There's an old Groucho Marx line that goes: "I don't care to belong to any club that will accept me as a member."
It's amazing that even in this global day and age, automakers can be just as silly about who joins their clubs.
ACEA, the association of 13 European automakers, has again rejected Toyota for membership, even though the Japanese carmaker will build 800,000 vehicles on the continent this year and has design and research facilities there.
Toyota apparently had support among some of its competitors, but ACEA, like so many discriminatory clubs and secret societies, says new members must be approved unanimously. And three members privately dinged Toyota.
You could probably make an educated guess about which European carmakers fear or hate Toyota so much that they want to keep the Japanese juggernaut on the outside looking in. So ACEA is like the boys-only He-man Women-haters Club started by Spanky and Alfalfa in one of the "Our Gang" comedies.
Yes, it's easy to poke fun at the Europeans. But things aren't much more sensible in the United States.
Don't forget that the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers has nine members, but two of the biggies are missing. When the Alliance was formed, Honda, which had been jerked around by predecessor associations, refused to join. Nissan joined but later quit in a snit when the Alliance wouldn't support it in a squabble with the feds over whether Sentras built in Mexico should be counted as imports.
So the outsiders retreated to their own club, the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers.
The association is an odd array of 19 members that include the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association; suppliers such as Bosch, Denso, Hitachi and even Delphi; and automakers that don't build or sell cars in America, such as Peugeot and Renault.
I'd love to hear what Groucho would say about that.
You may e-mail Edward Lapham at [email protected]