Keep Your Old Car [Part 2] Auto Industry Social Manipulation

Posted on April 18, 2011


Cont from part 1…  (a discussion about why my owner should keep his old car and not purchase a new one):

the American dream? GRIDLOCK

4 – The Auto Industry

Why encourage it?  A behemoth industry that has manipulated the political system since the mid 1940’s to promote their…

dream of freedom on wheels

and to earn for themselves obscene profits.


Case 4A – Trolley Car Scandal

About 100 years ago the public transportation system consisted of electric trolley cars which were smooth and quiet and didn’t pollute the roads with nasty fumes, it was a system created for the people.  At that time cars had to yield to trolleys and they were limited to what part of the road they could use – the whole system worked around and for the trolleys (and people) – cars were secondary.  Personal automobiles were only owned by about 10% of people and were more of a status symbol than anything else.  A.P. Sloane the first CEO of  General Motors (1923-1946) saw “an opportunity” to cash in – if he could just get rid of those pesky trolleys that were taking so much room on the streets…

Fat Cat 1 - Alfred P Sloane 1st GM CEO

“if we can eliminate the rail alternatives, we will create a new market for our cars

If you want to find out how GM (along with some other large corporations) achieved this, you can do no better than watch the 1996 documentary “Taken for a Ride” (the first parts of it are on You Tube), Their 3 stage plan in summary:


  1. GM provided an alternative to the trolley system by subsidizing bus transportation through their Yellow Coach and Greyhound bus companies (these companies had to buy GM equipment).
  2. They took control of the existing trolley system via a company called National City Lines NCL which “ran down” the trolley network until it was no longer efficient – pushing people onto the buses.
  3. They systematically got rid of the Trolley system. NCL began to rip up the trolley lines in the name of “progress” and a non profitable trolley system – roads became more usable for the motor car and people got sick of the terrible bus services.  The rest is history.

GM propaganda

“Despite public opinion polls that showed 88 percent of the public favouring expansion of the rail lines after World War II, NCL systematically closed its street cars down until, by 1955, only a few remained,” Jim Motavalli in his 2001 book, Forward Drive.

Look Closer

You have to admit the whole plan was really quite clever – but it’s also a sad example of self serving social manipulation by businessmen with little or no regard to people.   Of course the consumer was also to blame, but cynical marketing and propaganda by GM played it’s part.

Now we are all stuck with a way of living that requires long commutes from suburban satellite towns, wasting our precious lives sitting in a car with our health seriously at risk due to ubiquitous noxious fumes.  We are stuck with a system addicted to the politically volatile Crude Oil Industry and with CO2 pumping out into the atmosphere at an alarming rate poisoning the planet.

We need to get back to electrical transportation (with renewable generation) and living in meaningful communities. Remember the individualistic, suburban, feeble way of living depicted in the film American Beauty? – look closer.

Oh yeah, one last thing – the massive expansion of the American Highway system that took place after WWII under the auspices of a national defence strategy and that was touted “the greatest public works project in the history of the world” (read – lets gets original and copy the German Autobahn system).  It is no surprise that this highway network was heavily lobbied for by the auto industry.  But did you know it was overseen by a newly elected Secretary of Defence one Charles Erwin Wilson?

Fat Cat No. 2 - Charles Wilson

Immediately before his foray in politics Charles Wilson was CEO of General Motors (1946-1953), he even held onto his shares in GM after his nomination for as long as possible but was eventually forced to sell them due to public pressure – it is from the committee hearings that were set  up to discuss this obvious conflict in interest that we get the classic (slight mis-) quote…

“what is good for General Motors is good for America

Cont in Part 3