Fasttie.com Interview of Autosavant’s Chris Haak
By Chris Haak
Editor’s Note: Last week, I was briefly interviewed by Fasttie.com, the Car Review Search Engine, on my thoughts on the best and worst cars of 2008, the prospects for the auto industry bailout, and what predictions I might have for 2009. They published the interview today, so I thought I’d excerpt it here.
You can find the full interview by clicking on the headline below.
The company that built your car may be going bankrupt, your car magazine is filled with advertisements, and you need some good predictions for 2009, what the heck is going on here? Luckily, Chris Haak from Autosavant steps up to the plate in this latest interview. Autosavant has a lot of original content that you cannot find elsewhere, so Chris brings a unique perspective to the issues of the day. For instance, a lot of (virtual) ink has been spent on the union aspect of the auto bailout, but Chris discusses a point that may be as crucial, namely compliance with multi-state emissions regulations. Keep reading for more great insight from Chris.
Fasttie: The bailout, is it going to happen and is it enough?
Chris Haak: It’s going to happen, but it’s not enough. They will be back for more sometime after January 20, and possibly again after that depending on what the economy does next year. Frankly, if the new car market is as bad as I’m afraid it’s going to be in 2009, even Ford will need to get some money, and even if GM successfully navigates a very treacherous “to-do list” of concessions, divestitures, and model/brand elimination – which is NOT a given – literally almost everything has to go right for GM to survive long enough to start paying back the loans it is requesting. With that being said, the bailouts are necessary in my opinion, because the collapse of any of these three companies – including Chrysler, the smallest – would mean disaster to the industry and would tank the economy even further, if that’s imaginable. If people thought the November 2008 employment report was bad, let’s see what it looks like with GM and/or Chrysler, plus most of their suppliers, in Chapter 11.
Of all the conditions to be placed on this money that are being bandied about, the one that the companies are probably most worried about is the proposal that they drop their lawsuits against California and the other states that have adopted California’s emission rules for California’s greenhouse gas limits, which are a de facto fuel economy standard. If that went through, forget about CAFE – it’s somewhere around eight miles per gallon more strict than CAFE and would both cost a fortune to implement and result in cars that people don’t want to buy. California should just have a $3 per gallon gas tax if it wants to encourage small car purchases and leave the fuel economy regulations to the Federal government.
Fasttie: What is the best car this year?
CH: Other than the Jaguar XF, I really hate to be unoriginal and agree with Motor Trend’s choice, but another new car for 2009 that I really thought highly of was the Subaru Forester (Motor Trend’s SUV of the Year). While I find the 2009 Forester to be much more handsome than the previous version, it also lost some of the old one’s personality. However, I don’t necessarily see that as a bad thing, as “personality” meant “weird proportions” and “ugly” in the 2008 model. It showed gains in the small-on-the-outside, big-on-the-inside department, with a remarkably spacious interior that can accommodate car seats, cargo, and 6’4″ car reviewers – all at once -without breaking a sweat. Of the 30-some cars I’ve tested this past year, few of them pleasantly surprised me, but the Forester was one that did. The fact that my tester had a five speed manual was just icing on the cake.
Fasttie: In closing, we are about to enter into the New Year, any predictions on next year?
CH: The new car market will, unfortunately, be closer to the downside predictions that Ford, GM, and Chrysler presented to Congress in the first week of December (10.5 million units). This is a huge drop-off from recent levels, and if it’s true, these three companies – not to mention a majority of their supplier base – will need any combination of loan guarantees, layoffs, spending cuts, bankruptcy, and labor concessions just to survive the next 12-18 months. The three companies will be back in Washington in January – or March at the latest – asking for more money, and still might not make it. We will see decontented new cars, possible consolidation in the industry (almost certainly in the supplier base, and possibly even OEM combinations like GM-Chrysler if they can make the financing work), and fewer new car models. The manufacturers are going to go back to basics and we’ll see few low-volume models for several years, and maybe even longer than that from the likes of GM and Chrysler. And of course, Autosavant will keep growing!
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