Things You Auto Know

Letter from the Editor

It’s show time, Detroit! The North American International Auto Show is our annual chance for worldwide attention (beyond bankruptcy headlines). And one of the show’s stars might not be on wheels.

The press descends on Cobo Center — in the midst of a massive $279 million renovation — on Jan. 13. The charity preview (featuring Sheryl Crow) is Jan. 17, and the public show runs Jan. 18-26.

We asked Joe Lapointe to check out the new Cobo (page 82). He writes: “Some of the visitors may be pleasantly surprised by what they see. Others may be stunned.”

Autos continue to impact metro Detroit. But as Sheryl James reports (page 86), Henry Ford’s $5-a-day wage announcement 100 years ago this month stunned the world. It not only transformed Detroit, with people flocking from all over to land a job — but it also changed life for ordinary working people and gave birth to the middle class.

Changing our corner of the world is the theme of an article by Hour Copy Editor Dorothy Hernandez. Despite our financial troubles, there’s a multifaceted food movement taking root around Detroit (page 45).

When Hernandez first proposed the article, she lent me The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee’s, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table, by Tracie McMillan, a Michigan native who was partly based in Detroit while working on the book. The book (Hernandez is a contributing researcher) focuses on why it’s so difficult to eat well in America. Some of the statistics were mindboggling. The entire cost of growing an apple accounts for 16 percent of the retail price. If you increased farm wages by 40 percent, the average American family’s produce bill would only go up about $16 a year!

Near the end of her stunning book, McMillan relates today’s food distribution problems to Henry Ford’s $5-a-day announcement:

Ford was a capitalist, not a good Samaritan, yet his strategy contained a thread of brilliance … He made it easy for most Americans to buy his products. … his success hinged on appealing to the struggling workers of America. Anyone serious about changing anything about the American way of eating — whether it’s the way we grow our food, how we sell it, or how we eat it — will need to figure out how to do the same. 

Speaking of change, this is the perfect time of year to reset your goals. Associate Editor Casey Nesterowich took on a few exercise regimens (page 33) to find out what’s fun — and functional — if you’re looking to perk up your routine.

As for other New Year’s resolutions? I have some things to work on, but another item I read piqued my interest: The author of a book called Bankable Leadership claims we actually get “stoopider” when we work too much (which explains a lot). A five-year study of British civil servants found those who worked 55 hours per week showed poorer vocabulary and reasoning compared to those who worked 40 hours per week.

So, fewer hours, more breaks, and an occasional vacation might make me more productive? I’m all in!