More Dogs on Main Street
April 3, 2009
The skiing has been exceptionally good this last little while. After that warm spell, I was about ready to pack it in. Then we get a week of some of the biggest storms and best powder of the season. Some of my favorite spots got wind loaded and offered face shots all the way down. The Tuesday morning gang was lucky enough to get first tracks in Puma Bowl. It’s not a group that generally goes for a lot of hiking, but it was too good to pass up. We did multiple laps. It really was a remarkable week of midwinter conditions. But it could melt off in a heartbeat this time of year.
I don’t know that it’s a sign that the economic apocalypse is over, but the skiing was good enough that I got excited and bought new skis. I only bought when they were marked down 50 percent, and they will stay shrink-wrapped until next fall. Still, it’s the most significant wallet thaw that I’ve been able to muster since last fall. Swiping the credit card someplace other than the gas station was a new and unusual sensation. There will be bindings to buy sometime between now and next ski season, and I might even splurge for a new roll of duct tape for the gloves. Happy days are here again?
Not that everything is back to sunshine and lollipops. GM is broke, and after practically drowning in bailout money while they cook up a quick plan to reverse 30 years of bad decisions in a month, they are still broke. The Obama administration looked at their "plan" and said it didn’t cut it. As a condition of getting yet more federal money to keep them on life support, CEO Rick Wagoner got fired. He leaves with a $20 million retirement package, while the company is demanding retired workers accept big cuts in their pensions. It’s likely they will file bankruptcy within a few weeks.
General Motors going bankrupt is an idea that is a little difficult to get my brain around. I guess it’s not surprising. The last GM vehicle we owned, anywhere in my whole extended family, was a late-1980s Suburban that Dad kept out at the ranch. It was more or less indistinguishable from the 1960s Suburban it replaced, but with a little less rust. It did what it was supposed to do, but was pretty uninspiring. That’s pretty much been true of all their vehicles for decades adequate but uninspiring. Starting back in the 1970s, they surrendered whole market segments to the imports and focused on trucks. When the inevitable jump in fuel prices hit, they were without a product to sell.
So while their management failures seem so obvious that it’s hard to understand how they have survived this long, the idea that GM might shrink to a size that is unrecognizable, or disappear completely, is still hard to grasp. GM is part of the culture, part of the language. Bruce Springsteen sings about a pink Cadillac. The Beach Boys had their 409 (their "Little Honda" was a motorcycle, not a Civic). Nobody sings about a Toyota in any shape or color. Batman drove an Oldsmobile. Route 66 was explored in a Corvette. A ’57 Chevy is still a cool car, even though my grandmother drove one. Thelma and Louise went over the cliff in a Thunderbird (OK, so that’s a Ford, but could the movie have worked if they had taken the leap in Nissan Sentra?). What’s good for General Motors is good for America. Well, not so much. Not any more.
Unless, of course, it means that the country as a whole has been mismanaged for the last 30 years or so, and probably needs Chapter 11 to clean up the mess. Gulp.
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Chrysler is trying to work out a shotgun marriage to Fiat. It had previously tried hooking up with Mercedes Benz. That didn’t last long. In the end, Mercedes more or less paid a private group to take it off its hands.
If the culture clash with the Germans was bad, just wait until they try to blend in with Fiat. I can’t wait to see the new Chrysler Topolino 3-cylinder Hemi. The theory is that Chrysler can get into the small-car market with Fiat’s lineup, and that Fiat can reenter the U.S. market with Chrysler’s dealer network. I’m trying to picture the guy who buys the Dodge 3500 pickup, anything in the Jeep line, or for that matter the buyers of the retro-muscle-car lineup from Dodge, walking into the dealership and looking at the Fiat Quattroporte sedan.
Chrysler has been all about horsepower for generations, and Fiat is all about elegant window cranks. They only thing they have in common is oil leaks. These are strange times.
Tom Clyde served as Park City attorney in the 1980s and is the author of "More Dogs On Main Street." He has been a columnist at The Park Record for more than 20 years.