Thursday, December 27, 2007


An insight into a city's problems

This morning's Detroit Free Press featured the following stories:

Homicide: More Killers Go Uncaught

Michigan Shrinks by 30,500 Since '0

Giant Mutated Squirrel Decimates City

OK, so I made the third one up, but the first two are pretty typical. The local economy here is somehow still spiraling downward, leading to a further talent drain from the population and greater social problems including crime. Where did things go so wrong?

There are a lot of answers to that question. One of them is the bare fact that those executives who made strategic decisions at the domestic auto companies did a lousy job for decades. The proof of this is in the outcome-- Toyota is now poised to become the largest auto maker in the world. GM and Ford, especially, have squandered their market share and good names by putting out badly-conceived, badly engineered, and poorly-made cars far too often. If you doubt this, rent a GM minivan. They may be the worst vehicles on the road today, so far behind market leaders Honda and Toyota that no rational person would buy one if they didn't have to.

How did it come to this?

Yesterday, I was in line at the Caribou Coffee store in Grosse Pointe, which is home to many auto executives. Ahead of me in line were two guys about my age or a little older, who appeared to be acquaintances who ran into each other by chance. Here was their conversation:

Guy #1: So, are you still working at GM? I heard they let some people go...
Guy #2: Of course I'm still at GM! GM's doing fine.
Guy #1: Great! I just heard about layoffs...
Guy #2: That was just hourly guys. The company is doing great.
Guy #3 (interjecting from back in the line): GM is making great cars! We just put out the new Malibu...

Guy #2: Oh, yeah, the new Malibu is a great car. All our cars are great now.
Guy #1: Thanks! Good to know everything is great at GM.
Guy #3: Are you being sarcastic? Because GM is totally healthy.

Memo to GM: Everything is not great. People don't have a reason to buy your cars anymore, because you made bad cars for too long. We have all paid too great a price to support your delusion that everything is OK at GM.

I was in Detroit for a week several years ago and I was struck by the fact that even the weather person on the news referred to the number of homicides and somehow related it to the current inclemency. It seemed at that time to be a whole city misguided by a false sense of what is important and what is socially acceptable, but also socially responsible. It is no wonder they are out of touch with what sells and why.
Osler I know all about that total denial.. And honestly I think GM is really bad The only divission doing okay are the truck areas and those are getting killed by gas prices. SO let's review... It takes about three years for a car to go from the "drawing Board" to the showroom. at least so When 9/11 happened, and then the war started did they really think it would just be a short war? That gas prices would soon go DOWN??? I know consumers all wanted Suburbans and trucks but does that mean you dont at least START working on alternative energy vehicles?? WE have a Chrysler Minivan and its our second, and its okay, but honestly its the only Chysler I would ever buy and I am allowed the employee discount!!!!

These guys are like this because I think Detroit is a city of polarity. Look at the difference of a couple of blocks - the ones btw GP Park and Detroit... or GPW and Harper Woods... Night and day, and right next door to one another. Then look at B Field Hills and the difference between "the rest" of Detroit. These Auto Execs are just holed up somewhere, going to the Champagne Opening of the North American Auto Show in Limos and so busy congratulating each other on mediocrity.. its kind of sad actually. They are taking an entire city and industry down with them.

It does not help that the unions are so very powerful and that for so long assembly line workers made over $100K a year and had "cradle to grave" security. Those people should have seen it coming and tried to at least get their kids into another line of work... But how can they have foresight when everyone in the company above them is telling them, as the ship sinks ITS GREAT!!! WE ARE ALL OKAY!!! WE ARE THE BEST!!! And the whole time they are killing the electric car that THEY MADE, and were in a unique position to seriously produce in great quantity.

Its a MESS but I have run into that attitude so many times. Its just SAD... they need to leave Michigan to see that there is another way of living out in the world. A LOT of people drive foreign cars, because they do not BREAK, emphasize safety AND have great fuel economy.

Its sad that Toyota is the number one automaker, but then look at how long that goofy TAURUS was in production. GM and Ford and Chrysler they OPENED that door.

THen, the crime is SO prevalent in Michigan that you just get DESENSITIZED to it after a while. The news is full of just murder robbery assault etc. So many horrible neighborhoods, so much blight. When I first moved to CA I would watch the news and think What are these people SMOKING?? They are like so HAPPY. THen I realized that there just was not as much blight ugliness, murder depressing statistics.... Detroit IS that city portrayed in that movie 8 Mile. It IS dark, gritty. depressing, tough, scary.

I have great memories but I am never EVER going to live there again. its sad because there is a lot of good about Michigan. But its in some kind of a time warp.
Let's do the time warp... again!
Let's do the time warp... again!
Wait a minute, you LOVE the Chevy Astro Van!
The Astro isn't a minivan-- that's the Chevy Uplander. The 1991 Astro Van-- that's a Maxi Van!
So Maxivans are OK then?

My Mom really likes her Buick Lacrosse. Nicest car she's ever had; great for commuting. Until the tree limb fell and smashed the back window.

Dad's GMC King Cab Avalanche is nice too. He can haul stuff for his business and passengers. I borrowed it on Christmas day. Iplawkid loved being up high in her carseat and Iplawwife and I loved being able to get her in and out of the truck without having to lean down into the vehicle.

But I wouldn't buy either one for the Iplawfamily
If I had it to do all over again I would get a Toyota Prius and a Toyota Sienna minivan.

Iplaw Seriously Minivans are like some kind of passage into parenthood, I know a blow to the image... BUT when you have a sid they just RULE Do you remember how much STUFF comes with a kid? Stroller and porta cribs and Porta HighChair... not to meantion their toys and crap

If you do NOT like the minivan idea Check into the Honda Element... It has RUBBER FLOORS and seats So when they spew or throw food or squirt fabric softener (AND THEY will) all over the car you just hose it down.

But then, we have already talked about cars.

We had an Expedition, it was really comfy to ride in and great on trips except when it was $85 to fill it up.... that was the bad part.
I drive Mazdas. The last American made cars I had--one Ford (found on road, dead; fix or repair daily?)and one Chevy, were terrible cars that got horrible mileage and broke down on a regular basis. No, I won´t go back.

Hey, where is haiku Friday? I´m seven hours ahead and chomping at the bit:

Spanish Haiku es
algo increíble a-
sí que venga ya!
Iplawife has looked wistfully at minivans. When its time for her Scion to go, I am sure we will get one. -- maybe I can get flames painted on the side.
Flames do make the car go faster.
Correction: Iplawwife does NOT look at Minivans wistfully. Actually she's kind of pained by the thought. They're practical.

Right now she misses her cute white jeep Wrangler.
Well there are a few alternatives to minivans that are OKAY looking. THe Chrysler Pacifica is a pretty neat car - we rented one for a week when the house exploded. But is mostly just a big station wagon.

SO is the Subaru Station wagon, and also the FOrrester which is like a mini SUV.

There are also some minivans that are not as nerdy looking. The Nissan one is not bad, nor are the Toyota and Honda vans. We have a Dodge Grand Caravan that is just loaded with everything, the only thing it does not have is navigation. But we got a discount on it.

Another option is the Honda Element, its small and pretty versatile and kidproof but maybe not as safe.....or some of those crossovers.

What is important with a kid is unrestricted access to the back seats, power doors and liftgate for when your arms are full of kids and bags and diapers and strollers etc AND - when you have toddlers especially, and I hate to say this a rear seat DVD player.

THe thing is, the minivans come with all of that stuff. The best minivans also have a version of the STOW AND GO seating which is SO GREAT. You can have NO SEATS to haul stuff, You have all the seats,. or whatever configuration you want. THe great thing about STOW and GO is that you store the seats you are not using IN THE FLOOR of the car and not in your garage. Those seats are big heavy and hard to move, so the Stow and go is great.

Having a minivan with a kid..its not so bad. You put the kids in the back with their headphones on and they can watch their Winnie the Pooh or ELMO or Cars movie. But then,. you can listen to satellite radio or ipod or cds or radio in the front while driving. Everyone is happy. Then when you get where you are going, the doors open with the push of a button, so does the back, and you can easily get out all the crap they need JUST to go to the store or the pediatrician. Stroller, babycarrier, bags, purse, etc.

I know its not sexy, but "Go Big or Don't Go", you know? You are gonna have TWO kids. DIVE IN. My opinion is a minivan is the best for kids and parents, but that is me. Have you ever been really tired and needing coffee and its raining and the kid is just a NUTCASE like she was shot out of a cannon and whiny and awful, and you are trying to readjust the seatbelt on the stupid car seat for the millionth time that day, and the kid's coat is in the way and its raining, etc.. you get the picture. When you can reach everything, close the uberheavy door with a button, slap headphones on the kids and listen to the ALL 70s Sirius station in the Drive Thru Starbucks line... and suddelny the oNLY thing you hear in the car is the theme from SHAFT....because the kids are quiet... that is a very good thing.
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