Let Big Iron Pass


Left: Daimler Chrysler Canadian headquarters in Windsor, Ontario I grew up in Chatham, Ont, which was an hour away from Windsor and Detroit, the twin motor cities. As a young man, my step grandfather hand built bodies for the Gray Dort car company. There were many small car companies in Chatham at one time, but they slowly disappeared into the Motor City maw of what eventually became Big Iron automakers. Chatham became a Chrysler town as did Windsor. Chrysler, Ford and GM ruled their kingdoms, which spread like a stain, and wielded immense power over economies and millions of lives. I spent some of the worst times in my life working in an auto plant and am quite familiar with the car industry’s blundering, bludgeoning, and dehumanizing ways. So, I marked with interest that Canada’s automakers have joined their Detroit brethren in asking for government bailouts. For years, these companies lumbered along, paying workers a king’s ransom to keep the peace and allow them to prop up their profligate, wasteful, bloated organizations. They talked Toyota’s Lean thinking, but they sure didn’t walk it. And now, apparently it’s our problem. They’re so big we can’t let them sink. Same argument as in the US, where the parent companies want $25 billion to save their asses. For now. I say let them go. That kind of titanic business model is passe in the 21st century, which demands agility flexibility, and innovation, not mass production, power mongering and other solar-system business thinking from the last century. In their place will spring up hundreds, probably thousands, of entrepreneurial companies that might actually provide their customer communities with what they need and want – like greener cars, or cheaper cars — instead of what fits the mass. Maybe each province, or region, will produce their own cars, and, collectively, employ just as many people. Does this sound right wing and deterministic? Hardly. It’s actually communal. I think the best businesses are those that keep a close eye and ear on their constituencies. And that ain’t Big Iron.