I have great affection for the US Auto industry. GM, Ford, and Chrysler have employed millions of Americans through the years. Whether it be on the assembly line, at dealerships, or in corporate offices if the US Auto industry suffers, the nation will suffer.
In recent years Japanese and Korean Manufacturers have started making cars in the states and while I wish they would have unionized workers, it is great that there are good paying manufacturing jobs in the United States.
Read the other day that US Auto Sales may hit a 15 year low in 2008. And this means more Americans likely to lose their jobs. (http://au.news.yahoo.com/071119/2/1503j.html)
There is blame of the pending mortgage crisis which is leading to this feared shortfall. I think this is a cop out reason. The manufacturers are being too stubborn in really dealing with the problem that is high gas prices and fleets ill advised to handle this problem.
I remember when the Prius came out there were waiting lists for it. I can't drive the anywhere without seeing a Ford Escape Hybrid which gets 34mpg . So why won't one of the major auto manufacturers commit to making 50+% of their fleet hybrid, fuel cell, electric?
Is there any question that people want these cars? Consumers want their trips to the pump to cost less. Many people wan to be better citizens and stewards of the environment. Whether it be "An Inconvenient Truth" or thoughts about the dependency on the Middle East, many people want to do more to help. I know hybrids are a few thousand dollars more expensive than non hybrid models, but the government now offers tax breaks for hybrids which cancels out some of that difference. Plus the long term gas savings have to be something that could be marketed. Automakers spend as much money marketing as any industry out there. I hear that damn John Mellencamp song every commercial break, can it not be marketed that buying these cars will save consumers money AND be good for the environment? It's an easy sell.
Auto manufacturers who get out in front of this insulate themselves against future energy crunches. It would be good business. It would be responsible business. It would be good for the environment. Don't come out with 2 two new hybrid models every year, come out with 20 and sales will soar!