Other than the cowboy, there may not be a symbol
that more powerfully evokes the American ideals of autonomy and
individualism than the automobile. Those icons came together at
halftime during the Super Bowl, when Chrysler aired an ad
featuring Clint Eastwood. Before delving further into the ad,
its fallout and what it says about the short-term fortunes of
the automotive metals sector, some context is needed.
What became the auto bailout began in September
2008 with $25 billion in loans from a bipartisan Congress and
then spread into a roughly $80-billion investment started by
President Bush in December 2008 and completed by President
Obama in 2009. We all know the results: Chrysler and General
Motors are back on their feet, profitable and successful;
millions of jobs were saved; and the rescue of the auto sector
greatly helped steel, aluminum and other metal sectors.
Here is where Eastwood and the ad come in, a TV
spot that still has some people upset. What caused all the
fuss? Well, in part, this: The people of Detroit . . .
almost lost everything. But we all pulled together, now Motor
City is fighting again, Eastwood said in the ad. We
all rallied around what was right, and acted as one. Because
thats what we do. We find a way through tough times, and
if we cant find a way then well make one. All that
matters now is whats ahead. How do we come from behind?
How do we come together. And how do we win? Detroits
showing us it can be done. And whats true about them is
true about all of us.
This sounds like good old non-partisan American
optimism and resilience, right? Well some took the ad as a
ringing endorsement of the auto bailout and, by extension,
Obama. The auto bailout, even though bipartisan and successful,
still troubles many politicians and their supporters, who
openly say they would rather have let auto companies fail and
shut down than be saved by public intervention. This voices the
ultimate sacrifice of the general welfare on the altar of a
were all on our own ideology.
There may be many businesses that benefit from a
retrenchment into such an approach, but not the metals
industry. In this months issue, we focus on automotive
metals, galvanized products and scrap. The things that these
metals go into need commonality: roads, bridges, buildings,
When Eastwood spoke during that ad, he spoke of an
America that can still make good on its common promise. When we
as a nationwhether the private sector, the government or
some combination of the twoact upon the sentiments of the
Chrysler ad, jobs are created and the metals sector becomes
more profitable. To paraphrase Eastwoods defense of his
work in the ad, if steel or any other industry wants to run
with the spirit of that TV spot, Go for it.