As China Goes Up, Detroit Goes Down

With all the concern being manifested over the decline of the domestic automobile industry, I thought this article’s global take on the issue well worth pondering.  

China is projected to soon be the world’s top auto producer; and, as GM seems likely to soon follow Chrysler into bankruptcy, we can expect these Chinese companies to be lining up to bid on select GM brands like Hummer and Saturn.

So much for what was once one of the great bulwarks of America’s economy and its epicenter, Detroit, Michigan.  

Compounding the Motor City’s auto industry woes is its shocking urban decay.  This late 2008 article estimated that 67,000 homes had gone into foreclosure there since 2005 and that of these 44,000 stood vacant.  Many other buildings in Detroit, such as schools and public housing projects, have also been abandoned, as I learned about recently on Dick Gordon’s WUNC radio show “The Story,” when he interviewed Jim Griffioen, who has been exploring and making a photographic record of these buildings as a hobby.  

In addition, Detroit’s jobless rate is better than 20%, among the worst in the country.  Some are so desperate that they commit crimes to go to jail, where they at least have a place to sleep and can count on three hot meals a day.  As one beleaguered resident put it, for Detroit the current economic crisis is “‘a depression — not a recession.'”

Among Greensboro Public Library’s recent books on Detroit and/or the automobile industry you can find:  Getting Ghost:  Two Young Lives and the Struggle for the Soul of an American City by Luke Bergmann; Zoom: The Global Race to Fuel the Car of the Future by Iain Carson and Vijay V. Vaitheeswaran; Made in Detroit:  A South of 8 Mile Memoir by Paul Clemens; Someone Else’s House:  America’s Unfinished Struggle for Integration by Tamar Jacoby; Why GM Matters: Inside the Race to Transform an American Icon by William J. Holstein; Managing the Dragon:  How I’m Building a Billion-dollar Business in China by Jack Perkowski; Billy, Alfred, and General Motors:  The Story of Two Unique Men, a Legendary Company, and a Remarkable Time in American History by William Pelfrey; and The People’s Tycoon:  Henry Ford and the American Century by Steven Watts.

Advertisements

Auto Industry Bailout

The question of the moment on Capital Hill is of course whether or not Congress will succeed in passing a bailout of the big three automakers — General Motors, Chrysler and Ford.  The latest news is that there aren’t enough Republicans on board to pass the $14 billion bill fashioned by Senate Democrats.  There’s now talk of a compromise bill authored by Tennessee Republican Bob Corker, but with painful wage concessions from the United Auto Workers, cuts in retiree benefits, and debt restructuring requirements — the latter of which will no doubt mean a great deal of downsizing and lost jobs.

Once again, and much as with the banks during the last few months, there are fears about possible ripple effects across the economy if one or more of the automakers are allowed to fail.

If you’re interested in the auto industry, the following titles at Greensboro Public Library should shed some light upon the history of one of America’s most storied industries and where it’s headed.  Try some of these recent titles:  How Toyota Became #1: Leadership Lessons from the World’s Greatest Car Company by David Magee; Zoom:  The Global Race to Fuel the Car of the Future by Iain Carson and Vijay V. Vaitheeswaran; Billy, Alfred, and General Motors:  The Story of Two Unique Men, a Legendary Company, and a Remarkable Time in American History by William Pelfrey; The People’s Tycoon:  Henry Ford and the American Century by Steven Watts; The Ford Century: Ford Motor Company and the Innovations that Shaped the World by Russ Banham; Taken for a Ride:  Detroit’s Big Three and the Politics of Pollution by Jack Doyle; and The Car and Its Future, edited by Kaitlen Jay Exum and Lynn M. Messina.