Posts Tagged Detroit
Three years ago, Chrysler launched a Superbowl ad titled “Imported From Detroit,” emphasizing the obvious parallels between the carmaker and the city.
While most Superbowl ads feature animals and hijinks, this one was almost inspiring, even if the car it was meant to sell–the 2011 Chrysler 200–was pretty terrible.
For a moment, it seemed like corporate America could sympathize with the rest of America, instead of just finding ways to avoid paying taxes.
However, in the car industry, things change quickly.
Chrysler has established a modicum of stability thanks to its merger with Fiat, revamping its lineup and even producing daring new models like the Dodge Dart and Jeep Cherokee.
Earlier this week, Chrysler unveiled the 2015 200 at the North American International Auto Show in–you guessed it–Detroit.
From Eminem’s purposeful stare in that 2011 ad, you’d think this would be a fulfilling moment, a sign that a city and a car company are climbing out of the pit of doom, together.
In reality, it was just another car unveiling. Journalists were impressed by the new 200’s sleek European styling and high-tech powertrain, but it’s a car divorced from its surroundings.
I wouldn’t want to take a drive through Detroit in the 2015 Chrysler 200. I’d be afraid of getting car-jacked.
Of course, the solidarity depicted in Chrysler’s 2011 Superbowl ad was just an illusion; all advertisement is illusion. Still, it’s not easy to watch corporate fortunes rebound faster than civic fortunes.
Chrysler still has a long way to go to secure its future, but only its investors will be unhappy if progress doesn’t continue.
Corporations can (and do) fluctuate. Cities can’t afford to.
The fact that the Motor City is filing for Chapter 9 protection isn’t too surprising, but the fact that things were allowed to get this bad is.
Many factors contributed to Detroit’s decline: the globalization of the auto industry, a shrinking tax base, and corrupt city management. The result is a city that doesn’t just look like a post-apocalyptic wasteland, it is one.
Detroit has become a city fit for the Road Warrior. Hundreds of buildings are abandoned, authorities can’t even afford to keep all of the streetlights on, and a major international border crossing is owned by some random guy.
How did people let things get this bad? When the photos of eerily abandoned buildings started showing up online, why was no one motivated to do anything? When reports showed that Detroit citizens were waiting almost an hour for police to respond to 911 calls, why was no one shocked that something like this was happening in the United States of America?
Of course, people have thought about it. There have been so many urban renewal projects proposed for Detroit that Popular Mechanics once collected them into a lengthy cover story. Titled “Detroit 2025” it proposed redeveloping the city around its waterfront and building an epic curved bridge to Canada.
However, like most things featured in Popular Mechanics, none of this is anywhere near happening. That would require motivation and money, two things Detroit, and the rest of the country, is short on.
Instead, Detroit is down to weighing the costs and benefits of more basic things, like it’s employees’ pensions.
Saving a city isn’t easy, but it’s still surreal that the story of Detroit is an American story. Who could imagine a city in this great country being reduced to sacrificing basic services, and the contract it made with its employees, just to put together some cash?
This scenario doesn’t require imagination anymore. Maybe it’s finally time for someone to do something.