Listening to Detroit talk about the auto industry:
For an interesting perspective on the problems with the Big Three automakers, you could spend some time listening to Detroit's sports radio station WXYT
. It's mostly sports, but recently callers to the station have also been discussing the potential bailout of GM, Ford, and Chrysler. Unlike a standard-issue talk radio show, which is likely to be conservative (or liberal), the demographics of a sports station is probably more representative of the city it serves.
The callers are pretty reality-based. And they are not just line workers. Callers have been dealers, suppliers, and salespeople. They criticize the corporate leadership. They see some problems with the current structure (e.g. too many product lines). But they think that Detroit is being unfairly treated - especially compared with the financial firms that got tons of money with hardly any oversight. They are also puzzled at the alacrity with which hundreds of billions was given (or pledged) to the banks but not to the automakers, since they see a collapse of the Big Three leading to a massive economic decline.
There's also a fair amount of pride in that city. You hear claims that the workers are doing a good job and that many cars have quality/reliability that is comprable to those manufactured by Toyota, Honda, et al.
There's a clear understanding that the companies will have to contract. That there will be pain, even with a bailout. And that it will take time to recover.
CODA: For those of you who follow the hapless Detroit Lions
football team (currently 0-12
), there is an interesting parallel. William Clay Ford Sr.
owns the team and has done a terrible job. He's hired cronies and let them mess up for years
, partly because he is insulated from the failures due to his secure financial situation and a don't-care attitude. Consider the record of GM Matt Millen
Over seven seasons under Millen's leadership as team CEO, the Detroit Lions owned the NFL's worst winning percentage (31–81, .277), have never had a winning season, have never finished higher than third place in the NFC North, and have not played in any post-season games. Despite this record of total failure, Millen received a five-year contract extension at the start of the 2005 season
Lions fans have been screaming for most of this decade, demanding new management and coaching staff, but nobody at the top pays any attention. This year the team may end up with a winless 0 - 16 record, which would be unprecedented. Some fans actually think that that would finally wake up Ford Sr. to finally fire coach Rod Marinelli
. As if 1 - 15 wouldn't be enough.
RESOURCES: A lively blog critical of the Lions is The Wayne Fontes Experience
That team has been a joke for at least the last 15 years.
As long as Ford owns the team, it will never be a contender. It really is a shame.
And, yes, Detroit is getting a raw deal, as if that place hasn't had enough crap happen to it - both self-inflicted and external.