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Throttling into an uncertain future

There is plenty of coverage of North America’s auto industry in this issue, and with good reason.

Matt Defosse

February 10, 2009

3 Min Read
Throttling into an uncertain future

There is plenty of coverage of North America’s auto industry in this issue, and with good reason.

There are plenty of suppliers who will say the North American carmakers – Big Three, Detroit Three, Not-so-Big Three, whatever you like – have reaped what they sowed. After years of brutal cost reductions, the standard line, “You did great, now cut prices to us by 10% and you can keep supplying it to us next year,” means there is little love lost among North American processors and moldmakers serving the industry. Unfortunately, the OEMs’ travails cause untold suffering among their suppliers.

It is a safe bet that MPW’s audience has read enough to know there are many takes on why the North American automotive industry, and in fact the industry globally, is in such a bad way. As David Cole, chairman for the Center for Automotive Research, mentions in our ‘As I See It’ Interview in this issue, the pain in the market is unlikely to improve until credit gets rolling: most cars are bought on credit in North America, and in most other countries too, so consumers who have held off on a new car purchase, due to job worries or other reasons, can’t plan a new car purchase anyway until banks again agree to lend the money.

But as Cole also notes, the continent’s demand for cars is not going to continue to fall; he predicts it most likely will run back up to a level of 17 million vehicles/year. That makes for 17 million opportunities for plastics to play an even larger role in the industry. The industry continues to develop rapidly: at the time of this writing, as I multi-tasked between a presidential inauguration and this editorial, what usually would be a huge new story – Fiat taking a 35% stake in Chrysler – almost went unnoticed in the wake of the inauguration. Change offers opportunity; good luck to those of you who plan to take advantage of that.

                                                                                    • • •

Reader feedback always is welcome, and so it was with great pleasure that I watched replies to the riddle posed in last month’s editorial roll in: “How many experts does it take to change a light bulb?” A $50 Amazon gift certificate was on the line.

Here a sample of some of the emails:

There were the silly: “Just two. One to convince us that we no longer need humans; we’ll be a fully robotic/automated production operation, so no bulb is needed. The second one will convince the current light bulb that retirement will be good for it.”

There were the conspiratorial: “No one could do the job. Each got electrocuted ... each KNEW TOO MUCH.”

There were the topical: “If the experts are bankers receiving bailout money, they wouldn't screw any light bulbs in, they would just use that money to buy all the available light bulbs. The rest of us would still be without light (money for loans.)”    

And there were plenty more, including the winner, from Richard Simons, R&D manager for LP Music (Latin Percussion), a division of Fender Musical Instruments:
“Lets see ... CEO to decide it is too dark,
CFO to decide if it is economically feasible and cost effective to change,
Consultant to determine Maintenance expert qualifications for light change,
Maintenance expert to hire consultant for installation drawings,
Lighting expert to confirm proper replacement choice,
QA engineer to approve installation drawings,
Safety engineer to direct ladder operations,
Electrical engineer to direct replacement operations,
Efficiency expert to make sure all parties are working well together.
HR person to confirm qualifications and training of installer.
Professional light bulb installer (recently retired mortgage and bond expert), and a Janitor to tell professional light bulb installer he is screwing the bulb the wrong way.
So, by my count, that is 12 experts to change a light bulb ... provided any are bright enough to know they are in the dark in the first place.”

Congratulations to Richard, and many thanks to all who participated. Count on other contests in the near future.

Matt Defosse
Editor in Chief
[email protected]

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