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This is What We Do

July 30, 2011 Leave a comment

The video above is the Chrysler ad from the Super Bowl half a year ago. I used it in a post at the time. The blog title is from the ad’s final line, in which Eminem points at the camera and says, “This is Motor City [pause] and this is what we do.”

Why the rerun? Because it’s such an astonishingly good ad, and because I was just reading about it in James B. Stewart’s Saturday business column in today’s NYT. Stewart’s theme is Chrysler’s turnaround under Fiat ownership since the federal bailout.

In what surely ranks as one of the most remarkable turnarounds in the annals of American business history, this week Chrysler reported adjusted net income of $181 million and a 30 percent rise in revenue, to $13.7 billion, even in a still-soft global car market. Its June sales jumped 30 percent from the previous year, its 15th consecutive month of increases. Its market share has grown to 10.6 percent, from under 6 percent. Chrysler repaid its outstanding government loans in May, six years ahead of schedule, and last week Fiat paid $500 million for the Treasury’s remaining 6 percent stake in the company. The American government has recouped $11.2 billion of its $12.5 billion investment in Chrysler, and would probably have made a profit had it held the debt to maturity. Meanwhile, Chrysler employs 56,000 people and has added 9,000 jobs since the bailout.

Not bad.

Stewart focuses in his column on the experiences of a Chrysler dealer in suburban Philadelphia, David Kelleher. This leads to a moving scene, the context being the decision to revamp the awful Chrysler Sebring, and to rename it the Chrysler 200.

[Fiat and Chrysler CEO Sergio] Marchionne made the bold but controversial decision, criticized by some Republicans in Congress, to spend $2 million for a commercial in January’s Super Bowl.

The day of the game, Mr. Kelleher was attending a dealer convention in St. Louis, where dealers were clamoring for a glimpse of the ad. Chrysler leadership finally agreed on condition of confidentiality. A few hours before kickoff, the dealers watched as a camera panned through the industrial ruins of Detroit to the ominous pulse of “Lose Yourself” by the rapper and native son, Eminem.

“What does this city know about luxury?” a narrator asked. “What does a town that’s been to hell and back know about the finer things in life? Well, I’ll tell you: More than most.” The images shifted to a statue of the boxer, Joe Louis, Diego Rivera’s lush Detroit Industry mural, mansions from Detroit’s heyday. “It’s the hottest fires that make the hardest steel,” the narrator continued. “Add hard work and conviction and the know-how that runs generations deep in every last one of us. That’s who we are. That’s our story.” Images flashed by celebrating Detroit and its people, with barely a glimpse of the new 200. Finally Eminem emerged from behind the wheel and walked into the beautifully renovated Fox Theater to the uplifting strains of a gospel choir onstage. At the end, letters appeared over the dark screen: “The Chrysler 200 has arrived. Imported from Detroit.”

“I was stunned,” Mr. Kelleher recalled. “I looked around. The room was silent. Some people were crying. Then the applause started and just rolled through the auditorium and kept on going. We felt a rebirth.” Mr. Kelleher immediately e-mailed his chief salesman. “Get on the computer right now and order 40 200s.”

Watch the ad yourself. See if you don’t cry too.

Categories: Automobiles, Video

Friend of Muslim Americans

July 30, 2011 Leave a comment

On Wednesday, Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain apologized for comments he made two weeks earlier in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, in which he described the construction of a mosque there “an infringement and abuse of our freedom of religion. … This is another way to sneak Shariah law into our laws, and I absolutely object to that.”

Cain explained in his apology that

While I stand by my opposition to the interference of Shariah law into the American legal system, I remain humble and contrite for any statements I have made that might have caused offense to Muslim Americans and their friends. I am truly sorry for comments that may have betrayed my commitment to the U.S. Constitution and the freedom of religion guaranteed by it. Muslims, like all Americans, have the right to practice their faith freely and peacefully.

When I read this, I thought it one of the more stunning examples I’ve seen of a non-apology apology. I described it to Joel, noting the part that particularly bugged me. He confirmed my suspicion that there may be little point dwelling on the doings of nut jobs. But the apology is still on my mind, so I’ll dwell nonetheless.

Here’s the thing. I’ve become accustomed to the standard celebrity apology addressed to “those I may have offended,” the kind that hints that if you’re offended, maybe it’s your problem. You know — nothing was done wrong here, at least not by me. Maybe you shouldn’t be so sensitive. But here’s your apology anyway.

Cain’s apology is in that family. There he is speaking of statements that “might have caused offense to Muslim Americans.” It’s his next phrase, though, that stunned me: “and their friends.”

Cain is apologizing to friends of Muslim Americans? This is so maddeningly bizarre. What qualifies one to be a friend of Muslim Americans? What must one do? Or look like? What if I’m offended simply because what Cain said is, by any objective measure, offensive? Cain even suggests why this might be the case in his next sentence, in which he admits to betraying his “commitment to the U.S. Constitution and the freedom of religion guaranteed by it.” That’s what offends me. That’s why I would welcome an apology.

Can only declared Muslim Americans and their friends receive this apology? Can’t I just be a US citizen, one who believes in the constitution and the rights it guarantees?

Well, so be it. I will join the Friends of Muslim Americans. How do I sign up?

Categories: Politics, Religion