Powering U.S. Automobile Manufacturing Forward Footsteps of Americas Past:

10 Apr

If one doesn’t get “IT” that the world is connected, one would have had that lesson driven home by stepping into the morning’s Energy and Commerce – Commerce, Energy and Trade “Our Nation of Builders: Powering U.S. Automobile Manufacturing Forward” hearing upon Capitol Hill. I have long told people everything know about politics I learned from horse racing, and, as with the mountain coming to Muhammed then patient people know if they wait long enough that Muhammed will come to the mountain. In this case, my worlds of horsepower converged.

Today. Mounds of horse flesh came to me. Second Panel. Magna. Auto parts supplier & rouster of the four legged racing world. Magna was in ‘ House, of Representatives, that is. Magna, to many, is a name barely known in the world. In the auto world, Magna is best known as an auto parts manufacturer. Not bad for a Canadian, eh? Scott Paradise, Magna’s Detroit boy on the panel, working for a Canadian company is learning to ‘get’ hockey. Paradise was speaking on behalf of a company built by an Austrian immigrant boy who learned a trade in a garage, as I recall being told, painfully embarrassed by his heavy thick accent. That boy, grew into a powerful man. Some say, it was that horrible way he was treated that gave him the drive to push farther and harder than his peers- at all of his ages. Frank did not make friends when he entered racing. He made a difference. His daughter went on to become a powerful woman in her own right in Canadian politics. Frank, I learned today, cashed in his B warrants. Somehow guessing the fillies in his life are priority, today, four legged that is.

In my world before politics, Magna to me meant mounds of horseflesh pounding down a track. I met Magna and its executives in a sleepy little hollow called Santa Anita, miles up the road from the picturesque town of Sierra Madre. I recall some legend about Sierra Madre, mining and donkeys. Santa Anita was infamous for a blemish in racing history. The center court fountain of the historic  racing park tells part of America’s story if one walking past the fountain knew to look. Years. Two carved years are missing. Racing stopped. The jewel of racing tracks was emptied of horses so the US government could lock Japanese and other foreign nationals inside. I will always remember the Japanese woman who told me when she looked up and saw Seabiscuit, she knew she was safe. Locked up wasn’t the word used back then. The term used was internment. Timing? Within days of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. How did the government know where the Japanese were to act so quickly? Census. The Facebook of that time.

For whatever it is worth, I came across the government’s handbook on how to lock people up overnight, seemingly. That is another story to tell. And show. Of course, I copied it.

I always tell people everything I needed to learn came from horse racing. Go figure. Horse racing found me here in DC making sense of horse feathers and government fluff. I also tell people my love was the worlds of International Horseracing and Boxing- MY sports- and that is why I am at home here in DC= political racing and people beating each other up- a world racing prepared me for.

Tail end Panel 1- Chairman Terry raised issue on a matter personal to me- IP- Intellectual Property. People look at hunks of metal, the last thing they think is design. I look at a door handle, the first thing I think is design and that someone came up with it, so lock step into the room as IP and Innovation in the auto industry were on the radar of the E&C committee panel was important. Consumers don’t realize an aftermarket item, while at cost, is a loss of Intellectual Property, as well as a possible danger to their car itself. There are solutions on how to educate the public. But it means thinking outside of the political box. There being a consensus between the  auto industry and Congress wanting Congressional help here too, the first test might be mimicking Ford’s Step One to potential team members, observing if they socialize well with others and can they figure out the needs of their public. Auto makers. Congress. Socialize well to figure out the needs of the public to see what they hear and comprehend when hit with two heavy hitting words that make most people’s eyes go bleary- Intellectual Property. Most don’t get it hence most don’t get the high cost of buying a knock off cheaper.

Chris Nielsen, President, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas, Inc. testified on the education of Gen Z, the kids coming up in the ranks after X and Y. Toyota wants to partner with the US government on educating the automotive workers of the future. Current automotive workers? Hispanic got mentioned but the future was also referred to. What is the future of autos in America? There is an Administration push for high speed rails. There is a silly cutback with TSA at airport. Gas prices are going through the roof. And the witness from Maryland, Kathy M. Kinsey, Deputy Secretary, Maryland Department of the Environment, Member of the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Council, talked about car charging stations interconnectivy across her state succeeding IF Maryland can get people past the notion that electric cars do not run off of bungee extension cords with surge protectors, that said, two days after Maryland led the nation in major tax increases driving more Marylanders to the “I give” move out of state.

 

Here is the disconnect between the Congress, the witnesses and the real world. Streetworks street-works.com Michael Bloomberg. 2007 or maybe it was 2005. I covered a Washington Hilton event where I learned Europe’s solution to a citywide bike station problem. People who rented bike’s at the top of the hill, did not like to return the bike’s back there after they got to the bottom. By the time the concept hit Arlington and DC, the Bike van’s were in place to “ungreen” the green good done by the cycling.

 

Streetworks agenda is to move cities from car places to un-car places. The buzzword used is sustainable. The interpretation of sustainable means car free zones utilizing trolleys, bikes, and walking in multiuser communities, those ones exploding around DC where condos and rentals are parked in top of food markets and retail. One slight problem. Conversations I hear ignore the reality of security in the event of another citywide blackout, in the event of a repeat of 9/11.

 

Who ever said vision and design waked hand in hand with reality.

September 11, 2001, citizens were trapped for hours in cars, unable to leave the District to safety. This I think might be the strongest argument for keeping the auto industry vibrant, aside from the real vibe, that men loves cars and women love men who love cars. And then there was that ONE culture named? Hispanic. What ever happened to the multi generational family pride to work and die in Beantown. Cover enough hearings, one gets a flavor for the color of a community. It isn’t all Spanish in Michigan. What is lost is the culture of communication without insight to where the “ball”  is going, a lesson I learned shooting British football. Anticipate. The industry and Congress aren’t anticipating.

At that table with the auto makers and lady with a long extension cord should have been the sustainable people designing cars out of our worlds, pushing Americans off planes, out of cars and on to proposed high speed trains. Problem is people are not a one-size-fits-all. People are human with quirks. And budgets as confirmed by the lady from Merry Land. How will she convince people to buy her idea in a state that cant balance a budget.

I recall the auto hearings and bailouts. I was there. I remember thinking how awesome for Ford they did not take the money. I am prouder of Ford for standing up on their own. I raised boys with the ‘I can do it myself’ mentality. That I bought a Hyundai to replace my Saturn is a reality of dollar and dime. I have no regrets. I understand jobs. And I understand the immigrant conversation. I understand people. Who wants to work for buppkas when the draw of being a reality TV star or a youtube sensation is more seductive with the promise of a Beiber-esque career. In my days, the B&C broads and techies had their own wing of the school. It was the coolest place to hang out. For some reason, the guys with tattoos, cigarettes on the drag, beer swilling and burping didn’t please moms, an image that is continued to nag the industry moving forward. I don’t recall their mingling with the cheerleaders and football stars. Guess who is having the last laugh now in these economic times. These guys have a trade. Out of work lawyers have careers and college debt they cant pay. And then there is the story of the 14 year old boy classmates teased. I don’t recall reading that Frank went to college. He is your poster child that should have been discussed. I love this definition “College loans are mortgages without the house.” Time to reinforce that autos are the ground swell of America. Maybe the lady from Maryland will be pleased when horses are back in style- sustainable, government approved edible, wearable and protection. Biggest problem being them horse apples roadside… recyclable, there you go.

Congressman Henry Waxman left a leaflet on the table, his statement on California’s support for the auto industry. California is that state able to boast the first American city to go bankrupt in this generation. Citing fuel emissions and Obama wanting cars to travel 54.5 miles red gallon by 2025. Waxman described the bells and whistles that comes in new cars asserting they are safety technology innovations. He didn’t adress cars that are mobile computers or the hazard of texting and driving even lawmakers are covert to do. Disrespecting, the auto makers plea for a local labor force, Waxman cited the Trans-Pacific Partnership working an a US-EU agreement. Californians a mum aha state, as is Henry a kumbaya citizen asking for everyone to get along “supporting innovative state efforts not try to undermine them.”

One could anticipate the Kid Factor injected into the conversation. It is THAT fall back go-to point when one isn’t prepared for a hearing with actionable fact. Congresswoman Shakowsky brought into the conversation her ten year old Ford, and that colleges in Illinois are collaborating on building the better battery. Did they know that? Shilling for dollars for her constituents she hoped they would. The telling of a tragic family story of a man who backed up over his child then two years later committed suicide. Pathos. Yes. Details. What were the details before making the auto a murder weapon that kills, buzzword of the Democrats keeping Newtown’s tragedy alive in a country where children are murdered every day. Jan asked… What are the numbers in Japan, of kids killed by cars in Japan. Bad car design or bad parenting. What point of bring a toddler to this table of the future of cars in America? Other than the auto industries handwriting is on the Sustainable Wall.

The question on the table was whether to initiate manufacturing or to expand manufacturing. Honorable Terry Lee cited the rebound of the auto industry from 5.7 million in 2009. Input was sought on if the current negotiations seeking regulatory mutual recognition standard could have on the domestic automotive industry.”

Congressman Upton’s opening statement reminded hearing attendees “we are nation of builders and the auto industry is a source of great pride.” His home state, Detroit, is the Auto State.”

The agreement is that more jobs mean “less unemployment, more tax revenues for cities and states and better lives for Americans.” And then there is Maryland pushing its residents to accept the cost of chargeable cars. Texas Congressman Olson took time to indulge in Texas pride boasting it was a Tundra that towed the Discovery at the Superbowl. A five minute commercial for the middle of America. I have decided to rename Olson TUG. The image of him chuffing over a Tundra tugging Discovery in his state is priceless, a five minute commercial for Texas he said he had more of. Bet he does. Congress Sarbanes soft balled a question to his home state witness pushing charging station infrastructure and range anxiety. Man that he is, Sarbanes admitted he too suffers from range anxiety. Then he applauded the cooperative work between Maryland and the car manufacturers on charging station infrastructures.

But no one talked about Streetworks, the main player behind condensing of towns into contained pods described above, trying to remove people from long distance travels, keeping them in small cities being built up rapidly. No one is anticipating. No one is digging. No one in the automotive industry. No one in Congress, yet, is connecting the dots making autos a thing of the past, seguys and other forms of transportation the way of the future whether Americans know it yet because the Streetworks types arent broadcasting to people who arent connecting the dots.

I have my eyes on a Mustang, four legged. How about you?

 

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