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Ford Motor Company CEO Alan Mulally and the other "Big Three" auto company CEO's will be meeting with George W. Bush.

From the agenda Mulally has proferred, it looks to me like another in a long line of "help us compete" rhetoric that emanates from Detroit with every administration.  (Its the same because none of these guys have had an original idea since about the time of Lee Iacocca.)

Mr. Mulally, look no further than the reflection in the mirror to see what's wrong with the American auto industy.

You're more than happy to gripe about the "tremendous competitive disadvantage" of having the United Auto Workers contracts.  But have you looked at your OWN salary, now that you're the new guy on the block? Have you compared what YOU earn as a multiple of the guys on the line?  And then made the CRITICAL comparison of that multiple to what JAPANESE and KOREAN auto executives make?

Didn't think so...

And while you're hoping to get the Chinese to change their currency policy (good luck with that...keep me posted, huh?)  and create teriffs against the cheap cars that are the only ones a Wal-Mart worker* can afford, why don't you think of these few things:

1. What is the best DESIGN institute in America?  You know, the Harvard Business School or Yale Law School of industrial design in the United States?

Can't think of it?

No surprise there.  All you CEO's pay more attention to your investemnt bankers and your lawyers than you do your products.  Any wonder, then, that the world turns elsewhere for the finest products?

Because you guys dropped the ball!

2. How much have you changed Henry Ford's basic assembly mine model since he started the company?  I mean, really, honestly CHANGED it?  (Where are we now...a little over 100 years since Henry came up with the original thought?)

Have ANY of you auto executives done ANYTHING since Henry Ford to actually CHANGE that model?  (I mean, besides firing working guys, replacing them with robots, and hiring people who will work for less money?)

Surprise surprise.  Again, the answer is "Hell NO!"

Because you guys dropped the ball!

Did it EVER occur to you that maybe, just maybe, Henry Ford's model of "batch building" of automobile inventory is OBSOLETE?  (And has been for, like, 30 YEARS????)

Ever thought that maybe, just maybe, American consumers would want their cars BUILT TO ORDER?  Like a Dell Computer?  Ever thought about what that would do to your capital requirements and your cash flow?  Ever thought about how much that would REVOLUTIONIZE the American auto industry....cutting costs, improving productivity, avoiding layoffs and realizing efficiencies so that American cars would be FAR CHEAPER than foreign cars?  That you would be able to spin-off most of your operating divisions to your shareholders, allowing THEM to realize tremendous value while, at the same time, maintaining a world-class "just on time" manufacturing operation?  


Ah...but making REVOLUTIONARY CHANGE, the kind of change that's necessary to save your sorry overpaid ass in a dying industy...well, you're not a revolutionary, are you?

You're kind of a go-along, get-along guy.

Which is how all you guys in Detroit are and how you all got to the top at some very poorly run companies.

Being "COMPETITIVE" means WINNING  by distinguished performance.  But you guys -- all you MBA's and whatever -- you don't DISTINGUISH  yourselves or your just do things the way they've been done for 100 years.

You just make sure you get paid better for it than your great-grandfather was.

Meanwhile, you drive the American automobile industry -- and industry America practically STARTED -- offshore while you beg the president to subsidize your sorry ass.


* Wal-Mart Worker - Found primarily in the Northern Middle West section of the United States, a highly skilled, extremely reliable species formerly known as a "lathe operator" or "foundry worker".  Typically known to have paid taxes, served in the armed forces, engaged in longstanding monogmous relationships with a female of the same species.  Usually producing a "family" of four children that "lathe operator" proudly sent off to college that he mostly paid for.  Formerly earned $30/hr. at Ford Motor Company.  Metamorphosis into "Wal-Mart Worker" seems to occur upon the onset of middle-age when "lathe operator" and "foundy workers" travel to Mexico for several weeks and engage in apparent transfer of skills and expertise to native Mexican species.  Metamorphosized "Wal-Mart worker" emerges from habitat after several months after he returns from Mexico during a period of dormancy called "unemployment".  Species is usually found in a red vest showing teeth at other North American species and saying, "Welcome to Wal-Mart".  Species appears to be less vigorous in metamorphosized state.

Originally posted to Thinking Republican on Sat Nov 11, 2006 at 01:25 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  They want to compete, do they? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    docangel, bluewolverine

    Electric cars, hybrids, Make a car that gets 50 MPG city, has space, but isn't tall like an SUV that actually affects traffic gridlock.

    klaatu barada nikto

    by JohnGor0 on Sat Nov 11, 2006 at 01:24:57 PM PST

  •  This is the best diary I've seen in a while (4+ / 0-)

    Have you ever wondered why the same American workers can build great cars when working for the Japanese, but produce shite when working for American car companies? Same Union, same raw materials, same everything; cars aren't the same.

    Bill Ford spent more time and energy fighting increased feul efficiency than preparing his company for the post SUV-fad market.

    American car sales are in the toilet. Japanese car sales are up. Obviously those aren't good numbers for our manufacturing sector, but imagine how bad the car sales would be if many Americans didn't buy only American made out of a sense of duty? Imagine ifthe government didn't bail out Ford and GM with massive fleet sales? We wouldn't have an auto industry.

    •  Not the same union. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Spit, oldjohnbrown, bluewolverine, TomP

      Toyota and Honda are NOT unionized.  We worked the Ford buy out fairs, and we're asked to bring employers to the table.  They all said we don't want no stinking unions.  

      "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe." Albert Einstein

      by dkmich on Sat Nov 11, 2006 at 01:36:51 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's why I buy (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Spit, fugwb, oldjohnbrown, dkmich, BTower

        American made vehciles by the old "Big 3."  They are UAW made.

        I want to see the old "Big 3" be successful.  There are a lot of union workers and pensioners with jobs depending on it.

        We need unions in this nation.  If a Democrat means nothing else, it's knowing "which side you are on."

        I choose to support unions, blue collar workers, the poor, etc.  

        It's a choce with me -- as an attorney it is not necessarily in my personal economic interest.  


  •  Ever heard of NAFTA. (4+ / 0-)

    Manufacturing - all things - not just cars - is history.  Want a TV, washing machine, you name it - it comes from China.  Did Ford fuck up the washing machines, clothing, and television designs, too?  I don't disagree with you about excessive CEO salaries, but christ - Ford is not first.  There was the Exxon piglet.  Now some Health Insurance CEO is getting 1.5 billion for one year's work.  Think the airline employees bitched about this, too.  If you want to do a rant, fine.  But could you broaden the picture.  

    "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe." Albert Einstein

    by dkmich on Sat Nov 11, 2006 at 01:35:42 PM PST

    •  I was looking at some Spode porcelain dishes (0+ / 0-)

      at an expensive store the other day.  They were in a Christmas pattern, and Spode, if you don't know, is a famous English porcelain company.  Imagine my surprise, upon looking at the backstamp, to discover that the china was made in China.

      I didn't buy any.

    •  HOGWASH. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      American manufacturing is "history", as you put it, only because we ALLOWED foreign competitors to what we did for a lower cost of labor and to ship their stuff hear on palettes in container ships.

      That's done; we can't go back now (as much as I would like to).

      But we don't have to do what we once did.  "Build to order" requires razor thin inventories of parts (for all intents and purposes, "zero" inventory) and highLY COMPRESSED supply lines.  Stuff can't spend six weeks coming fom overseas on a container ship or even a week coming from the Maquiladoras.

      And that means that SUPPLIERS must by nearby, acting almost like a closely integrated element of the same factory floor, even though they are separate companies.

      It also means that there is virtually no obsolete inventory; that stuff doesn't get written down; and that profit margins SOAR exponentially compared to batch building.

      If American manufacturing is "dead" why does Dell service the American marketplace with computers manufactured here?  Why not build them in China or Malaysia and bring them here by container ship?

      Its all about logistic and efficiency, something the suits in Detroit never really learned.

      "The beginning of thought is in disagreement -- not only with others but also with ourselves." - Eric Hoffer

      by Thinking Republican on Sat Nov 11, 2006 at 03:18:33 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Japanese have mastered lean manufacturing (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    There is very little waste in the Toyota process, which involves everything from keeping inventory low to streamlining processes.  Dell has done the same thing in the computer industry, which is mentioned above.  

    The American industry on the other hand is terribly inefficient (despite having dedicated and qualified workers).  They have survived in their current state by finding the SUV niche provided by cheap gas, which other companies did not want to fully compete in.  It simply wasn't profitable enough for foreign companies to design an entire line around the American SUV market for them (these products would have no market in the rest of the world).  

    Detroit has been making some lean improvements (too little too late?).  Although a car that people want to buy wouldn't hurt.  I still enjoy my roomy 1991 Buick Century, at about 25 mpg even with plenty of extra weight/room and engine power than needed.  I'll have to find something when that craps out (hopefully it can wait until I graduate from college this year).  I would love to get something in the 40-50 range, but few companies seem to be any good at that, and all the non-hybrid cars out there in this range don't work for someone 6'2"...unless I plan on driving from the back seat.

    Finally, it certainly doesn't help that foreign companies don't have to provide healthcare.  How much of a competitive advantage is that?  CEO pay is ridiculous here, but it isn't even the biggest problem.  I just hope we aren't looking at a huge government bailout of Detroit in the future.

    •  One problem with 'lean manufacturing' (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Spit, alizard, docangel, BTower, Uncle Moji

      This also affects 'just-in-time' manufacturing: Both depend on cheap fuel to make it economical to ship small quantities on tight deadlines. Dell has helped itself somewhat by getting their major parts suppliers to build warehouses right next to Dell's assembly lines, but not many companies have the muscle to do that.

      The more expensive transport becomes, the more attractive the old batch-production mode is going to be, in direct proportion to cost of storage vs. cost of transportation. That's not exclusive with build-to-order, but it does mean that Ford et al won't actually build any of the orders until they reach a critical mass.

      Also, not just consumer demand, but the tax and regulatory climate artificially favored SUVs. The GM and Ford engineers who design them hold them in contempt, because they can just barely be called 'designed' and they're way overpriced. So we need a tax and a regulatory climate that gives people incentives to buy cars that aren't just living rooms on ladder frames.

      The UCC: To believe is to care. To care is to do.

      by oldjohnbrown on Sat Nov 11, 2006 at 02:00:55 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  We can rebuild New Orleans. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      We can help farmers with Agriculture.  What the autos are asking for is a private/public partnership to really do alternative fuels and high mileage cars.  Bush has been to busy to bother to meet with them. Clinton gave them NAFTA.  So, let's see what the new group does.  They want populism, support unions and alternative fuels - well, here is a chance.  

      "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe." Albert Einstein

      by dkmich on Sat Nov 11, 2006 at 02:19:12 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  who got the CAFE guidelines watered down? (0+ / 0-)

        The damage taken by the Big Three is of their own creation. While I'm not necessarily opposed to bailing them out anyway on a loan basis, if they don't agree in return to build fuel-efficient vehicles capable of burning alternative fuels, my feeling is "no deal".

        With respect to design, I'm certain any or all of the Big Three have engineers who are not only perfectly capable of designing, say, a clean-running diesel hybrid, but would enjoy showing the rest of the world how to do it right, instead of designing the vehicles the C-level people ordered them to design that people aren't buying.

        Little known fact: An auto diesel engine has fuel efficiency comparable to an advanced gasoline hybrid car without the battery/generator hybrid components.

        The real problem. . . we need the capability to grow/process enough biodiesel to fuel these vehicles. (there actually are problems with ethanol and some interesting problems with flex-fuel gas/ethanol)

        All I can really say about this is that there are people working on this. . . who can certainly use funding.

        Looking for intelligent energy policy alternatives? Try here.

        by alizard on Sat Nov 11, 2006 at 04:38:47 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Of course, strings - always strings. (0+ / 0-)

          Only Haliburton and Cheney get fed money without strings.  Maybe Detroit ought to declare a war on Windsor; and in the chaos, rip off several hundred billion.  Several hundred billion divided by ? MI residents = now I can retire and maybe even sell a house in MI.

          "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe." Albert Einstein

          by dkmich on Sun Nov 12, 2006 at 04:17:59 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  the process of providing money (0+ / 0-)

            without strings to major corporations is something I think the American people voted Democrats control of Congress to stop.

            Looking for intelligent energy policy alternatives? Try here.

            by alizard on Sun Nov 12, 2006 at 05:13:08 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Giving money to business without strings (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              depended solely on who was getting the money.  Trust me, USDOL gives no one money without strings.  This money benefits people.  DOD, DOE on the other hand give tons of money to business without strings because they feed big oil and war privatizers.  But I agree, Dems need to put lots of strings on Iraq money and DOD.

              "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe." Albert Einstein

              by dkmich on Sun Nov 12, 2006 at 06:10:19 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

  •  It's not just the CEOs (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Spit, bronte17, mollyd, alizard, docangel, TomP

    They are part of the problem, for sure. But TIME Magazine did a piece on Bill Ford, who is a "Bolshevik" by the standards of the money guys who back the auto companies (i.e., he actually wanted to change the way the company did business, green it up, etc.). He couldn't get to first base with them, which is the main reason he stepped aside: The big investors won't back anything but the same old same old. They won't back any reforms except laying off workers. Given that, it's really no accident that the same CEOs pop up with the same ideas across all industries.

    The smartest thing any executive has done in a while is what former Apple CEO Fred Anderson did during his term there, which was to spend about 7 years building a "cash machine" wholly independent of the investors and use its earnings to retire all of Apple's medium and long term debt. They can now self finance like a private company (significantly, their R&D budget is funded by the machine), and since they owe no one they answer to no one (they are publicly traded, but their parallel coup was to staff the board with people on their side). Which means that the executive team doesn't have to grovel before neo-robber-barons on Wall Street to do what they need to do. The result is, well, all over the media.

    Now, I realize that this goes completely against what is supposed to be the populist appeal of a publicly traded company, but frankly that whole system has been seized and compromised by a small handful of scowling plutocrats who hold workers and consumers and small investors in contempt. It is now in the hands of people who hamstring any attempts at truly nimble or innovative entrepreneurship. The smart companies now, like Apple and Google, hold it at arm's length. Google, notably, didn't go public when they needed money. They went public when they were solidly established and their way of doing things was proven.

    Whither Ford? I don't know. Bill Ford has a lot of good ideas, but he might never get a chance to implement them. The company's best chance seems to be universal health care, which will significantly impact their bottom line. I think asking the CEO to take a pay cut would really boost the shop floor morale at Ford, but since he was brought in to pacify the money guys I don't see him doing that. They fawn over superstar CEOs.

    The UCC: To believe is to care. To care is to do.

    by oldjohnbrown on Sat Nov 11, 2006 at 01:52:16 PM PST

    •  s/b Apple CFO Fred Anderson n/t (0+ / 0-)

      The UCC: To believe is to care. To care is to do.

      by oldjohnbrown on Sat Nov 11, 2006 at 02:06:49 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Which is exactly why we need (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Spit, oldjohnbrown

      fair trade and government regulations.  We all know capitalism and corporations on care about the buck in their pockets.  We need to put our corporations back on track.  Screw this global crap.  If they're doing business here, they are freakin American and need to step up.

      "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe." Albert Einstein

      by dkmich on Sat Nov 11, 2006 at 02:20:46 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  You forgot one important Wal-Mart Worker trait. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Spit, oldjohnbrown, docangel, wahuwa

    "Probably voted for Bush in 2000 and 2004."

    I opened my wallet and held my tongue this morning, when the old man selling poppies at the grocery store explained that, "We need the money for veterans, because the government doesn't give them enough." The bitter, angry, spiteful, and ultimately self-indulgent thing to do would be to observe, "Then maybe veterans should stop electing Republicans." Instead, I shut my mouth, stuffed a few bills in the can, and took my poppy.

    But outside the store, I felt compelled to tell my son that too many veterans are like too many farmers: They keep voting for politicians whose policies will hurt them.

    I am further of the opinion that the President must be impeached and removed from office!

    by UntimelyRippd on Sat Nov 11, 2006 at 02:04:11 PM PST

    •  Well (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I agree with you, but the fact is that we haven't very effectively combatted the caricatures of us that both farmers and veterans are often fed. And many democratic policies haven't helped them -- I personally know farmers who swore never to vote for another democrat when Clinton signed NAFTA. Misguided? Sure. But also an understandable reaction, when the net result was that many of them could no longer be small farmers.

      We don't talk to rural folks, and we don't do a whole lot of talking to, rather than about, veterans. So the idea of us they're fed by right-wing radio goes uncontested.

      It's still absolutely vital to support both groups, regardless of how they vote. We need to figure out how to get their political support over time, but that's going to IMO take some reworking of the democratic party, too.

      •  Great. Clinton triangulates, & they blame Dems. (0+ / 0-)

        This is a perfect example of what I mean. The DLC drags the party farther and farther to the right, in order to win the rural vote, and in the end it backfires anyway.

        Ultimately, you can try to be respectful and all, but you are talking about people who are on the whole undereducated and overenthusiastic about an American mythology they comprehend poorly. They didn't need Karl Rove to tell that flag-burning is an issue. They're true believers. Karl is merely exploiting their idolatrous habits.

        I am further of the opinion that the President must be impeached and removed from office!

        by UntimelyRippd on Sat Nov 11, 2006 at 02:43:02 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I think (0+ / 0-)

          most of the problem really is that neither party really supports these sets of people in a wholehearted and respectful way. Globalization wasn't just Clinton triangulation, it's part of the life's blood of that wing of the democratic party. Meanwhile, rural folks, for the most part, are open to a converted populist economic message -- but when neither party gives them one, they will go with the cultural hot-button issues.

          Most of the folks I knew out where I grew up, BTW, weren't any more uneducated than most of the folks I know here in a more urban environment -- most americans are pretty undereducated, IMO. I don't think treating them as uneducated country rubes is helpful.

          •  Maybe not helpful. (0+ / 0-)

            But I'm not going to pretend that the world is what it isn't, just to avoid hurting people's feelings. If you insist, I will go out and dig up the stats that show the essential undereducatedosity of rural America, but I think it's a waste of time. They are unDEReducated country rubes, which is why they consistently vote against their own interests.

            But I won't disagree that most americans are pretty undereducated.

            I am further of the opinion that the President must be impeached and removed from office!

            by UntimelyRippd on Sat Nov 11, 2006 at 03:08:47 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Well (0+ / 0-)

              education isn't just about the number of degrees a person earns. I don't even have a high school diploma; many people are largely self-educated, or have done some college but haven't completed the requirements for a formal degree. That doesn't make them rubes; frankly, many of the smartest people I know are among  the folks who don't have the piece of paper.

              But you're right, it is largely a waste of time to argue about this particular point here.

  •  "Custom" cars is a great idea (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    My dad used to walk away when a dealership told him they didn't have what he wanted, whether it was color or options, and that they couldn't get it.  He'd wait months to get the car he wanted from the factory.

    •  Saturn did that for a while (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      They had a great à la carte system. It got "streamlined," and now they offer the same packages most other companies do. They still have some unusual offerings (their Vue SUV is available with a 5-speed stick) but it's not the same as their original system.

      Tellingly, Scion, Toyota's Saturn, offers an à la carte system. I think it's going to be the way to go. If I can get something as tightly integrated as a laptop with a number of BTO options, I can get a car built to order.

      The UCC: To believe is to care. To care is to do.

      by oldjohnbrown on Sat Nov 11, 2006 at 02:11:32 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Fat head (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Did I say that ?

    Reign in the currency rip off that hurts us all, except you it seems,

    Muzzle the health care mafia, which hurts us all, except you, it seems,

    and slap down the money guys that would rather make an easy buck bringing in foreign companies to drain jobs from established american companies,

    and maybe, just maybe, we all benefit.

    even the poor losers with nothing better than a Wal Mart job

    Are you some kind of thuggy troll or what ?



    "We must have strong minds, ready to accept facts as they are." Harry S. Truman

    by slowheels on Sat Nov 11, 2006 at 02:09:42 PM PST

    •  We need our corporations to support (0+ / 0-)

      American workers.  We need our government to support American workers.

      "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe." Albert Einstein

      by dkmich on Sat Nov 11, 2006 at 02:21:50 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Its been a while since I was here.... (0+ / 0-)

      ..but most of my old posts should be up.

      I'm not a thug; I'm not a troll.  I've never owned a car.  I use public transit almost exclusively.

      "The beginning of thought is in disagreement -- not only with others but also with ourselves." - Eric Hoffer

      by Thinking Republican on Sat Nov 11, 2006 at 03:25:58 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Like a spoiled child ,we take care of them (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Sorry, If you keep making SUV bigger and Bigger, even when gas prices are going thru the roof..Thats not too smart and you deserve to lose..

  •  Ford and GM only want handouts.. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Europe is way ahead of us..They have cars that spit out water...We could have cars that dont deplete our earth and if they were serious about stopping the rape of resources and getting rich, they would make tons of money inventing cars that were cheap, economical, and good for the earth.Europe has them...Big business wouldnt let them do that..

    •  AND A CARBURETOR THAT GETS 150 MPG (0+ / 0-)

      Europe is way ahead of us.. Like Ford Europe, GM Europe...  the technology is shared, brother. That makes US ahead of us.

      Dig a little deeper to see which automobiles are really green.  Brace yourself for the answer.

      Handouts ?   What vehicles are cleaner than the Escape Hybrid or Focus PZEV ?

      The stuff US automakers has available is the best on the planet.  US drivers want the big tanks, sadly.  Stop Toyota from being able to dump their excellent cars into the american market, and maybe american makers would have a chance to compete.  

      Handouts ? No. Just remove Japanese subsidies.  

      "We must have strong minds, ready to accept facts as they are." Harry S. Truman

      by slowheels on Sat Nov 11, 2006 at 02:53:37 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Does the author (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    work at FoMoCo?

    Did it EVER occur to you that maybe, just maybe, Henry Ford's model of "batch building" of automobile inventory is OBSOLETE?  (And has been for, like, 30 YEARS????)

    We haven't "batch built" in quite some time. If you're talking about excess inventory on the lots, well, that's sales not doing as well as expected. Not intended "batch building." Ford at present is adjusting with temporary layoffs.

    I'm not nor never will defend Ford's management leadership.  When the reigns of leadership was handed to Trotman then to the incredibly incompetent Nasser, that was the beginning of the decline.


    "If fighting for a more equal and equitable distribution of the wealth of this country is socialistic, I stand guilty of being a socialist." Walter Reuther

    by fugwb on Sat Nov 11, 2006 at 02:36:55 PM PST

    •  Never worked for Ford or in the Industry. (0+ / 0-)

      I'm a business consultant.

      But Ford's management is horrible.

      When I say, "batch built", I mean producing 30 of the same cars, 30 of those, etc.

      Far better, I think, to ship partially completed, unpainted chasis; then, complete the vehicle at regional assembly plants with component-type finishings.

      "The beginning of thought is in disagreement -- not only with others but also with ourselves." - Eric Hoffer

      by Thinking Republican on Sat Nov 11, 2006 at 03:29:52 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Good Idea (0+ / 0-)

        as far as the regional build to order, but build the entire vehicle.  The painting and "finishing" is about two thirds the value of the vehicle, otherwise shipping cost will be astronomical as a completed car body is mostly air.  Building "to order", by which I assume you mean direct customer order, (most build schedules today are driven by Dealer orders) will probably result in higher component inventory levels in order to support rapid delivery to customers.  Especially if reigonal assembly facilities are used.  However, if handled correctly, it would result in less obsolete inventories etc.. in addition, it would also reduce the pressure to offer incentives to move inventories on dealer lots.  
        In order to move to this type of distribution model a massive restructuring of the Manufacturer/Dealer business model.  Currently, completed vehicles are "sold" to dealer inventories as soon as they roll off the line.  They then sit in dealer inventory until customers buy them.  The current model actually rewards plants for overproduction as the burden of carrying inventor is largely on the dealer network.
        Additionally, its not in the dealer's interest to "special order" a vehicle as they miss an opportunity to move one out of inventory.

        •  As I said, "Revolution" (0+ / 0-)

          I don't need a "dealer" or a "dealer network".  I need occassional repair service.

          I'm curious about your commment about the car being mostly air.  I'm curious as to why colors, etc. can't be painted BEFORE attaching them to the chasis, in batches (and by a contractor) as a component.

          I'm talking about a whole "re-think" of what Henry Ford created; same inputs, same outputs.  But TOTALLY revolutionary process in between.

          "The beginning of thought is in disagreement -- not only with others but also with ourselves." - Eric Hoffer

          by Thinking Republican on Sat Nov 11, 2006 at 04:52:09 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Painting before Attachment to "Chassis" (0+ / 0-)

            A quick primer on Car Construction.

            Most cars today are "Unibody" Construction, the "chassis" is integral to the body and formed from  stamped components which are welded together in the body shop area of the assembly plant.  Once the body shell is complete (referred to as the "Body in White" even though it is grey) it travels directly from the end of the bodyshop line to the Paint Shop.

            In the Paint Shop, the entire body in white (the stel body shell) is prepped and painted.  Once complete and dry, the painted body travel to final assembly.  

            In final assembly, the engine and transmission are mounted, doors and interior components are assembled, suspension components and wheels are mounted to the body and the glass installed. Then a quick "roll-off" test and the completed vehicle is shipped (sans dealer options) to the dealer's inventory.  

            Most mid and full size trucks and SUV's are still considered "body on frame" in which the body is mounted to a complete chassis (including engine, transmission, suspension and wheels).  

            As far as the "shipping air" comment is considered.
            The volume of an assembled car body is about 90% air, thus shipping body components is about 5 times more efficient and shipping coil steel is about 10 times more efficient.  

            The ideal situation from a shipping eficiency standpoint would be an integrated powertrain, stamping and assembly plant, in which the input to the facility raw materials and the output is a complete vehicle.  The ultimate model of this was the Ford Rouge complex back in the 30's through the 60's.  The only inputs were basic raw materials (iron ore, coal, silica sand, etc..)all parts of the vehicle were manufactured on site.

            There currently are practical limitations to the Integrated facility model for the Big 3 which if I haven't bored you to tears already I could decribe.


  •  Sort of off-topic, but recently there was a big (0+ / 0-)

    upset among Nascar fans because Toyota is going to enter a car.  However, the cars entered by Ford, Chevy, and Dodge are built in either Mexico or Canada.  Toyota's are built here.  When American automobile companies outsource the building of their products, buying American-made no longer even means anything.  I'm just glad I can't afford to buy a new car.  I wouldn't have a clue what to buy.

    "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it's not." -The Lorax, by Dr. Suess

    by docangel on Sat Nov 11, 2006 at 02:50:40 PM PST

    •  Sadly, Racisms runs deep (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Lee Iacocca famously smashed Japanese cars to the cheers and chants of (non-Asian) American workers.  He used to call them "Jap Cars".  This was a successful tactic for diverting responsiblity for the Big 3's strategic business failures from the white American CEOS  to a demonized foreign "other". A Chinese-American, Vincent Chin, was beaten to death with baseball bats in Detroit (on his way home from his Bachelor Party) by two American auto workers who decided to "Kill A Jap" as revenge for their loss of jobs.  

      •  Actually they weren't auto workers (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Just drunken racist assholes.

        •  Mea Culpa (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Uncle Moji

          Variuos reports have one or the other described as a laid off auto-worker.  Regardless at the time it was pretty ugly around here.  Add lots of drinking by both sides at a strip club and disaster ensued.

          •  Thanks (0+ / 0-)

            Yeah, unfortunately Ebens was a laid-off Chrysler supervisor and his son, Michael Nitz had also just been laid off from an auto plant.  

            "It's because of you little motherfuckers that we're out of work," witnesses later remembered Ebens yelling at Chin.
            Asian Week, June 5-13, 1997

            It's always painful when the powerful and wealthy use racism or classism to manipulate and divide the vulnerable - the Chins, the Ebens, and the Nitzs paid the price and Iacocca made out.   Frankly, I always thought he was culpable.

    •  You're Right.... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ...but remember that Toyota entered the American Market as a manufacturer well before NAFTA was ever considered.

      NAFTA was a fraud; it was a backdoor attack on the American manufacturing market:  German, Korean, Japanese...all the companies in those foreign countries EXPLOITED the AMERICAN market, but with MEXICAN manufacturing operations.

      It shoul NEVER have been permitted.  If the company wasn't resident in Mexico owned by Mexican sharholders, it should NOT be allowed to sell in the American market while paying huge technology royalties off to their Japanese and German parents.

      "The beginning of thought is in disagreement -- not only with others but also with ourselves." - Eric Hoffer

      by Thinking Republican on Sat Nov 11, 2006 at 03:34:20 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Oh, I completely agree with you!!! NAFTA, CAFTA, (0+ / 0-)

        PAFTA or whatever Peruvian act they just passed.  They ALL suck.  It's not free trade and it's definitely NOT fair trade.  It's trade to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.

        "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it's not." -The Lorax, by Dr. Suess

        by docangel on Sat Nov 11, 2006 at 04:33:12 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  They've discovered that it's cheaper (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    to lobby than it is to do R&D. So they lobby higher emission standards and continue to ship their crappy product within the US, then are shocked, shocked, to learn they can't ship anywhere else because they don't meet the emission standards for the rest of the world, including freaking China. This they describe as "trade barriers".

    As long as corporate governance in this country only has a 1-2 quarter view, this stuff is going to keep happening.

    •  I'd like to see (0+ / 0-)

      tax treatment of options/bonuses for C-level people drastically changed.

      Changing options so that they can't be exercised until 5 years after they are earned might give C-level people a serious interest in the long-term health of their company.

      Looking for intelligent energy policy alternatives? Try here.

      by alizard on Sat Nov 11, 2006 at 04:57:03 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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