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Commentary: Fixing the Big Three

  • Story Highlights
  • Brown: Why isn't Detroit making what we want to buy now?
  • Brown: For years automakers fought against improving fuel efficiency standards
  • Brown: Foreign car companies compete successfully in U.S., even using U.S. labor
  • Bailout must come with conditions and accountability
  • Next Article in Politics »
By Campbell Brown
CNN
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Editor's note: Campbell Brown anchors CNN's "Campbell Brown: No Bias, No Bull" at 8 p.m. ET Mondays through Fridays. She delivered this commentary during the "Cutting through the Bull" segment of Tuesday night's broadcast.

CNN's Campbell Brown says money from Congress to Big Three automakers should come with strings attached.

CNN's Campbell Brown says money from Congress to Big Three automakers should come with strings attached.

(CNN) -- The heads of Detroit's car companies -- Ford, Chrysler, GM -- bumper to bumper, are begging Congress for a bailout. Let's start by cutting through the bull and look at how the automobile companies got into this mess.

1. Americans are finally starting to turn their backs on those 12 mile-per-gallon SUVs.

Yes, it took us long enough, but we are finally starting to get it. I know, gas prices have fallen back into the $2-per-gallon range, but we all remember what it cost to fill up last summer, when gas was $4 per gallon. And we all know those days will come again.

2. Why isn't Detroit making what we want to buy now?

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Where are the hybrids? Where are the batteries? Where are cars that get 70 miles per gallon? For years automakers fought tooth and nail against improving fuel efficiency standards. You say they're in the pipeline? You say we'll get 40-mile-per-gallon cars in 2020? Americans need them now. Video Watch Campbell Brown's commentary »

3. Ignoring the competition.

It has seemed at times like American carmakers think car buyers are so blindly loyal that they will keep coming back -- despite the sticker shock -- for crummy cars that guzzle gas, fall apart too soon, and cost too much to repair. Lots of other companies have figured out how to build better quality, more fuel-efficient cars, and even do it right here in the United States.

4. Greed.

GM Chief Executive Rick Wagoner earns almost $9 million a year. Some union workers in the automotive industry earn $30 or $40 an hour plus benefits. Retirees get pensions and health benefits that would make anyone jealous. You guys spend millions of dollars a year lobbying to keep everything the same and now you're asking us, the taxpayers, for $25 billion.

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Now, I don't know if a government bailout will rescue America's auto industry but I do know that if there is a bailout, it better come with a big, bright stop sign and lots of strings attached.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Campbell Brown.

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