During the Super Bowl Chrysler debuted a commercial for its new Chrysler 200 sedan that closed, stoically, with the phrase “Imported from Detroit,” a reference to the 200′s assembly at the Sterling Heights plant in Michigan and a statement that was especially poignant me. The commercial and the closing sentiment really stuck me, not because of my constant made in the USA flag waving, but more because I was just finishing reading the book Punching Out: One Year in a Closing Auto Plant. The story — by Detroit native Paul Clemens — documents the shuttering of the Budd Detroit Automotive Plant, Stamping and Framing Division. Budd, a longtime supplier of the Big Three, was founded in 1912 and was probably most famous for stamping the body parts for the Ford Thunderbird in the 1950s.
At its peak Budd Detroit employed 10,000 people, but by the time Clemens arrived there were only a dozen or so people remaining to help strip the place for its metal and machinery. Basically a flock of factory undertakers arrived to strip it for salvage and then leave it for dead. The plant’s massive and valuable presses — which were some of the largest in the world — were sold, systematically dismantled by a highly skilled group of riggers and then shipped to India, Brazil and Mexico to live on making auto parts in other parts of the world. Ironically, the Budd plant in Detroit was sandwiched between a Chrysler assembly plant and a Chrysler engine factory, but that didn’t stop its main press line from being shipped a few thousand miles to central Mexico to stamp body sides for America-bound Dodge Journeys, for who but Chrysler.