Let’s Go For a Spin

There is hardly an industry out there that hasn’t become multinational on some level. Even local businesses rely on the intricate network of industry participants to operate. In this view, the automotive industry is the rule because every make and model draws from the same international manufacturing well. I’m not only speaking about the components that are so popular to complain about (“This cheap garbage made in [any third world country]!”), and it isn’t only production that has abolished borders. Cars and trucks sold in the US are made in numerous other countries, even the domestic brands. In the same vein, domestic brand vehicles are marketed quite heavily overseas. Corporate capital has long ignored national borders (as noted quite regularly by Noam Chomsky) and so it should come as no surprise that the myth of the purely “American company” is steadily fading into memory. What this means is that employees in the auto industry are increasingly being confronted with foreign coworkers, and this steadily transforming workplace requires a significant paradigm shift.

This shift in perspective (I won’t use “paradigm” again, I know it’s become cliché) involves the frequent confrontation between cultures. The most common instance of this is hardly an auto industry staple, being the outsourced telephone support center. The “support center” icon is a fascinating topic of discussion in its own right, but its contribution to this train of thought is that it is indicative of the direction that corporations are heading as more and more components of the production and support mechanism can be replaced by less costly options in other regions of the globe. There has been much theory and analysis devoted to this phenomenon of the American consumer getting tech support from “Dave” in New Delhi. This scenario is becoming more frequent, and just in the last two years General Motors has included its internal support network in this expansion, so that some of the communications I have with the corporation are done through an outsourced mediator.

But “Dave” is being forced into the American mold, not the other way around… yet. The economic forecast is looking toward a more symbiotic relationship with foreign counterparts, which means that it will no longer be adequate to speak exclusively a native language. This is far from negative. Even though America is the leader of the free world, as the world gets freer (economically, of course, in no way am I saying that democracy is spreading as quickly as international capital), it steadily moves closer to realizing that, in the eyes of the dollar, all countries are equal. This means that increased cultural awareness and sensitivity are a primary concern for the internationally comprised corporation.

When I began my training for this job several years ago, I was startled to learn that I had to take several courses in minority markets. While I saw this as corporate sanctioned racial profiling, taking the courses gave me important insight into the mind of the corporation. The classes were aimed at training personnel who could capitalize on what they considered quantifiable cultural data. There was no inherent bigotry on the part of the company (though reducing customers to racial stereotypes is a ludicrously dangerous tool to put in the hands of the kinds of employees they hoped to inculcate, e.g. “Hello, sir! I see you’re Asian, can I interest you in [I can’t remember what GM thinks Asians like]?”). What I extracted from the classes was that the archetypal consumer can be analyzed, but he or she must be approached as a unique multiplicity of characteristics and histories.

The future of the auto industry, just like the future of all industries, is global. There is no way to thrive beyond that horizon without all participants understanding how to navigate the wide network of international discourses. The science of automotive technology is already international, with hardly a vehicle being produced that isn’t made from a dozen countries’ factories and headed across some international border (there are domestic cars being produced on the same assembly line as foreign makes, e.g. the Toyota Matrix and the Pontiac Vibe, like twins who switch clothes to throw people off). The aspect of the industry that will increasingly require transcendence of provincial discourse is the distribution and maintenance of products. This will one day move beyond a capital benefit and become an economic imperative.

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5 thoughts on “Let’s Go For a Spin”

  1. Justin,

    I think your approach to this topic is creative and thinks outside of the limitations that our initial prompt set up for us. Considering this is our last blog, I fear that I have more critiques than I had initially hoped for. That being said, please, don’t take my criticism critically; I just want to make sure you get a good grade.

    Your opening paragraph is great: it provides a context and pulls your reader into the material. If the audience was familiar with your work, they would also know your extensive background in the automotive industry. With that being said, you provide a broad scope and quickly narrow it down to your own personal involvement within the industry. My only caution with this section is your parenthetical aside referencing Noam Chomsky. This summary feels out of place and, to be honest, a little lazy. If you wanted to provide textual support, which you should, I think it would be better if it were near the bottom of your blog, that way readers can see the broad application, how it affects you, and then evidence that supports the ideas, leaving your audience feeling you were a credible source. Even a brief quote can help readers find additional information regarding globalization and perhaps globalization within this particular industry.

    In all of my critiques, I always need to bring up your humor. This blog still carries your voice and tone, making your blogs far more personal than someone looking to regurgitate information. However, I would like to caution you: your jokes within the parenthesis feel a little too colloquial, not to mention your blending of brackets and parenthesis. I can still follow your logic when reading sections that feature these asides, but I still stop and reread the sentence because I feel like I’m not completely grasping what your trying to extrapolate. For example, you typed: (I won’t use “paradigm” again, I know it’s become cliché). In my opinion, just cut this. It feels out of place and I didn’t even consider paradigm as an example of poor word choice. If anything, this statement only made it look like you are belittling your work. Another example can be found in your third paragraph: e.g. “Hello, sir! I see you’re Asian, can I interest you in [I can’t remember what GM thinks Asians like]?”). In this case, your format isn’t symmetrical and your approach feels a little lazy. Why not just make a car up? Instead, I had to go back, reread this section, and then, I had to go back and reread the paragraph because I had forgotten the excellent commentary you had given in the beginning of that particular paragraph. These asides are great, and they show your voice, but I fear that they might be discrediting you.

    My largest suggestion for this blog is to look towards your third paragraph. In my opinion, this section feels the most developed and answers a majority of the prompt. Your other sections, though relevant to the prompt, do little in answering how writing within your workplace is contingent upon globalization. Your training at work seems like a FANTASTIC place to really get into the details regarding globalization and your career. As someone that currently works in retail, I get your point. But, someone from outside retail or sales might feel lost or a little confused. Please, assume your reader knows nothing and really take the time to explain things. As your own personal reader, I would love to know more about your training and how your employer views globalization. Its obvious that they might not be that versed on this concept, but your understanding will help contextualize your workplace within the realm of globalization. Specific examples like the “Asian man” scenario really puts things into perspective.

    With that being said, I would also like to remind you to go back and review your blogs. For this blog, I feel that you might not have answered the entire prompt. Your first two paragraphs are strong, but commentary concerning the distribution and maintenance of products does little in recognizing globalization and written communication. Instead, look to develop your third paragraph and give more information pertaining to this “Dave” character. I think you had a funny, but informative approach that you can certainly go back and dive into. One final note: I would love to see more examples from GM directly, assuming you work for GM. Since you are involved in the industry, what are companies doing now to become more globally oriented? i feel like you touch on this in the second paragraph, but I would love to see factual support that readers can clearly see and trust. As of right now, your support seems more anecdotal and relaxed.

    Anyways, Justin, it has been a pleasure reading your blogs and I wish you all the best in the future. Keep up the good work: your tone and voice are the best part of your blogs. I know, just from reading your work, that you are creative and have a unique approach when confronting complex material.

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  2. Hi Justin.

    It looked like Kendall is a very attentive critic on your writing style. You’re lucky to get so much feedback. I always appreciate a lot of detailed feedback.

    I wanted to just drop a question in. From what I’ve read about “driverless cars” it seems America, with a push from Obama, is leading this move. What do you know about it? I think the implications are quite dramatic. If all cars on the road are controlled by a computer system, and that system is hacked, what happens next? I’m becoming more interested in computer security as I realize how so many technologies are tied together.

    I think a lot of outsourcing is underway, and I wonder if the real picture of power structures in companies, say like GM, is apparent to American employees?

    Your posts always give a lot of food for thought. I’ve followed your writing through this course and wanted to congratulate you on your continual effort and humor.

    Best,

    Rhea

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  3. Justin —

    Thanks for the “learn something new every day” moment: I had no idea that companies trained employees in how to reach out to minority markets. But now that you’ve described it, I can see why companies would do so. And I agree — it smacks of stereotypical views of minorities and any thinking employee needs to realize that each customer has a multitude of experiences and influences on his or her behavior. I enjoy your writing style — it’s breezy and accessible, but would agree with Kendal that it could have used a bit more organization, and I personally would have loved to hear more about those sneaky ploys involving minority customers.

    Thanks! Deborah

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  4. hi there-

    Some comments/questions, etc.:

    1. (“This cheap garbage made in [any third world country]!”)
    Consider using another term (developing or less-developed) since the term above is a bit pejorative. Unless you used it to show that those who use the term are using it in a negative way? Most scholars tend to use “developing,” whatever that is worth…

    2. “. There was no inherent bigotry on the part of the company (though reducing customers to racial stereotypes is a ludicrously dangerous tool to put in the hands of the kinds of employees they hoped to inculcate, e.g. “Hello, sir! I see you’re Asian, can I interest you in [I can’t remember what GM thinks Asians like]?”).”

    The syntax is awkward, and the ideas are murky (from the syntax, or on account of the ideas themselves — I am not sure.)
    Why was this a dangerous tool with respect to “the kinds of employees” you mentioned? What kinds of employees were these? Also, the example you provided seems predicated on the notion that your audience knows you are being satirical. But do they? Are they in on the joke?

    Overall, the post was quite good. Thanks for sharing your experience and ideas in such an overall eloquent way.

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  5. Hi Justin,

    Interesting, interesting stuff here! I am usually so focused on the implications of our readings to the classroom and my students, so your piece offered me a refreshing change 🙂 And because I was taking it all in for its content, I have no constructive writing critique to offer (sorry!). I enjoyed your writing style and found it easy to follow along your thinking. I especially was intrigued with your “corporate sanctioned racial profiling” angle. Good point. I guess on some level I was aware of that, but reading it in your post expanded on that possibility.

    Informative, cogent discussion. Thanks, Justin! So glad to have crossed paths with you across posts and blogs.

    Best,
    Tessa

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