Automakers seek their inner tree-hugger
By Deirdre McMurdy, Sympatico / MSN Finance
It's hard not to be cynical about the huge cloak of green that's suddenly enfolding the North American automotive industry.
Against a backdrop of oil hovering below US$40 a barrel, the Detroit Auto Show has opened, showcasing the new, improved models from the Big Three carmakers. Although they didn't seem to find it possible to promote green and energy-efficient vehicles when oil prices were soaring, now that prices have collapsed, electric-powered Cadillacs and cross-overs suddenly abound.
Given the President-elect's clear signal that environmentally-friendly initiatives will be a key element in his economic stimulus strategy, the Big Three have tripped over themselves to ensure that they score the political points required to attract government bailout money.
But while it's arguably better late than never, the question that hangs over this year's subdued Detroit Auto Show is what happens to the considerable inventory of "old school" vehicles that are, literally, parked in limbo? In addition to the demand dis-incentive of a vicious economic downturn, there's also a question of who wants to buy a product that's already being eclipsed by a radically re-engineered one? And who wants to buy that out-of-date product from vendors who may not even be around in the medium-term?