Workers Vanguard No. 938

5 June 2009


On Big Cars and Big Oil


Los Angeles
22 November 2008

Dear Comrades,

Given the present pass we are probably headed into a period of intensified protectionism particularly here in the U.S. There also seems to be afoot a drive for “oil independence.” So while it’s not a huge deal I wanted to raise a caution about a formulation in a front-page article, “UAW Must Fight GM/Delphi!” in WV No. 857 (28 October 2005). Near the end of the article we say: “That’s fundamentally why GM keeps building gas-guzzling, unsafe models like the notorious tip-over SUVs, and why it’s quality Japanese and German autos that consumers increasingly want to buy.”

Well first of all, although the fortunes of Detroit did focus on big SUVs and trucks there are any number of gas-guzzling tip-over SUVs and trucks that are made by non-U.S. auto manufacturers. BMW X5 SUVs, the Audi Q7, Toyota’s Sequoia (with a big V-8), and of course the Nissan Armada come to mind. And while it’s true a lot of people prefer to buy cars that are of higher quality (which aren’t made in the U.S.), auto manufacturers made those SUVs and trucks because a lot of people were willing to pay a premium to own them. If the price of gas hadn’t gone through the roof and jobs weren’t disappearing at a massive rate working people would still buy a lot of them. They’re big and they are comfortable and out here in the West and “Middle America” they get driven a lot. Try to drive a few hundred miles nonstop in a Toyota Corolla. And here in L.A. for example, despite the tip-over problem I’d rather be in a Ford Excursion than a Corolla in a freeway accident. In fact a really gas-guzzling armored Humvee would be nice.

But to bigger matters. That section of the U.S. ruling class that is behind pushing fuel-efficient cars is doing it not just to destroy the UAW. There are concerns for the position of U.S. imperialism here too. Before we write our next big article on Detroit I think comrades should review “The World Oil Racket” in WV No. 535 (27 September 1991) and “Imperialist Aims Behind Carter’s ‘Energy Crisis’” in WV No. 158 (20 May 1977). While the world is obviously a different place than when we wrote those articles I think a lot of what’s in them is still very relevant.

Larry A.