Made In USA

Friday, March 19, 2010

What's In a Name?

When the French were settling in North America, one French adventurer staked a claim in what is now Detroit, Michigan dubbing it Ville d’etroit. His name was Le Sieur Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac. Some two hundred years later an engineer and gear grinder named Henry Martyn Leland bought into the failing Henry Ford Company (formerly Detroit Automobile Company) renaming it Cadillac, after the French settler. The Frenchman’s family crest was adopted as the symbol for the reorganized automaker.

Leland was known for his aptitude for precision and his interchangeable gear systems that he perfected while making transmissions for the Olds Gasoline Engine Works. He brought that innovation and attention to detail to Cadillac earning the company the coveted Dewar Trophy award for the standardization of automobile parts. Continuing the innovative trend, Cadillac became the first production automobile with a push button start rather than a hand crank. This opened the way for more women to become regular drivers. Cadillac soon drew the attention of William Durant, the founder of General Motors and was purchased for $4.5 million. Leland eventually left the company to form the Lincoln Motor Company.

Cadillac continued as a pioneer in the industry introducing the first V type water cooled 8 cylinder engine to be mass produced in 1915. By the 1920’s Cadillac was offering over 500 color combinations vs the competitions single shade of Black. Stylist Henry Earl was recruited to design the 1927 LaSalle convertible coupe. The result was elegant, flowing lines, chrome-plating and a comprehensive design philosophy that made the name Cadillac synonymous with beauty and luxury.

At the end of WWII designer Harley Earl changed the profile of American cars with the introduction of the tail fin thereby making it an integral part of American auto styling for the next 20 years. Over the years that followed the designers and engineers at Cadillac introduced the V-12 and V-10 engines, the sunroof, standard power steering, thermostatic air conditioning, electric seat warmers, air bags, electronic fuel injection… the list goes on and on.

When I was a kid the name Cadillac was kicked around to mean the best of its kind. Eg: The Cadillac of (fill in the blank). Today Cadillac continues to be the mark of precision engineering, excellence and luxurious style. With that kind of history and track record, you can’t help but wonder what they will come up with next.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Made In U.S.A.

I cannot escape the notion that Americanism is adrift in a swamp of quicksand. Its legs weighted, its movements labored, measured and consequential. Now don’t get all freaked out, I’m not talking about building a red white and blue wall around the Nation’s border or any other fascist ideal. I’m referring to the lost pride in ownership that we once had in this nation that seems to have yielded to an overwhelming tone of self-indulgence.

Community and I’ll say it again Americanism seems to be racing up the endangered species list fast on the heels of Company Loyalty, original television programming and captive wild animal shows. As a nation it seems we are chipping away at our long fought for and long cultivated identity.

We are a nation built by pioneers of creative thought and adventurous trail-blazers. Not forsaking Democracy, the American spirit is embodied in the marriage of Capitalism and philanthropy. It is personified by men like John Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Eleanor Roosevelt and by characters like Forest Gump, Rocky Balboa and George Bailey. America is the place where hard work was not only rewarded but lauded. That hard work bestowed a sense of pride and a knowing that we were an important and integral part in something larger than ourselves.

The boon of the 80’s that survived until the current economic crash set the tone for the rebirth of the “Me first” generation. The late 80’s saw everyone jumping on the “I’m gonna get mine” bandwagon that recently gave way to the “Holy Shit, how can I keep mine” generation. Which coincidentally is the same generation as the first only with a giant slap in the face from the hand of reality.

As a result we (from the industry leaders on down to the consumers) have taken an opportunistic shortsighted approach to stabilizing our individual economies. Companies do this by outsourcing for cheaper labor and materials. Individuals contribute to the mess by only measuring the cost of foreign goods against domestic counterparts at the point of sale. The workforce has adopted a do only what is necessary and no more practice. The long term repercussion and cost to the overall economic health and growth of our nation be damned, “Is it 5 o’clock yet? and I need affordable tires.”

All of this leads me to my point and the genesis of this rant. I ask you:

  • “Would it truly hurt you to pay an extra percentage or so to keep another US tax payer working?”
  • “What is the true cost of an imported good when factoring in the human cost of foreign slave labor?”
  • “What are the ecological costs of shipping goods across the globe?”
  • “How many earned dollars will you have to forfeit to support a nation of unemployed factory workers?”
  • “How long before your job is outsourced to “Region 10” (code for India)?”
  • “Are you comfortable knowing that the cheaper auto part installed in your car may fail you and cost you more than money could ever buy?”
  • “Can’t we as Americans rise up and out-engineer, out-manufacture, and out-work any of our competitors?”

I’m just sayin’