So what the hell happened here? We have eliminated the fact that we can't build great cars; we've eliminated the fact that we don't have capable auto workers and we've eliminated the fact that we can't compete and win against the very best in the game. I ask you, what happened here?
The common thread of failure seems to be traced back to two root causes; management and labor. You should know that I am not a union guy. I always figured that unions have long since outlived their usefulness and, in these days, any company who gets a union deserves it. Forget the advocacy stuff, they are money makers. Despite this fact, I am not going to lay all this at the feet of the unions. Last time I checked, every labor contract had spaces for two signatures; labor and management.
Now on to management: you folks flat missed it. If you took the time to slip away from the perches in your garish, ivory towers, you would have seen that the huge grab of market share by companies like Honda and Toyota did not happen accidentally. No, they came here and their initial offerings were pretty cheesy. I bet you had a lot of laughs about these attempts way back in the day. But, here's where the Japanese left you in the dust. They studied their consumers and listened to what they said they wanted. They streamlined production and took cost of the process. They understood the need to produce more fuel efficient cars and package them in such a way that people began to see them as well defined alternatives to the larger vehicles you folks were pumping out. They made the phrase "Made in Japan" a sought after logo. And each year, their products made percentage improvements over the preceding models. How their cars were evaluated in consumer oriented publications such as "Consumer Reports" meant something. Do any of you care that there have been a disproportionate number of American cars who seem to make the "10 worst cars" list time after time? Do you think we don't pay attention to this stuff?
And what about the unions; did you think that the day of reckoning would never come? Did you honestly believe that having a $75.00 all-in an hour auto worker slapping air dams on a Pontiac wasn't going to bite everyone in the behind some day? Didn't you understand that holding management hostage by requiring obsolete, inefficient plants to remain open to protect your folks' jobs was the beginning of the end?
And finally...did anyone believe that embedding several thousand dollars of fully paid health benefits in each and every car you build and assuming that, we as consumers, would gladly pay it while ignoring cheaper, faster, better foreign made alternatives would fly?
You guys deserve each other. The problem is that your avarice, short sightedness and arrogance have now put at risk the jobs of hundreds of thousands of your own employees and those of others whose jobs rely on your industry for their existence.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
The Failure Of Detroit