Warren Brown's Car Culture: General Motors Likely to Have Last Laugh

By Warren Brown
Sunday, June 7, 2009


Dear readers:

After 33 years at The Washington Post, I am taking the company's latest, and possibly its last buyout offer. That means I'll be signing off from duty as a full-time Washington Post staff writer, which will result in the probable end of the "Car Culture" column on these pages.

But the "On Wheels" product review column will continue under my byline under special contract. Also likely to continue on that basis is the "Real Wheels" online conversation on http://www.washingtonpost.com every Friday morning at 11.

Under the current schedule, the effective date of my retirement is July 1. That gives me one more month to raise hell in this space. I'll begin by arguing against the often inane analyses of the challenges facing the domestic automobile industry, sometimes served up on the editorial and opposite-editorial pages of this otherwise fine journal.

A perfect example of that nonsense is the piece published by my brother scribe, Eugene Robinson, on June 2 ("Our Car Company: We All Own GM. Just Don't Bet on a Happy Ending").

My only agreement with that column is the assertion "we all own GM."

We owned General Motors in World War II and in the Korean conflict when we needed it to build tanks and other weapons of limited destruction.

We owned it when we needed it to help build what once was the free world's strongest middle class.

We owned it in 1955 when, alarmed by GM's rapid growth -- the company had a 50.76 percent share of the U.S. automobile market back then, peaking at a 55 percent share in 1956 -- we urged our lawmakers and our Justice Department to do something to break up the "monopoly."

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