Today, such arrogance would be misplaced. GM and its cross-town rival, Ford Motor Company, are in deep trouble. Wall Street has downgraded both from investment grade to junk bond status. Market share is plunging, health care costs are skyrocketing, product is aging, and neither has a reputation for long-term quality and durability. This, despite steady quality gains and the recent introductions of several appealing new models that meet, if not exceed, the standards set by imports.
To combat the rising costs of doing business and accept new market realities, during the next several years GM is slicing 25,000 jobs, closing assembly plants, and shrinking product lines. Bill Ford, chairman and CEO of Ford Motor Company, is valiantly refusing compensation until he turns his company around while simultaneously slicing 2,700 positions from the corporate payroll. These trends continue a downward spiral for GM and Ford, which have lost a combined 1.15 million sales and have closed (or are about to close) four U.S. assembly plants since the start of the 21st century.
And it’s not just Ford and GM that are struggling. Subaru, which operates an assembly plant in Indiana, has joined the two biggest domestic automakers in the junk-bond category despite one of the most impressive reliability records of any car brand sold in America.
Fifty years after Wilson testified before the Senate, his assertion never rang truer. But now, what’s bad for GM (and Ford, and any car maker designing, developing, and manufacturing cars in the U.S.) is bad for the country. Whether you realize it or not, this shrinking of the domestic automobile industry directly affects you.
Photo Illustration by Christina Urias