I have read several articles about the proposed bailout of the American “big 3” auto makers. In general, I am against it. I would only favor a limited bailout to a consolidated American auto industry.

In my lifetime, the “Big 3” have been the major players in Detroit. However, just a few years before I was born in 1963, we had many more automakers, such as Studebaker and Packard.

Times have changed, and I think car owners need to think with their pocketbooks instead of their brand-loyalty egos. The time has come when “Ford men” should not be pitted against “Chevy men” — nor both against “Chrysler men.” I’ve owned cars made by all three, and they all had their virtues as well as their shortcomings. My late dad owned vehicles made by all of the above, as well as Hudsons, Ramblers, Austins and Kaisers/Henry J’s. He owned one of the largest Cadillacs ever made, as well as one of the smallest Italian-made Fiat cars. That Fiat could practically fit in the trunk of the Cadillac.

Sometimes bland austerity is needed. When Henry Ford first began manufacturing cars, he had the slogan: “You can get a Ford car in any color you choose — as long as it is black.” Diversity was sought by consumers in healthier economic times, and his competitors gained a foothold. However, in these hard economic times, if our government is going to bail out the auto makers, we need the “Big 3” to merge together into one auto market in Detroit making fewer models with a standard design.

This would lessen the cost of re-tooling, streamline the production of parts and make auto repairs easier by uniformity. A plan such as this would lay a solid foundation for future growth — anything else would increase the failure rate by diluting the investment three ways.

We must assure success by creating one American automaker that is productive, lean and geared to succeed against foreign competition. Americans need to see that “buying American” is the only brand-loyalty that counts when it comes to cars. If Americans value American jobs and value the domestic auto industry, they should adopt a bailout plan that requires consolidation.

— James A. Marples, Esbon