It probably will take months to know for sure, but it looks like it's going to be business as usual for the automobile industry.
After the most confusing and exciting election in modern times, the country has a new leader, and the automobile industry has gotten off scot-free for the next few years.
Even before the election, it was clear that regardless of who won, it would have little or no impact on this industry: If Gore were elected, we still would have a government divided, and it would be unlikely that he would be any more forceful in his appointment of administration executives, such as the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. If Bush were elected, I was sure, he had no plans to do anything that might be considered difficult for the automobile industry.
But the auto industry and its executives shouldn't take any of this as a license to do nothing.
The Firestone-Ford tire difficulties demonstrate that the industry still has a lot of problems on the manufacturing side and the retail side.
It's time for the automobile industry to clean up its act. If it doesn't, we're going to see some mean-spirited legislation coming out of Washington - legislation that far too often will be misdirected and won't solve the problem that legislators think they're tackling.
A lull in government activity during the past eight years certainly didn't inspire self-policing by the industry. All too often, government inactivity is considered an opportunity simply to get on with the business of automobiles and ignore injustices.
The time to correct wrongs is not when you're under the threat of government activity or legislation. The time for action is during a period of calm on the government side. It's been that way for the past eight years. It looks like it's going to be that way for the next four years.
Wouldn't it be nice, for example, if the auto industry took a strong stand on the use of technology to reduce traffic deaths and injuries? It always takes too long to get new devices into vehicles. Maybe the industry can take the initiative this time.
The auto industry should not be lulled into a false sense of security as a new administration takes over. There's plenty to do, and now is the best time to do it.