The parable of the three not-so-wise men of Detroit

Published: 24 December 2008

And it came to pass in Detroit at that time that three not especially wise men set out on a long journey to find the lost city of Washington DC, wherein lay great riches. Or so they thought. Braving the not particularly nice weather and accompanied only by 50-strong retinues and some burly security guards with those curly wires sticking out of their ears, they boarded their Jetstreams and began their quest.

The three not especially wise men had for many years been following the progress of a star in the east, which the ancient books told them was called ‘the Japanese car industry’. But alas the men were foolish, and shunned the teachings of these eastern interlopers, branding them new-fangled. The three continued instead to ply their age-old trade, peddling pick-up trucks to people with red necks, quite crappy ‘sedans’ to ordinary folk with picket fences and insanely bling Cadillacs to drug dealers and senators.

Understandably, God was not best pleased with the not especially wise men, although he had to concede that with hindsight He should have endowed them with a bit more wisdom instead of six million dollars a year. Either way, it came to pass that God had to give them a bit of a kick in the pants.

The undoing of the three wise men

And verily He made a hole in the ozone layer, followed by an even bigger hole in the sub-prime mortgage market, both of which made the not especially wise men look, frankly, a bit vulnerable. And they were sore afraid. But not quite afraid enough to do anything about it.

And it came to pass around that time that the star in the east got brighter, and those that walked in the valley of darkness (for Detroit is indeed a sh*thole at the best of times) noticed the bright light and began buying Toyotas in great numbers. At which the three not especially wise men got really twitchy, and began blaming the unions.

And lo, with heavy hearts they landed their Jetstreams at Dulles International Airport and were taken to see the moneylenders in the house of the senate, where they prostrated themselves and begged for mercy. And $34 billion in cash.

And the wise men of the senate spake unto the not especially wise men, saying: ‘No way, Jose. You got yourself into this mess, you get yourself out of it.’ And the men left empty-handed.

And the moral shall be known and resound forever: let not he who has built rubbish cars expect charity from the rest of us. It’s just not on.

Chapter 12

Then it came to pass that Pontius Bush, being in his way demob happy, raided the White House pretzel jar and found $14bn in quarters and dimes, which he offered to two of the not especially wise men (the other having thought better of it). But there was not much rejoicing, at least not from the unions, who were damned if they were going to take a pay cut for anybody, even if eternal strife were the alternative.

What’s more, around the same time, the star in the east that was called Toyota did post a worst-ever  loss of $1bn. And in Detroit there was much rejoicing.

Here endeth the lesson. Praise be to Porsche.

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By Greg Fountain

CAR's former managing editor, editor, caption chiseller, noticer of ironies