When most of us think of Detroit, we think of its historic nickname: Motor City. There’s over a century of automotive history behind that nickname – automotive history that fostered the American dream and the expanding world of capitalism.
The 20th century saw the rise and gradual decline of one of America’s greatest powerhouse industries. This once-booming staple fell into a deep period of misfortune during the 2008 recession, but it’s finally on the upswing.
CJ Pony Parts took the time to assemble the life, death and rebirth of Motor City in an infographic. Read on for the comeback story.
A Time of Crisis
For a while, Motor City looked like it would disappear forever. Americans started to buy more fuel-efficient cars to combat the oil crisis in 1973. The industry declined again in 1979, which would mark the beginning of a 10-year decline. By the end of 1989, 105,000 industry jobs were lost. Throughout the 1980s, Japan had an increasing role in car production due to the demand for cheap cars with good mileage.
In 1991, GM lost a record $4.45 billion. At the end of the decade, GM workers went on strike in Flint, MI, which resulted in a temporary shutdown of all North American plants.
Throughout the 2000s, the automotive industry took multiple direct blows. In 2007, Chrysler cut 25,000 jobs. Ford posted its worst year in history, with a $12.6 billion loss in 2006. Although GM and Chrysler were bailed out by the Bush administration in 2008, they declared bankruptcy in 2009. In 2013, the city of Detroit followed suit, filing the largest municipal bankruptcy in history.
After a nightmarish 17 months, Motor City emerged from bankruptcy. The city has been plagued with crises that span a century, but the citizens of Detroit are making efforts to rebuild it. There are several new industries in Detroit (besides the auto industry) that are on the rise.
Thanks to various startups and the addition of these new industries, Motor City is shifting from a “muscle economy” to a “brain economy.”
Here’s a quick list of what’s buzzing in Detroit right now:
- Sports. Yes, Detroit still has sports teams. The Pistons, Lions, and Redwings have been playing well.
- Art. Detroit hosts Free Art Fridays, designed to promote creativity throughout the city. It’s a free scavenger hunt for art fanatics. Graffiti is abound, reflecting Motor City Pride. Plus, young artists are moving to Detroit due to its cheap rent.
- Real estate. The young and hip are moving in due to the low rent, but full-size houses are available that only cost a few thousand dollars. At one point in 2014, Detroit was auctioning off homes for as low as $1,000.
- Pride. People who live in Detroit take it upon themselves to support their hometown with everything they have. Buying locally made products is a common way for locals to support the city.
- Cars. The industry that earned Motor City its nickname is finally returning. In 2014, U.S. automakers sold the most units since 2006 – 16.5 million cars and trucks. GM, Ford and Chrysler, companies that were all bankrupt during the recession, are now earning profits.
In early 2015, President Obama hailed the industry’s resurgence from bankruptcy. “The auto industry has proved that any comeback is possible. And by the way so has Motor City,” he said.
It wasn’t all that different from what he said of the industry in 2009 when the government gave GM and Chrysler emergency loans: “Now this is the heartbeat of American manufacturing. Right here. And it was flat-lining.”
It was indeed flat-lining, but Detroit is coming full circle and becoming well rounded, fueling the motor of Motor City.