The Worst Economic Environment In Our Lifetimes. Time For Friendship.

I read again that 1 out of 10 people in America have a job directly or indirectly linked to the automotive industry, the most devastated sector with finance and real estate. And of course it includes a lot of my readers and myself. Every day I am in contact with people feeling and expressing the effects of the worst recession since the big 30’s depression: discouragement, anxiety and also bitterness. Some friends are missing in action, others found a second job, some retreated to their private garages to continue their jobs, and those still hanging on at their original facilities had to make painful decisions regarding money and employees. Not much we can do. Something that I tried and that I found out working quite well to appease our mind and lower anxieties is to talk. More than ever, let’s talk to each other, not only in rallies and professional events, but now. Via phone, email, instant messages. After all we are family and we need to support each other. It was a time (RIP 95 to 05) where we were all too busy to have the time to talk to each other during business hours. Now we can and we should. Not only talking about what’s wrong but about solutions to help each other. A business idea, a part, a contact, a way to split expenses at the next event, etc. And what about friendship? I really think it’s never been a better time to cultivate those friendships.

25 Responses to “The Worst Economic Environment In Our Lifetimes. Time For Friendship.”

  1. 1 Jason Nov 15th, 2008 at 10:55 am

    I think that is a great idea, we all need to network together to try to keep the simulous of our industry going. what one of us may not do the other may and visa versa. South Side kustoms welcomes the idea to network/team up with other shops or industry leaders to push our business up and out of this dark hole.

    One way we do this is by becoming a dealer for most parts manufacturers in the industry, this way we can support the other companies and promote them as well as sell their product, I make money they make money and the circle continues.

    I can say this, ALOT of car/suv wheels are going on sale, so if you have the extra cash for those desired wheels for your car/truck, now is the time to buy. I have received many emails from my car wheels/parts manufactures putting items on sale. This rarely happened in the past.

    Another thought is this, instead of everyone hlding on to their presious dollar, spend will stimulate the economy. There are plenty of people who still have money in this country, and for whatever reason are holding on to their money. Whether the dollar goes up in value, doesn’t change the actual value in your pocket – what it does change is right now with most, whether it be KMART or Autozone – you can get more bang for your buck because everyone is grasping for business that most have lowered their prices.

    Just my 2 cents

  2. 2 Jim Nov 15th, 2008 at 11:04 am

    Great post, Cyril. You are so right.

  3. 3 harry Nov 15th, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    I do agree w/ Jason to a certain degree; if you got a few bucks to spend after the expenses are covered (rent/mortgage/utilities, etc…) go get some parts for your bike or car. When I get back to the states in the spring (and hopefully get a place with a garage/lol), I plan on getting some parts for my sportster and start to fix it up. I hope other readers out there do the same. I hope when I get back to the states and get settled in, that I hope that I find some like minded folks that are into bikes and start working on them, riding, etc…just start enjoying life. I need all the help I can get, I have two left hands but I’m willing to learn a lot more than changing spark plugs, cleaning air filters and installing an exhaust system/lol. I need to eliminate the fear of installing jets into a carb…take care everyone

  4. 4 Nicker Nov 15th, 2008 at 10:35 pm

    “…. start working on them, riding, etc…just start enjoying life….”

    Harry, for the end-users, your on the right track!

    There is no need to go into debt. Pace yourself.
    Simply get out there and get what your scooter needs. Then ride the damned thing.
    The more ya ride, the more ideas you’ll get about what ya wanna do next.

    Get to know your local shop and build a relationship with them.
    Don’t put on an act. Just be yourself.
    If ya really like scooters, it’ll show through.

    This is the best time to to start getting involved!
    The idiots and posers are dropping be the wayside.

    IMHO anyway….

  5. 5 Rodent Nov 16th, 2008 at 9:04 am

    Now is the time to get your town, city, burg, village to be more motorcycle friendly ala San Francisco which is the most motorcycle friendly city in America. More so than even than either Sturgis or Daytona….Motorcycle parking at cheap rates(600 minutes for $1.00) in PRIME downtown areas where car meters charge $1.00 for 20 minutes. There is a movement to make parking(out of the way) on sidewalks legal. 2 wheeled transportation should be incouraged and it can only help our wallets in this deepening reccession or depression…It’s time to start selling the economical advantages of two wheeled travel along with the fun factor.
    Also petition your local government to order their police to stop harrassing motorcyclists.

  6. 6 Tim Nov 16th, 2008 at 9:48 am

    The situation has not stopped me from doing restorations, there is a demand for some of the smaller bikes out there for urban use or just to have an around town scoot. What has happened Is that you don’t buy on credit unless you can pay for it or get enough profit out of your project to more than pay for the item. Bring back some old cool bikes, no they are not the same as todays performace bikes, they still are a lot of fun. I do this with my son and it is a great experience, what I don’t know or remember about the bikes My son fills in or we reasearch.

  7. 7 Bodyman Nov 16th, 2008 at 10:12 am

    I have been in the automotive repair industry for 43 years. I have repaired just about every type of car on 4 wheels. I’ve seen the influx of the Japanese, European and the Korean market. I feel that at any given time that the American car industry could have stepped up to the plate and manufactured a surperior automobile. But it did not. It chose to rely on the loyalty of its customers to continue to buy US products. The problem is now with a more educated market, consumers are refusing to buy a product that is inferior and that the manufacturers will not stand behind. I find it a hard pill to swallow that this whole industry has rested on its butts and let the rest of the world pass it by. Now it wants goverment money to bail it out .

  8. 8 Scott Nov 16th, 2008 at 12:24 pm

    Everyone so far has made some really good points. This whole “economic downturn” courtesy of corporate and individual greed, and perpetuated by the government of this country , has been hard on many. Instead of focusing on the down side, try to look for the silver lining. As Nicker pointed out the posers and idiots will drop by the wayside. This also holds true to for the rip off artists that have plagued this industry over the last decade. What will be left to re-emerge will be the ones who do it for the love of motorcycles. How ever crazy it may sound, this country would be much better off without the intervention of the government in the financial recovery. Let the thieving bastards in the financial industry stew in their own shit, along with the liars in the automotive and housing industry. The only true solution is to let the markets adjust themselves where they need to be. We as a whole need to get our collective heads out of our ass and realize that we have been living a grand lie. The stock, housing, automotive, and energy markets have been over inflated for the last decade. Many have bought into these markets courtesy of the US government feeding us a line of bullshit that did not quit. All in the name for setting ourselves up for retirement. Well folks we got duped. It is unfortunate that the masses will pay the price for the few greedy assholes in the world. If there is one lesson to be learned from all this; Be your own man and do your own thing. Quite trying to be something you are not. Just my twisted view on the world.

    We truly do need to stick together. Not, as individuals trying to get ahead. We need to be a group looking out for each other. Look around and see how others have been successful. Use these as models for our own success. Learn from the likes of OPEC. While many may think cartels are no good, they are a tried and true business model. The power of many can get results when the efforts of few fail.


  9. 9 Sam Nov 16th, 2008 at 8:21 pm

    It’s the unions & union corruption that is destroying America & the Auto industry. The unions started out as a good idea but no longer represent the worker’s best interests and has morphed into something that represents it’s own interests separate from management or labor. The president elect has promised to scale back Federal investigations into Union corruption for their support which will likely encourage even more corruption & mob influence.

    Founded in 1935, the United Auto Workers Union has just under 600,000 members and represents workers from the “Big Three” automotive companies—General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, as well as workers in the aerospace and agricultural industries.

    Over a 50% Decline in Membership

    The United Auto Workers Union membership has crashed from its previous high of 1.5 million in the 1970s, to its current total of under 600,000 members.

    Some Local branches have suffered an even more dramatic hemorrhaging of members: Local 599 in Flint, Michigan has seen its membership atrophy from a peak of 28,000 to a mere 2,500 members today.

    In an effort to bolster their waning membership, the UAW is scrambling to unionize other sectors as well, such as gaming industries. They have allocated $60 million dollars from their bloated strike fund to aid in collecting new members.

    Job Banks: Paid Not to Work

    Thousands of UAW members are being paid between $70,000 to $85,000 per year not to work. (By some accounts, the expense is even larger, costing the “Big Three” up to $130,000 for each job banker). For 4,200 of these union members, their 8 hour “work day” consists of “filling out crossword puzzles, watching World War II movies and even taking naps.” These job bankers “have drawn nearly full pay and all benefits, often for years, no matter the companies’ health.” As shown by the $4.5 billion the “Big Three” earmarked to fund job banks, this practice is costing the companies billions of dollars at a time that they are losing billions.

    Health Insurance: UAW’s unsustainable spending

    Negotiating for overly generous health benefits for union members has aided and abetted the decline of the auto industry. The “Big Three” collectively spent almost $10 billion on health insurance in 2002 and the UAW has heedlessly continued to waste money.

    Some numbers for perspective:

    $1,500 of the cost of each car pays for health insurance.
    For each car, more money is spent for health insurance than on steel for its construction.
    Toyota has far lower health care costs in comparison to the UAW. While healthcare costs contributed to a combined loss of $15 billion for the “Big Three,” Toyota posted a profit of $14 billion.

    Strike Fund

    The United Auto Workers have used $1 billion of their worker’s dues to fill an enormous strike fund. No other union finds it necessary to funnel money from their workers pockets to fill such a large and unused strike fund. The next largest strike fund, that of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, is not even half as large.

    Thirty percent of each UAW member’s dues go towards filling this rarely used pot of money. The interest alone from the UAW’s strike fund has been enough to pay workers on strike in the past. Furthermore, the vast majority of unions other than the UAW are able to effectively negotiate for their members without the use of such huge strike funds.

    UAW’s Multimillion Dollar Resort

    Union dues have subsidized the construction of an extraordinarily expensive resort and golf club retreat. The Black Lake Resort and Golf club is luxurious, to say the least. This lakeside resort has 241 guest rooms, 2 full-sized basketball courts, an Olympic size swimming pool, a full gym and exercise room with a sauna, and a golf course designed by Rees Jones, a pricey and well-known golf course architect.

    While UAW union members are permitted to visit the resort their dues have paid for, they cannot do so at any significant discount—they only receive $18 off the regular price.

    Total Membership: 538,448

    Financial Information
    Total Assets: $ 1,267,559,922
    Total Receipts: $ 303,824,990

    Source: Department of Labor, Office of Labor Management Standards LM filings

    Financial Disbursements
    Search Financial
    Disbursement Records

    search this union search all Representational Activities ( 37.9%) $ 119,744,856
    Political Activities & Lobbying ( 3.0%) $ 9,621,882
    Contributions, Gifts & Grants ( 0.3%) $ 818,393
    General Overhead ( 4.6%) $ 14,500,414
    Union Administration ( 12.6%) $ 39,743,652
    Strike Benefits ( 5.6%) $ 17,645,792
    Total Compensation ( 18.9%) $ 59,692,813
    Per Capita Tax ( 1.6%) $ 4,943,506
    Source: Department of Labor, Office of Labor Management Standards LM filings

    Locals & Other Affiliated Organizations
    Top 10 Locals (by Members) Local Members
    UAW Council (Detroit, MI) 538,448
    UAW Council (Detroit, MI) 196,963
    UAW Council (Detroit, MI) 76,977
    UAW Council (Detroit, MI) 56,607
    UAW Council (Indianapolis, IN) 53,698
    UAW Council (Lebanon, TN) 39,955
    UAW Council (Detroit, MI) 33,756
    UAW Council (Des Plaines, IL) 30,112
    UAW Local 600 (Dearborn, MI) 25,418
    UAW Local 7902 (New York, NY) 18,651
    [show all locals & affiliates]
    Source: Department of Labor, Office of Labor Management Standards LM filings

    Top 10 International UAW Leaders & Staff (by Salary) Name Title Total Compensation
    Ronald Spurlock Servicng Rep $ 167,951
    Moses Green Ass’t Minor $ 167,576
    Jamesell Kee Strk Ins Rep $ 162,499
    Helen Lesley Ass’t Major $ 160,163
    Stanley Reasons Servicng Rep $ 160,044
    Ned Scott Servicng Rep $ 159,520
    Ronald Gettelfinger President $ 158,530
    Timothy Novak Servicng Rep $ 157,726
    Albert Carnes Servicng Rep $ 157,148
    John Sangster Servicng Rep $ 156,993
    [show all officers & salaries]

    Source: Department of Labor, Office of Labor Management Standards LM filings is committed to 100% accuracy. Please contact us with factual corrections & comments.

    Political Money
    527 Money
    In most cases, unions use 527 organizations to make unlimited “soft money” donations to campaigns or candidates they support. Unlike PACs, 527 organizations do not coordinate with specific candidates, and as a result, are not regulated by the Federal Election Commission.

    Total Affiliated 527 Receipts: $ 2,799,435
    Total Affiliated 527 Disbursements: $ 2,322,753

    Featured 527 Accounts
    National UAW Political Action Committee
    Total Receipts: $ 500,000
    Total Disbursements: $ 464,618

    [show all funds]
    Source: Internal Revenue Service 527 electronic form 8872 filings

    Lobbying Money
    Unions often employ lobbyists to influence legislation in their favor. The amount below represents total lobbying expenditures reported to the Senate. It does not represent the total amount spent lobbying federal, state, and local officials.

    Total Senate Lobbying Expenditures: $ 14,892,880
    (from 1998 to 2005)
    [show all lobbying expenditures]

    Source: Senate Lobbying Disclosure Records

    Unfair Labor Practices

    The National Labor Relations Board investigates instances of union violations of the National Labor Relations Act and other labor laws. Unfair Labor Practices include instances of bad faith bargaining, excessive dues, violence, threats and many other violations. Allegations Filed
    Duty of Fair Representation 2,014
    Other Allegations 435
    Coercive Statements 38
    Bad Faith/Surface Bargaining (Succeeding Contract) 36
    Threatening Statements 30
    Union Security Related (including Beck) 30
    Harassment 24
    Disparagement of Employee 17
    Refusal to Bargain (Succeeding Contract) 16
    Union Security Related 12
    [show all ULP violations]

    Source: National Labor Relations Board’s Case Activity Tracking (CATS) database

    Unionization Elections
    The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) oversees union representation elections, or “R Cases.” To call an election, 30 percent of affected employees are required to sign a petition for an election. Elections can be used to both certify and decertify union representation. Increasingly, unions are avoiding the NLRB election process, instead opting for “Card Check” unionization.

    Decertification Elections
    Union members unhappy with their current union can opt to decertify it as their exclusive bargaining representative. These are known as “RD” cases.

    Decertification Petitions Filed: 127
    [see decertifications]

    Source: National Labor Relations Board’s Case Activity Tracking (CATS) database

    Elections Records
    Despite the commonly held belief that most workers would like to join a union, union representation elections—also known as “RC Cases”—often fail.

  10. 10 Nicker Nov 16th, 2008 at 10:41 pm


    “… Many have bought into these markets courtesy of the US government feeding us a line of bullshit that did not quit. …”

    Very true. Here’s some from a CA Democrat M. Waters that puts new meaning behind the term -dumber-n-dirt- :
    “…Mr Chairman,we do not have a crisis at Freddie Mac, under the outstanding leadership of Mr Frank Raines. Everything in the 1992 act has worked just fine. In fact, the GSE’s have exceeded their housing goals. What we need to do today is to focus on the regulator, and this must be done in a manner so as not to impede their affordable housing mission, a mission that has seen innovation flourish from desktop underwriting to 100% loans…”

    “…We as a whole need to get our collective heads out of our ass and realize that we have been living a grand lie. ..”

    Well, some have been trying to tell us how the world works, but this time around not many listened. Here’s just 2 examples:

    -Ind. Republican Mike Pence-
    “… Economic freedom means the freedom to succeed and the freedom to fail. The decision to give the Federal Government the ability to nationalize almost every bad mortgage in America interrupts this basic truth of a free market economy….. forever changing the relationship between the government and the financial sector…”

    -Tex. Republican Jeb Hensarling-
    “… Paulson’s plan should never have been the only option… this plan is fraught with unintended consequences…. could permanently and fundamentally change the role of government in the American free enterprise system. Once the government socializes, it will also socialize profit. If we lose our ability to fail, we will soon loose our ability to succeed. If we bail out risky behavior , we will soon see riskier behavior…”

    So, it’s back to basics.
    The government has no business helping you stay on your scooter just as they have no business assuring that you get a loan or stay in your home. Nor is it their role to assure that every kid goes to college.

    IMHO anyway..

  11. 11 mike Nov 17th, 2008 at 10:58 am

    maybe someone can fill me in on a question. The headlines of america online read california community 90% foreclosed. I played the video of the newscast and it was a guy who bought a home outside sanfransisco in a planned community for 600,00. now his house is only worth 300,00 because he bought high. he bought the house for 600,00 so he must have had the money, he isnt trying to sell his house. so he says he has stopped paying his mortgage last march. i dont get it ! his house is devalued so he is going to burn the loan company. whats up?

  12. 12 Jim Nov 17th, 2008 at 11:04 am

    Mike. Easy to understand. If you are upside down with your real estate you have no incentive to continue to pay your mortgage because you don’t build any equity. Better off to rent. Reason why many prefer to send back the key to the bank even if they can pay their mrtgage, accelerating the foreclosure numbers and pushing real estate prices even lower. Easy to understand.

  13. 13 mike Nov 17th, 2008 at 11:26 am

    right now almost no ones home values are going up, so i guess the new american way is just to give up and burn the banks and let us all pay for it. pretty sweet

  14. 14 Dave B. Nov 17th, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    Mike and Jim,
    I can make it even easier to understand… there is no real punishment for failure to live up to your word anymore. There is no longer a social stigma for bailing on a loan, a marriage, child support, & many other “legal” contracts. Our new politically correct society has killed honor and commitment.
    With no real long-lasting consequences for being a liar, a dumbass, a cheat, or a deadbeat, perhaps our society is feeling a well earned backlash.
    At least that’s the way I see it.

  15. 15 mike Nov 17th, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    dave, thats exactly the way i feel.

  16. 16 aft customs Nov 17th, 2008 at 3:29 pm

    This economy is the best thing for this country.This correction is long over due.You have all made great points.
    1) The auto industry has failed for 2 reasons: The auto workers union has forced the auto co. to pay their employees 240 MORE than the average worker in similar industries.These people make as much as doctors in some cases.F___ that! The second reason is they don’t make cars that hold up or that people want.If it wasn’t for their pick-ups & trucks they would have gone under a long time ago.They need to go into bankrupsey so they can fire management & renegotiate their union contracts to be competitive.Then take a look at the auto manufactures that are getting it right & get on the right path. NO BAIL-OUT!
    2) The people that belong in this industry will servive in this economy.This is my 31st year in this industry so I’ve seen bad economies before.Everbody thought they were bike builders & jumped in & flooded the market with pure shit thus devalueing the product.Bad economies are good for the service & parts side of our business because m/c are an economical form of transprtation.That side of my business has always allowed me the capital to supprt the custom side of our business to biuld our own customs for the shows we attend & to promote AFT Customs.It’s impossible to use customer bikes for show purposses.
    3) I think bike shows will be better due to this economy. A lot of promoters are going under so there will be less shows and that means the public will start to look forward to atteding them again because there won’t be a show every weekend.They were starting to look like flea markets.The smart promoters will see the benefit of having the pro builders at thier shows & won’t gouge them to be there because we can’t afford it anymore.This should raise the quality.
    4) The internet is a bigger problem to our business than anything in my oppinion.It’s driven all the profit out of parts.That means labor has to go up to pay the bills.This is true for any service doesn’t matter if your having your washing machine repaired or computer or car.10 years ago I only had to compete against my local area shops.The public didn’t have access to the OEM microfihe for example.Now I have to compete nationally to sell an F__ing spark plug.I have to sell 300 tires to make the same profit that 100 tires used to make.Now what I do is tell my customers that they get a discounted labor rate if they buy their parts from me.That has helped.
    5) I refuse to be defeated in these times. Be carefull in your decision making.Now is a time to focuss on customer service & most of all think positive.

  17. 17 Nicker Nov 17th, 2008 at 6:32 pm


    RE: (the loan story)

    It’s even easier to explain:
    The loan companies are advising their troubled clients not to pay because the Govt. won’t bail ya out unless your behind on three payments.

    “… The Internet is a bigger problem to our business than anything in my opinion…”

    Ya, that’s true. A friend with a dirt bike business just went under for just that reason.

    Even the guys i ride with are getting their stuff off the Internet.
    (looking at me like i’m an idiot for paying full boat for Helmets, Boots, Tires & Shocks at my local shop).

    For me it’s not that big a deal.
    After all, how many knobby tires is an old fart like me gonna buy…. 🙂


  18. 18 Patrick R. Nov 17th, 2008 at 9:15 pm

    Everybody is in the same boat….i have seen my business drop off to nearly nothing! Times are tough, i agree. What I have done is made my shop a mobile showroom….I am still doing show and toy runs, whatever comes along. I am NOT going to burry my head in the sand for any reason! I am expanding even though business is slow. I am still investing heavily in my business so when the ecomomy does turn around, AND it will, I will be ready for the new on surge of customers! I encourage others to do the same. Lets do this together!

  19. 19 Fausto Simoes Nov 18th, 2008 at 11:28 am

    Get on your bike and go for a ride!

    Leave all your troubles and bad news behind!

    You can’t beat that feeling,
    of pure freedom and thrill,

    flying forward is a lot more fun than standing still.

  20. 20 Jeff Nicklus Nov 18th, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    Damn, after reading these inspirational comments I am starting to get that warm fuzzy feeling thing going …….. or maybe I just spilled my coffee in my lap again ??????

    Over & Out,


  21. 21 burnout Nov 18th, 2008 at 9:05 pm

    Hope you didn’t waste a good cup of coffee! I am as busy as ever with service. custom bikes are still wanted but the banks are having nothing to do with em. the word “downsize’ means more now than ever. I believe that you, Jeff, were one of the first to do so back when business was still kicking for some of us. I also believe that the solid, straight-up guys WILL be here when all the others have faded away. I love bikes and will be fixin em as long as I can hold a wrench! peace

  22. 22 Nicker Nov 18th, 2008 at 11:00 pm

    Burn- & Jeff

    Just keep hanging in there. It’s gonna be a rough ride but as they say, when the going gets tough…. You guys are survivors.

    So, get back to basics.
    Do the best you can do and keep going.
    As Dad used to say:
    “it is what it is, deal with it.”

    I’d say “good Luck” but in the end we all know luck won’t have much to do with it.


  23. 23 Jeff Nicklus Nov 19th, 2008 at 1:34 pm

    Burn & Nicker,

    You guys are correct … we will get through this and we will all be better for the experience in the end. It sucks we have to deal with this but hey, this is businees. In the words of Nickers dear Dad “it is what it is, so deal with it.” Never were words more true!

    Over & Out,


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  25. 25 Amanda S Apr 6th, 2009 at 6:09 pm

    Great ideas, is there a place to elaborate on this all?

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Cyril Huze