|Henry Ford driving his Quadricycle in 1896|
Dateline June 4, 1896 - Henry takes his 1st Ford through streets of Detroit. From that moment forward ‘Merkins have adapted to the automobile, as opposed to the other way around. Had the automobile been adapted to ‘Merkins instead:
- Today we’d have fuel efficient cars that do not pollute the environment. However, the Big Three fought that at every turn. Throughout the ‘60s, ‘70s, ’80, ‘90s, & ‘00s, had the car companies spent that lobbying money on R&D instead, we might have Jetsons cars by now. Yet, they still haven’t perfected the electric car, which have been around for 100 years.
- Had Detroit not ignored innovation that came from overseas, until it had almost devoured them. In Detroit, innovation meant cool cup holders and automatic windows. The game was to make cosmetic changes from model year to the next, but add features no one asked for to jack up the price.
- The automobile also mean that our cities and towns no longer had to grow up, they could grow out. That we built our suburbs as wide-open expanses easily reached by car means we do not now have the population densities needed to make rapid transit a viable option.
In just about every way we can name the car has changed ‘Merkin life, and not always for the better. We pay a big price for cars, beyond the sticker price. Yet, ‘Merkins seem to ignore all those other costs because their cars can now talk to them.
These thoughts are a wild summation of two books I highly recommend:
- The Reckoning, by David Halberstam tells the story of how Detroit didn’t see Japan coming. It takes a deep look into both the ‘Merkin and Japanese auto industries and their parallel development.
- Taken For A Ride; Detroit’sBig Three and the Politics of Pollution by Jack Doyle looks at all the ways Detroit fought every clean air and mileage standards legislated by our politicians over the last half century.
Unpacking My Detroit ► Part One
Unpacking My Detroit ► Part Two
Unpacking My Detroit ► Part Four