06/10/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Auto Industry Teammates

Dear Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors, United Auto Workers Union Members,

It has come to my attention that, as taxpayers, we have all recently become auto company executives. I've long been dismayed at the dismal condition of American cars, but I realize that, as a result of the responsibility the government has asked me to assume, I am now in a position to change everything. This will not be an easy task, and there will be considerable pain involved but, if I have learned any lessons from the corporate world about being an executive, I trust that I will be able to assign the most painful sacrifices to people other than myself.

The purpose of this memo, however, is not to wallow in the blunders of the past but to offer a roadmap for the future. We are at a crossroads. We have an opportunity and the responsibility to save the U.S. auto industry and to preserve our historic leadership role in automotive innovation. We all know that the car occupies a central position in our way of life, yet aside from adding DVD players and coffee cup holders, we've done little to integrate ideas and inventions from the rest of our society into the designs of our cars. This must change. To that end, I offer the following improvements:

  • Cars should regulate themselves rather than relying on us - or on mechanics. It just doesn't make sense that we still need to trust grease-monkeys in garages who tell us we need a new "spinal column" or "replacement bushings." Now that we're the boss, I want the car to tell us exactly what's wrong, how much it will cost to fix it, and if the thing the garage says it replaced was actually replaced. Also, when driving, advanced artificial intelligence will disengage the parking brake before the car burns it up.
  • We must use smart technologies to deter auto theft and damage. For example, all GPS navigation devices will be designed so that, when the car or GPS is stolen, it will keep giving the thief directions only to the nearest police station.
  • Technology has developed to the point where cars themselves should assume many of the functions of passengers. Secondary in-car navigation systems would inform "backseat drivers" why their "brilliant alternative routes" are idiotic. Instead of arguing with the actual driver, wisenheimers can debate any issue with a soothing voice recognition module incorporated into these auxiliary navigation systems. Additionally, in-car radar could equitably divide space between the kids in back seat. This monitoring system will count points as children hit each other and measure who pushed who first. Disputes could be reviewed and adjudicated by analysis of a video playback system.
  • Display screens on the roof of the car would convey clear messages to other drivers. Right now, bumper sticker technology offers the presentation of only short, limited humorous or political messages that are not easily changed. But computer display technology could allow drivers to tailor their messages to the communities they're driving in and even to other individual motorists. In addition to engaging in sophisticated political debate, drivers could politely advise each other about safe driving techniques, as well as reveal intimate details about their own personal lives. Such messages, offered in eye-catching 12-inch lettering to total strangers, could help to break down the perennially impersonal barriers that our automotive culture has created. Let's call this new "Twitter-like" message system something like "In-Your-Facester!"
  • GPS systems are good for a whole lot more than getting directions. Just recently, a Scarsdale mom, exasperated by her two daughters, aged ten and twelve, dropped them off by the side of the road and drove away. Unfortunately, this non-traditional approach to good parenting was foiled when one of her daughters got lost, resulting in child endangerment charges and a few hours in jail for the mother. But why dismiss such unconventional yet effective parenting techniques? Let's enhance them with automotive technology! Simple tracking units will assist parents to recover children intentionally left by the side of the road. Larger families, who accidentally forget stray kids at the shopping mall, would find this feature useful too.
  • Why should radar detectors be the only technology that allows drivers to shortcut the law, public safety or common good? A dash-mounted flat screen can display a wide variety of fraudulent parking permits (police, fire, handicapped, teacher, post office parking) as needed. This would even the parking field for the few suckers who don't already have such counterfeit permits in their windows. Or, to fulfill HOV-lane requirements, a holographic projection system can display additional simulated passengers. This can also come in handy to dissuade people asking to join carpools; they'll believe you when you tell them the car's full.
  • Let's face it: we're just not likely to produce a truly fuel efficient vehicle anytime soon. It's clear that we just don't have the national will for that. On the other hand, we do have extensive experience in developing useless and deceptive options that we can charge a lot more for. So, rather than cry over spilled gas, why not use our marketing skills for the stuff we're really good at? Our existing technology should make driving appear more efficient. For instance, we need a fuel gauge that indicates not only how much gas you have left but gives wildly optimistic assessments about how many miles to the gallon you're getting and reassuringly underestimates the cost of gas so you don't feel so bad.

Thank you for your attention. I regret I won't be available next week for more automotive suggestions, because I have to take on my new responsibilities as owner and manager of our failed banking, insurance, and mortgage and healthcare industries.