At Witz’ End: What’s an American Car? Page 2

February 27, 2007

2007 Ford Fusion

So why has exactly this scenario evolved in the U.S.A., where nearly every Japanese automaker and some Europeans and Koreans assemble cars and trucks for the American market and beyond? Because, once import vehicle makers began achieving serious penetration of this market during the fuel-crisis 1970s, our government essentially forced them into it by imposing quotas on imported vehicles. Because our domestic makers during the 1980s and '90s were not especially worthy of protection. Because enlightened off-shore makers saw huge PR and some business benefits in building vehicles here despite our much higher business costs. And because our governments (federal and especially state and local) and most media encouraged, enabled and welcomed them here as job “creators.” MORE--



Job creation – or job death


What they did not see, or chose to ignore, is that “creation” of a few thousand plant jobs here and there would eventually destroy many more and better jobs elsewhere. So while some (mostly southern) states continue to battle each other with big incentives to attract new foreign-maker plants to gain two or three thousand jobs, other (mostly northern) states lose tens of thousands. While import companies will “create” about 3000 U.S. jobs in 2007, raising their total to 106,000, U.S. automakers will lose nearly 43,000 this year, falling to about 378,000, according to Jim Doyle, president of the Washington, DC-based Level Field Institute, which tracks and reports auto-company U.S. employment.


Doyle further predicts that U.S. industry-job losses will total some 95,000 (from 2005 employment) by 2010, and even then the three U.S.-based companies will employ 71 percent of all American auto workers — four times more per car sold than Hyundai, 2.5 times more than Toyota, and nearly twice as many as Honda. “Reporters tend to focus on plant jobs and miss the headquarters jobs,” Doyle asserts.


“Foreign automakers spend millions around the country promoting their new plants and U.S. investment,” he says. “We welcome their investment, but Americans should know that each Ford, GM, or Chrysler Group purchase supports nearly 2.5 times the number of U.S. jobs of foreign automakers, on average.”


What’s more American?


Some say a Japanese car bolted together in America with a fair amount of U.S. content is more “American” than a U.S.-brand car assembled in Canada or Mexico with some foreign-sourced parts. Nonsense! Ask yourself, again, where are the bulk of the better jobs and where do the profits go? DaimlerChrysler’s Chrysler Group, by the way, still qualifies as “American” because it is an entire self-contained car company based in America and employing tens of thousands of Americans at all levels that happens to be owned by a German company, just as Opel is a self-contained German company owned by General Motors.


Toyota spends huge sums of money promoting the idea that they ‘support’ 368,000 U.S. jobs,” Doyle says, “but those include supplier, dealership and other peripheral jobs. Using the same multiplier, GM supports 1.9 million U.S. jobs and Ford 1.2 million. Toyota also says it builds here most of the vehicles it sells here. That may be its eventual intent, but Automotive News reported that 48 percent of the vehicles Toyota sold here in 2006 were imported.

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