NPR’s Sonari Glinton on Auto Show, Self-Driving Cars, and Sexism in Auto Industry

“These women, these people who worked in these plants, that glass ceiling’s not a glass ceiling, it’s a concrete ceiling.”

Jake Neher/WDET

The auto show feels like a big deal to our local community, but it’s sometimes difficult to gauge its size and significance on a global scale.

The truth is journalists and and business people from around the world travel here to take the temperature of the auto industry. We look at the health of sales and momentum within the companies, and we see what new technologies and concepts are being developed. And we also look at how the auto show itself is changing.

A few years ago COBO Hall was relatively sparse as the industry grappled with failing companies and plummeting sales.

Now that the show has rebounded it’s starting to look more like a technology showcase, more about what’s inside the car than how body styles are changing.

Sonari Glinton covers the auto industry for NPR. He’s in town with a bevy of reporters who come here every year to look at how the industry is faring.

When it comes to all of the buzz around autonomous cars, Glinton says a driverless take-over of the roadways is still probably far off.

“I don’t see the world in which it happens now,” says Glinton. “The infrastructure and the cities need to change.”

But Glinton says there are very good reasons to move toward that goal. He says tens of thousands of people die on the roads every year.

“Every single one of us has someone in our family who has either been crippled, maimed, or killed by these vehicles,” he says. “We have got to do something about safety.”

Glinton also talks with Detroit Today host Stephen Henderson about his mother’s and his own experiences with racism and sexism in a Chicago Ford plant, and compares it to his experiences as a reporter at NPR.

“These women, these people who worked in these plants, that glass ceiling’s not a glass ceiling, it’s a concrete ceiling,” he says. 

“And you wonder why there’s only one Mary Barra,” Glinton says, referring to the head of General Motors, the first female CEO of a major global automaker. “Because that is the entry point to the auto industry is the plant.”

Click on the audio player above to hear the full conversation.

Jake Neher/WDET



  • Detroit Today
    Dynamic and diverse voices. News, politics, community and the issues that define our region. Hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson, Detroit Today brings you fresh and perceptive views weekdays at 9 am and 7 pm.