Saturday, November 15, 2008
Vroom-Vro0m!! -- Detroit in crisis, no surprise
From my vantage point, what’s happening to Detroit is the culminationof a slowly developing car crash.
Anyone who’s read Keith Bradsher’s “High and Mighty,” a social history of the SUV, understands the broad coalition of groups – the companies, labor unions, federal and state politicians, suburban families, and others – who came together to resist building fuel efficient automobiles and push for big, heavy, profitable vehicles. Several of my students who’ve done internships at GM in recent years have come back with the same basic story. A good many top level managers were fully aware that corporate culture and the firm’s product line needed drastic reform to respond to the realities of peak oil and climate change. But in the middle layers or the organization, inertia prevailed. Equally disappointing from my students’ reports is the fact
that while young engineers recently graduated from the best engineering schools were aware of the pending energy crisis and the need for “sustainable technology,” their inclination was to keep designing vroom-vroom muscle cars, as if the power fantasies of the 1950s and 1960s were still the cool way to go.
Those who argue that a bailout of Detroit should revolutionize its “corporate culture” should include money for psychotherapy of the technical staff.