"America is the land of the second chance - and when the gates of the prison open, the path ahead should lead to a better life."
--President George W. Bush
The debate over whether to rescue Detroit or not is over and now the winners must put up-- or end up out of business.
While some Senators of his own party lacked the imagination or perhaps the political stomach to let Congress act on behalf of Detroit-- whose manufacturing base one might argue is as worthy if not more so of saving than the so-called masters of the universe on Wall Street-- President Bush should be saluted for setting aside his own firm free-market principles just enough to step in and make the funds available that our domestic automakers claim will give them breathing room to get going on restructuring.
It remains to be seen if the incoming Obama Administration or the next and more heavily Democratic Congress will sweeten the pot any, but based on everything the chief executives of the Big Three have stated they can't even wait that long. What's more, President Bush's plan has some pretty tight compliance deadlines attached to it.
But what will the Big Three actually do? Ford says it is in better shape than rivals GM and Chrysler and claims it only wanted the assurance of federal loans that it could tap if ultimately needed. To its credit, Ford did launch its own "Way Forward" restructuring plan almost three years and I suppose they'd be further along that track had not the economy dropped so precipitously this year.
To be sure, we hear Ford has some exciting product in the pipeline. If what's coming is in the same league as its well received Edge crossover then maybe there will be a successful Ford Motor Co. in our collective future.
The Ford Edge is the kind of consumer vehicle Detroit needs to be offering if it hopes to survive.
That leaves the two sickest men of Detorit-- GM and Chrysler. News reports have suggested they are in merger talks. If that comes to pass, what will result will have to be a much smaller, nimbler car and light/medium truck maker. But I think the heavy-truck OEM engineer I spoke with last week hit that nail squarely on the head with this comment: "If you merge two weak companies, aren't you still going to have a weak company?" Gee, now that is the kind of smart thinking they need in Detroit-- not to mention on Wall Street-- but I digress.
Joined up or separately, GM and Chrysler no doubt will have to do the painful albeit long overdue paring down of their marques and models if they hope to survive. They also must get whatever cars and light trucks that will grab consumers' attention, be it for their greenness or their sheer automotive excitement, into the showroom with such lightning speed they may need a time machine to do it.
As for me, I wish all the leaders of the Big Three and the UAW--not to mention all the workers involved-- the best of luck and Godspeed in their transformation.
And, yes, I know lots and lots of mistakes were made over many years by both management and labor in Detroit. But guess what? We all make mistakes and in my book we all deserve to try and make up for them and that extends to mega corporations and giant unions. Especially in these United States-- a nation that, as our outgoing president once so righty told us, is the land of the second chance.