Everyday it seems like more bad news comes out of Detroit and Washington pertaining to the Future of the Auto Industry. First off it was Ford struggling to pay its debts, then its GM needing tens of billions of dollars in bailout money to stay operational. In addition, Chrysler may be going to its third owner in the last decade! What is going on with an industry which we used to think was impenetrable?
Unfortunately, the current decline in the fortunes of the Big Three is merely another part in the drama that has been unfolding around Detroit for the last 40 years. It will be interesting to see if historians can locate a clear turning point in which the auto industry in America started its definitive decline. As many closely tied to the industry know, regardless of what the historians say in the future, there is no turning back to the golden age of auto manufacturing in the United States.
Why did this situation come to such a head and why do I hold so little hope for the auto industry’s future? Mainly, the reason comes down to globalization. Its impossible for the United States to ignore the throngs of cheap labor across the globe wanting nothing more than to produce goods and perform services for (relatively) wealthy Americans. Factory line jobs that workers turned their noses up at for decades are being snapped up in other countries, leaving Union members that were used to being overcompensated for their efforts complaining about the situation.
In the end, the cheap goods and services that we’ve all come to desire and expect (think Wal-Mart), is inevitably going to put hundreds and thousands of our own blue collar workers out of jobs. Yet, even this trial for American Industry can be looked at as an opportunity for thousands of displaced workers who are even now going back to school and learning new trades or professions. This is just yet another case of societal Darwinism exerting itself – the strong shall yet survive.