In this decade, the auto industry has become increasingly global. There are no boundaries.
But the view of Americans, for the most part, has always been parochial. The automotive market starts in the United States and ends here.
DaimlerChrysler AG shatters that myth.
Auto workers, consumers, reporters and Wall Street, too, must now get comfortable with the new order.
GM and Ford are still on top, but in today's fast-moving global economy, that is not written in stone.
In fact, if Ford Motor Co. and General Motors fail to firmly establish themselves in emerging markets, they will cease to be industry leaders.
We also must get comfortable with what this amiable takeover of Chrysler Corp. by Daimler-Benz AG does to the U.S. market.
The domestics will still lead the U.S. market in volume, but barely.
Subtract Chrysler's total from the 1997 U.S. light-vehicle sales and the domestics' share of the market drops from 71.5 percent to 56.3 percent.
Meanwhile, European manufacturers' share of this market jumps from 3.9 percent to 19.1 percent.
What is more, the Europeans laid no brick and mortar to get that increase.
Meanwhile, the Japanese automakers have increased their production capacity in North America throughout this decade.
When Japanese manufacturers were beating the pants off of the Big 3, then Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca would howl that it was outrageous. 'We invented this industry,' he would say.
Love him or hate him, Iacocca was right about that.
There is no doubt that in the short run this deal is good for automakers, their workers, stockholders and maybe even consumers.
The deal gives Daimler-Chrysler a better base from which to enter emerging markets. And expansion produces more jobs and better products.
But lest we forget, it was American entrepreneurs who built the modern, mass-production automotive industry and dominated it for the better part of a century.
It was a good run, but the global auto industry no longer revolves around U.S. manufacturers.
Frank S. Washington welcomes comments. Call him at (313) 446-0374 or send e-mail to [email protected]