TOPIC 1 FOR SHE WORE A YELLOW DRESS: THE MOTOR INDUSTRY
John worked for Ford of Britain from August 1966 until February 1978. During this period, the company shifted from being a national car manufacturer to existing as part of a global business, partially influenced by its failure to reform the firm’s British industrial relations.
Transformation of the worldwide motor/automobile industry has continued and the landscape today is very different from that in the 1960s; you may wish to consider how your domestic automotive industry has been impacted.
Are there things you would propose to protect your vehicle industry, especially as we switch from gas-powered transport to electric vehicles?
DISCUSSION POINTS FOR TOPIC 1 of She Wore a Yellow Dress
- Ford of Britain’s annual car production in the UK fell 30 percent between 1966 and 1975 (from 465,164 units to 333,548), while national car sales were increasing.
- Imports from German, French and Italian manufacturers increased, and in 1964 Japan joined the assault on UK domestic producers; by 1975, imports accounted for about one-third of all vehicle sales. Today imports account for 87.9 percent of UK new car registrations
- With the organization of Ford of Europe, Ford cars in the UK were designed and engineered for a European market place, and assembly for the UK market began to move overseas. By 2002, Ford ceased assembly of all passenger cars in the UK, and a short time thereafter added the Transit van to this list. Vehicles are now imported by Ford from such countries as Germany, India, South Africa, Romania and Turkey.
- By comparison, during 2018, 81.5 percent of vehicles assembled in the UK (by Jaguar, Land Rover, Mini, Nissan, Honda, etc.) were exported to 160 markets overseas. Vehicle production has switched from supplying the domestic market to one that is primarily for export.
- In the US, The Big Three (Chrysler, Ford and General Motors) accounted for 89.6 percent of US car sales in 1966 but that number was more than halved by 2018.
- During 2017, the US imported $192 billion of new passenger vehicles and light trucks, and exported $57 billion’s worth.
- Tesla’s production in 2019 was around 400,000 and about a half its vehicles was sold outside the United States. It now has an operating assembly plant in Shanghai as well as one in Fremont, California. The E-car sector will obviously grow.
- Europeans traditionally consider American-made cars from the Big Three as too large, poorly designed and inefficient gas guzzlers.
- Several foreign manufacturers now assemble vehicles in the US and ship an increasing number of units are being shipped overseas.
- Car components are sourced globally and insistence that vehicles should contain a percentage of locally-sourced components is difficult to apply.
- If vehicle production is becoming an export-dominated business, what is the outlook for the Detroit Big Three if they do not adjust the design of their vehicles to appeal to overseas markets?
TOPIC 2 FOR SHE WORE A YELLOW DRESS: CHILDHOOD HOBBIES
John’s early life was as a committed birdwatcher, a hobby he maintained throughout his adulthood. It was something he did whenever he wanted and it appealed to his independence.
As a child, he also collected postage stamps and car numbers. The former introduced him to world geography and the latter to the geography of the British Isles since the license plate letters of vehicles indicated the town where they had been purchased.
Jean-Louise was a teenage speleologist until she nearly lost her life, being stuck in rising water in the cave she was exploring. After the passing of her mother, she devoted herself to teaching and house management, and only later expanded her activities to include Cordon Bleu cooking, tennis and reading.
What were your childhood hobbies (including sports, collections, arts and crafts, outdoors and music)? How did they originate and did any of them survive into adulthood?
DISCUSSION POINTS FOR TOPIC 2 OF SHE WORE A YELLOW DRESS
- Egg collecting and birdwatching were hobbies John adopted because of living in the countryside and spending much of his time out of the house. How did your hobbies come about?
- John believes that the skills acquired during birdwatching helped him throughout his life, both in his career and socially. Did your hobbies assist you in any particular way “growing up”?
- What do you consider to be the merits of birdwatching and is it something you have ever done? What type of personality might find this activity satisfying? How might you recommend it to a friend?
- Were the illustrations and descriptions of birds at the end of each chapter helpful/of interest?
- What should be done to lessen the threats faced by the global bird population today as a result of environmental changes; a 2018 report suggests that 40 percent of global bird species are in decline; 1,469 bird species are threatened with extinction (1 our out of 8 species) and examples include the Snowy Owl, Puffin and European Turtle Dove; contributing factors include:
- Loss of suitable ecosystems through agricultural expansion and intensification, plus deforestation.
- Urban development diminishing the birds' habitat.
- Unsuitable land and fisheries management disrupting food supplies.
- Water scarcity.
- Illegal taking of birds and their eggs (for example, birds of prey)
- Global warming (birds moving further north, migrating birds arriving earlier, elevation shifts associated with precipitation and temperature change, changes in food supply, drought and exposure to wildfires and danger caused by wind farms).
- The use of poisons and pesticides
- Would you support a hobby enjoyed by your significant other, even when you disliked the activity?
TOPIC 3 FOR SHE WORE A YELLOW DRESS: FINDING A REWARDING CAREER
John’s career advanced more as a result of of serendipities than any plan, beginning with the availability of free higher education. He received very little guidance. He networked with his university friends, discovering the undergraduate “milk round”, and took advantage of the “cup of tea” incident with his final campus interviewer.
His start in Industrial Relations at Ford of Britain came about by accident, thanks to his graduate recruitment representative who sought out his personal interests in advance of organizing pre-placements. His move into international remuneration and benefits was due to family obligations rather than an interest in the function; yet it became the basis for his future career.
Jean-Louise chose teaching because of family obligations (to a dying mother) and the difficulty she faced in accessing a business career because of her gender.
Is there anything to be learned from John’s experiences that are relevant today? How much easier is it for a women today to work successfully in industry?
DISCUSSION POINTS FOR TOPIC 3 OF SHE WORE A YELLOW DRESS
- Obviously, attending university was critical in transforming John from a farm boy to a successful professional. Had his education not been free-of-charge, the rest of the story would not have happened. Did John make the correct career decision to join industry and Ford of Britain? What would you have decided? If John had to select today, he says he would choose the research opportunity; back then, he lacked the financial resources and confidence that he could become successful in academia.
- There were many serendipities John encountered during his career; which do you consider the most important to him?
- A university education
- Introduction to the “milk round” by his friend
- The cup of tea incident during his first interview with Ford
- Finding himself in a very visible function at Ford as his first appointment
- Marrying Jean-Louise
- The mentoring he received during his first placement
- Counsel he received from his fellow trainees Chris and David.
- The Ford of Europe position that open up for a second time, enabling John to move on from KD Operations.
- How did your career develop? Was it planned or did it just happen? Would you chose an alternative career path today if you were starting over again?
- How do you see careers transforming in the future as technology creates new opportunities through artificial intelligence and machine learning, but simultaneously destroys traditional occupations.
TOPIC 4 FOR SHE WORE A YELLOW DRESS: RELATIONSHIPS
Why do you think John and Jean-Louise’s relationship was so strong despite their very different backgrounds? Indeed, early on in the marriage, Jean-Louise returned to her father because she found John’s work behavior intolerable, only to be told by her parent to return and deal with it!
What makes for strong relationships and would you have acted any differently during their 10 years together?
DISCUSSION POINTS FOR TOPIC 4 OF SHE WORE A YELLOW DRESS
- There was regular conflict between the couple; you may wish to comment on the following situations:
- John accepting the Ford of Britain employment without first consulting Jean-Louise.
- John’s flirtation with Vanessa and his explanation to Jean-Louise.
- John placing his career ahead of his marriage with Jean-Louise when he accepted the Dagenham opportunities at separate times in his career.
- Teaching Jean-Louise to drive a car
- Jean-Louise’s increasing reliance on James to help her around the house because of John’s absence, and the emerging jealousy.
- The couple’s collaboration over such important matters as purchasing a new home, trading-in vehicles, taking Jean-Louise’s father to Norway where he fought during the war, selecting their holiday destinations together and developing a close relationship with Chris and Angela.
- Given your own personal relationships, what behaviors/attributes are important to a lasting togetherness?