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Autoextremist: Welcome to the winter of Detroit's discontent.
Autoextremist
February 17, 2014
by Peter M. De Lorenzo

Detroit. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

After two of the three Detroit-based car companies careened in to and out of bankruptcy, the upward trajectory of this business has been one sweet ride. Sparked by new product and unburdened by crushing debt, GM and the Fiat-owned Chrysler rose from the ashes in stunning fashion, while Ford, benefiting from the most focused leadership in the business as well as a staggering array of highly-competitive products, adhered to its “One Ford” product plan to achieve impressive results of its own.

But this business always seems to have a somber note lingering in the shadows - ghosts of automotive history laden with the burdensome legacy of poor decisions, bad timing and broken dreams - one serving to haunt the best of times percolating right now. It’s the stuff keeping executives tossing and turning and up through the night bemoaning the “what ifs?” Because lost in the gaudy sales and profit numbers generated by the car companies of late is the sobering reality that a real slowdown is coming, and just how deep and how long it will be is anyone’s guess at this point.

“… it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…”

How can this be, you might ask? How can car companies churning out such massive profits have anything to worry about? The problem is that the red-hot ride this business has been on since the end of 2009 has given some who are relatively new to the business - or those who debunk history as a matter of course - a warped view of reality, somehow seeding the notion in their minds that this kind of good times euphoria could go on forever.

Well, it can’t and it won’t.

But right now the wise are being overwhelmed by the foolish in this town, as Detroit – and when I say Detroit I’m including those Italian interlopers who now own Fiat-Chrysler - returns to its ugly habit of churning out vehicles heavy with thousands of dollars in incentives to keep things humming. But humming toward what and to where, exactly? The mindset that once propelled this business to oblivion has returned to prominence, and the news that this town has become The Land of Short-Term Thinking yet again can only be viewed as being a heaping, steaming bowl of Not Good.

“… it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity…”

The short-term thinking taking hold of Detroit only serves to negate the stellar work being done by the True Believers at all three companies who are designing and building truly excellent products. Once again the inherent goodness and ultra-competitiveness of the cars and trucks being built by the Detroit-based car companies is being swallowed whole by the notion out there in ConsumerVille that there are great deals to be had, which reinforces the still-lingering stereotype that if you’re looking for a deal – image be damned - then look to buy from a domestic automaker, because that’s where the best deals are. But then again if you were looking for a real “good” car then you’d be wise to look elsewhere.

Read more at link.
 
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