• Wednesday, November 12th, 2008
I guess I really can’t claim to be a Michigan Blogger without weighing in on the goings-on in the auto industry.
I may have a different view from others here in the state of Michigan, due to the fact that I’m an outsider. I wasn’t born here. I grew up in New England, and only moved to Michigan in 1999. I never knew the Glory Days of the Big Three. I hear from people I know about how it used to be: high wages, great health benefits, fabulous pensions. It was a badge of pride and honor to work for the auto industry. People were always angling to “get in” so that they could put in a number of years and retire comfortably.
I’ve never known that auto industry. My experience has always been of it struggling. In my almost 10 years of living in Michigan, I have never actively sought to work for one of the Big Three. I’ve always seen them as sinking ships, plugging holes where they can to desperately keep afloat. Why would I want to hitch my wagon to that star?
Admittedly, I’m not much of a “car person.” I view my car not as a status symbol, but as a way to get me from here to there comfortably and efficiently. I don’t care about speed (as anyone who has ever driven with me can attest to. ahem.). I care about safety, comfort, fuel economy, reliability, and a good radio. OK, and I like having a moon roof. Since moving to Michigan, I can’t help but pay attention to what American automakers produce. And I always wonder:
“Why can’t they make anything that I want to buy? Who the heck does their market research?”
That’s my opinion of the Big Three: bloated, backwards-thinking companies that don’t make products that people want to buy. Yes, I understand there are a lot of legacy and retiree costs. Yes, I know that the UAW has negotiated above market value wages for the rank and file. I know that steel ain’t gettin’ any cheaper. But I also haven’t seen any major innovation from these companies. Sure, there have been countless layoffs. But what else are they doing to truly change the way they do business?
I’m no business genius. I don’t know what it will take to get the Big Three back on track, or if they even have the capacity to thrive again. I know that they will have to be radically different from the companies than they are now, from product mix to management to strategic goals. I also know that I don’t want the federal government to throw “good money after bad” and bail them out. I even went so far as to yell at the television one evening (my boyfriend will vouch for this): “Screw the auto industry. You guys SUCK.”
Yah, not eloquent. But it’s how I and many others feel. The auto industry has dragged this area down for years and years, and I’m sick of seeing it.
Additional reading on this topic: