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29 Part 1 Detroit: Heart of the Auto Industry To assert that Detroit and the auto industry have long been synonymous may seem either unnecessary or anachronistic. For most of the twentieth century , the city’s central position in the auto industry was so obvious as to need no elucidation. As recently as the mid-twentieth century, two-thirds of the nation’s auto industry jobs were in Michigan. Detroit’s preeminence in the auto industry derived from the emergence of the Big 3 carmakers. The clustering of Big 3 management and technical operations contributed heavily to the Detroit area’s auto employment during the twentieth century, and they continue to do so in the twenty-first century. However, the preponderance of Michigan’s Big 3 auto jobs historically was actually in parts-making facilities. In the mid-twentieth century, the Big 3 assembled most of their vehicles outside Michigan, but they made nearly all of their parts inside Michigan. Since the late twentieth century, the declining fortunes of the Big 3 have caused declining fortunes for Detroit. Michigan’s job loss in the auto industry in the early twenty-first century averaged 6 percent per year. Having lost their status as the three largest carmakers, the Big 3 are now being referred to as the Detroit 3, even more closely linking a struggling city with the struggling companies. Derelict factories and empty office towers gave mute testimony to the collapse of Detroit’s auto industry. “Detroit’s long reign as the dominant force in the American car industry is over,” proclaimed auto analyst Micheline Maynard on the first page of her 2003 book, and just to make sure, she repeated on the second page, “Detroit’s single-handed control of the American automobile industry has been lost forever ” (Maynard 2003). Although its auto employment has declined sharply, Michigan remains the leading parts-making state. This section discusses how the Detroit 3 parts-making operations came to be clustered in that state. It then examines the three leading types of parts made in Michigan: engines, bodies, and “bin” or generic parts. ...


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