For more than two years, President Donald Trump has pushed for a “new Industrial Revolution” that aims to put American workers first, build new car plants, and engage in trade wars if necessary to open foreign markets.
Detroit has its own vision for a new Industrial Revolution, and it has little to do with erecting higher tariff walls and bulldozing farm fields for new factories. It is focused on artificial intelligence, mapping technology, and changing corporate cultures to create the self-driving vehicles of the future.
The conflict between the auto industry’s present and future was exemplified when General Motors said in late November that it would idle and possibly shutter up to five factories while laying off or buying out 8,000 salaried workers. America’s largest automaker joined the rest of the domestic industry in deciding to eliminate many car models—including the gas-electric Chevrolet Volt—as it recognized the growing sales dominance of trucks and sport utility vehicles in the U.S. market.