Editor’s Note: Buckle up. This week, Peter delivers the sobering High-Octane Truth about the strike – and the sad and ugly reality that Detroit as we know it is on the precipice of a death spiral. In On The Table, we feature a look at Honda’s all-electric take on its early ’80s Motocompo, along with some of the reveals at the Detroit Auto Show – the 2024 GMC Acadia, 2025 Cadillac CT5 and 2024 Ford F-150. Our AE Song of the Week is “The Power of Love” by Huey Lewis & The News. In Fumes, Peter starts a new series – Famous Front Rows, highlighting various races and the legendary drivers who were front-row qualifiers. And finally, in The Line, we have results from F1, along with results from the IMSA TireRack.com Battle on the Bricks at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Onward. -WG
By Peter M. DeLorenzo 
Detroit. Yes, the strike happened. And yes, the constant back and forth between the auto companies and Shawn “I’m right and everyone else is wrong” Fain has already grown to be tedious beyond words. Readers from around the country can’t be expected to understand what it’s like to live around here (except for the Detroit ex-pats, of course).  
Remember, this is the company town of all company towns. In fact, the only town rivaling it is Hollywood, where the suspension of belief and the creation of alternative realities is an enduring industry. (Except that enclave is also in the midst of a debilitating strike, one that has already decimated that industry and the people on strike.) 
The Motor City is a mindset as much as anything. The local news media follows auto company news with breathless – and relentless – frequency. Utterances by the company CEOs and their various executives, and of course, the always-engaged PR minions are always front-page news. And I must say that any good news of late covered by the media has been balanced by an endless stream of bad news, which is refreshing.  
Why? Because it didn’t used to be this way, frankly. If a discouraging bit of news – aka non-prepackaged and orchestrated “bad” news – somehow made it to print or the airwaves back in ancient times, the offending writer was summoned by the chief PR minion at the offended company – after the offending writer’s editor was duly informed – and then dressed down and threatened with no further access to the CEO or the other top executives of the company, which was, for all intents and purposes, a professional death sentence. 
And except for a few instances along the way, this “dance” worked perfectly. That is until Yours Truly came along, and the High-Octane Truth became part of the auto industry’s lexicon. Once this website got rolling, you could sense that the tone and tenor of the industry coverage emanating from this town’s media started to change as well. It became far less reverential, and as time went by, the old “go-along-to-get-along-for-access” mentality receded into the woodwork, reminding everyone that times had indeed changed.  
Now? We have writers like Phoebe Wall Howard of the Detroit Free Press, who, while generating cringeworthy puff pieces on Ford’s increasingly obnoxious CEO, has also zeroed-in on that company’s struggles with quality and reliability, including her noteworthy work exposing the problems with Ford’s DPS6 transmission, and her recent coverage of the company’s frequent product launch issues and endless recalls. It’s easy to say that this coverage is consistent with the more accurate and balanced coverage of the industry that exists today, but it wasn’t all that long ago when this kind of reporting would be verboten. 
But I’ve digressed. Because in this town, it’s all about the strike right now. It is consuming every bit of oxygen in any and every room extant here. It is dominating the news cycle all the time. As well it should. (And that’s saying something with the extensive coverage that the resurgent Detroit Lions have been getting, although we’ll see how that shakes out after the excruciating, last-play loss to the Seahawks on Sunday. Ugh.)  
So, let me get right to it. The High-Octane Truth about the strike is that it doesn’t really matter what the “percentage” of the wage increase negotiated by the UAW is. And it doesn’t really matter what COLA allowances are determined, or what any of the other various demands are that Fain is making.  
Why? Because Detroit, as we know it or knew it – is dead. The automakers based here are operating on a crushing cost deficit to competitors like Tesla, as well as the Korean, Chinese and Japanese manufacturers. And that deficit will not shrink with this next labor contract. Instead, it will grow larger. The collective Detroit-based manufacturers are going to be saddled with per-hour labor costs that will make them even less competitive, at a crucial time in the industry when the alleged “Grand Transition” to EVs is supposed to be picking up steam and sucking every bit of cash that the auto companies can muster. 
None of this makes me happy in the least. The thought of that Unctuous Prick in Chief – the Muskian Nightmare himself – lapping up more market share makes my skin crawl. And watching this industry, which has dominated this region and been part of the industrial fabric of this nation for 125 years, become marginalized is excruciatingly painful to me. 
Where is it going? The car companies based here are going to have to rely on making excellent ICE vehicles for many, many years to come in order to survive, while they launch BEVs in fits and starts. I predicted that the “Grand Transition” would be fraught with peril for the automakers based in this region. That is the ugly reality, and I wish it wasn’t the case, but it’s the High-Octane Truth. 
So, what do we do now? What do we do when we’re watching our collective deaths unfold in slow motion? It is a car crash that no one wants to witness. There aren’t enough cotton candy puff pieces to make things seem better than they really are, unfortunately. This industry as practiced here has embarked on long, slow death spiral, and it makes me really, really angry. It didn’t have to be this way, but it most definitely is. 
And that’s the sad, High-Octane Truth for this week.  
Editor’s Note: You can access previous issues of AE by clicking on “Next 1 Entries” below. – WG


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