GM Needs to Make the Cars We Want, Like the Duck

Posted: June 2, 2009 in Planes, Trains & Automobiles....And Boats too

The dream of every American is to have a car that is also their boat. I’d like a hover capability as well, but let’s not get crazy. General Motors lack of imagination in making this happen, sadly has led today to its bankrupted demise.

GM’s slow and arduous 60 year decline started when they stopped production of the Duck – or DUKW. The Duck was the vaunted amphibious assault carrier that hauled our Greatest Generation to the Omaha and Utah beach shore in Normandy to repel the Germans.

While over 20,000 ducks were made, GM shut down the production of the car boat crossover soon after General Patton took a piss in the Rhine. Today, a few hundred remain. Some of these old Ducks have been known to haul tourists across the lakes and back roads of the Wisconsin Dells.

Had the GM engineering geniuses that created the troop hauling Duck for amphibious assaults had an equivalent post war marketing ability maybe we could be driving an economically priced boat/car Duck on American streets – and canals – today.

Alas, though you won’t find it in one of the remaining GM showrooms you can now buy a UK made Gibbs Aquada car boat for just under $100,000. Unlike that slow, old, clunky Duck, it will have a 100 mph land speed and a 30 mph at-sea speed.

From a practical sense it makes a lot of sense to having a car with an Enable Water button. This way, you won’t need to buy a big ass SUV (that doesn’t even fit in your garage) to haul your boat and trailer (also doesn’t fit in your garage). Instead of renting a boat slip, you can park your boat at any city parking meter.

Cars that float will also reduce traffic congestion in areas that have waterways, like large coastal cities, most of Minnesota, and people leaving a Pittsburgh Steelers game. Instead of taking the Queensboro or Brooklyn Bridge, commuters to Manhattan can just cross the East River in their Duck like vehicle.

And practicalities aside, like James Bond previously had figured, having a boat that is also your car will surely make you popular with the ladies.

It is said that Americans have stopped buying General Motors because GM stopped making cars that Americans wanted. This isn’t true.

A few examples:

In American suburbia, Soccer Moms with their gigantic Jackie O sunglasses wouldn’t be caught dead driving a Chevy Metro to their nail appointments and pilates classes. However, give them a white or black 8 Cylinder beast named Tahoe or Yukon or Suburban and just sit back and count how many mailboxes they can knock over backing out of the driveway.

Meanwhile, somewhere tonight at a bowling alley just outside of suburbia or this weekend at a NASCAR track near you, GM trucks and their Dodge and Ford truck cousins will overrun the parking lots. The GMC/Chevy truck is so popular that Steve Jobs is kicking himself for creating the iPod and not the decal of Calvin (of Calvin & Hobbs) relieving himself on a Ford.

And meanwhile, some 75 year old geezer in a retirement community is ready to trade in his Mercury for his life long dream car – a Cadillac. And while Cadillac’s have never been popular with anyone that doesn’t have either an AARP card or a drug dealing business, it is a car that has a niche.

The reality is GM’s best selling cars have always been their gas guzzlers – GM SUV(s), trucks, and muscle cars – GM’s fun cars. The GM Duck is a natural extension of this model.

These examples contrast what the climate change crowd would have you believe. They will claim GM’s problems will be rectified with the coming Chevy Volt and other cars with batteries bigger in size than a Galapagos Turtle. The problem is the Volt reeks of Practical. And, GM’s history with Practical – the Saturn, the Geo, your father’s Oldsmobile – has always been crap, or slightly more crappy than the equivalent Honda or Toyota.

I say, GM needs less Volt and more Duck.

But even if GM doesn’t come out with a boat car crossover we should all cut the company some slack. If for nothing else, we should remember our history. An example of this history is depicted in HBO’s World War II series The Band of Brothers, when the Harvard educated Private David Webster is particularly irritated watching the retreat of column after column of German soldiers marching on foot with the officers being pulled in horse carriages.

Private Webster yells among other heavily laced non Harvardian language, “Say hello to Ford and ^%**^ General Motors. Look at you, you have horses. What were you thinking?”

Webster and thousands of other American GIs were riding towards Germany in one of over 800,000 trucks that General Motors delivered in support of kicking German and Japan ass. In all, GM produced over $12 Billion worth of supplies (or $150 Billion in today’s dollars) in support of the war effort.  

Ironic that GM is now getting its tail handed to them by competitors from Japan and Germany. Bring back the Duck and watch that change. Then, let’s get to work on the hover mode.

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