The headlines of all the Detroit papers today have variations on a theme: big changes at Chrysler. Two days after the number three American automaker (well, sort of) was purchased by a private equity firm, the top job has been taken over by an outsider known for running a tight ship, often at the expense of employees. People are quite excited about it, at least those who think the American auto makers matter (I am not one of those people, but there are many of them around here).

Anonymous commented:
The America that we know today wouldn't be what it is if it weren't for the American automakers. Have they been mismanaged? Yes. Did they sit on their butts for too long? Absolutely. Should quality have been a higher priority sooner? Of course. But, even with that, there are millions and millions of Americans whose families were successful in this country because their grandparents or parents had direct or indirect ties to the Big Three. How many of us had better lives growing up because the American automotive industry drove the global economy for decades following World War II? For this reason alone, the American automakers will always matter. Even now, the American automakers are putting food on the table for my parents, my fiances parents, several cousins and their families, as well as many of my closest friends. For the people that will consider only foreign cars, fine. That's everyone's decision to make. But, to say that American car companies don't matter? I must, with all due respect, say that I could not disagree with you more. Mike Kobylarz Disclosure: Just so you know, I'm not a 'Buy American only' freak nor do I will I consider 'just' American cars. I think every consumer would be best served if they looked at their purchase from the standpoint of the car, and not make their first criteria the country that the car comes from.
on Tue Aug 7 12:35:38 2007

David commented:
I think it is important to differentiate a couple things here, most of which radiate from ambiguities in the word 'matter'. There is no question that the American auto companies had a large effect on the United States, culturally, socially, and in economic terms. And while that would ordinarily warrant the past tense of the word, mattered, for many the continued existence of icons is important in securing our cultural patrimony. Ordinarily this is not the case with corporations, but for those which have existed for a century, I do not find the concept particularly problematic.
Neither do I disagree with the fact that many people rely on the auto companies for a living. However, I think it is important to note that the salient point in those discussions is 'making a living' (and for some whose identity is wrapped into their work, a concept I find troubling but cannot deny the existence of, one must also consider questions of 'pride of purpose' and somesuch). The auto companies then become irrelevant to the discussion, as one can transfer those ideas to any job - the discussion is not unique to the auto companies, and in fact has taken place before, for example in the case of the railroads.
But the point I try to make, when I say they 'do not matter', is that as an example of what they are supposed to be, a corporation, a business that turns a profit, makes products that people want to buy, and in general those things that we refer to when we speak of 'business', they are no longer leaders, no longer innovative. The future is elsewhere, barring, frankly, a miracle, at which point I will be happy to say I was wrong. Some businesses have turned around and become leaders after everyone had counted them out (I refer to IBM here, which is once again doing very interesting things where once it was considered as dead as the mainframe). But the American automakers at this juncture show no signs of that kind of reinvention.
on Thu Aug 9 18:22:35 2007

Add a Comment
Back to the Blog