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AS DETROIT GOES, SO GOES THE NATION

February 7, 2012

Isn’t it just amazing….Chrysler’s Superbowl ad with Clint Eastwood has got the Republicans all stirred up and issuing claims that Obama used the commercial for political purposes. And of course, the cries of dismay are led by Karl Rove! Will this man never be out of our lives?
Early in my career, I spent 20 years in the Performance Improvement/Motivation business-employed by two of the “Big Four” of the incentive companies – one of which gobbled up the third member. So I only missed exposure to the one “born above a drugstore in Detroit” and now based in Fenton Missouri.
And if you knew me then, you knew I was always questioning “why” about one thing or another. Early on, I was sure I could improve productivity if the world would just get rid of the emphasis on “cash flow”. If every company issued invoices when they NEEDED the money to pay vendors; and everyone paid invoices when they RECEIVED them, I was sure the world would be a better place! And after cash flow, there was another issue, and another and another…

But perhaps the one thing that irritated me most, was the Automotive Industry. With dealerships everywhere to support the American love of cars, they were BIG and coveted clients, with great influence on our business lives. And they had no qualms about milking their clout for concession after concession. So, of course, that became my new cause…which was destined, of course, to fall on deaf ears. Yes, there were issues and it was not “fair” but that fourth quarter point redemption as dealers everywhere purchased their Christmas presents was what made us the profitable company we were.
So every time I raised a new complaint, I was stopped in my tracks with the decades-old phrase: As Detroit goes, so goes the nation. And although it irritated me, I got the message. The success of our company as well as the nation was tied to that industry…like it or not.

Back in 2009, I too, admit to feelings of “it served them right” as they stumbled and fell. I too, had moments of questioning the bail-out. But over the years, I had come to accept that like it or not, they were too big to fail and if they went down, so too would we. So begrudgingly, I decided that others had more facts than me, I had elected them to make the decisions, and I should stop fretting. After all, by then I had learned my lesson – As Detroit Goes, So Goes the Nation.
So I watched Clint Eastwood in the Chrysler Superbowl commercial “It’s Halftime in America” and surprised myself with my positive reaction to the message. And before I knew it would be one of the most-talked about of the many commercials, I immediately related it to that old irritating slogan and laughed at myself.
Yes, their practices and the financial collapse of 2008 left the Automotive industry teetering on the edge. Yes, we as a country were right there with them in the disaster. And because they were “too big to fail”, we as a country helped them bounce back. And along the way, Detroit implemented significant changes that catapulted them into the 21st century and made them whole again.

So now, despite the Republican voices crying “Foul”, let’s hope As Detroit Goes; So Goes the Nation.

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