Well, it’s that time of the leap year again… presidential election time, with every congressional seat and a third of the senate up for grabs in the second and third rings. And up and down the midway, thousands of state and local seats are up for grabs too. Heck, I’m even in this circus, runnin’ unopposed for my council seat in the City of Florence, Minnesota (population 39). So as a public service, here’s the inaugural edition of the gearhead voters guide…

Now with Amtrak’s thirty year old trains running at capacity, highways crumbling, and a fully loaded 40 foot ISO container still illegal on most roads here thanks to the 1982 STAA that still hasn’t been updated, you’d think our politicians would be discussing some solutions. But the only morsels of gearhead issues that’s boiled to the top of this years global warming boosting political debate is Obama and the democrats salvation of the american auto industry.

Now one would think that Mr. Romney and his republicans would find some better issues… GM and Chrysler have survived, a million or three american jobs have been saved, and the relics of the political right are still complaining. But then again, what can one expect from a bunch of folks that, unable to figure out the metric system and computers, have formed a political movement to try and drag us bag to the days before both were invented?

Those folks have no interest in logical analysis and couldn’t care less if GM and Mopar had been stuffed in containers and hauled back to China, leaving the midwest in a decades long depression. As long as the Chinese shipped back brand new 60s and earlier cars with “english” fasteners and no computers sold at WalMart prices they’d be happy as pigs escaped from the hog barns you can see from space. But for those more enlightened, let’s do a bit more analysis of the auto bailout and it’s successes and failures.

Making a short hop in the WayBack machine to 2008, we find GM and Chrysler flirting with bankruptcy. Banks are clamming up and rumors swirl that not only GM and Chrysler but McDonalds too may not be able to make payroll. With no money to borrow, not only will GM and Chrysler be unable to get working capital to pay employees, buy parts, and maintain an inventory of new cars to sell… But there’s no capital available for anyone to buy up the companies and keep them operating, even at salvage prices.

So began a truly bipartisan effort to save the american auto industry, with the Bush administration inviting both major presidential candidates off the campaign trail to the White House to work out a workaround to prevent the auto industry’s collapse and a full blown depression. Out of that and later meetings came a plan to loan GM and Chrysler and struggling suppliers enough $$$ to make it through that crisis. With some opposition from the more rabid of the republican party, that plan was passed and GM and Chrysler filed Chapter 11 (reorganization) rather than Chapter 7 (liquidation) bankruptcy and survived.

Now one would think that Mr. Romney and his republicans would be quite happy to see these two great capitalist enterprises survive. But no, like children who didn’t get to eat desert first and were forced to eat their vegetables, they’re whining. Whining about the Volt, a billion dollar boondoggle that has once and for all proven that the electric car isn’t ready for prime time. Now I’ve been following the electric car nerds chatter for decades. They incessantly believe that the viable electric car is either just around the corner or is already here, but big bad GM et al won’t give it a chance. Well, under pressure from it’s major stockholder, us U.S. citizens, GM gave the Volt a billion dollar chance, fully developing an electric car and putting it in showrooms all over the country. And it’s been a dismal failure in the marketplace, struggling to sell 10,000 units a year despite huge tax incentives. So for a billion dollars we have proven that electric cars are at best a niche market, and we can finally lay the electric car to rest in the automotive graveyard, next to the Chaparral and GT40.

The legendary Chaparral and GT40? Yup, neither made a cent, but the technology that was developed for those great race cars went on to improve performance and efficiency in millions of cars since. One of the reasons the Volt cost a billion to  develop is that it isn’t just a Chevy Cruze with batteries and an electric motor dropped in- virtually the whole car was lightened with advanced materials and technology. Just think of what an awesome hot rod you could build with a Volt, minus the road thugging weight of the electric motor and batteries!

And while Mr. Romney and his republicans have been blaming Mr. Obama for saving the Volt, which he probably had little or no say in anyways, they fail to give Mr. Obama credit for saving the Corvette or Camaro. Now personally, I think the current Camaro is butt ugly compared to it’s 60s inspiration, and really wouldn’t want to in any way be “credited” with it’s continued existence. But the Corvette is alive and well and better than ever! But it’s sales are barely besting those of the Volt, and GM is spending at least a few hundred million if not a billion developing the soon to be released C7, the 7th generation Corvette. Yup, “Government Motors” not only brought the Volt to market, but they’re bringing us a better than ever ‘Vette and have an active racing operation too.

So if Mr. Romney and his gang of republicans and their living in the past centuries followers want to blame Mr. Obama for the Volt, they’d better give him credit for keeping the world’s best sports car value, the Corvette, more alive than ever. And hopefully GM can spare some change to restyle the Camaro…

More to follow… Did Mr. Romney’s friends the “vulture capitalists” kill off GM’s medium trucks?