Monday, June 01, 2009

553 Hello Detroit and Welcome to Moscow

553  Welcome to Moscow

Hello, Detroit.  Welcome to Moscow.  By the time you read this there's a good likelihood that General Motors will have started rolling into court for its chapter eleven bankruptcy proceedings, which eventually will give the United States Government control of the company, thought to be in a financial fender bender, but now, as your insurance company might say, totaled.

The US government has little experience in running a car company and probably should send a delegation to Moscow, where they make the Zil and have since 1916 or 1924 depending on which company history you believe.  

Over the decades, Zil, which became Zis during the Stalin years, then returned to Zil under Khrushchev, has made cars based on OPD, or other peoples' designs.

For example:  in 1939 they started making a car that looked a lot like the 1929 Packard.  And they kept making it right up until the late 1950s or early 60s.  They never quite got the Packard quality thing down, but the thing looked great.  They didn't just make replicas of American cars.  But when you see the 1953 Cadillac and the 1968 Zil side by side, it's hard to tell the difference.  They made tribute cars and they make them today.

The top of the line limo looks like a Benz Maybach.  It doesn't run like one.  But, again, it's only a tribute car.  In between, they've imitated the 1956 Packard, something akin to the 1947 Studebaker, the Chrysler K car, the Rambler American, the 1955 Kaiser and the 1958 Cadillac.  Most of these "tributes" came out a decade or more after the original.

But they're not as dumb as you'd think.  They never tried to reproduce two of the world's worst cars, the Renault Dauphine or the Fiat 1100.

So now, GM is Zil.  And our copycats are much more elegant than those Soviet era lowlifes.  Not to mention your standard-issue UAW autoworker, who's work ethic makes the Russian counterpart look like the kid who gets detention every other day for failure to turn in the homework.  Come to think of it, auto work in Russia IS detention.  

No.  Our government run car company will turn out works of beauty, like Hispano Suiza in its prime.  And maybe they'll bring back the Oakland or the Franklin or the REO.

Let's hope we're better at this than our friends in Moscow where they make a "Lada" that looks like a 1970 Volvo to this very day.


--Here's Leno's best parting shot on the last night of his 17 year run with NBC's "Tonight Show."  "People ask me where I'm going and I say to a secluded spot where no one will ever find me.  NBC prime time."

--Leno hosted for 17 years, second only to Johnny Carson's 30.  No one else came close.  Steve Allen, with and without Ernie Kovacs was on for three years and Jack Paar for five, with the rest filling in only in blocks of under a year.

--Conan O'Brien is a fine writer and performer.  Good luck to him.  But the change makes no one happier than competitor David Letterman, himself an NBC refugee now working for CBS.

I'm Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009

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