The American auto industry, long the economic engine of the Great Lakes region and bellweather of the national economy, hit a rough patch of road in the recessionary late 1970s. The slowdown wasn't helped by an energy crisis and increased competition from foreign automakers, flooding the market with cheap, fuel-efficient cars. Many hoped that a change in Washington would improve the fortunes of the Motor City.
It was no coincidence that Detroit was chosen to host the 1980 Republican National Convention, which nominated Reagan. The sunny Californian, whose blithe promises of a "return to greatness" resonated with a nation beset with a malaise of uncertainty about its future, handily won the state's 21 electoral votes in November.