Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Essay 2046

From The Chicago Sun-Times…


A crossroads for GM—and America

It's not as though we all didn’t see it coming for a long time. Still, the news that Toyota surpassed General Motors in worldwide car and truck sales in the first quarter of this year -- 2.35 million vehicles compared with GM’s 2.26 million -- had to leave many Americans with a sinking feeling -- even those whose purchase of Toyotas and other foreign brands made the Japanese company’s first-ever ascension to the No. 1 spot possible.

For as long as anyone can remember, this was an area dominated by GM. Toyota has stolen its thunder not with smoke and mirrors, but by making cars that are perceived as more reliable than their American counterparts, identifying the market for smaller cars during energy crunches and, now, pushing ahead with its technology to make its Prius synonymous with hybrid cars. It also has avoided the labor snafus that have contributed to the layoffs of auto workers here and the closing of manufacturing plants.

With Toyota looking ahead to conquering China, GM and other U.S. car manufacturers have their work cut out for them. There is a need for both ingenuity and urgency. “We’re not focused on a race,” said GM spokesman John M. McDonald. Perhaps to avoid lagging farther behind, that’s precisely what the company should focus on.

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