Flint, MI… 6-01-09
When Dinah Shore sang “See the USA in a Chevrolet”, GM was rolling solidly on all four wheels; over 600,000 were employed globally, and they had a fat 51% market share. Now, GM stock is the price of a newspaper and soon to go away, market share is 21%, and when things shake down, only about 40, 000 people will be GM employees world-wide. Being in the broken heart of the GM bankruptcy this week and being surrounded by a very somber state of Michigan is very tough to take. Today is a day to remember.
Because today the headlines should read, Detroit R.I.P.
Not rest in peace mind you. No. The RIP stands for “Results in Politics.” I drove past and around Buick City today. I spent a couple hours in Flint. I will be in Detroit in the morning and for the rest of the week. I want to be a witness. This is my home. But things are changing with lightening speed. The factories closed by GM will be someone else’s soon. All the car songs will change. It will now be “See the USA in your Hyun-dai!’ Instead of Mustang Sally, we will dance to “Tata Sally”. The Beach Boys classic will shout “she’s real fine my hybrid mine”.
Like a heavyweight champ, Detroit was left hooked. Knocked out cold. The people of the United States will now own 60% of General Motors. Our choice to drive what we want will soon be over. Smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles will be the norm. It is not without coincidence that gasoline is rising at a record pace, again forcing people into considering small vehicles. Here is the sad truth. Americans do not want small cars. They want cars with good gas mileage.
Ford, Honda, Toyota, and all the smaller companies will listen and watch this week. Notice there is no comment from them today. Chrysler and General Motors are in essence, nationalized. It does not make any difference if we agree or not. This is the new reality.
When we go from 16 million to 10 million units sold, very ugly things can and indeed do happen. One thing for sure is the Big Three is changed forever. Detroit, the once Arsenal of Democracy is forever a much smaller shadow of itself. Re-invention must come from within. And it will quickly come from being without. Those working and those retired are just hoping to keep what they have.
The days of Detroit as the Motor City are modified forever.
This is the result of car sales that melted to nothing. And consumer confidence will not improve overnight, unlike the gas prices approaching three dollars AGAIN.