For Detroit’s first auto show of the 21st Century in January 2000, General Motors announced “the largest auto show exhibit ever in North America” to usher in the new Millennium.
Company publicists declared that if the exhibit’s 230 tons of steel were melted into beams and laid end-to-end they would stretch seven miles, equivalent to crossing the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Canada four times each way, or running the length of a soccer field 105 times. GM’s press release added that the steel would rise three times higher than Mt. Fuji, a not-so-subtle swipe at the company’s automotive rivals from Japan.
That exuberance provided a sharp contrast to the Detroit show a decade later in January 2009. Record profits had turned to record losses. GM’s exhibit was a few vehicles parked on a dirty carpet. Company executives staged a pep rally at which hundreds of employees chanted, “Here to Stay, Here to Stay.” GM declared bankruptcy just six months later.