Great interview at Dollars & Sense with economist Sue Helper about the state of labour in the US auto industry. On the question of hybrids:
I think it’s important not just to blame auto companies but to think about public policy that has made it artificially cheap in this country to drive huge cars and to drive a lot. Gas is way too cheap: people do not pay the full cost of a gallon of gasoline in terms of the pollution that it spews out, the global warming that it causes, the sprawl that it causes, the roadways, the national security implications. The Big Three certainly have not fought those policies, and to some extent those policies benefit them because we are the only large market in the world that has gas at this price. One reason that Toyota and other foreign companies have been slow to move into some of the core markets like the minivan, the SUV, and the large pickup trucks is that they can’t sell them anywhere else in the world. So this is the niche that the Big Three have been left with. Of course this makes climate policy difficult for supporters of U.S. unions, because the one niche that’s left to the Big Three are these large cars.