X Doesn't Mark the Spot in MI

I'm honestly trying to get out of Michigan here with news and analysis from other Great Lakes states. But day after day these past couple weeks it seems Michigan is brimming with easy examples that illustrate how and why the region is struggling to transition into the modern era.

And I'm not even going to touch on the disappointing, nay almost frightening, Rebuilding Michigan's Motor forum that featured Governor Jennifer Graholm last night.

No, today's post is about the $10 million competition to produce a market-ready automobile capable of 100 mpg announced yesterday by X Prize.

Sixty-four teams to date have entered the race. Not one is from Detroit, the supposed epicenter of transportation innovation.

California already has entered 14 teams. New York is sending four. Wisconsin two. But only one team - Ann Arbor-based Michigan Vision - so far hails from Michigan, a state so closely aligned with the image of advanced auto R&D that X Prize actually quotes Gov. Granholm on their website.

“A competition to advance commercially viable, energy efficient and climate friendly vehicles can inspire the discovery of critically needed breakthrough technologies...it is likely that our best and brightest will be well represented at the starting line,” the governor says.

But a quick search of the headlines reveals that the Michigan media and, by extension, the population is barely aware that the race is on to push the limits of fuel efficiency. In the first 100 hits of a Yahoo News search, it appears only three news outlets in the state cared to cover the X Prize story, which was covered by, among others, the New York Times, USA Today, and the NASDAQ wire.

Grand Rapids-based WOOD TV 8 lifted the feed from the Associated Press.

Lansing-based WLNS gave the news a paragraph.

And the Detroit News filed a report from its Washington bureau that mentions New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the competition and leads with a quote from the CEO of an Ohio-based insurance company expressing support for the competition. Not one person from the Motor City offers any insight.

Ironically for this post, the Detroit News also today published a story reporting that GM is likely to lose a quarter of a billion a year selling its electric Volt. But, in that same piece, CEO Bob Lutz reveals that his company's slow-go approach to the hybrid vehicle market has likely cost GM billions in sales as consumers perceive the company's technology slipping off the cutting edge.

Still time to enter Team GM in the X Prize games, Bob, and at least promote the hope that those five teams from Europe aren't going to eat Michigan's lunch without a good clean fight.