There is precedent for the nationalization of an entire industry. As America’s railroads began to fail, Congress created Amtrak in 1971 as a quasi-governmental corporation to nationalize rail passenger service. Although it has never been profitable, Amtrak continues to provide rail passenger service under conditions where it would not be available otherwise.
When the bankrupt Penn Central Railroad threatened in 1973 to end all operations unless it was provided with government aid, Congress ultimately nationalized Penn Central and a number of other freight lines into the Consolidated Rail Corporation. The story of "Conrail" has an even happier ending than Amtrak, in that it ultimately became profitable and was re-privatized in 1987.
Nationalization could force the Big Three to produce safer, more practical and more fuel efficient vehicles that could compete with foreign imports. Bankruptcy could be avoided, the union rights of workers could be protected, and employees’ health and retirement plans could be salvaged.
Each of the nationalized corporations could have its own board of directors and officers; however, policy for the entire industry should be developed by a National Board of Trustees. The right to appoint trustees, directors and officers could be shared by Congress and the president.
Phase Two - Standardization
Conversion to the production of energy efficient vehicles cannot be accomplished immediately; however, there are some steps that could be quickly taken by a National Board of Trustees to restore consumer faith in American products and to provide financing liquidity for dealers and consumers.
The General Motors Acceptance Corporation, Ford Motor Credit Company and Chrysler Financial should be consolidated into a single entity initially capitalized by the government to make low interest purchase money loans to consumers and dealers. The creation and securitization of auto loans should be strictly regulated and audited to ensure solvency as well as profits.
The consolidated automobile credit company should also underwrite a 10-year comprehensive bumper to bumper warranty on every vehicle sold by American manufacturers.
The Board of Trustees should impose manufacturing standardization of vehicles and accessories wherever possible to improve safety and to reduce costs. Patents on new technology should be held by the Board and licensed to American automobile corporations without cost.
All vehicles should be manufactured around several standard "safety-cage" designs to ensure survivability in most accidents. There is no reason why race car drivers are able to walk away from 250 mph collisions and the members of the motoring public are disabled and die in low-speed accidents.
There could be common designs for two-, four-, and six-seat passenger and commercial vehicles and trucks, and individual companies should be encouraged to innovate in exterior design, interiors and accessories.
Currently, each manufacturer of all-electric and hybrid vehicles has to independently design and manufacture the large batteries that provide electric power to drive trains. These batteries are expensive to design and produce and can pose environmental disposal hazards at the end of their lifetimes.
Although Toyota has sold a million Prius hybrids, it is reportedly still losing money on each one because of the initial (almost $5,000) cost of the battery pack. Toyota provides an eight-year, 100,000 mile warranty on the batteries, and each of the 38 modules can be replaced individually at a cost of $138. Toyota offers a $200 bounty to ensure that all batteries are returned to the company, and it recycles every part of the battery, including the precious metals, plastic, plates, steel case and wiring.
State-of-the-art electric power batteries are currently using nickel metal hydride technology and are designed to last for the lifetime of the cars. Research is now focused on the next generation of lithium ion batteries to reduce costs and to increase battery power. Rechargeable lithium ion batteries may pose even less of an environmental hazard than current technology.
The production of a set of standardized, interchangeable batteries for the different basic automobile designs would allow manufacturing savings for all vehicles. For example, two-passenger cars would not require the same battery power as four- and six-passenger vehicles. Moreover, the batteries should be designed for easy replacement by service stations allowing the swapping of recharged batteries in all-electric vehicles to extend their range of travel.
Moreover, the outdated automobile lead-acid battery should be replaced entirely with a standard, less environmentally threatening modern battery for all vehicles. America is currently dumping 40,000 metric tons of lead in its landfills every year.