It’s said that an atheist once looked at his child’s ear while the boy was asleep on his lap and began to believe in God. The intricacy, form, and function of the fleshy appendage cast aside his doubts about the existence of the Almighty because it had a specific purpose, and was unlikely to have evolved through a chance mixing of enzymes in the primordial morass. It’s a good thing the atheist wasn’t studying the auto industry at the time. He’d still be an atheist.
The industry is anything but logical at the moment, and light years removed from “God-like.” Overcapacity is rampant, but no one wants to decommission plants. It makes more sense in the short run—which gets increasingly longer—to run plants and give customers incentives to buy vehicles they otherwise would pass up. A practice, I suggest, that borders on gluttony. Everyone wants to run lean, but it’s always on the plant floor, or in engineering, or at certain divisions. It’s never lean at the top where decisions supposedly are made. And what great decisions they are! (Like building cars you have to pay people to buy.) It’s enough to make you certain there’s a devil (because you’re living in Hell), but does little for your faith in a benevolent God.
This belief—or lack thereof—extends in almost any direction you care to look. Supplier relationships? That depends on whether you ever finished reading the sentence that begins: “Do unto others…” Or whether you are certain this same sentence ends “…before they have a chance to do unto you.” Platform sharing? It depends on your interpretation of the command: “Go forth and multiply.” Which becomes a question of whether you create countless vehicles from a limited component set (loaves and fishes), or offer a wide variety of vehicles from a broad base (Noah’s Ark). Foreign competition? Some automakers believe they are Moses. They still expect God to send the oceans (Atlantic and Pacific) crashing down upon their pursuers. This inevitably leads to the equivalent of 40 years wandering around lost in the desert waiting for manna from heaven.
And we’ve all seen our share of “messiahs,” each with his own “bible” filled with divine answers. Sometimes they work, only to be derailed by followers that didn’t understand the underlying meaning of what was said and done. Other times they fail miserably because they are not based on eternal truths. Most often, the effect is short lived, and the prophet seems capable of doing nothing more than delivering us from the present evil while doing nothing to guarantee our long-term salvation. But woe unto you nonbelievers and non-followers who call his divinity into question! The wrath of the anointed one is swift, though his tenure is short.
This is what happens when you lose sight of the universal truths: Nothing comes easy. Hard work is its own reward. The road to ruin is paved with good intentions. You can’t serve two masters. And so on. Absent these beliefs, it’s all-too easy to lose direction, place your ambitions ahead of the needs of those around you, stumble and fall. It doesn’t have to be this way. Like the atheist at the beginning of this story, progress begins with the rediscovery of the soul. Great things, and great products, soon follow.