David Holls is right, of course. There was a period, last summer, when I was away from home on five weekends in succession, attending one automotive event or another. I missed the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix, but I made it to the Meadowbrook Concours d’Elegance, the Rolls-Royce Owners’ and Bentley Drivers’ annual affair at Newport, Rhode Island, the Monterey Historic Automobile Races and the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, a Porsche Owners’ Club convention in Baltimore, and the national convention of the Mercedes-Benz Gullwing Group here in Michigan. During that same period I could have attended two dozen other events in various parts of the country and probably had the time of my life. North America is a beehive of automotive activity, and we seem to be right in the middle of it all.
The most important development in the four years we’ve been doing business at the corner of Liberty and Fourth is the steady decline of Detroit. The imports, especially the Japanese cars, are clearly dominating the public’s automotive consciousness and coming ever closer to dominating the North American marketplace. Lest we forget, the Honda Accord was the best-selling car in the United States in 1989. How long will it be before a Japanese company takes a controlling interest in one of the American Big Three? What if Lee Iacocca succeeds in his dream of marrying Chrysler off to Fiat?
A disproportionate share of Ford and GM profits comes from their overseas operations, and as the bad news piles up month after month, their core business in Detroit finds its situation more and more perilous. Many have expressed the notion that Ford is immune just because it looks so strong right now. Don’t believe it. Ford has to navigate the same American-market reefs and shoals as the other two, and it was only ten years ago that those same soothsayers were wondering if Ford could survive at all.
In Automobile Magazine’s next four years, it will be essential that we see the dawn of the Great Car Era in Detroit. By the year 2000, Detroit has to be building some of the best cars in the world, and must be launched on an unalterable course to build the best cars in the world. Our government must take this fundamental fact into consideration when it considers further regulation of what is still the nation’s largest industry. When Toyota’s Lexus people had to announce that they were recalling the first few months’ worth of LS400s for some minor fixes, they were sharply rebuked by the Japanese government. I wonder if President Bush shouldn’t simply order up a couple of new official limousines, let’s say a stretch Lexus and a stretch Infiniti. Maybe, while he’s at it, he should announce that he intends to invite the Japanese truck manufacturers to bid on all military contracts from now on. Perhaps a little of that sort of presidential rebuke might be the burr under Detroit’s saddle that would make some stuff happen.