24 June 2009

Detroit Law Firm Layoffs And Other Detroit Updates

Law is a service industry. When those whom they serve do well, lawyers do well. When those whom they serve do poorly, the lawyers are hurt along with their clients. Thus, just as New York City transaction based firms are laying off people in the wake of financial industry troubles (although Goldman Sachs is paying record bonuses), Detroit's two biggest law firms are laying off people in sync with the automobile industry around them, which is doing the same (and has two of the big three firms, plus the largest supplier in bankruptcy).

In related news, Ford is talking to a number of parties about selling the Volvo brand, which it owns. A Chinese company is among the bidders although Ford denies that there is a deal in place.

Also, a payroll audit at the Detroit Public Schools, which is currently under state receivership, turned up 257 individuals out of 13,880 workers on its payroll who are not on approved leave and may be "ghost employees" who aren't actually showing up to work at the school district.

CORRECTION: The operational part of Chrysler left bankruptcy two weeks ago and is already undergoing major shakeups under the supervision of its new owners from Fiat:

[Sergio] Marchionne, also the CEO of Italy's Fiat, has compressed eight layers of management into five. . . . There are senior or executive vice presidents, rather than vice presidents, followed by directors and senior managers. Every other salaried employee is simply considered a Level 5.

The product lineup will change too:

[T]he upscale Alfa Romeo brand to come to North America to compete against established sellers of luxury European cars. Some of those Alfa models are to be built here, too, and possibly exported to Europe. Aside from the tiny Fiat 500, which will be assembled in Toluca, Mexico, and introduced in mid-2011, new models with a European flavor will be branded as Alfa Romeos. . . .

Fiat's 500 minicar will be produced in Toluca, Mexico, and sold through Chrysler dealerships as a 500, much as BMW maintained its Mini as a separate brand. . . .

An Alfa version -- called the GTX -- of the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango will be produced at the Jefferson Avenue assembly plant. There is a strong likelihood Fiat will export some of those SUVs to Europe. . . .

[As a midsized SUV the] most likely choice appears to be a rear-wheel drive car that will share the basic dimensions of the 2011 Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger. Fiat has looked at designing an Alfa Romeo 169 off the same structure, but sources inside the company said that decision has not been made. . . .

Fiat's C-EVO platform will be the base for the next Jeep Liberty, a small crossover that replaces the Dodge Caliber and a third model to be sold as the Alfa Romeo Milano . . . . In a daring idea that invites second-guessing, Chrysler and Fiat also are looking at putting a Jeep badge on the small, boxy Fiat Panda, now assembled through a joint venture with Ford in Poland. The Panda, if it comes to market, would probably be built in Toluca along with the 500.

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