This Week’s Best Profile

Here’s your profile of the week, of Marvin Powell and his family collapsing along with the Detroit auto industry. I get the feeling there are many more legitimate tales of woe to be told that are getting hidden by tales of woe at Spago:

Powell wakes up every morning at 4, showers, eats breakfast and watches SportsCenter before setting out for the plant at 5:30. He is stationed at the very end of what’s known as the final line, the last stage of the vehicle-assembly process. By the time a truck arrives at his position, its frame has been attached to the chassis and the engine is in place. Powell has 1 minute 40 seconds to perform his routine on each vehicle, a series of tasks that includes attaching cables to batteries, tightening nuts and bolts and installing a transmission dipstick.

Barack Obama has called the dying U.S. auto industry “an emblem of the American spirit,” but Powell speaks about what he does without romance or nostalgia. “It’s not a glamorous job, to say the least,” he told me as we settled into a booth at a nearby Arby’s. Still, Powell derives at least a little satisfaction from his work. “Do I feel a sense of pride when I spot a Silverado or Sierra on the road?” he said. “Yeah. I do.”

Read it all, here.


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