Consumer Reports has rated the Tesla sedan the best car that they’ve ever tested (list). Tesla has a market capitalization of about $14 billion (July 22, 2013). According to Wikipedia, Tesla seems to have required about $1 billion in debt and equity funding.
The GM/Chrysler bailout required roughly $85 billion in taxpayer funds (Wikipedia). Instead of preserving these relics we could have instead have had nearly 85 startup automobile manufacturers on the same scale as Tesla. Wouldn’t that have been a lot more interesting and more likely to push forward the automotive state of the art?
Let’s consider the suspension. GM and Chrysler sell vehicles with springs and shock absorbers, more or less the same system that carried Henri Fournier to victory in the 1901 Paris-to-Berlin race in an automobile made by Mors (source). What would nimbler upstart car vendors, forced to compete with each other and unable to tap into the federal river of cash, be likely to do with suspension? One hint is provided by Levant Power. They make an active shock absorber that can push against the spring if necessary to preserve vehicle composure. The shock can also generate electricity from the pounding action of the road on the wheels. See this video for a demonstration of ride over bumps (the company says that more videos are coming soon). I’m not sure how much funding went into Levant, but I am betting that it was less than $85 billion and they are the only company that seems to be doing anything practical to address my main complaint with my 6-year-old sedan (review). Note that Bose has a Web page devoted to its 33-year-old effort to build active suspensions but for whatever reason (maybe because they don’t have to compete too hard!) car makers never bought it (and it does seem a lot more complex than Levant’s idea).
Whenever a company or a government finishes spending a ridiculous amount of money on something the PR folks say “Look at this great thing you got for your money!” Somehow hardly anyone ever asks “What could we have gotten if we’d spent the money on something else instead?”