Conspiracies Against Electric Streetcars and Motors

It takes a special kind of person to believe or promote a conspiracy theory. Often, these theorists lack hard evidence, jump to conclusions, or are simply delusional. While it’s a fool’s errand to investigate how the Illuminati were behind the assassination of JFK, there are some conspiracies that are only theory in name-especially in the automotive industry. Throughout its history, big auto has used various corporate tactics and product suppressions to stay on top of the competition.

The General Motors Streetcar Conspiracy

When automobiles were just coming into fashion and today’s industry leaders were gaining momentum, most cities relied on electric streetcar systems for public transportation. These trams had dominated metropolitan transport since the late nineteenth century, and their abundance in heavily populated centers posed a problem for the fledgling automotive industry. Simply put, if everyone had the ability to take a trolley to work or the supermarket, there would be no demand for individual cars or buses.

Most trolleys were owned and operated by National City Lines and its subsidiaries, Pacific City Lines and American City Lines. These companies were all heavily invested in by GM, Standard Oil, Philips Petroleum, and other businesses with a heavy stake in the success of the automotive industry. By 1946, the conglomerate had acquired, owned, and controlled 46 transit systems in 45 cities and 16 states. Slowly, the trolley systems began to be phased out in favor of buses.

It did not take long for the federal government to connect the disappearance to the NCL’s generous investors. Nine auto companies and seven individuals were charged and convicted with creating a transportation monopoly, but the damage was done. When it came to transportation, vehicles reigned supreme.

Big Auto Killed the Electric Car

While auto companies easily banded together to conquer common enemies, they also conspired against each other to gain a market advantage. For example, vehicle manufacturers are closely connected to the health and wealth of the oil industry. It is thus beneficial for both to manufacture motors powered by gasoline instead of alternative sources such as electricity or biomass. In particular, big auto is more or less staunchly opposed to cars powered by electric motors.

Energy conserving vehicles could be the key to reducing green house emissions, but they still are a novel sight worldwide. In the 2006 film “Who Killed the Electric Car?” filmmakers question whether the electric car’s failure to fully take root on roadways is due to an industry-wide conspiracy. The documentary describes a history of sabotage at the hands of the automotive industry, and even cites the GM Streetcar Conspiracy as the forebear of this modern dilemma. While many auto companies release a battery-powered vehicle or hybrid every few years to appease critics, they are often taken off the production line after the novelty wears off. While it is currently unproven whether a large, organized conspiracy against electric autos is taking place, it is clear that companies aren’t eager to push for the new technology either.