Editor’s Note: While waiting for unwanted visits from Presidential candidates pretending to be on the UAW bandwagon this week, Peter delivers more blistering High-Octane Truth about the strike in his “Subterranean Motor City Blues Revisited.” In On The Table, we have more Honda bike news guaranteed to be more welcome than the Motocompo “clown scooter” from last week. And our AE Song of the Week is “Complicated” by Avril Levine. In Fumes, Peter continues with “Part II” of his 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 in Japan, along with results from the MotoGP in India and the Trans Am from World Wide Technology Raceway. We’re on it. -WG
 
By Peter M. DeLorenzo 
Detroit. While in the midst of the maliciously disruptive UAW strike against the Remaining Three, we are also being burdened with wild rumblings from some questionable “pundits” anointing Shawn Fain as the next Walter Reuther. And to make matters worse, this is being duly reported by some members of the media who should know better. In case you’re wondering, this is not just another frustrating week in the Motor City. Not even close, in fact.  
People who actually know what’s going on understand that these negotiations are being conducted in a vacuum by some who truly believe that a shiny, happy, Detroit-centric Auto Industry Wonderland could not only survive going forward but thrive. This in spite of all evidence to the contrary.  
Pretending that any gains made in this round of contract negotiations will right all of the wrongs and fix everything needing to be fixed – on both sides of the ball – is a fool’s errand of the first degree. The reality is that there is no going back to the halcyon days marked by the high points of previous labor movements and subsequent advantageous agreements. And the fact that the two politicians who will end up in the presidential race next year are taking time to come here this week to project their solidarity with the UAW is beyond pathetic. It is nothing more than window dressing at this juncture, and everyone knows it too. 
Getting back to that Detroit-centric Auto Industry Wonderland. It is based on a quaint notion that we can all collectively go back in time, a time when aggressive, talented competitors didn’t exist, a time when non-UAW plants in southern states didn’t exist, a time when an egomaniacal zillionaire operating without restraints or any notion of propriety didn’t exist, and a time when a headlong rush into a “Grand Transition” to EVs wasn’t unleashing mass hysteria around the world. 
It simply can’t be done. Or, better yet, it is not gonna happen dot frickin’ com. That’s what is bothering me about these negotiations. What the UAW wants is based on recouping past givebacks and slights both real and imagined since the last contract was signed. But the union’s negotiating stance is based on ignoring any real history that has been going on in the wider world. This “we’re gonna get ours” negotiating posture would be all well and good in an industry based on what once was. But that is simply not the case. This industry is struggling mightily to rapidly develop batteries, charging systems and entirely new manufacturing processes. And it is being forced to spend tanker-loads of cash to do so.  
Again, the union’s negotiating posture and Detroit’s compromising reaction to it is simply untenable. Whatever agreement is reached will be just peachy if the ugly realities of today’s auto world are simply ignored. But it’s all just whistling past the graveyard at this point. Shawn “I’m right and everyone else is wrong” Fain’s head is being filled with high praise right now that is both undeserved and dangerous. He might be viewed as a hero by pundits who are unable to understand what’s really going on. And that is dangerous too.  
As I pointed out last week, 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 and his cronies are 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.  
But in spite of all of this, the industry churns on. As you read this, hordes of talented people representing Design, Engineering, Product Development and Marketing are feverishly working away on what’s next. Finessing final design concepts for 2026, and envisioning what the compelling looks will be for 2028, while wrestling with the engineering constraints brought on by an ever-shifting kaleidoscope of regulations and emissions requirements. And working on marketing and advertising strategies that will somehow make it all make sense and come together in a creative, memorable way. 
And this orchestrated cacophony never ends, UAW contract negotiations or no. It’s a constant swirling maelstrom of highs and lows, punctuated by triumphs, forgettable missteps and at times unmitigated bullshit. It’s the Autoverse as defined by today’s chaotic global environment. 
The High-Octane Truth of the matter is that all of the major players at the car companies want it all, all the time. And surprisingly enough, too many of these executives who should know better actually believe they can have it all. But it never works out that way. In fact, it doesn’t even come close to working that way. Instead it’s a two-steps-forward, three-steps-back dance for even the best of the car companies. For every out-and-out product hit, there’s always some corner of the enterprise that is woefully underperforming. And remarkably enough, there are always new executives who seem to have to find this out the hard way. And these contract negotiations will put paid to the notion that they actually have a clue as to how it will all work out. 
I was thinking about all of this over the weekend as one of Bob Dylan’s classic songs kept popping into my head. Part defiant and poetic social shit disturbing and part Dylan-esque gibberish, “Subterranean Homesick Blues” has a chaotic urgency about it that is hard to turn away from once you let it wash over you. 
So, without further ado – and with full props to Mr. Dylan’s original – here’s the “Subterranean Motor City Blues” for your edification (special tip from WordGirl – play Dylan’s song in another browser while you read along!). 
Shawn is in the basementTalkin’ ‘bout paymentsI’m at the keyboardThinking about the motivesThe man in the red sweaterHand out, pissed-offSays he’s got a bad feelin’Wants a big payoffLook out kidIt’s somethin’ you saidGod knows whyBut you’re doin’ it againYou better duck down the alley wayLookin’ for a new friendA man in a Ford capHoldin’ a big penOffering 29 percentBut says you’re not worth itMary talks goodFace doesn’t show itTalkin’ that the Mo putPlants back butWhat’s the point anywayMary says what many sayThey must bang it in early MayLegacy from D.A.Look out kidDon’t matter what you didWalk on your high-heelsDon’t matter how it feelsBetter stay away from thoseCarryin’ around a doomsday hoseKeep a clean noseJettison those plain clothesYou don’t need a weather manTo know which way the wind blows.Ah get sick, get wellHang around that Ford wellRing bell, sure as hellF-150’s gonna sellTry hard, get tarredKick ass, do tellJump on the Insurance Institute if all else failsLook out kidsYou’re gonna get hitBy users, poseursSix-time losersHangin’ around the cheap seatsHoldin’ you accountableLookin’ for a new foolStop followin’ e-leadersWatch those chargin’ meters.Ah get born, stay warnedRead rants, no chance, it’s a danceGet dressed, get stressedTry to be a successPlease her, please him, buy giftsDon’t whine, don’t groanTwenty years of schoolin’And they send you to the Dead ZoneLook out kidThey keep it all hidBetter avoid the assholesLight yourself a candleDon’t wear sandalsTry to avoid the scandalsDon’t wanna be a bumYou better chew gumThe pump don’t work’Cause Elon took the handles. 
And remember one more thing: Every time it seems like the good times will never end, inevitably they do. That has been the historical cadence for the Motor City and the auto biz as we know it ever since this whole thing got started. 
That once-awesome, 17-million-unit Rocket Ride ran out of juice spectacularly and permanently, and at this point it doesn’t take a weather man to know which way the wind blows. 
And that’s the 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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