President Trump has reportedly declared that he plans to get rid of 75% of federal regulations. This is verrry scary stuff. Especially since states are prohibited from being able to act, to require auto manufacturers to build safety into their cars. The states’ hands are tied. That means if we lose safety regulations in DC, nothing can be enacted in their place. No matter how bad the carnage gets.
So — which lifesaving auto safety regulations will Trump roll back? The one that requires seat belts to work in a crash? The one for fuel tank integrity, that requires cars to withstand a rear-end collision without exploding into flames? The one that requires your car to offer a minimum level of side-impact protection for your head and torso if you are T-boned by a huge SUV that blows through an intersection, against the red light? The one that keeps SUVs from tipping over, killing drivers and passengers?
You have to wonder whether he, or anyone around him, has thought this through. What will happen to public confidence in the auto market when people realize that the cars they own now are actually safer than the newer ones, built under the anti-regulatory Trump regime?
What’s next? Autonomous cars a teenager can hack, or that could be controlled by Isis, Putin, or Kim Jong Un?
This is reminiscent of when GM, Chrysler, and Ford were so cocky about having the entire U.S. market to themselves. They sold huge numbers of atrocious lemon cars. They were lemons despite the fact the workers were doing their best. They were lemons by design. Worst of all, the auto manufacturers refused to stand behind them. They dismissed consumer complaints and stonewalled frustrated car owners.
The end result: car buyers revolted, all 50 states enacted lemon laws, and the auto import market was born, eventually overtaking the domestics by a mile, especially in markets like California.
GM, a former powerhouse, now has only a puny 9% of the California market. Its market share nationally has shrunken to just 17%. People don’t forget easily, or quickly, when they have been sold a car that fails to meet reasonable expectations. Let alone one that kills.
Message to President Trump and the auto lobbyists: Don’t delude yourselves. It can happen again. Markets can shift, and they can shrink. It’s entirely possible that Obama will be known for saving the American auto industry, and Trump for destroying it. Ultimately, it all depends on what millions of individual consumers, who value their lives and their families’ safety, decide.