Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Jerry Flint

As you know, I’m a voracious reader of magazines and I read across all political spectra. I get Forbes (the capitalist tool) largely because of one columnist. Jerry Flint has been writing since 1958, mainly on Detroit and the auto industry. His stuff is not to be missed. Flint is an incorrigible rogue with a patriotic fervor for all things automobile, something that doesn’t stop him from constantly throwing bricks where they are deserved. I’ve never met him but after all these years I feel as if I know him. The thing about Jerry Flint is that while he’s confrontational, abrasive, chippy, and extraordinarily provocative, he gives credit where credit is due. He’s also very supportive of the U.S. and its auto industry or what’s left of it. But, and this is one of the things that makes his writing stand apart, is he doesn’t indulge in cheap shots at other competitor’s expense. With Toyota kicking butt, he was one of the first to recognizes it, celebrate it, and point out the lessons for Detroit. His June 30 article talks about the US domestic auto industry being on the verge of extinction, and how the US risk becoming side lined like the Brits. His point is that in the UK there are now no British owned auto companies. The Japanese and American built cars there but all the Brits are water boys, assembly workers, and they obviously don’t mind it. He wonders whether the U.S. is spiraling into the exact same position.

On the other hand he recognizes that Asian car companies might have cheated by keeping us out of their countries and leaving their currencies weak. He also points out that the U.S. government changed the rules to allow foreign brands to sell in domestic dealerships. And, yes, he also points out that the U.S. unions played their part by ignoring the destruction they were causing until it was too late. But Flint places the blame fundamentally on Detroit’s executives. They just didn’t know enough about their own business to build better cars than the foreigners did and they weren’t prepared for the inevitable $4.00 a gallon gasoline pricing. If you are into cars I recommend you get to know Jerry Flint.