I have been around this business for 54 years as a reporter and editor at Automotive News, and I have never seen anything even approaching today's problems.
We can go back even further. My father was a Fisher Body executive when I was born in 1925 (he retired in 1953). The auto business was our life, especially General Motors' share of the business. Fisher Body became part of GM in 1926.
Mother and Dad's friends were auto people. When they were together, they talked about "the business." I guess some of it rubbed off on the little kid playing in the background.
The Great Depression was a troubled time. But it was "Happy Days Are Here Again" compared with today.
A personal memory: Somehow or other Dad managed to save $2,500 from the 1929 collapse of the stock market. He thought of putting it into GM stock when the price fell below $3 a share. But he didn't. He figured that money might be needed for food or rent down the line.
My point is that in the early 1930s, Dad and others had confidence — enough confidence to consider putting the family's nest egg into an auto stock. They were sure the nation's economy would rebound. They had no doubt that the Depression was no more than a temporary glitch in the upward path of the automobile.
I don't find that 1930s confidence today. Now auto people are scared. Those who have lost their jobs are scared of the future. Those who are still working are scared of the bad news that tomorrow may bring.
The auto business is like no other line of activity. It's a business of swells and swoons. Boom today, bust tomorrow. Why? Because it deals with a highly desirable yet highly postponable purchase.
There was a recession in 1920 that pushed founder Billy Durant out of GM for the second and final time. Ten years later came the Depression.