I'm confused. Haven't we known for decades that, with the majority of the oil we use coming from overseas, we were perched atop a banana peel that could bring us down any day? Why, then, are the automobile manufacturers just now scrambling to lop heads, cut production, retool plants, and provide the public with cars that will never need a fill-up?

Take Ford (NYSE:F), for instance. Yesterday, the company announced its worst quarter since the company was a gleam in Henry's eye -- an $8.7 billion loss. Ford then said it will retool a couple more of its North American truck and sport utility vehicle plants so that it will be able to gin out a half-dozen fuel-efficient models that it has been making and selling in Europe for a while now.  But rolling those models off U.S. assembly lines is a couple of years away.

Fully $8 billion of the company's loss involved write-offs and write-downs reflecting the plummeting value of its plants, its lease portfolio, and some of its other assets. That means that, if you back out those cuts, rather than its reported loss of $3.88 per share, the company "only" lost $0.62 a share. Turns out the dart-throwers who follow the company had been looking for a per-share loss closer to $0.27. Why bother, guys?

Of course, Ford isn't alone in its automotive misery. In fact, a mixed bag of Daimler AG (NYSE:DAI), AutoNation (NYSE:AN), and Hyundai also have seen their profits fall.  And looking ahead, if you think General Motors (NYSE:GM) will depart from the use of rose-colored ink when it reports, I have a bridge in Brooklyn for sale. Beyond that, while Ford can be criticized for being slow to glom onto the importance of fuel efficiency, even normally canny Toyota (NYSE:TM) has only recently decided to begin building its Prius hybrid in the U.S.

So there you have it. In a word, a mess. Unless crude prices continue to trickle lower and find a home at much reduced levels, I don't think it's outlandish to suggest that Ford's situation appears precarious. And that will be the case at least until it can begin cranking out its more fuel-efficient models from here in the ol' U.S. of A. The investment implications of those circumstances are obvious.

Ford's been placed in the single-star inferno by Motley Fool's CAPS players. If you disagree, why not tell us about it?

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Fool contributor David Lee Smith has a couple of cars, but no shares in the companies mentioned. He does welcome your questions or comments. The Fool has a disclosure policy that purrs along in any gear.