By Patrick Whiteley
The wheels have fallen off the US auto industry, and all the king's horses and all the king's men cannot put Detroit back together again.
But when one car door closes, another opens, and China's booming motor vehicle makers will soon be sitting in pole position. Say goodbye to Ford and hello to Chery.
A new order is sorting itself out and major corrections are underway in the chaos of these fickle economic times.
Profound changes are always startling. How could the Ford motor car, one of the icons of America's industrialization and the symbol of individual freedom, be allowed to perish?
I can answer this with another question. How could a black man be elected president of the United States?
America, China and the world are simply evolving, socially, economically and environmentally, and the transport industry is spinning into a new phase.
Look what happened to US television factories in the 1980s. Americans vowed the TV set was as American as Apple Pie, and should never be allowed to go under, but it did, and Japan took control of this mammoth industry.
The same fate awaits the inefficient US car industry, and China is positioned to fill the gap with cheaper, more efficient and even more environmentally friendly machines. China's environmental record is not pretty, but wouldn't it be ironic if the world's cleanest engines were soon made here?
Motor companies, both foreign and local, are boosting their research and development centers in China helping to innovate the next great advances in the auto world, especially in green technology.
The government is also spending billions of dollars to improve the environment, and has named car exhaust emissions as a major offender. Because of the urgent need, China's automakers, with help of the world's best motoring engineers, may speed up this area of research and development faster than others.
As the wheels of change have been turning for the past decade, Chinese carmakers have been the laughing stock of the motoring industry.
Detroit executives are not laughing anymore. With begging cap in hand, the bosses of the Big Three - Ford, General Motors and Chrysler - are now in Washington pleading for a $25 billion bailout for a problem, much of their own making.
The car bosses say US taxpayers money will help them develop more fuel-efficient vehicles, but why didn't they make these cars sooner instead of gas-guzzling SUVs and trucks with bigger profit margins?
They also started digging their own graves a while back by offering interest-free loans to people who could not afford to buy a bicycle, let alone a car.
This lack of judgment from both seller and buyer is why the world is in such a mess. Despite what any bank advertisement tells you, there's no such thing as a free ride.
If a man makes $500 a week, and spends $600, he may get away with it for a season, but not for the long haul. Now these long overdue bills have to be paid.
But here's the difference in China. The average Chinese man might make 500 yuan a week but will only spend 300 yuan. China is a nation of savers, and in recent times, a nation of aspiration.
Research company AC Nielsen discovered that China also has more aspirational car buyers than any other nation. The Chinese attitude of hope and self-improvement is one of the reasons why Chinese cars, and many other products, will rise to the top.
Although FAW (First Automotive Works) pumped out China's first car in 1956, China's love affair with the car really began in 2000 and last year, auto sales soared more than 20 percent to 8.79 million units overtaking Japan.
China is now the world's second largest car market after the US and it is only a matter of time before it is No 1.
(China Daily 11/21/2008 page8)