Dark Humor Man
In these trying times, sometimes I find myself not knowing whether to laugh or to cry. It is better to cry in private and I think it takes a whole lot more energy than laughing, so I usually choose the latter over the former. Besides, I love laughing. Even in times of distress there is a dark vein of humor to mine, and this time is not unlike any other in that respect… or when considering our favorite automaker, Chrysler Corporation, its rival General Motors, and the proposed mega merger disaster area they want to create.
So where is the laughter? Well, let’s consider some kit bashing for what those jokesters at Jalopnik are already calling “General Mopar”. The company could get a whole new, retro line of cars going with names like “Impalanet”, “Biscaynvedere”, “Camarracuda”, “Imperial de Ville”, “Charge-Am”, the “Novaliant”, “Monalectra”, “Furyalibu”, “Savrice”, “Bel Yorker”, and the “Darte Carlo”... America’s first, and favorite, personality crisis-mobile. I can see it now, right down to the holographic manufacturer badges that change from Dodge to Chevy and back again.
Now, here is the news that makes me laugh and cry at the same time: both automakers are not only proposing a merger, but they are asking the government for cash to make it happen. Damn, what I wouldn’t give for access to taxpayer cash to spend on my… Hey! Wait a minute. Do I see the ghost of 1979, when Chrysler, under the leadership of Lee Iacocca, asked the government for money to survive? Iacocca got the funds and made his fame by turning a sinking Chrysler around with dynamic leadership (read massive downsizing) and a gamble on an ugly new front wheel drive platform called the K-car that wound up selling like hot cakes.
Aside from the fact that the government is being asked for money, Chrysler’s situation in 1979 is a lot different from the one unfolding in 2008. What we have now are two industrial giants on their knees bleeding cash, and jobs. Both companies are burdened with product lines built on the assumption that cheap oil would last forever… to be fair GM is rushing to get its products more in line with reality but it looks like it might be too late. What GM needs now is cash, and Chrysler has 11 billion dollars in the vault. To get into that vault, GM is asking the government for another 5 to 10 billion to help the deal along. Instead of using the money to combine the companies, I say we use it to exhume some forward thinking industrialists of the past and recombine their DNA to make some sort of super CEO… somebody with ideas.
Hogtying these two companies together would be like chumming the water around shipwrecked sailors… the merger would be huge: 100 plants and 190,000 employees; not to mention repetitive product lines to combine and models to eliminate. The complexity of the venture makes string theory look like tying your shoes. These companies need to work on saving what is left of themselves instead of looking for a handout or spending inordinate amounts of brainpower on a merger. What is there to gain from such an exercise other than some fast cash and a sweetheart deal for Cerberus? Ohhhhhhhh, yeah, let’s not forget those poor hedge fund guys… they gotta eat too you know.
It is entirely possible that none of these merger shenanigans will bear fruit. If it does become reality, then the bloodletting will begin and most of what was once Chrysler will likely disappear. (Remember when Chrysler swallowed AMC?) It is estimated that upwards of 25,000 jobs will be lost in this deal. Working families will suffer yet again, and there isn’t a whole lot of humor to mine in that. Even if the merger never happens, Chrysler seems poised for a flying leap into some sort of oblivion where the Dodge Brothers and Walter P. Chrysler are shaking their heads in utter disbelief…
On the bright side, I have recently moved to downtown Oakland where I am enjoying life. Unfortunately, poor little “nono”, my intrepid ’64 Dart wagon was violated in the dark and silent night. Thieves cut my visual-deterrent-hood-chain and made off with my battery. It’s kind of a like a welcome wagon deal, except it’s a shopping cart ambling away with objects that you formerly owned, instead of a nice shiny basket of fruits and cookies presented to you at your door.
It has been awhile since this sort of bummer has happened to me. I will have to go full-on New York City-style circa 1979 with “nono”. I’m talking ¼-inch plate brackets welded on, with those big shiny “American” brand, bodega roll-up door, pad locks going through ‘em. But before I can get to that, I have to go buy my battery back.