The message popped up on Albert Lagoes laptop last week. Is anybody interested in showing company support Sunday at the first press day for the Detroit auto show?
I instantly said yes and Im glad I did, said Lagoe. They closed it down in just a few minutes because they got the 600 they needed. A lot of co-workers were real disappointed they didnt get in on it.
Today, Lagoe and his son Chris were two of the General Motors employees and supporters making noise to pump up GMs press conference, waving Here to stay signs and chanting A hundred more years. The Lagoes and the rest of the 600 volunteers arrived at Cobo Center before dawn on a day of heavy snow.
Their surprise motivational speaker? CEO Rick Wagoner.
It worked. In 30 years of auto shows -- Paris, Frankfurt, Chicago, Geneva, Los Angeles, Amsterdam -- Ive never seen employees as organized cheerleaders.
But why not?
The message is clear
Because Detroit is on trial. And its a capital case.
Yes, GM and Chrysler got interim U.S. loans to keep the doors open a couple of months. But even the auto industrys friends in Washington told Chrysler and GM to prove they can survive and thrive before asking for another round of loans.
The message is crystal clear: Justify your existence. Prove you are worth saving.
So Detroiters are defending their lives.
Today, the brass at the Detroit 3 came out swinging. Each offered lots of hybrids, fuel-efficient small cars and new technology. And some attitude.
GM has made tremendous progress, said Wagoner.
Chryslers warranty costs are the lowest in the companys history, said co-President Jim Press.
Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mulally said every Ford on sale stands on its merits of quality, fuel efficiency, safety and smart technologies. And he challenged doubters to take a test drive.
No apologies, no excuses, Mulally said. Just drive one.
Behind the words: People
But behind the bravado of the brass are the hundreds of thousands of auto workers who have to make good on their words -- many Detroiters by geography, others Detroiters by profession and choice.
They are men and women much like Lagoe, who joined GM as a dealer service manager 37 years ago in Syracuse, N.Y., and has lived in suburban Detroit since 1977.
There are fewer of them than in the 1960s, when Detroit was on top. Fewer because automation has reduced line workers and because better global competition has whittled away U.S. automakers share of their home market.
Detroits challenge is daunting.
But Detroiters are not easily daunted. They are a resilient bunch. Even when the news has been pretty dismal for months.
Lagoe is just happy he can do something beyond his normal job in distribution. After the GM event today, he and son Chris hung around a Chevrolet Equinox, which Chris is considering buying. The elder Lagoe cracked a shy smile. It was really exciting to see so much enthusiasm.