By on February 5, 2008

hard-times.jpgIt's hard to describe the feeling a newsman gets when he's covering a big, breaking story. Sure, there's an element of ego gratification, a sudden, heightened sense of self-importance. But when push comes to shove and the world as we know it suddenly tilts on its axis, a real reporter feels humbled by events. Now I'm not going to equate Chrysler's dalliance with disaster with the end of the Vietnam War, 911 or any of the other momentous events I've witnessed as a jobbing journo. But make no mistake about it: when old Detroit judders to a halt, it will be a big story. American business will change forever. Of course, you could argue that it's already changed. That Detroit is the last relic of a bygone time, when men wore hats to work, smoked cigarettes and succeeded in business without really trying. But you don't need me to tell you that inefficient, Detroit-style enterprises still exist throughout this great land, in every field of endeavor. When GM, Ford and/or Chrysler throw in the towel, it will sound the death knell for the rest of the dinosaurs, marking the end of an era as surely as Richard Nixon's resignation. If you watch closely, you will see a gradual realization that humanity's second wave, mass production, is finally being replaced by something infinitely more sophisticated. One door will close, another will open. God willing, TTAC will be there to watch it happen. It is the best of times, it is the worst of times. 

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11 Comments on “Daily Podcast: What the Dickens Happened At Chrysler?...”


  • avatar
    Terry

    “But make no mistake about it: when old Detroit judders to a halt, it will be a big story.”

    I understand your sentiments, Robert, but I have to ask… It will be a big story to WHO?
    Employees, suppliers, and stockholders for sure. But the average import nameplate owner–is he really concerned? Should he be?

  • avatar

    I take your point. Everyone is listening to WII-FM (What's In It For Me). But the downfall will have an enormous effect on the entire country, both economically and psychologically.

  • avatar
    NickR

    If you drew a line between one of Ford’s biggest plants, one of GMs, and of Chrysler’s, I’d be in the middle of a giant isosceles triangle. If those plants were shuttered, locally it would be an economic catastrophe.

  • avatar
    MPLS

    The idea that all the Detroit automarkers are going to end up belly up is intellectually dishonest. There is not enough eivdence to support this blanket statement. Ford and GM have made huge steps in their turnaround efforts and the new UAW contract is a game changer. On the ohter hand, unless Chrysler can pull off a miracle, Chrysler would appear to be a dead man walking. However, I only say “appear” The idea that I or anyone can predict accurately the demise with certainity is pretty silly.

  • avatar
    oboylepr

    Ford and GM have made huge steps in their turnaround efforts and the new UAW contract is a game changer

    Depends what you define as a ‘huge step’. All three are burning through their cash stash at an alarming rate. The so-called game changing UAW contract and new models from GM are not doing much for the bottom line nor are they likely to in the short term if at all.

    There is not enough evidence to support this blanket statement.

    There is an enormous mountain of evidence to support the position that Detroit is in deep enough do do to lose everything (although one hopes not).

    GM has sold all of it’s non-core operations but retains enough of GMAC to ensure arterial bleeding due to sub-prime etc. Ford has put everything up as collateral for cash supply (even the blue oval logo). The recent debacle between Cerberus and Plastech demonstrates their extreme vulnerability.

    There are simply no game changing products, no game changing management/cultural moves and no game changing labour agreements to make the changes needed for the Detroit 3’s survival.

  • avatar
    pls

    I’m curious – you say Chrysler wouldn’t last three weeks if they lost a supplier. Don’t they have months of cars on the lots and in the bank? When they shut down a plant do they have to pay the workers?

  • avatar

    Living a lifetime in Ohio shows me that this state will care when Detroit dies. Our state is suffering from their ills and has been for a long time.

    John

  • avatar
    MPLS

    My larger point was the abolutist nature of the Detroit’s inexorable demise argbuement that appear in teh blog. However,in terms of the details, I respectfully disagree with two points of this statement:

    There are simply no game changing products, no game changing management/cultural moves and no game changing labour agreements to make the changes needed for the Detroit 3’s survival.

    Lets take GM for example. The Chevrolet Malibu will sell aomewhere around 200-250k units at an average price tag of $23 K. When was the last time GM was able to move that many mid size sedans at FULL MSRP. Also, the Saturn Vue, Cadillac CTS. and the GMC Acadia are all selling well at or close to full MSRP. These appear to be possible game changers. In fact, all GM, at 2.3%, was only of the “Big 6” manufacturers to post year over year sales gains.

    I think it is hard to understate the importance of the new UAW contract to the domestic automakers. This will quite literally eliminate the “legacy costs” through the albeit expensive VEBA. Plus, the hourly cost per hour of assembly line labor will go down by an average of $15. Again ,this is a possible game changer.

  • avatar
    CarShark

    “…the domestic have to say screw the cost…even if we lose money…”

    I’m sorry. Aren’t you the same person that crapped on the Saturn Astra non-stop for months before it arrived stateside because GM was using this exact same reasoning?

    I agree with you guys about the entry-level Cadillac. It should be RWD. Epsilon’s not going to cut it. I don’t agree, however, with taking Caddy upmarket so quickly after dragging the name down 30-odd years. I think slow and sure wins this race. There’s only so much people will pay for a Cadillac right now. It didn’t use to be that way, but now it is. Besides, aren’t sales of Maybach and Rolls and Bentley down?

    And the argument that GM has plenty of brands capable of filling the gap is equally laughable. Even with the Enclave boosting its image somewhat, Buicks are still known as God’s Waiting Rooms. I don’t see the new LaCrosse or the Lucerne (riding on a platform old enough to drink with no replacement) changing that.

    The throttling back of Zeta and Alpha plans must kill Pontiac’s all-RWD aspirations, so where the hell does that leave them? Reskinning Chevys again?

    Or Saab, which continues to have inventory pile up? Will the 9-4x and replacement for the 10-year-old 9-5 ever get here? Can the restyled 9-3 please go away?

    Or Saturn, with the only failing Lambda (and the Traverse breathing down its neck), a Car of the Year winner that missed its sales target by about a quarter, a heavy and inefficient small SUV and a compact that loses money? How would that work?

  • avatar

    CarShark :

    “…the domestic have to say screw the cost…even if we lose money…”

    I’m sorry. Aren’t you the same person that crapped on the Saturn Astra non-stop for months before it arrived stateside because GM was using this exact same reasoning?

    No contradiction. If the Astra was a world beater, I’d welcome it and tell GM to take the hit. It isn’t.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    “At the turn of the key, the 2.2-liter Ecotec engine grunts itself conscious, rolls over, farts, fluffs the sheets and settles back in for the duration.”

    Hilarious. Pure gold.

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