“What is causing the downfall of the US car industry?”
Resting on past laurels, the US car industry has lost touch with changes sweeping the outside world. The industry was seduced by scale alone when instead it should have been focusing on designing and producing new models attractive to consumers.

 

“The End of Detroit” presents a rather gloomy and stark picture of the US automobile industry led single-handedly by Detroit, once the engine of the US economy, for the last 100 years. This book, written by Micheline Maynard, explains why the Big Three, GM, Ford and Chrysler, lost their grip on the American car industry, giving plenty of examples and in-depth and hard-hitting accounts.

 

Detroit was once known as the factory of the dream car. Until the mid 1990s, the market dominance of the Big Three seemed to last forever. As a matter of fact, in its days of glory, 9 out of 10 cars sold in America were produced in Detroit. Now however, imported cars from Japan, Europe and Korea are quickly replacing the market.


“The End of Detroit” was translated and introduced in Korea in October 2004. One year after its release, the situation in the US seems gloomier than ever. As such, Toyota and Honda are riding high and are vying for the number one position in the global market while Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Hyundai and Kia are running closely behind.

 

So what has brought the downfall of the US car industry? The author finds its primary
reason in the over-complacency of the American car manufacturers. Maynard points out the American car manufacturers were shut out and ignored completely by the market because it failed to develop models that customers wanted and instead focused on consolidation. Furthermore, its operations were hampered by strong trade
unions.


In comparison, foreign car manufacturers like Toyota quickly responded to changes in customer preferences and needs. Of course, in the beginning, these foreign competitors did not have it easy and had to face many difficulties, mainly in the basic
problem of ensuring “quality.”

 

However, while the Big Three was dragging behind by a slow decision-making process and was caught in the culture of arrogance and insularity, these competitors took full advantage of the situation and made swift responses. Such responses laid the groundwork for their present success.

 

Maynard concludes that unless “fundamental changes” are made in the American car industry, “The End of Detroit” will be inevitable. I could not agree more with the author on this point. But I can also say that making those “fundamental changes” will not be an easy task.

 

The dark projections regarding Detroit’s Big Three have not been raised yesterday or today. The problems that plague the US car industry have been rooting slowing and gradually for the last twenty years. It is just that until now, Detroit has not paid deserved attention or has deliberately chosen to ignore its problems.

 

Whenever I talk about change, I often make reference to the 100 degree story. Change
cannot be made in one day. It is only when the water temperature hits 100 degrees that water finally turns to vapor. Change occurs slowly and gradually until one day you realize that a fundamental change has occurred.

 

To give an example, Toyota collected opinions from all its employees in order to achieve KAIZEN or constant improvement and ever-increasing efficiency, and as a result came with a global icon called the “Toyota Way.” This example teaches us that if we are to expect positive changes in the future, we need to make improvements starting today. Do you wish to succeed?


Then make an effort to change yourself, starting from now.