COMMENTS: Detroitís Big Three Fight for Survival

Dismal news from Detroit was the Story of the Day. CBS and NBC both led with automobile sales statistics for the month of June. An economic slowdown combined with an excess inventory of gas guzzling pick-up trucks and Sports Utility Vehicles produced plummeting results. General Motors sold 18% fewer vehicles than in the same month of 2007, Toyota 21% fewer, Ford 28% and Chrysler 36%. On Wall Street, General Motors' stock price is now worth less than it was half a century ago. ABC looked forward to our Fourth of July barbecues for its lead: those raw tomatoes for our hamburgers have still not been cleared of suspicion of salmonella.

The auto sales data were "terrible," ABC's Betsy Stark asserted, "the worst numbers in 15 years." What is selling? "Small, fuel-efficient vehicles," answered CNBC's Phil LeBeau on NBC, "which helped Honda post the only positive numbers for the month." LeBeau added that the demand for fuel efficient hybrid models is so heavy nowadays that a buyer who walks into a Toyota dealership today with a deposit for a Prius can expect delivery after Christmas. Detroit's Big Three were supposed to turn their finances around in 2008, CBS' Anthony Mason reminded us, "that is what all those job cuts and closings were all about. Instead, they are fighting for survival--literally."

The high cost of driving inspired features on lifestyle changes at both ABC and CBS. CBS called its effort Changing Times as Nancy Cordes covered the same territory as Kerry Sanders last week on NBC--the switch in cities from car ownership to rent-by-the-hour sharing schemes. Sanders donated free publicity to Zipcar. Cordes went to Philadelphia were PhillyCarShares runs the nation's largest regional network. On ABC, David Muir calculated the reduced commuting costs from working four ten-hour days each week instead of five eight-hours. He reckoned an average annual savings of $377 for each commuter. Some 3,500 municipal workers in Birmingham Ala and 17,000 state workers in Utah now have three-day weekends.


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