Newcomers bring vitality, success to U.S. industry
Nobody much likes to be reminded that he owes a part of his success to somebody else.
Today, times are pretty good for the U.S. auto industry. It's a stark contrast to the bleak winter days of the early 1980s, when some U.S. automakers had an inferiority complex about their ability to compete in this market, let alone overseas.
Now, U.S. automakers have gone global. The Big 3's worldwide factories are entering a new century of efficiency and quality, and their suppliers are becoming marvels of performance.
While the automakers have generated some of this improvement from within, a good measure of it is derived from the New American Manufacturers - the factories built in the heartland by Japanese and German automakers.
An American industry executive who can't define kaizen today is a dinosaur.
A U.S. factory boss who isn't soliciting ideas from his workers had better take a night course.
And any corporate planner who still thinks that big inventories and wasted factory space don't get entangled in product quality simply hasn't been paying attention.
It has been a painful education for some. Certainly, the rise of new factory towns in Tennessee and Kentucky has followed the decay of factory towns in the old industrial North. Honda's U.S-designed, U.S.-built cars have sold well in an era when Chevrolet's market share has fallen.
But as audiences at last week's Automotive News Southeast Conference heard, the transplants have injected the U.S. industry with a new vitality. The South is rising with tough new competitors. More will no doubt come, beckoned by the world's biggest auto market.
The Big 3 once taunted foreign makers to build their cars in America in order to create a 'level playing field.' They did.
Now, with the U.S. industry singing out of a common lean-manufacturing hymnal, any newcomers will find this field as level as it gets.
With the sound and fury of a hurricane, Republic Industries revived its growth strategy for AutoNation USA by acquiring rival Driver's Mart.
The Driver's Mart acquisition also puts Republic in good position to build its new-car dealer group, perhaps buying some or all of the stores of the 14 retailers that formed Driver's Mart.
Hurricane season isn't over yet.