The Detroit Auto Industry

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Detroit, MI – Auto Industry


Building the Detroit Auto Industry

The first automobile was made in the independent city of Highland Park which is surrounded by Detroit. Henry Ford was the man responsible for the innovations that were soon copied by rivals such as General Motors, Chrysler, and American Motors. Each company established their headquarters within the Detroit area making it the car capital of the world.

The auto industry has had positive and negative impacts on the city of Detroit. What was once referred to as the Paris of the Midwest quickly changed image. What used to be a posh city lined with shady lanes became lined with grain silos and manufacturing plants. The auto industry led to a large increase in industrial production within the city as well as a demand for jobs. The workforce demand led to a large number of immigrants setting in Detroit.

The 1930s brought a different trend to the auto industry. Violent strikes and bitter tension between the United Auto Workers and the manufacturers began to arise. The attention brought to union leaders such as Jimmy Hoffa and Walter Reuther remains a key feature in Detroit’s political and cultural nature.

Detroit Automobile Industry During War

After the United States entered World War II, the apex city for auto production became the leading producer of war machines. From 1942-1945, production of commercial automobiles stopped completely and the factories were used to make M5 tanks, jeeps, and B-24 bombers for the allied forces. The Ford motor plant managed to produce one B-24 an hour at a peak of 600 per month. This mass production of bombers shifted the tide of the war and earned the city of Detroit the nickname “The Arsenal of Democracy”.

Urban issues resulted in a mass migration from the metropolitan area to the surrounding Detroit suburbs and many auto manufacturing plants also moved out of the city itself. The economy of Detroit continued to decline up until the 1990s when other industries such as the casino industry moved into the downtown area. Tourism became a major goal of Detroit officials as the auto industry continued to decline.

Recent economic downturn has resulted in two of the three major Detroit auto producers (Chrysler, General Motors) to be faced with declaring bankruptcy. A slow transition into greener business practices and bad corporate structure has put the Detroit area auto industry in quite a bind. Now the question is whether or not they will receive a corporate bailout or has to bite the bullet of chapter 11 bankruptcy. The auto industry has been the backbone of Detroit since the dawn of the industrial age, but will need to change its structure in order to compete in a world more intent on environmental protection.

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