Everything old is new again -- it's Dream Cruise time
Every time I start to worry about the future of the auto industry I am comforted by Paris Hilton.
The socialite doesn't come visit and she doesn't call to make sure I'm comfortable. That's understandable. She's often in situations where only one phone call is allowed.
But Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears -- they all comfort me when I read bad news about the auto business. That's because these gals continually get in trouble when behind the wheel of a car. And all of them choose to drive even when they could easily afford a chauffeur.
That's how enticing the automobile is. That's how sincere our four-wheeled love affair is. We want to drive cars even when we shouldn't.
Celebrities aren't the only ones doing unnecessary driving. The rest of us do it, too. We may turn our own key and push our own pedals, but we still drive needlessly. Ever drive to Meijer when you don't need a single gosh-darn thing? We might tell ourselves it's just to get out of the house. More likely it's just to get into our car.
Even an old, rusty automobile offers freedom. We love the open road, and we love having things at an arm's length. We can sit in our bucket seat and find music, beverage, food and phone all within our reach.
Driving a car helps us relax and it lets us blow off steam. There's nothing like driving fast, which we all know is 10 mph over the posted speed limit. Some drivers also find at an arm's length their middle finger, which can be flashed at those who drive even faster.
Speaking of fingers, UAW President Ron Gettelfinger is spearheading this year's contract talks with the Big 3. This bargaining session could be an economic turning point for the domestic auto industry, and us. Car executives say they must trim their costs because foreign carmakers earn $2,000-3,000 more profit per vehicle.
It's an uphill battle. There have been closed auto plants. Laid-off workers. And pending requirements to increase fuel efficiency.
Ford and General Motors have lost hundreds of millions of dollars. Chrysler lost its owner,
but found a new one. And at the formal celebration at Chrysler's headquarters, stuntmen rappelled down the face of the building. I'm not sure what the point was -- hopefully the myriad of cutbacks didn't include fire escapes.
The other good news is the cars themselves. This year, for the first time in a decade, Toyota's Lexus division did not outright win the J.D. Power survey of customer satisfaction. General Motors' Buick tied the more upscale Lexus. Buick's longtime hometown was Flint and this is the best news to come out of that place since Michael Moore made Flint his former hometown.
It's all about selling cars. The Big 3 in August are already showing off their 2008 models. Chrysler has the all-new Town and Country van. Ford has new Taurus and Sable versions. And General Motors' Saturn division offers the 2008 VUE sport utility, which is small enough to qualify as a "cute ute."
This Saturday, southeast Michigan will fluff the pillows for its extended love affair with the car. That's the day of the annual Woodward Dream Cruise. Thousands of people will line the street as hundreds of classic cars slowly motor down Woodward Avenue.
The festivities will include a toast to Woodward itself. The avenue opened for traffic 200 years ago. As part of the celebration a chain of people held hands from where Woodward begins in downtown Detroit all the way out to Pontiac.
In case you're worried, the cars are still more important than the road on which they ride. How do I know? Because the chain of hands on Woodward was broken in several places to allow for car traffic to cross.
You see? Don't even think of stopping us. We've got places to drive. Even if we don't really need to get there.
@tl:Contact Ed Fitzgerald at email@example.com