The other day my wife and I talked about summer camps. We want our children in busy learning spaces when school vacates. For some reason the subject reminds me of a New Hampshire camp where I worked during the summers of graduate school. Every morning at camp, the grounds crew would empty trash barrels. Driving the old, dented pick-up truck made this job fun. As they drove past, I noticed that someone changed the chrome letters to read “DORF” instead of Ford.
Dorf has no definition. It suggests goofy; for the camp pick-up truck, it described a poor-running, smokey, rusty, mechanical nuisance. Ford and GM have designed vehicles with mechanical panache. Corvette, Impala, and Country Squire were the cars of my youth. Their look made drivers proud when the price of gasoline did not matter.
As a high school senior, I drove a 1950 convertible Chevrolet with Dynaflow. I loved the smell of the interior, the sound of the automatic transmission, and the convertible top that needed pushing and pulling during sudden down pours. My grandfather drove a 1954 Cadillac as did my father. Long, sleek American cars lined lanes from New Haven to Newport Beach.
Now, time, technology, unions, and quality turned consumers toward safer, fuel efficient cars from Honda, Toyoto, KIA,Subaru, Isusu and Hyundai (once the brunt of comedic joking). Foreign labor-cost advantages offered consumers better vehicles dollar-for-dollar.
All of this spells doom for the dorfs of Detroit. For example, The Wall Street Journal’s headlines describe the tension in GM’s Boardroom.
*Foreign vehicles last longer with reliable performance.
*U.S. car-markers have a “worse-than-average” record.
*”Don’t come to work; we’ll still pay you as long as you stay here from 6AM to 2:30PM”: Cost $1.4billion to US automakers
*Malcolm Bricklin brings China’s Chery Automobile, Inc. to the U.S. in 2007 to “steal” GM customers.
*GM one year stock return: -48.4%
*GM ten year average stock return: -3.6%
U.S. companies once listed on the Dow Jones Industrial Average have disappeared; they are gone forever because of competition and poor management decisions.
My father had a Nash for a few months. In July of 1930, Nash Motors was removed from the Dow (and again in 1939).
Ever drive a Hudson (me neither)? In May of 1932, Hudson Motor was removed from the Dow. Chyrsler had its problems and was removed from the Dow in June of 1979.
Could GM be far behind? Detroit may soon become the American car industry’s museum, and an investor nightmare.