I was in graduate school in the 1970s. My car was a Plymouth Duster. If the weather was wet and rainy, the choke in the carburetor would stay tightly closed. To start the car, I would hold the choke open by sticking a pencil in the carburetor.
It could have been worse; I could have owned a Fiat. Many mornings, my friends who owned a Fiat would call me up and asked me if I could drive them to work. The number of systems that were continually failing in their Fiat was staggering. In comparison, I felt fortunate to own a Chrysler. In 1982, in part because of the poor quality of their cars, Fiat fled the American market.
The quality of Chryslers and Fiats, in comparison to other cars, hasn’t changed much. This Tuesday, according to the Wall Street Journal, “Chrysler and Italy’s Fiat confirmed they had reached an agreement on an alliance that would give Fiat a 35% stake in the American company. Fiat would not put any cash into Chrysler but would provide technology and vehicles that Chrysler could build and sell in the U.S.”
Just what Americans need—the marriage of Chrysler and Fiat engineering! In normal times, when we are not facing the human suffering caused by failing businesses, we could be amused by the buffoonery of these automobile executives.
But these are not normal times and here is the punchline for the taxpayers—“the deal between Chrysler and Fiat becomes binding only if Chrysler gets $3 billion more in financial help from Washington.” In other words, via Chrysler, Italian automakers will pick our pockets too.
I have railed against all types of useless government expenditures, but this ranks high on my outrage scale. In a shrinking automobile marketplace, the probability of success for a marriage of two of the worst automakers on this planet is zero!
Mutt and Jeff was the first daily comic strip in the United States. The characters were misfits who were constantly involved in get-rich-quick schemes. The strip ended its run about the same time Fiat exited America. This alliance between Fiat and Chrysler is a Mutt and Jeff type of get-rich-quick scheme hatched by their executives. Look for the private holders of Chrysler—Cerberus Capital Management—to take this taxpayer money and run with it like common thieves by trying to unload their stake.
Yes, thieves. There is no way that American taxpayers would voluntarily give $3 billion to support a Fiat/Chrysler alliance. What’s next? Mandatory purchases of their cars?
My son, an aspiring comic author/artist, advises me that my comparison of Chrysler and Fiat to Mutt and Jeff is unfair. Mutt and Jeff may have been scheming for the quick buck, but they weren’t thieves.