Saturday, January 13, 2007

New Automotive Initiaive - Me Style - Just in time for the Detoit Auto Show - - or should I say NAIAS

The Auto Show started here in Detroit in the Cobo Arena today. Otherwise known as the North American Auto Show. See.. I can do links! How cool is me!

Anyways, recently I had 2 conversations about the North American auto industry. One with a colleague, and one with a friend via email - parts of which are copied here. this is my thinking on how the auto industry is here and how it is going to go over the foreseeable future. And how it will affect both the USA and Michigan, which to me means Detroit. An opinion... At least in the eyes of this poor sinner....

The US Auto industry is in a fair degree of trouble. At least from my all-over-the-place view.

Let's start with suppliers...

Local ones. Things are getting better. The herd has been thinned; only the fittest are surviving. And those who were ailing will continue to ail or go away. Those who, a few years ago, were willing to take a few wild chances and invest in forward-thinking are still doing well.

New competition....

China Auto is just about here - they are allegedly showing a mini SUV at the auto show (personal opinions will be here after I go there meself) . Quality? apparently better than US vehicles. Reliability: apparently better than US vehicles. Price: A damn sight cheaper than domestic. Why? 3 reasons as far as I can see: Cheaper labor, harder working/less bitchin workforce, and cheaper raw materials.

How to fix: Get rid of the UAW. Reduce wages in some areas of production, and make a lot of tasks target/bonus related - you do a good job, you reap the rewards, you don't, you don't. Look at where you are getting your materials from and source at origin - cut out the middle men.

More government assistance is needed, but I think a lot of the issues are with the UAW - they have been getting away with doing the bare minimum for too long - that apparently is not the original Detroit spirit where autoworkers had pride in their products - the quality and
reliability of US vehicles is perceived as way less than imports. Why?

Cos over the last 20 years, that has been the case. Poor design with shoddy workmanship. Granted it is improving but it's hard to shake the reputations. Some blame also lies with the boring designs that US automakers are coming out with but that is getting better.

There is also another factor - career engineers who allow poor work (and therefore under-par quality) to pass through- those who do not have the gonads to inform their bosses that the work that is being approved by them is over-engineered (and therefore heavier - need more gas in that tank to drag that over-engineered part and its friends), or worse, does not meet standards at all. The way the US Auto industry is structured now; the mindset is all about self-preservation. Right down to the guy doing the drawings, to the guy signing it off to the boss who approves the design. To the guy who QA's a part with a bad weld. With everyone looking up with fear, in case they are seen to no "produce". Where producing means 100% pass-thru, not 99% perfection. / ok maybe that's a bit of a rant.

America .. apart from the earlier points .... How to fix...

A wild idea - get help from Japan on a consultancy basis - like it or lump it, we are in a global economy, and these guys are our competitors, and doing a dang good job of it. These guys operate with a 50-yr business plan. US Auto : they are now looking at 15 years (well, at least one)

Currently, domestic auto companies are telling us that we are paying X amount more per vehicle to pay for over-inflated past and current employee benefits (health and benefits etc). My answer to this.. why should we, as consumers pay for poor executive decisions of the past? Cut executive salaries until car prices are competitive again...

Also, slow down on gas guzzlers. Make smaller good quality cars (lighter = cheaper = more economical), which you can export. America making cars only for Americans does not work anymore - the market is diluted and besides, most Americans cant afford to buy or put gas into too many new American cars.

2008 - The Ford/[insert Asian Automaker here] partnership will be getting more marketshare.
Wait and see...

Maybe I am off-center. yep
Anti-American - not in the slightest... I want this place to get huge again!
Forward-thinking - dam well hope so, but I hope the bean counters are too.

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