“Perfection is only … an average”…
That has been the theme of this column for the past 25 years. It was a slogan conceived by Jim Graham, a former General Motors’ marketing director.
Today is column Number 1298 — two deadlines were missed in the quarter of a century due to a minor health issue.
Many thanks to the hundreds of readers who have taken the time to offer opinions for this column, originally called “Front Seat View.”
It has been a fantastic journey since we first came to Charleston 35 years ago… we are grateful to our Charleston friends who have been so wonderful to us.
Since announcing retirement from journalism, many readers have asked, “What were YOUR favorite columns?” Good question. The easy answer, “They all were!” But, these rate as personal favorites: A series of interviews with local car dealers; a review of automobile pioneers; early car racing; challenges to the “Detroit 3” of GM, Ford and Chrysler; energy issues and how they affect carmakers and customers; electric cars and auto industry leaders.
This columnist has the most respect for auto dealers. They take the risk, make the personal investments, relying on their factories to provide saleable products — in the past many were forced to sell marginal products in order to stay in business.
Several friends have asked, “Why are you REALLY giving up writing the automotive column?” These reasons were offered as possibilities: Other offers from print rivals (Sorry, there are NO Post and Courier rivals); calls from syndicates representing national writers (No recent calls); NASCAR calls — “Roger Penske wants you to be his No. 1 driver.” (He has NOT called — yet); In order to “have more time with the family — a familiar comment used by retiring politicians. (There could be a bit of truth here).
Deep appreciation is extended to several auto editors with who I have had the pleasure of working: Margaret Garrett, Teresa Taylor (now the Food Editor) and Jim Parker, who must be rated the most prolific writer, based on his automotive and real estate articles. And, Thank You, Bill Hawkins, the current Editor & Publisher, for your support and friendship.
Working with the College of Charleston also during the past 25 years has been an inspiration, particularly with the School of Business, and most recently, with the School of Education, Health & Human Performance. Teaching — and listening — to college students continues to be so rewarding.
What about the future of the automotive industry? More technological changes will be challenging the car builders. The most exciting prospect: driverless cars! The current name to cars traveling without drivers behind the wheel: Autonomous cars.
Too often, with some 31,000 highway deaths each year, it seems there are driverless cars on the roads today. A survey in The Post and Courier revealed that 22 percent of respondents say they text while driving. Think about that — one in five cars approaching with drivers seriously distracted.
As one who has always appreciated spirit in a car, it is refreshing to see car designers are not abandoning horsepower, with an impressive number of new models joining the 500 Horsepower Club.
Somewhere along the next 20 years, motorists will rebel against the federal government’s mandating smaller, less-safe cars with high miles-per-gallon as the only objective.
More on the future: Motorists will run red lights, until intersection cameras are legalized. Also, too many drivers will refuse to use seat belts, along with others who will continue to use cell phones and texting while underway.
And, this will not change: Too many drivers view “speed limits” as MINIMUM speed - not a LIMIT! If you are driving 35 mph in a 35 mph speed limit area, too many fellow motorists take the view, “Get over — get out of my way!”
The future of electric cars: Despite billions having been spent on the electrics, they will not sell until they can be made to have a greater range. Currently, a Chevrolet Volt cannot go to Summerville and back on electricity alone. Electric car pricing will also have to come down — burdened with a $12,000 to $15,000 battery. Can you imagine anyone buying a used electric with the prospect of replacing a $15,000 battery?
Soon, this columnist will discover if life will become boring and lonely without deadlines and headlines. On a positive note: he has never considered himself “retired.”
Thank you, Charleston, for 25 delightful years. The love affair with the automobile continues.
Thank ya’ll for an incredible ride!
Dr. George G. Spaulding is a retired General Motors executive and distinguished executive-in-residence emeritus at the School of Business at the College of Charleston. He can be reached at 2 Wharfside St. 2A Charleston SC 29401.