Here's a half-baked idea inspired by a Freakonimics commenter: failing industries should help homeowners finance renewable energy.
The logic goes like this:
- Ford's business of selling cars has not be profitable for some time...
- Ford Credit -- which helps people finance the purchase of For cars -- has been incredibly profitable, so much so that it keeps the rest of the company in business... therefore
- Ford is actually in the banking industry. They help ordinary people purchase expensive manufactured equipment, which in turn help benefit the lives of ordinary people. Now,
- Alternative energy, such as Solar Panels, home-grow biodiesel, and cogeneration, also benefit lives by reducing the expense of energy for ordinary citizens.
- Alternative energy systems require expensive manufactured equipment, which many people cannot afford.
- Alternative energy creates a return-on-investment -- less monthly costs on electricity and gasoline -- which offsets the costs of making monthly payments. Therefore,
- If Ford got into the business of financing the sale and installation of solar panels, it really wouldn't be much of a shift in how they do business, but could be insanely profitable.
Ford, GM, and Chrysler are all touting how they plan on using alternative energies in the next generation of products... I say, why stop there? Don't integrate solar panels into cars... purchase a solar panel manufacturer, and finance solar panel installations in people's homes! Set up some local biodeisel co-ops... and make your money the way you always did: financing the sale of manufactured equipment. Use your leverage in Washington to get tax credits for people to install solar panels, and make it even cheaper for your customer base.
This initial step will also help the auto manufacturers get to understand the nature of alternative energy... before completely shifting your manufacturing process to create biodiesel cars, make sure there's a market for it. Use your financial influence to create the initial market, profit from it, and finance the rest of the endeavor. Purchase the best companies, learn from them, and make your cars more efficient as well.
To me, that strategy seems much more doable, and much more profitable...
Banks like Ford are the future, not the past... modern banks that focus on hedge funds, derivatives, and sub-prime mortgage financial vehicles are ignoring the sacred purpose of the financial industry: to spur the growth of industry that improves the well-being of the public. If you are a bank that is also into manufacturing (cars and solar panels), services (repair and installation), and perhaps agriculture (for biofuels), you have an edge that few could match. That won't happen overnight, but financing solar panels would be a good start.
Anybody know the CEO of Ford?