems. I hope it won't take 15 or 20 years to be diagnosed.

Clarence Gafeney, Jr.

Valentine Street

The election season has only just begun, but already I am tired of being bombarded with political ads. They could have at least waited until after the political conventions and the "official" nomination of the candidates.

Not only are we being buried under a flood of political ads, a great many of them are just slinging mud! If we were being offered some real information and discussion of the issues, it might just be bearable.

However, and President Bush is the worst, we are being fed a diet of misinformation and bad-mouthing of the opposition. Instead of telling us how he is going to resolve the problems facing the United States today, he is telling us all the bad things that John Kerry will do if he is elected.

Can't we have an honest campaign with real issues and debates? Give us some meat to chew on as we decide how we want to vote in November.

SHARON TIPPING

Ottawa Lake, Mich.

Your Tuesday editorial stated that Oldsmobile made the first U.S. car with front-wheel drive, the Toronado, in 1974. This is the wrong year: Oldsmobile made the first front-wheel drive Toronado in 1966.

We now have four Oldsmobiles, including a 1975 Toronado, and were very disappointed with GM killing the Oldsmobile when it should have dumped the Saturn.

I wanted to buy a new Bravada this fall, but now it looks like I will go to someone other than GM.

MAC McCOY

East State Line Road



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