Spring 1972. We all waited with great anticipation for Dad to come home. On this day, it would not be by cab or subway.
When pop turned the corner, he didn’t just come home. He arrived. And gracefully moored his shiny new El Dorado in the parking spot before us.
Personally, I favored Mustangs. But I was taken aback by the Cadillac’s subtle wing curvature, roofline and sheer size. Dad called it one of the most graceful American cars to ever come out of Detroit.
I couldn’t argue.
To understand Dad, understand that back then, even more than now, cars were more than just a utility. They were personal statements about the owners. And the status they assumed in life. For my father, I am almost certain this purchase was a much-needed gesture to his parents, people who never had much faith that his choice of profession — show business — would ever pay off.
When you stop and think about it, that sort of connection, that unit of meaning, is a pretty darn powerful thing for a brand to own. It’s something you would think a brand would cherish. And do everything they could to preserve.
1973. The oil crisis. Dad’s graceful ode to elegance disintegrated into an eight-mile-to-the-gallon albatross. Once, while waiting in a gas line, Dad quietly referred to his El Dorado as a beast that guzzled away at his time, money and patience.
As the crisis endured and then passed, America matured. A new awareness swept across our nation. Somehow that skipped Detroit. I am unclear how the company that gave us the ’52 Corvette, the ’68 GTO or that elegant ’72 El Dorado could not respond.
I suppose they took their customers for granted.
Over time, the brand that once pulsed as America’s heartbeat became synonymous with something else.
On Monday, General Motors Corp. declared bankruptcy. That declaration is long overdue. They went bankrupt the day they stopped caretaking the meaning they had so magically claimed.
Parked inside my garage is my piece of "Old Detroit" — a green 1968 Mustang whose mere presence conjures up an amazing era of Americana that I gaze so fondly back upon. For me it’s the smell of summertime in Brooklyn — a salsa of heat and humidity mixed with Nathan’s franks cooked on an open coal grill. It’s Ralph Kiner and Lindsey Nelson trying to cheer up disheartened Mets fans from yet another loss due to a comedy of errors. And it’s the WMCA Good Guys spitting out the Top 20 every Tuesday morning. …CONTINUED
This is more than an elegy for an automaker or a fond recollection of my father, a man whose ideals I understand more than he will ever know. This is about junk and the fact that Americans are tired of buying into it.
A tale of two cities
And yes, this is also about real estate. It’s about the crisis endured. It’s about a new awareness sweeping across our nation that somehow continues to skip over many within our industry, who for the most part GM’d America with their indistinguishable promises, and assembly line Web sites and agents (see GM’s "J-body" cars).
It’s about an industry that raced America’s heartbeat with so many bad loans, bad agents and bad advice that we lost out breath. It’s about a bankruptcy of values that covered up the truths about our business and took the consumer for granted. It’s about what may lie in wait for some other Monday morning to be fully revealed.
Meanwhile, Buick, Pontiac and Cadillac brokerages piled up inside the junkyard. Others are throwing more gas into their guzzlers — technologies that burn their revenue, Web sites that are frayed and agents in dire need of a complete overhaul. They survive solely on the fumes of their past glory in hopes they will sustain the down market long enough to make it to the future. What folly.
The future is already here.
America’s fall from grace was sped by Japanese and German innovation that took GM’s legacy and rode it to new heights.
Similar forces now exist within real estate in the form of e-teams within large brokerages creating new brand ideals. In boutique brokerages launched by smart agents who deliver services that extend the truths they write about on their blogs. In online brokers that believe in their hearts that a better real estate industry can be created.
Americans are seeking out alternatives to the beasts of old — the GM brokerages delivering their father’s Oldsmobile.
You could be what they are looking for. But you’re going to need more than a slick new ad campaign or a social media designation to prove your value.
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