First General Motors, now this. Don’t let anyone tell you they didn’t see it coming. The staggering failure of the American auto industry (Ford alone lost $40 billion of market value since 2001) led me on New Year’s Eve to see within the old crystal ball a fanatical, desperate merger of Ford and GM. Top executives grinning wildly, sweaty palms dripping behind besuited backs; the grisly, vengeful destruction of not just Pontiac but Buick and Mercury; the dazed, upbeat rebranding of the shrunken monstrosity as a “new tradition of greatness,” an “all-American original.” In the boardroom rush to be like Nissan, the courtiers of Ford and GM are in SHIFT_panic mode.
This is politics. The same union types screeching like hellions at the “idling” of their hands are hardwired into a business model that has been steadily degenerating the musculature of mass automation. That model, which was such a success in the old days, worked — and worked only — on one solid principle: put out a product ten times better than anything else on sale. Eliminate even the pretense of competition. Those days, of course, are over, and the fatbelly spirit of Motown is gone with it. Only by condensing into a heartless mutant form so lean and hungry-looking that it terrifies its urban/urbane, guppy (green/yuppie) rivals can Ford/GM hope to start clawing its way back from mere survival.