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SIX DEGREES OF REPARATION

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sun, Dec 19, 2004

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

Is the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII politically incorrect?

SIX DEGREES OF REPARATION

September 2, 2004

After a local radio car show reviewed some Mitsubishi vehicles, a listener called in to chastise the hosts for not mentioning Mitsubishi's checkered past (presumably, the WWII "Zero" warplane) and present (an affiliate cutting down rainforest trees). It turns out the caller drove a Chrysler product. Of course, DaimlerChrysler owns a controlling share of Mitsubishi, and has its own colorful history tocontend with. Given the globalization of the industry, I wonder if there's a car company out there that doesn't have some perceived skeleton in its closet? Several years ago, a trio of college guys - Craig Fass, Brian Turtle, and Mike Ginelli - came up with the game "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" (a take-off of the John Guare play and movie "Six Degrees of Separation"). The game - which evolved into a website and later a book - hypothesizes that actor Kevin Bacon can be linked directly or indirectly to just about every American movie made. The same hypothesis can be applied to carmakers. If someone names a politically correct car company, I bet we can come up with a skeleton or two. The Blog is so confident that the number of unblemished car companies is miniscule that LA Car has agreed to give out complimentary copies of David Magee's "Turn Around - How Carlos Ghosn Rescued Nissan" to readers that can first identify a major car company without an unblemished history. All readers who identify unblemished car companies will be posted. However, copies of the book will be limited to the first reader of each identified car company. LA Car will be the final arbiter on correct answers. So, the challenge is on: Can you name a car company without a checkered past or present?

- RN Readers were given until September 6, 2004 to name the company.

Henry Ford, with Edsel Ford and Orville Wright to his right

September 4, 2004

In "Six Degrees of Reparation" (see September 2, 2004 entry), we challenged our readers to name a major car company with an unblemished history - i.e., without one or more skeletons tied directly or indirectly (via its affiliates) to its past. The article was inspired by a listener chastised the hosts of a radio show for not mentioning Mitsubishi's checkered past during a review of one of its cars. It turned out the caller drove a Chrysler product, which is owned by DaimlerChrysler, which owns substantial shares in Mitsubishi and has its own colorful history to contend with. Here's what readers came up with:

Toyota and Nissan - These can be dismissed summarily, since both were involved in Japan's wartime effort during World War II. Volvo - Two suggested Volvo as a company with an unblemished record. Volvo, however, is owned by Ford Motor Company, who's founder was anti-Semitic and admired Adolf Hitler. Many historians also contend that Ford Motor Company profited from slave labor during World War II, when it retained a controlling share of the Ford Werke plant during Nazi occupation. Saab - The Swedish companies are often cited, since they have historically taken neutral positions during the war. Saab, however, is now owned by General Motors. A number of historians contend that GM's German subsidiary, Opel, played a significant role in the Nazi war effort during World War II. GM has also been accused of using forced labor from France and Belgium in 1940, during a time when its Opel operations were being overseen by an American. Rolls Royce - "They built airplane engines for the 'good guys' during the War." Rolls Royce is now owned by BMW, one of a number of German industrial giants (among them, DaimlerChrysler and Volkswagen) that are now paying financial compensation for utilizing slave labor during World War II. Caterham and TVR - It's debatable whether these two British firms qualify as major car companies. In any event, Caterham buys their engines from Vauxhall, which is owned by General Motors. TVR used Range Rover engines in some of their cars. Rover is now owned by Ford. Panoz - Founded in 1989 by Daniel Panoz. Again, whether Panoz can be considered a major car company is also debatable. Panoz, however, used engines from Ford Motor Company (see Volvo). Daihatsu - Prior to becoming Daihatsu, the company was called Hatuodoki Seizo Co., Ltd. Some of the Mitsubishi Zero war planes used Hatsudoki engines. Lamborghini - Lamborghini is now owned by Volkswagen, AG. Renault - Louis Renault was arrested in 1944 for collaborating with Nazi Germany. He died while in custody. Some historians contend that he was poisoned in order to keep him from implicating other French business people. Mazda (Toyo Kogyo) - Ford owns a controlling share in Mazda (see Volvo). Subaru - Subaru is the automotive branch of Fuji Heavy Industries, which manufactured airplanes and other equipment for military use by Japan during World War II. Subaru is now also partly owned by General Motors (see Saab). Citroen - Many readers pointed to French companies. After all, France has been a long-time ally. Both Citroen and its parent company Peugeot, produced equipment (albeit involuntarily) for the Nazi war effort during World War II. Peugeot has resisted attempts to open its archives about its involvement during that period. Hyundai and Kia - Many readers also cited the Korean car companies. Kia, however, has produced cars for Ford (e.g., the Ford Aspire). Kia's parent company, Hyundai, has had a long-time business relationship with Mitsubishi. Trabant - Here's an example where the car itself was a blemish - a two-cylinder skeleton car whose platform was originally intended for motorcycle use. So far, it's a no-hitter, folks. The challenge is still on: Can you name a car company without a checkered past or present?

- RN Two more days remained for readers to name a politically correct car company.

September 6, 2004

Earlier this month (see below), we introduced "Six Degrees of Reparation," wherein we challenged our readers to name a major car company with an unblemished history - i.e., without one or more skeletons tied directly or indirectly to its past. The premise is a variation of a theme from "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon," which hypothesized that actor Kevin Bacon can be linked directly or indirectly to just about every American movie made ("Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" is itself a take-off of the John Guare play and movie "Six Degrees of Separation").

In our September 4th Blog entry, we reported that readers gave numerous answers but not a single one passed the unblemished test. In this final chapter, we look at the remaining answers provided by readers, and take a stab at what it all means: Tatra - This Czechoslovakian company produced some of the most interesting cars in the early part of the 20th century (the Tatra 77 pictured above was introduced in 1934). Like many other European companies, Tatra fell under Nazi control. In 1939, Tatra was forced to produce trucks for Nazi military use. Honda - A good answer by VWVortex's Sucking Chest Wound and HerrGolf. Honda has a pretty clean record, being a post-World War II creation. Alas, Honda sells engines to General Motors' Saturn Division (see Saab, in Part 2, below). Honda also partnered with Isuzu on the sale of the first Passport and Odyssey (marketed as the Oasis by Isuzu). Isuzu's diesel engines were used for wartime effort by Japan during World War II. Holden - Australia has been a long-time ally, but the company is an affiliate of General Motors (see Saab). By the way, GM also owns Vauxhall in Europe, and has ownership interest in Daewoo, Fiat, Subaru, Suzuki, and Isuzu. Aston Martin - This may be the vehicle of choice for James Bond, but Aston Martin is owned by Ford (see Volvo, in Part 2, below). Ford also owns Jaguar, Land Rover, Volvo, and a controlling share of Mazda.

Lotus - In the 1960s and 70s, Lotus had strong ties with Ford (resulting in the Lotus Ford race cars and the Lotus Cortina production car). Wholly owned by General Motors in the mid-1980s. In 1996, Malaysian car maker Proton purchased a majority share of the company. The Elise currently being imported into this country is powered by a Toyota engine. Seat - This Spanish car company is now owned by Volkswagen (as are Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, and Skoda). The current Volkswagen car company was actually created by the Allied forces after World War II. However, the Beetle was designed by Ferdinand Porsche in response to Adolf Hitler's desire to build a people's car. The KdF Wagen, as it was called before WWII, proved to be very popular for both civilian and military use. Smart - From the standpoint of relieving the world from traffic congestion, Smart makes some of the most politically correct cars around. The company is owned by DaimlerChrysler (which also owns Jeep, Dodge, Maybach, Mercedes-Benz, and Chrysler, as well as a controlling share in Mitsubishi). Ferrari - A seemingly safe bet, since Ferrari is a post-World War II creation. Ferrari, however, is owned by Fiat (as are Alfa Romeo, Lancia, and Maserati), which built military equipment in support of the Axis powers during World War II. Well, it's the last day of our challenge to readers, and we still have a no-hitter going. Right about now, you may be asking, "what's the point of all this?" There is none - other than to point out the difficulty of trying to purchase a car based on the car company's history and business relations. In reality, virtually all of the car companies today have business ties with each other. For many years, the father of one of our staff members avoided German cars, due to the role that German car companies played during World War II. So, what has he been purchasing instead? Chrysler products. - RN

THE LA CAR BLOG "Six Degrees of Reparation" originally appeared as entries on the LA Car Blog. LA Car has always been a great source to come back to from month-to-month, to see what articles and reviews have been added to our rather staggering database. With the LA Car Blog, we give you a reason to come back virtually every day, as we post new blog entries virtually every day or two (well, there are occasional vacation breaks). To view the current Blog, go to the home page and scroll down the center list until you find LA Car Blog.

- Roy Nakano

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