So, President Obama has been in office for 12 months, and the great global slowdown is over a year old. Newspapers and city analysts are on their knees looking for the green shoots of recovery.
What does the US domestic car industry look like? Well, it now seems – barring a last-minute disaster – that GM will buy 90 percent of Chrysler.
Even so, by January 2010 GM-Chrysler will certainly still be in intensive care. That won't be a joke for the thousands of workers in the US who are currently staring out of the window, wondering if they will be swept away in the great auto-restructuring of 2009.
With 11 brands and much more capacity than it needs, GM-Chrysler will have the almost unimaginably complex job of closing factories, axing whole model lines and deciding which Chrysler-era models should survive for a new life as part of the GM global platform strategy.
The Viper brand and factory, for example, are already on the sales block, but the logic behind axing a brand like Dodge is much trickier.
One advantage of folding the Chrysler models into the GM family is that factories will run closer to full capacity, putting profitability much nearer.
Thinning out today’s Chrysler – which was recently shifting 2.3 million cars annually – will be a very delicate task. The axe needs to be wielded far enough to stop the financial rot, but not so extensively that any potential economies of scale cannot be realized.
It’s not a job that I would like.