Will any of the recent car-nut postings on the Internet prove to be correct?
Are some superpatriotic motorists so upset about the merger of Daimler-Benz AG and Chrysler Corp. that they'll trade for a Ford or a Chevy? I'm afraid so in a few cases, but I expect they'll adjust to the new international reality very quickly.
Why? Because change is the great constant of the automobile business.
When our victorious armed forces came home from World War II, every veteran wanted to buy a car. I know; I was there. In 1946, my Dad expanded his prewar gas station into a car dealership. The only inexpensive franchise around was Hudson, so that's what he sold.
In the 1950s - like now - consolidation was the path to survival in the automotive wilderness. American Motors was born by the merger of Nash and Hudson. Amazingly, we dealers sold millions of compact Ramblers under the inspirational spell of George Romney.
The smartest thing AMC ever did was purchase Jeep from the old Kaiser-Frazer company. The dumbest thing, surely, was choosing Renault, the company owned by the French government, as its European partner in 1978. It was an error that went unrectified until Chrysler acquired AMC and Jeep in 1987.
Renault's insular business culture rivaled the Big 3's wishful belief that the U.S. sales success of German and Japanese cars was just a passing fad. Detroit earned its reputation as the home of NIH - not invented here - thinking. Ideas from outside were unwelcome. But two energy crises in the 1970s changed that and drove home many costly lessons.
'Quality 101' concluded that quality is management's responsibility. For decades, factory executives blamed poor quality on their own UAW workers.
All drivers of a certain age remember the advice that you should never buy a car built on Friday or Monday because the workers, supposedly, were either absent or hung over. There was no easy way to find out, so buyers switched to makes that weren't plagued by such quality-killing rumors.
The result: We made our world competitors rich. Half of America's megabillion-dollar trade deficit with Japan is still caused by imported cars and trucks.
Obviously, causing or curing those mistakes was well above the level of franchised dealers, except for one instance: The loan guarantees the U.S. government gave Chrysler in 1980.
Chrysler turned to its dealers in an effort to persuade both the public and Congress. Factory mail begged dealers and their employees and suppliers to campaign by telephone, letter and telegram for a favorable vote on the loan guarantees. Talking points were 'saving a half-million American jobs' and 'Chrysler has received no offers to merge with any company, domestic or foreign.'
As was well reported at that time, Chrysler dealers worked hard, and loan guarantees were approved.
The unions gave wage concessions and - thanks to the K cars, minivans and a fine pitchman named Iacocca - the guaranteed loans were repaid years early. The stiff terms of the guarantees also resulted in a $150 million profit for the taxpayers.
History reminds us that no auto company can sit still for long. General Motors owned 46 to 50 per-cent of the U.S. market in the 1960s. It offered big rebates when its share dropped to 28.6 percent last February. The consumer won again, because Ford and Chrysler quickly matched the rebates.
As a dealer, I watched too many companies with fine products fail because they did not or could not move fast enough to satisfy market demands. Automakers of the 21st century must offer fuel-efficient, well-made, safe non-polluting vehicles in a myriad of configurations and chic body styles to satisfy customers around the world.
Chrysler owners can relax. DaimlerChrysler will prosper because it's now big enough to compete here and everywhere else, too.
All together, now ... Wunderbar!