Winter, my wonderful car and globalization

Nine inches of snow fell overnight here in Rochester, N.Y., and I had to get out and about this morning before the snowplow crews had time to clear my street.  I thought about my car and how it compared to the first cars I owned back in the 1960s.

Back then, you had to think about whether your car would start on a cold winter morning. To be safe, you had to run your car in neutral the night before for 10 or 15 minutes to charge the battery, and then again in the morning. I never even think about it now.  I just turn the ignition in my 2006 Saturn Ion-2, which of course has an alternator, and I take it for granted that it starts.

When I first moved to Rochester in the mid-1970s, rustproofing your car was a big deal.  I unfortunately made the choice of an inexpensive undercoating job rather than a premium service, and lived to regret it. Now, with my plastic card, rust is not something I have to think about.

Under conditions I drove in this morning, I would have expected to get stuck several times.  I was in fact on the verge of getting stuck a couple of times, but my car had good enough traction to keep going.

Compared to the first cars I owned, my present car is like something out of science fiction.  I won’t even mention the Global Positioning System and the other technological bells and whistles I don’t care about.

General Motors Corp., the maker of my car, is losing money and has divested the Saturn brand. Yet back in the 1960s and 1970s, when quality wasn’t nearly as good as it is today, GM was making money hand over first.  That is what it is to compete in a global economy.

When I was a high school student, I got straight As without having to work hard.  When I sent to college, I found I had many classmates who had straight As in high school.  I studied harder and learned more in college than I ever did in high school, but my grades were not as good.

Likewise with the United States in the world economy.  Our industries have to do better just to hold their own than they once did to reign supreme. But that doesn’t mean we can’t hold our own.

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One Response to “Winter, my wonderful car and globalization”

  1. David Damico Says:

    Phil, good commentary and comparison of the utilitarian factor of cars. It sounds as if the cars you owned in the past were less “auto” mobiles and more “patiently wait and see” mobiles. As a deep southerner, I didn’t experience the cold like you but I do recall my father placing an old quilted blanket under the enormous hood of his 53 Belaire to keep the engine warm.
    If you’ve seen “Who killed The Electric Car,” you may recall that these cars build by GM ran so well that they needed little maintenance and of course no oil or spark plug changes (much to the disdain of the after market businesses). GM had to recall them because they were too well made. making an inferior product is in their best interest, I’ve often wondered, how is it that every piece of the modern automobile has benefited from 100 years of technological improvement but they are still using a gas combustible powered engine?

    Like

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