“One thing about Detroiters – we like to drive our cars”. I heard that in a client meeting, and it stuck with me. He wasn’t referring to the reason we lack mass transit in our area. He was talking about driving a car for the sheer joy of it. I have to agree. That’s not to imply that non-Detroiters don’t or can’t experience the same sense of exhilaration behind the wheel. But I believe that the thrill runs a little deeper through our veins, because of the history we share.
I was born and raised in the city of Detroit, and like a lot of our neighbors in the 60’s, my father worked for one of the “Big Three” automakers. He worked for Chrysler. So did the neighbor next door to us and another a few doors down. My grandfather worked for Holley Carburetor, as did my aunt. My uncle’s tool and die company made parts used in car assembly. Detroit was Car Town, Motown, as in Motor City. Every person I knew was connected to cars somehow. And there were a lot of cool cars back then, performance cars with big engines and gorgeous lines. They would drag race along Woodward Ave., which in 1909 was the first paved road in America (at least the first mile of it). We were proud to be Detroiters and to be known around the world as the “Motor Capital of the World”.
When my partner and I started our company in 1984, Chrysler, General Motors and Ford Motor Company were just coming out of a recession and the local economy was in an uptick. Our company did a lot of work for Detroit-based advertising agencies and marketing firms, on a lot of automotive-related projects. In fact, our first paying job was producing raffle boxes for Ford Motor Company, through one of their marketing firms. Business was good. Then came the recession of 1990-91, when automotive suppliers were hit hard with severe cost-cutting demands and excessively tardy payment. Many had to close their doors. It was a difficult time, but something good came out of it. A good percentage of Tier One and Tier Two companies that survived the tough times diversified into other industries – marine, aeronautics, and military. We now have a pretty robust group of manufacturing companies serving these industries that stayed in the area.
This week, I picked up my new Dodge Charger. Yes, it’s a Hemi. No, it is not a gas-guzzler, thanks to the engineers who found a way to reduce fuel consumption (and emissions) when extra acceleration is not needed. It is a beautiful red color with black and ivory leather seats. And yes, it accelerates well.
I wish my dad was alive to see this car and look under the hood. He’d have a big grin on his face.