To be sure, in the eyes of many Americans GM has been delivered to a fate worse than death, near nationalisation, at the hands of the Obama Auto Taskforce, while the hard truth of venture capital – that bad investments don't pay dividends – is restated by the gelding of venture capitalist Cerberus in the Chrysler debacle and the emergence of Fiat as a main player in the US auto market.

A Chapter 11 of the more traditional, drawn-out sort has been experienced by Delphi, the PM parts manufacturer that began the whole sorry tale very nearly four years ago when it filed for protection, bringing the beginnings of the Detroit drama into public view. Now the company seeks to escape bankruptcy, and in the doing of it has dumped its $6 billion plus pension liability in the lap of the government's pension insurer – ie the US taxpayer.
And so the companies survive – slimmer and fitter; older and wiser; choose whatever description you think appropriate – and business goes on. That it goes on despite the loss of tens of thousands of jobs, many closed plants and discarded obligations could be said to be something of a dark miracle.
For the contracting supply companies locked into the auto industry and dependent upon it, these have been tough times, and the future still looks pretty bleak, even though, as those who journeyed to the MPIF Las Vegas gathering heard, changed times bring new opportunities. Some have decided to distance themselves from the squeezed margins and general abuse of monopoly buyer positions so commonly experienced in the Detroit of old.
New times may bring a new approach to doing business in the auto industry, but, strangely, expressing that view to contacts in the PM world elicited much hollow laughter and comments so dry that had one been able to bottle them they would have been labelled corrosive.
But nevertheless, powder metal technology does have much to offer, even in a world of downsized and probably higher-revving, more efficient engines and lighter, smaller gearboxes far removed from the “Lazy V8” model synonymous with the Detroit of old.
A case in point is Höganäs' success working with Toyota to cut material losses during the production of synchromesh clutch hubs. Toyota is one of the Japanese companies associated with efforts to improve manufacturing and quality assurance(there are quite a few of them, some household names, some not). Among many successes has been the pioneering “Just in time management” theory and “Just in time delivery” in practice and a generally open-minded approach to potential new solutions to old problems.
The company was among the first to formulate the lean production concept, and constantly endeavours to make all production processes as flexible as possible.
Toyota specifically wanted to improve synchromesh clutch hub production. It wanted better surface finish to reduce post-processing. This meant components being pressed with less variation in final dimensions and with minimal weight differences.
Höganäs' response to this challenge was an innovative approach to binding agents and processing powder during pressing. The concept was based on a new mixing concept, Starmix Boost. The results are good and show that there are real opportunities in the somewhat blasted landscape that will be a post-recession reality.