New data from consulting firm Oliver Wyman's Harbour Report reveals that thanks to all the layoffs, restructurings and renegotiated union contracts over the past couple years, the Detroit Big Three automakers have basically leveled the playing field with the Japanese. In terms of plant productivity, Chrysler and Toyota are neck-and-neck when it comes to plant productivity. After that, it's Honda in the number three position, then General Motors, then Nissan, then Ford -- with all of them pretty closely bunched.
As reported in the Wall Street Journal, "A level-playing field in plant productivity means union labor is now no longer a major disadvantage for GM, Ford and Chrysler, and shifts the focus of their troubles on management. In the past, the Big Three have blamed many of their problems on the high wages and benefits the United Auto Workers commanded. Now the bulk of their profitability issues stem for management decisions."
Of course, that's the WSJ spin, not necessarily the spin the Big Three themselves will use (it'd be refreshing and unprecedented, though of course it'll never happen, if an auto exec came out and said, "Our employees have done tremendously well in responding to the call for cutbacks, and their productivity makes me proud to be working here. Any problems that happen from now on are entirely my fault, period."
This article from the Detroit News offers another take on the report.