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For a born and bred Michigander it's hard to say, but I'm afraid the Big Three automakers, GM, Ford, & Chrysler, are soon to be no more.  It is hard to imagine life around here without them, but cold hard realities can no longer be denied.

Our local auto parts subcontractor, Lear Corp, just laid off several hundred UAW members, leaving a skeleton crew of a hundred or so to finish up.  This cuts the guts out of our small town economy, and with that many good jobs gone it's going to be very tough around here for a lot of honest, hard-working families.

After watching Rick Wagoner and company in front of Congress today, the whole community is feeling scared, sad, and defeated. The price tag for a no guarantees bailout is up to $90 billion (for companies with a total stock value of less than $10 billion), and there was no good answer as to how that money will change the fundamentals.

A few facts:

  1. In spite of all the hot air about new ideas, new cars, and new quality, the cars Detroit makes are second rate.  I've been a loyal, buy-American guy my whole life.  I've got two vehicles now. A Ford Ranger pick-up with about 80,000 miles on it, long out of warranty is falling apart.  The doors don't close right, the check engine light comes on every few thousand miles for another $200-$300 dollar repair bill, and the transmission is starting to act up.  My other car is a KIA.  It was inexpensive to begin with; it's a tight, well made machine that performs beautifully and has a 100,000 mile warranty.  Take your pick, folks.
  1. Detroit has a fatal legacy of crappy quality and dishonest dealings with its customers that goes back as far as we can remember.  The products produced from the 1970's to the 1990's were just plain awful, and allowed Asian and European companies to gain a loyal customer base.  The only reason American car companies have any customers at all is patriotic loyalty and our taste for big gas guzzlers.  Quality has improved from crap to tolerable, but there's is no reason to believe the lost market share will ever come back.
  1. The supposedly revolutionary new designs that Detroit needs the bailout money to produce are already second rate.  Taking electric and hybrid car designs as an example:  Why should anyone buy the much touted Chevy Volt with an eighty-mile range when Toyota, Honda, and BMW have already announced plans to market price-competitive electrics with twice the range.  Customers will, using past experience, expect the alternatives to be more reliable, better built, and all around superior in quality.  When deciding to buy a whole new type of transportation, why should they expect Detroit products to be anything but trouble.  In conventional designs, we see example after example of superior engineering: 7 speed, dual clutch, automatic transmissions; ultra-durable, clean-burning, lightweight Diesel engines, 50 MPG hybrids, etc., etc..  Detroit is ALWAYS playing catch-up, and always playing badly.  There is NO evidence that the bailout money will change this pattern.  In fact, GM's recently announced marketing plans for next year are 40 plus models of the same-old, same-old.
  1. The management culture of the Big Three is simply hopeless.  They just don't get it and they never will.  November's and today's hearings are all the evidence needed.  The chance is gone, the credit crisis is just the final nail.  As hard as it is to say it, the sooner the funeral, the sooner we can rebuild.  I'm sure better managed companies (who may be from Stuttgart or Tokyo, but who are already building cars with American workers right here in America) will pick up the pieces and life will go on.  Old brands names like Jeep and Ford will probably survive, but tragically small towns all over this once great country will never be the same.  I'll keep fixing and driving my Ford until the wheels fall off, but sadly expect my next truck will be built by Toyota.
  1. Lastly, damn Wall Street and the bankers, and the Republicans and their short-sighted, selfish policies.  And, damn the classist, racist culture of Detroit that failed to protect and educate its citizens, and took what were the richest, most productive cities on the planet and ran them straight into the ground.  

Originally posted to boatwright on Thu Dec 04, 2008 at 06:42 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Like you, I find the injustice of it all..... (11+ / 0-)

    heartbreaking.  The sounds of quiet desperation are deafening.

  •  It just keeps reminding me of the saying (3+ / 0-)

    Throwing good money after bad.  I've been against an auto bailout because I don't see the changes necessary to actually improve the industry.  

  •  Forget a bailout - nationalize the entire (5+ / 0-)

    industry or at least GM and Chrysler.  We did it with the freight railway system in the 70s with decent results.

    We cannot allow a huge portion of our manufacturing base to disappear.

    RebelCapitalist - Financial Information for the Rest of Us.

    by dennisk on Thu Dec 04, 2008 at 06:53:22 PM PST

  •  It's sad to see what is happening to Michigan (8+ / 0-)

    I lived in Walled Lake for about 10 years, and I loved it up there. Back during the 90's that area was growing like crazy--but when the Ford plant in Wixom shut down, everything went downhill.

  •  Fearless prediction time..... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BigAlinWashSt

    Detroit will get their multi-billion dollar bailout but it will be tied to the release of the remaining Billions for Wall Street BillionairesTM TARP cash giveaway.

    Billions for Detroit, Billions more for Wall Street, a further fucking for the American taxpayer and at the end of the day nothing but wasted billions and more total crap coming from Detroit and Wall Street alike.

    Government of the Corporations, by the Corporations and for the Corporations.

    Middle class? We don't need no steeeeenking middle class.

    Welcome to Amerika....

  •  This whole recovery (11+ / 0-)

    has me baffled. As a nation, we seem to have come to a collective agreement that we consume more than we produce and that is bad. We have lost the sorts of jobs that are virtually recession-depression proof. Our infrastructure is crumbling and fixing it would produce jobs. I get that.

    What I'm not understanding is this: why aren't we talking about building factories and giving incentives to restore manufacturing? Fixing roads and building schools is great but produces jobs only until the construction is finished. Building and re-tooling shuttered factories produces long-term employment and helps reduce trade deficits. If these were government works with 20- or 50-year leases, they couldn't go overseas during that time and there would be production jobs for blue collar workers.

  •  Fire the GM executives (9+ / 0-)

    Nationalize the company and put it in the transit business. Trains, electric cars, trams. Our workers can do anything the engineers can design. The engineers aren't allowed or encouraged to do anything good, unfortunately. Because the idiots at the top insist on acting like cheap car salesmen.

    820 Illinois-427 Senate Sponsored-152 Senate authored. Obama record on Bills. Palin record 0-0-0. Palin Lies-1 big one and counting.

    by marketgeek on Thu Dec 04, 2008 at 07:09:55 PM PST

  •  My family is from Detroit (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LordMike

    My mom married an Iowa farmer. No one in Iowa drives anything but American cars and trucks. I was shocked by all the Japanese cars when I moved to Baton Rouge, and then I realized it was just about everywhere.

  •  I'm with you, neighbor... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MKSinSA

    I can't stand the thought of what is about to happen.  Outside this region, no one understands what's going to happen here...  Ohio will hurt, but not like your state... it will become like a Mad Max movie, I'm afraid....  It's going to be terrible... I have family up there, and I can't even begin to imagine the future.

    The worst part about it is that Ford is actually in good shape!  But, they'll get taken down, too, 'cos of the shared suppliers...

    It's going to be difficult for the democrats to win the rust belt without unions supporting them.... and I can imagine that many of you feel betrayed by Democrats and Obama....  I know I certainly am...  His rhetoric has totally changed since a month ago, when he had a grand new vision for the auto industry as a green economic machine....  That is gone, now... he's just silent, now...

    You'll get a lot of aid after it's over... but, who needs aid?  You want jobs!

    Last time I was up in Michigan, I was at a restaurant, and they had a bunch of children's pictures up... lots of Obama drawings... It was so exciting to see the enthusiasm up there... now, the hope is gone...  I don't know if you feel betrayed by democrats (I do), or place the real cause of blame on the republicans as it should, but the whole country now is going to have to adapt to a post-industrial economy... and I don't know how this nation will survive when it can't build anything anymore.

    My wife's whole family is GM... her mom and dad aren't, but the rest of the family is... it's going to be a very unhappy Christmas up there...

    Comments that say "GM workers should get retraining" without SPECIFIC DETAILS about those "new jobs" that never come are trollworthy

    by LordMike on Thu Dec 04, 2008 at 09:40:26 PM PST

  •  Don't get your hopes up (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MKSinSA

    I'm sure better managed companies (who may be from Stuttgart or Tokyo, but who are already building cars with American workers right here in America) will pick up the pieces and life will go on.

    As you well know, no one "builds on the ashes" in the rust belt...

    Comments that say "GM workers should get retraining" without SPECIFIC DETAILS about those "new jobs" that never come are trollworthy

    by LordMike on Thu Dec 04, 2008 at 09:42:25 PM PST

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