Last week we talked a little about the history of British car manufacturing, but today we’re looking at the hub of American motoring industry, Detroit in Michigan.
Detroit is a city known primarily for its motor manufacturing – in fact, its nickname is the Motor City! With a population of around 5.2 million, it’s the 18th largest city in the US with a number of inhabitants living in the suburbs, meaning that the central metropolitan area has been turned into a hub of cultural and other activity with casinos, hotels and stadiums.
Detroit was founded back in 1701 by French explorer Antoine de la Mothe, Sir of Cadillac. And yes, that name will sound familiar: in 1902 the founders of the Cadillac motor company used his name and his family’s crest as their logo. This is where the connection to the motor industry started, and in 1896, the father of modern motors Henry Ford built his first prototype automobile in Detroit, founding the Ford Motor Company in 1903.
However, later on in the twentieth century, civil unrest, crime and antagonisms between cultures in the city came to the fore and in the 1980s, extensive redevelopment began to try and counter the decades of neglect that the city had suffered.
Detroit’s relationship with motor production has been cemented by the ‘Big Three’ American auto companies – Ford, Chrysler and General Motors – remaining and thriving in the cities. Now, in fact, it’s the public sector employers in Detroit that have the largest staff, but manufacturing still has a significant number of employees in the city. Sales of cars produced in Detroit also continue to grow, with General Motors reporting that in March 2012, they had a total sales figure of approximately 231,000 vehicles.
Alongside manufacturer, one of Detroit’s greatest exports has been music. The Detroit blues scene in the forties and fifties included the likes of John Lee Hooker and Boogie Woogie Red; the fifties jazz musicians in Detroit included Ron Carter, Curtis Fuller and Dorothy Ashby; and later pop years saw Suzi Quatro and Madonna both achieve world-wide acclaim as local-born Detroit citizens. Add to that the founding of Motown Records in the 60s and 70s right there in Detroit and you’ve got a beautiful mix of manufacturing and music, all in one city!
To leave you with a great combination of music and motoring, here’s Iggy Pop – also from Detroit – with a suitably transport related song, ‘The Passenger’. We love this video, created by mixing up classic films.
April 27, 2012