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229 10 Abandoning Ohio: A Tale of Two Cities It appears likely that the center of the country’s automotive production will remain near Toledo, and that a considerable portion of the community’s industrial function will continue to follow the trends of this industry (Ballert 1947) . Ohio has long been the second-leading motor vehicle production state behind Michigan. The state has accounted for about 15 percent of total U.S. motor vehicle employment, parts plants, and final assembly plants. Unlike its Great Lakes neighbor to the north, Ohio increased (at least slightly) its share of the national totals during the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Ohio’s second-place position has partly been a legacy of Detroit 3 investment. As discussed in Part 1 of the book, the Detroit 3 built numerous powertrain and stamping facilities in Ohio, especially after World War II. Despite cutbacks and closures, the Detroit 3 combined still directly employed 42,298 in 22 Ohio facilities in 2006 (Ohio Department of Development Office of Strategic Research 2006). The Detroit 3 decline has been largely offset in Ohio by growth in Japanese-owned production facilities. Honda of America employed 12,200 at its two assembly plants and three powertrain plants in Ohio in 2006 and another 3,174 at seven joint ventures with Japanese parts makers. The Ohio Department of Development identified another 55 Japanese-owned motor vehicle firms that together employed 22,785 in the state in 2006 (Ohio Department of Development Office of Strategic Research 2006). Ohio’s initial ascendancy in motor vehicle production came prior to the emergence of the Detroit 3, let alone Japanese carmakers. During the 1890s, the state had its share of pioneer carmakers, such as Alexander Winton, Henry Joy, and William Packard. Had venture capital been as readily available in Ohio in 1900 as it was in Detroit, Cleveland or 230 Klier and Rubenstein Cincinnati could have emerged as the center of automotive production (Rubenstein 1992, p. 41; Smith 1970, p. 31; Wager 1975, p. xiii). Instead, Ohio became the center for production of two key parts: tires and glass. U.S. tire production concentrated in the northeastern Ohio city of Akron and glass in the northwestern city of Toledo. Just as Detroit became known as Motor City, Akron became Rubber City and Toledo became Glass City. Tires and glass have shared similar positions in the auto industry: • They are the two largest and most visible parts not made of metal. • Applications and key technology breakthroughs predated the auto industry. • Tires and glass are relatively self-contained and freestanding portions of the vehicle and are less integrated with other parts. • They have been regarded by carmakers as not essential to their core competency. • They have consistently been outsourced to independent suppliers , even at the height of vertical integration (with the exception of Ford, which once made glass). The U.S. motor vehicle industry continues to depend on U.S.-made tires and glass in the twenty-first century. Neither of these large, bulky, low value-added parts is amenable to overseas outsourcing. But few tire and glass facilities remain in Ohio. As with Detroit, heavy dependence on one industry left both Akron and Toledo vulnerable to global shifts, especially globalization of ownership. RISE AND FALL OF RUBBER CITY Tire manufacturers may be the best-known suppliers among the broader public. Alone among suppliers, the tire maker emblazons its name in four places on the exterior of the vehicle, often in much bolder lettering than the name of the vehicle itself. Because of heavy advertising , the Michelin Man and the Goodyear Blimp are familiar icons even to people with no interest in motor vehicles. Abandoning Ohio: A Tale of Two Cities 231 Consumers typically purchase new sets of tires several times during the lives of their motor vehicles and replace flat ones periodically (although much less frequently than in the past). Above all, the purpose of the round rubber tire is understandable to even the most mechanically challenged individuals who have no comprehension of how the rest of a motor vehicle operates. Hundreds of companies made tires in the United States during the 1910s and 1920s. As the tire became a low-cost, high-quality, long-lasting commodity, with little differentiation among competitors, suppliers succumbed to global consolidation during the late twentieth century. In the early twenty-first century, two-thirds of the world’s original equipment tires were supplied by just four firms: Bridgestone/Firestone Inc...


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