POLITICS FEEDBACK: Obama flexes muscles
07 April 2009
The US President has kicked GM's boss out of his job, but such a move could result in more of the workforce losing theirs too, writes Tristan Young
GM boss Rick Wagoner has been forced to quit by US President Obama because the restructuring plan he put forward for the firm didn't go far enough. The US government had already given GM a multi-billion dollar bailout loan and the car manufacturer was asking for further cash.
To be sacked by the president of the USA is quite a claim to fame. Wagoner's dismissal seems to be partly PR driven and the word 'scapegoat' comes to mind - someone's got to be seen to carry the can for the mess GM is in.
Mind you, Wagoner could be well out of it.
The next person, Fritz Henderson, will have to be a harder man willing to make harsher cuts, which may be popular with the President but won't go down well with GM's workers.
Middlesbrough council has launched a green car labelling scheme. The difference between it and the Government's is that the council's covers used cars as well as new ones. There will be six colour-coded bands based on CO2/VED level. A label is then displayed in the windscreen of the 'for-sale' car.
This is well intentioned, but there are flaws. Firstly, we'd rather see it done on a national basis. Can you imagine different councils coming up with different schemes? That would confuse buyers, not help them. Secondly, buyers these days do much of their research online, so how will a windscreen label help?
If you're after a solution, then how about a national scheme that gives the vehicle's official mpg figure which would have to be displayed online as well as on-car?
Transport for London has successfully prosecuted Southern Gas Networks for breaking street-working rules. SGN was fined £9000 for operating unsafe street works in Bromley last year, pleading guilty to four charges of badly managing street works.
Admittedly it's not overrunning that brought about the prosecution, but it's time those digging up the roads took responsibility for the chaos they sometimes needlessly cause. As well as taking legal action, TfL has also started a three-month trial into permit schemes for companies digging up London roads in order to minimise disruption. Let's hope a nationwide scheme isn't far behind.
Grosvenor Contract Leasing boss Shaun Barritt has come out against a scrappage scheme that could give up to £2000 to people scrapping a car at least nine years old if they buy one aged under 12 months. Barritt said the German scheme kick-started a strong German car industry, whereas the UK has a less domestically built motor industry to stimulate. He also pointed to anecdotal evidence of a 'rip-tide' effect undermining sales of three-year old cars.
The benefits of a scrappage scheme are, at first glance, obvious. But the longer-term impact on RVs is what will particularly be worrying the fleet market, and there's no guarantee the Government will have carefully worked through the consequences for the used car arena, which is currently doing okay. Also, we need to know now what the Government is planning, are because the uncertainty is harming the industry, as private buyers hold off until they know if they can get a grant.