I come from a Detroit family. Both my grandfathers were executives with Chrysler, and it seemed like every single one of my great aunts and uncles worked for GM, Ford or Chrysler, most of them living around Flint, and retiring before the industry went bad the first time in the 70s and 80s.
My cars (either owned or company cars) have been, in order, a brown 1979 Datsun B210, a red 1983 Ford Thunderbird, a white 1993 Dodge Shadow, a Toyota truck of some sort, a 1998 Plymouth Neon, the same Dodge Shadow again and a 2000 Chrysler Sebring.
I must admit I don’t remember the ancient Datsun or new Toyota ever breaking down, except when I crashed them. The Shadow and the Sebring were fine, while the Thunderbird and the Neon hold special places in my heart but also held special places in the repair shop.
I sold the Sebring for wholesale value, despite the fact that 2000 Sebrings are known to melt down. I think the Indian car dealer in Port Jervis felt sorry for us, fleeing our tiny town in a panic for Stockholm. 1983 Thunderbirds supposedly sucked too. Same with 1998 Neons. Sense the trend?
Anyway, even though most of those Chryslers were family cars I bought or were given, I’ve stayed loyal to my roots. After all, I could have sold them and bought, say, a Subaru. But now … I don’t know. Letting the car companies fail would devastate the Midwest, huge swaths of the American economy. I know that. We really can’t the companies fail.
But I wish we could, to be honest. These companies aren’t banks. We don’t need them to buy houses or finance businesses. Someone will make cars in America because Americans will always buy cars. We simply need banks more, even if the people running the banks are more evil than the misguided dolts running the car companies. Why are these three CEOs even allowed to come back to Washington to plead their case? Why have they not been fired? Why has the UAW not made even bigger, splashier concessions? Do these people get it?
People here in Sweden are terrified for the futures of their car companies, Saab and Volvo. GM will sell Saab and Ford will sell Volvo now. This is good. The government has refused to nationalize them. This is good too. Saab will do better with Tata Motors of India, or anyone, than with GM.
Swedes love humility, to an often comic extreme. But right now humility seems refreshing compared with the hubris and laziness out of Detroit.