Blind Spot: The Chattanooga Two-Step

A worker at VW's Chattanooga plant answers questions from the author during a plant tour in 2011.

A worker at VW’s Chattanooga plant answers questions from the author during a plant tour in 2011.

 

When United Auto Workers President Bob King staked the future of his union on a campaign to organize a transplant auto factory, the desperation was palpable. Decades of membership decline culminating  in the drama of GM and Chrysler’s bankruptcy-bailout had left the UAW reeling. Few observers gave the union, which hadn’t organized a transplant auto factory in the US  since 1978, much chance of success.

Now the UAW stands at the brink of a historical act of redemption, having all but claimed victory in the drive to organize Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, TN plant. While we wait to see whether that claim holds up, it’s worth examining a few intriguing but undercovered aspects of this case and assess what the impact of a resurgent UAW could be.

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Blind Spot: The Coming Of The “Digital Car”

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A good friend of mine, a brilliant dev/ops guy with several successful startups under his belt, option-trades Tesla’s stock when he’s not developing cloud systems and social platforms. Like many successful tech workers, this friend has an unshakeable faith in technological progress which underpins his support for Tesla. “Look,” he tells me when I suggest that Tesla’s stock valuation is wholly unmoored from its fundamentals, “new technology takes over and transforms everything. We see it again and again in other sectors, why wouldn’t it be the case for cars?”

His favorite example: the transition from film to digital photography. “Sure, it was crazily expensive to develop… but it matured rapidly, took over the market and nobody looked back. Why wouldn’t electric cars be the same?” Attempting to answer his question got me thinking: what would it take to fundamentally revolutionize the auto industry to the extent that digital revolutionized film? More specifically, what would the “digital” car look like?

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