Detroit, the Cradle of American Automotive Civilization...
Then what happened at the 2010 NAIAS, some may ask? With a few tiny exceptions from Ford, every other US carmaker was pretty much owned by their European, Japanese and even Chinese competitors. Whether we're talking about affordable, green or exotic cars, all three Detroit giants were left in the dust... in their own backyard! The only notable exception was the release of Ford's Focus – world edition – which doesn't look and/or feel bad at all, actually.
Not a coincidence, especially considering Ford is probably the only part of the triumvirate which isn't in the government's or the UAW's pockets. Apart from that, I guess pretty much everyone who attended (whether in person or via the news) the 2010 show thinks it was one of the saddest examples of how an American giant can crumble under its own weight.
I don't know how many of you are realizing this or if I'm just talking out of my arse, but me thinks there's a strange subliminal/psychic connection between the Motor City and its residents at a given time. Let me clarify. Back in the 1950s, the city of Detroit was counting close to two million inhabitants and was one the most prosperous industrial cities in the United States. Coincidentally, or not, the US auto industry was also experiencing its best moments.
Any baby boomer can probably testify to the fact that those were the times when everything seemed possible and the American car industry was at its finest. Harley Earl's designs were imposing the worldwide trend and the V8 was the engine of choice under the hood of any car in the eyes of Americans. Nobody could beat America at anything.
Fifty-something years later, Motown measures less than a million inhabitants, while some parts of it look like movie-sets from "I am legend". The US car industry isn't doing any better either. General Motors and Chrysler are currently recovering from Chapter 11 bankruptcies, while Ford has been slowly limping his way out of the economic crisis for some time now.
The ongoing and slow death of Detroit has been linked with the state of the ex-"Big three" before, I know, but this is probably the first time you can actually see it happen before your very own eyes. The 2010 NAIAS was just the perfect opportunity for that connection to be further emphasized by the media. Especially by the journalists who were experimenting the city of Detroit for the first time. Not to mention the fact that it's winter, when most ugly cities look even uglier.
So, in the end, what is there to be said abut the "cradle of American automotive civilization"? What does the future have in store for a once great city and for a once great trio of car makers? Well, so far, the ex-"Big Three" seem to run thunder into lighting, but most analysts are pretty optimistic about their future situation. Motown, as well, has jumped on a Phoenix-like trail in the last few years if we are to believe some officials. After all, Detroit's motto is: "Speramus meliora; resurget cineribus" - which is Latin for "We hope for better things; it shall rise from the ashes." I guess those who believe in destiny and psychic connections should be pretty optimistic, huh?...