How Much Are Consumers Culpable for the Mess in Detroit?

When the Big Three CEOs of American automakers appeared before Congress last week asking for $25 billion, did you think you were to blame for the mess?

Harvard Business Publishing blogger Andrew Shapiro writes that the person you see in the mirror every morning had at least some responsibility for causing the Detroit Debacle. How's that?

"If we bought gas-guzzling trucks or SUVs from Detroit over the last decade, we endorsed products that were inconsistent with our own interests (fueling our addiction to oil, deepening the climate crisis, etc.)" Shapiro opines. "If we bought from foreign automakers, then we probably didn't think it mattered much where our cars were made. Only if we bought fuel-efficient cars from the Big Three -- or didn't own a car at all -- can we really say that we aren't in any way complicit in Detroit's dilemma. And the truth is, there aren't enough of us in this category."

He continues that car buyers aren't the primary cause of Detroit's fate, but "we shouldn't excoriate the automakers for the Sin of SUV Sales without acknowledging the market dynamic that prevailed until very recently."

And since we helped car makers get into this mess with consumerism, Shapiro concludes, we can get them out of it by buying their fuel efficient cars and linking any bailout monies to green targets.

Do you feel guilty? I did buy an SUV earlier this decade, but it was European made. I like to think I was doing my civic duty to protect GM by purchasing the fuel-inefficient and thus market-unsustainable vehicles offered by overseas competition, bringing said competition to its knees. Or at least that was my plan.