posted on Dec, 30 2006 @ 05:41 PM
A medium long time ago, GM built a new assembly plant in Freemont, CA. I never saw the reasons behind this story, but it was not long before GM took a
drastic decision: Close the plant rather than deal with the workers. Later, Toyota began discussions with GM about reopening the plant to produce
Corollas and a knock-off called Nova, for Chevy, and the small mini-pick up trucks Americans were buying like hot cakes. GM and Toyota formed a 50/50
partnership, NUMMI - New United Motors Manufacturing Inc. Toyota would operate the plant, GM would stay in Detroit. The plant is still there, no
problems with the workers, and it is still making cars and trucks for Toyota and GM. This was in the same time frame that Ross Perot was kicked off
the GM Board of Directors, for which act they paid him a half billion dollars in settlement.
In response to Honda’s Maryville, Ohio, plant, Toyota then built their own factory at Georgetown, Ky. Near to Cincinnati. They build Camry and
Avalon cars there and also make the engines in a separate plant. Toyota built a full size pickup truck plant 100 miles west, near Evansville, Indiana.
Now, my father was a UAW Ford man. Ford built its first Model T assembly plant outside Michigan in Louisville, before World War 1. Ford has made
cars, or Jeeps, continuously in Louisville more than 90 years. Ford ventured into the Class 8 heavy truck game in the 1970s, and built a state of the
art truck plant in Louisville. That plant was sold in the 1990s to Mercedes-Benz, well, Daimler-Benz, who now make a medium weight truck line there
called Sterling - the first truck brand in America. D-B also own Freightliner. D-B is now DiamlerChrysler.
When Toyota opened in Georgetown, the pay was $14 an hour. The “benefits package” cost another $8 an hour. Ford’s assembly line workers were
paid $18 to $22 an hour, and the benefit package cost $12 an hour. So, Toyota made Camry’s for $22 an hour, and Ford built Crown Vics for $30 to
$34 an hour. Quality differences in the cars were not due to American workers, as we had been told forever. It was obviously due to design and
production techniques that made one car better than the other. It was the bosses, not the workers, who were mucking up the cars.
Dealerships are crucial to the success of the automobile in America. When GM was first formed with the amalgamation of Buick and Cadillac, GM choose
its dealers carefully. GM’s owners realized they were in the car making business, but it was car dealers who were in the car selling business. GM
was making good cars, as good as any, but they were the first to realize the quality of dealers was more important than the quality of cars. People
dealt with dealers, not with makers.
The Big 3. In the hay-day of American autos, the 1940-1960s, GM always had the best dealers in any city. Ford, whose founder had a different vision -
the universal car - was second in quality and Chrysler was a distant third in the quality of its dealers. I don’t mean character-wise, but I do
mean in site location, in physical facility, in stocking of cars and parts, and in reputation in the community. In financing. GMAC - General Motors
Acquisition Corporation. Ford’s UCIT - Universal Credit Investment Trust - and Chrysler’s link to CCC - Commercial Credit Corporation.
The Little 4. Packard. Once the leading luxury car in America. Yes, the Cadillac was always a competitor and Dusenberg’s are said to be the best
cars ever made in the US, but it was Packard who built real quality cars for a couple generations. Studebaker began in South Bend making ox drawn
Conestoga wagons to ride in to Oregon. Stude made a good medium priced line of cars in the 30s and 40s but by the late 50s, overhead and costs were
strangling the old wagon company. One well-known faux pas, the mid line Studebakers were called “Dictators.” After the rise of Hitler and Franco,
it was decided to change the lines’ name to “Commander.” Nash. Made way far away in Kenosha, Wisconsin. But a good car, well made and very
sturdy. The in-line 6 first developed in the early 1930s went on to power some Jeep station wagons as late as the 1980s. You don’t throw away a
winner. Yes, Nash also made Kelvinator home refrigerators.
Hudson. A car I always wanted to own, came close once, but never did. A very high quality car, which made famous the in-line 6 flat head engine driven
by Fireball Roberts in the late 40s and early 50s when the new Olds 88 was the fastest car on the street. Both engines were 5 liters, the Olds shared
its post-war overhead valve engine with Cadillac. Hudson came back with the Hornet series, its best IMO, and on short tracks the Hornet won almost
every race. On long tracks, the higher top speed of the Olds made it the sure winner. Those of you who can deal with the difference in torque and
horsepower will note the larger pistons in a 5 liter 6 versus the smaller pistons in a 5 liter 8, understand why the Hornet was tops on short tracks.
Torque is for acceleration, horsepower is for speed.
Hydra-Matic Drive. This is the single most important development GM made. It and it alone put GM securely on top of sales. First offered in 1937 on a
few Olds and Buicks, it was dropped before the end of the model year. Further development saw Hydra-Matic reintroduced in late 1940 on 1941 models of
Olds and Cadillacs. It was an instant hit, GM never looked back, and the rest is history. It was used on a series of Army tanks in WW2. GM now makes
it for Class 8 trucks, in the Allison Division. Chevrolet and Buick never used it. But Ford put it in Lincoln. Hudson used it. Mercedes Benz made it
under license from GM. Packard’s bankruptcy was speeded along when it tried to make its own automatic transmission. Ford and Nash bought an
automatic from Borg Warner. Chrysler had the worst alternative of any car company, and probably lost half its market due to that failure. It was not
until 1954 that Chrysler had a genuine automatic transmission.
In sales in America, Toyota is passing Ford this year to become #2, after GM.
But worldwide, what’s it mean to American’s to see the only Number One in the history of the car world, General Motors, become an historical
footnote, and the new giant of the world’s car makers, to be Japan’s Toyota? How long before GM slips into 3rd place, then maybe into Chapter 11?
Can Saturn reverse the tide?
[edit on 12/30/2006 by donwhite]