DETROIT, Michigan. Nils Cyborg has spent his entire career with Chrysler Motors, a point of pride for the long-time Red Wings fan. “I’m a creature of Detroit,” he says as he stares out an empty parking lot in front of Plant #2, where the popular PT Cruiser model is manufactured.
“I am not lost!”
But Nils is fearful that his two sons, Nils Jr. and Yzerman, named after the Red Wings’ great who spent his entire career in this town, won’t enjoy the same high wages and generous benefits that he did in his 29-year career as a crash-test dummy. “The good old days are over,” he says wistfully. “I tell the boys–go be a mannequin in a men’s wear store, the auto industry is dead.”
The auto industry bailout plan fashioned by President Obama comes with strings attached for crash test dummies, who have enjoyed a high standard of living that gradually declined as U.S. auto makers’ saw their share of the world market for cars gradually shrink. “I used to have my plastic polished with Fantastik spray-on every week,” says Chloe, Nils’ wife as she dandles daughter Caitlin on her knee. “I’ve cut back to once a month–we’ve all got to sacrifice.”
The Cyborgs are economizing in other areas as well. In the past, they ordered elaborate Christmas cards with embossed printing, but this year they’ve settled on a smaller and simpler card with just a family photo on a standard template. “It’s just as well,” says Chloe. “Nils is a closet atheist and he only goes to church for the kids.”
Nils has a job for now, but he knows his current lifestyle could come to an end in the blink of an eye. “Every day when I get in that demonstrator, I kiss the kids goodbye like it’s my last day on earth. I never know when I’m going to go through a windshield and get melted down for a plastic kitty box or something.”