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March 13, 2006 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2006-03-13

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4A - The Michigan Daily - Monday, March 13, 2006


J~ew1lrbftn aiI tt

Editor in Chief

Editorial Page Editors

Managing Editor


44I think
criticism of the
president is
-Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), criticiz-
ing President Bush's wiretapping program,
as reported yesterday by CNN.com.





Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorial board. All
other signed articles and illustrations represent solely the views of their author.

II:;: .cr..)

Manufacturing innovation


Co n s u m e r
Reports made
its 2006 auto-
mobile survey avail-
able to the public last
week, yet advance press
reports broke the big
story: American car
companies were shut
out of the top honors.
Japanese giants Honda
and Toyota, the latter of which will soon dis-
place General Motors as the world's largest
automaker, claimed seven of the 10 coveted
"Top Pick" accolades, while an Infiniti (Nissan)
and two Subarus rounded out the elite club.
Much of the talk in Michigan for the last
few years has been about the dying automobile
industry and the state's dire economic situation:
To be certain, the automation of auto lines and
the increasing reliance on non-union labor in
the South and across the world can be direct-
ly linked to the state's woes. We've heard that
Michigan isn't structured to compete - high
corporate taxes and a deeply ingrained union
culture hamper efficiency and saddle automak-
ers with unnecessary burdens.
But those issues are peripheral to the under-
lying problem so poignantly captured by Con-
sumer Reports - the failure, by Ford Motor
Company and GM, to produce innovative,
attractive product lines.
As earnings reports make abundantly clear, the
automobile industry as a whole isn't struggling.
Japanese companies are having record-breaking
years. Toyota and Honda have steadily gained
ground in virtually every segment, and even
Chrysler posted modest profits and market share

gains. Only GM and Ford are struggling to move
cars from dealer lots to driveways without crip-
pling discounts. People around the world want
more cars than they ever have. They just don't
want a blue oval (or GM logo) on the hood.
Japanese firms are reaping enormous prof-
its because they can - unlike Ford and GM
- demand top dollar for their cars. When Toy-
ota and Honda can flash their "Top Pick" seals
of approval, they don't need zero-down, zero-
percent APR financing for three years to move
their vehicles out of the dealership.
GM and Ford, unfortunately, don't enjoy any
such luxury. Consequently, even though Ameri-
can cars can sell, they don't sell with very good
profit margins.
For a while, the success of sport utility vehi-
cles and trucks covered for a weak lineup of reg-
ular cars and luxury vehicles. While gas prices
were low and 15 miles per gallon on the high-
way was affordable, buyers were willing to pay
undiscounted prices for Explorers and Yukons.
But with gas prices promising to stay well above
$2 a gallon, the inefficient vehicles are harder
to sell - and balance sheets are showing more
red. To add additional pain, the Japanese are
chipping away at whatever market remains; the
Honda Ridgeline won the coveted Motor Trend
"2006 Truck of the Year" award.
In the emerging market for efficient hybrid
cars, American companies are playing a very
lopsided game. While Toyota invested mil-
lions of dollars in hybrid technology during the
last decade, GM and Ford battled for truck and
SUV supremacy. In the not-so-far-back era of
cheap gas (Remember when it cost just slightly
more than $1 per gallon? 2001.), execs at GM
and Ford snickered at the Japanese for invest-

ing in technologies aimed at hippies, greens and
nobody else. Now that hybrids are all the rage,
Ford is licensing technology from Toyota so it
can compete against Toyota (using Toyota tech-
nology) in the hybrid market. The bottom line?
Toyota is playing a game it can't lose.
And it's in that position because way back,
before anyone knew whether hybrids would
catch on, Toyota executives decided to gam-
ble. They decided to look beyond the balance
book and adopt a strategic vision. They figured
cheap gas wouldn't stick around forever and
put money into research. They accepted lower
profits, because instead of basing decisions on
quarterly earnings reports, they looked to the
future. Only now, as the impending petroleum
crisis comes into focus, are American compa-
nies thinking about more efficient vehicles.
The sad fact is that Ford and GM aren't
in a position to compete effectively. They're
behind the Japanese on alternative fuel- and
hybrid technology. They're losing their domi-
nance of the SUV and truck market. They
haven't been major players in the luxury mar-
ket for a long time.
In the short run, GM and Ford are going
to bleed cash. Restructuring union contracts
and shutting down excess capacity will help
alleviate that problem. But long-term secu-
rity depends on, obviously, making products
that sell. In the 1980s, when Toyota shocked
American companies with its far more effi-
cient manufacturing processes and factory
designs, the Big Three quickly adapted. Two
of them need another lesson.

Momin can be reached at


Send all letters to the editor to
tothedaily @michigandaily. com.

Fresard playing to both
sides of cartoon debate
The Daily's editorial judgment not to reprint
cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad
(What are we missing? 03/08/2006) can't be
proven wrong. But spotlighting that judgment
in a column challenging everyone to embrace
controversial - indeed, offensive - material
begs whether the editor-in-chief, Donn Fre-
sard, is trying to work both sides of the intel-
lectual street.
Fresard excoriates politically correct aca-
demia's "culture of offense," yet genuflects to
these same sensibilities when citing "the shock
of the images" as the reason why the Daily
hasn't reprinted the Jyllands-Posten cartoons.
This seems a distinction without a difference
(i.e., I still don't get to see the cartoons), and
undercuts the assertion that "the Daily will
continue to print cartoons that may occasion-
ally offend." Well, prove it.
Nord Christensen
'U' should not reward
community college students
There was a time when a university educa-
tion was conceived of as more than the mere
acquisition of a requisite number of units
of academic study. It was seen as a coherent
experience of living and learning in a con-
tinuous community for a period of four years.
The combination of the ongoing experience of
interaction with one's fellow students, along
with the continuous challenge of a rigorous
in-class experience, was what constituted the
grounds for the award of a degree. Admis-
sion of transfer students, especially those from
community colleges, runs contrary to this
entire philosophy and should be discouraged,
contrary to what the Daily argued in a recent
editorial (Transfer on in, 03/08/2006).
Community colleges frequently offer a sub-.
standard level of academic rigor, in addition to
failing to provide the challenge of a communi-
ty learning environment. A University degree
advertises a certain level of both personal and

and the University is at great pains to adver-
tise this fact to those who may not be aware
of it. Additionally, it has been proven that
obtaining a Michigan degree substantially
increases one's earning potential. Thus, a
certain amount of borrowing for the educa-
tion is little more than a wise use of modern
financial techniques. Therefore, the Univer-
sity should not reward students, of whatever
background, who choose to go to community
college with further efforts to recruit them.
The University should find a better use for
the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation's money,
such as further efforts to publicize scholar-
ships in high schools in low-income areas, or
it should politely decline it.
David Waddilove
Law School
Stronger connection between
cam mses is possible
I appreciated Doug Wernert's well writ-
ten article on North Campus in the March 9
issue (Rethinking North Campus, 03/09/2006).
It adequately portrayed the frustration that
many people have with the physical and psy-
chological isolation of North Campus, even as
it becomes its own place. The article refers to
a monorail as a possible connector between
Central and North Campus. While a monorail
seems like an expensive Buck Rogers approach
to making this connection, the important point
is that an above-grade transportation link
could be made.
The two banks of the Huron River on which
the Medical and North Campuses are built are
at about the same elevation, and a bridge could
easily connect these two points. It is frustrat-
ing to stand on the edge of either campus and to
sense the separation across the valley with the
feeling that there is no way of getting "there."
A bridge that is dedicated for buses, bicycles
and pedestrian traffic only could relieve some
of the congestion in the valley, cut many min-
utes off the commute between campuses and
reduce the psychological distance between
them. If the bridge were to be designed by
an outstanding architect/engineer such as the
Spaniard Santiago Calatrava, it could be a

(Crime Notes, 03/10/2006). Perhaps most trou-
bling of all items in this campus crime wave
was your report of a student with a sprained
ankle being transported to the hospital. How-
ever, the crime note was unclear about whether
the ambulance driver or the student had com-
mitted this heinous crime.
When will it end?
Ray Burke
Medical school research specialist


Spring break on border was
an eye-opening experience
Having recently visited the border of the
United States and Mexico in El Paso, Texas,
I am still grappling with the consequences of
America's strict immigration policy. Talking to
residents on both sides of the border, the issue is
far from clear-cut.
Imagine for a moment having to leave your
home and country for fear of death. One such
person, Julia, lived her entire life in El Salva-
dor only to be forced out of her home by'gangs
while she was two months pregnant. Travel-
ing thousands of miles across Mexico unsuc-
cessfully seeking work and opportunities, she
finally ends up in Juarez, Mexico with nothing
to go back to. Now eight months pregnant, Julia
wants nothing more than to seek a new life for
her and her child in America. This pursuit takes
her to the Mexican-American desert border in .
El Paso, Texas. Here, with barely a few ounces
of water for the 100 miles trek across desert
wasteland, she tries to cross to the United States
twice unsuccessfully before finally making it
across the border.
Now imagine Congressional representatives
in Washington, sitting at their desks with a cap-
puccino in hand, drafting legislation to build a
giant wall across the U.S.-Mexico border. While
this giant wall might dissuade or deter Julia
from taking easier routes over the border, it will
not stop her nor ameliorate her problems back
home. Julia and individuals like her are willing
to risk their lives to come to the United States
because they have nothing to go back to.
While American politicians seek to deter
illegal immigrants like Julia, they should be
embracing the tired, poor and huddled masses.
-r.. .. - .- +L.,+ ----- ^

Editors' note: Aaron McGruder, author of "Boondocks," will be taking a six-
month sabbatical beginning March 27. Starting this week, we will run cartoons
from LSA junior Erin Russell and LSA sophomore John Oquist in place of
McGruder's strip.

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