Vehicles of Victory

I don't know how much the American automakers are spending on lobbyists to fight higher fuel efficiency standards in the United States. But it's probably a lot. And so far their strategy of resistance appears to be failing. The money would have been better spent to hire Tony Robbins and appoint the self help guru as a strategic corporate advisor.

Robbins has this theory that decisions shape destiny, and that there are three decisions people make every moment of their lives: 1) what am I going to focus on? 2) what does it mean? and 3) What are you going to do?

An example: A man by the name of Lance Armstrong learns he has testicular cancer. What did he decide to focus on after hearing the news? He chose to focus on beating the disease rather than how unfair life can be. What did the news mean to him? It was the beginning of a compelling new challenge rather than the sad end to a good way of life. And what did he decide to do? He went out a won 7 consecutive Tour de France bike races and became the best bicyclist in history.

Apply the line of thought to Ford, GM, and Chrysler. They learn Congress aims to hike fuel economy regulations. What did the companies focus on? They chose to concentrate on the costs of new technology and the burden of government regulation. What, then, did the push to boost fuel standards mean? It meant more expensive cars, job cuts, bureaucracy, stalled economic growth and, according to at least one Republican lawmaker, 'the death of Michigan.' And so what did the automakers decide to do? Launch an all out lobbying blitz to convince the nation's leaders that more stringent fuel economy standards are unnecessary.

Now, what if the Detroit Three - and the Michigan delegation that speaks for them - made different decisions? What if they publicly seized on the national push to improve fuel efficiency as a way to drive innovation, reinvent their broken companies, and set the stage for a new century of profit

What if the Congressional action meant, to them, an opportunity to help America boost homeland security, safeguard the environment, and strengthen 21st competitiveness. Not to mention land some sizable federal funding for R&D.

And what if the car companies, after misjudging the market for a decade, actually started to design, build, and sell the cleanest, greenest, and most inventive line of modern mobility technology the world has even known?

Hard to say what that alternate reality might look like. But I bet national leaders, newspaper headlines, and people in general would celebrate the ingenuis car makers as defenders of the American way - like they did in WW II - rather than lament their loss of political, economic, and technological clout.