Brandon Spence: U.S. automakers must survive |

Back to: News

Brandon Spence: U.S. automakers must survive

In a very twisted way, a part of me hopes Morgan Liddick and those who share his position for the Big Three to “die” get their way. Only for the sake to see what he would be writing years from now after the U.S. has slipped into an economic abyss. Would he then stand by his column that U.S. automakers have a duty to die? I somehow think not.

I am fourth-generation Flint, Mich. GM baby. My great grandfather was a part of the infamous 1937 Flint Sit-Down Strike. My grandfather put in 30 years at GM. One uncle recently retired from GM. Another has been a Teamster for as long as I can remember. My father’s job, selling industrial pumps, would not have existed if not for the Big Three. And I was born in Flint with most of my family still in both the Flint and Detroit areas.

I have seen first-hand what happens when the U.S. automotive industry fails. If you want to know what America will look like if the Big Three do not get their $25 billion loan, take a look at southeast Michigan. Unemployment is approaching 10 percent and will likely eclipse that mark by the end of 2009, with an estimated 108,000 jobs being cut . This would be just the beginning. The unemployment rate during the Great Depression averaged about 14 percent. Reports indicate the nearly three million jobs will be lost if GM, Ford and Chrysler file Chapter 11. That could dramatically escalate when you factor in that one in 10 jobs in the U.S. are tied into the automotive industry: parts suppliers, truck drivers, advertising agencies, dealers, etc. Those are the obvious ones.

The steel workers throughout the Midwest would take a major hit, one they cannot afford. There are also insurance agencies that will be bogged down with health insurance claims and benefits that are tied up in bankruptcy court for years. Millions of Americans overnight without jobs and healthcare.

But yes, Mr. Liddick, you’re right the automotive industry deserves to die. You’re right. They did produce the biggest cars and trucks possible. But this is not solely the fault of the automakers. Americans wanted the biggest, and that’s exactly what they got. It’s far easier to wake up one day with gas at $4 a gallon and decide to buy a smaller fuel-efficient vehicle than it is to change all of your manufacturing plants. That takes time. And for the record, let’s dispel the myth about the current quality and inefficiency of Big Three vehicles. A J D Power quality study scored eight Big Three brands as high or higher than Acura, Audi, BMW, Honda, Nissan, Scion, Volkswagen and Volvo. Both the Chevy Malibu and Ford Fusion scored higher than the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. All of the Detroit Three build midsize sedans the EPA rates at 29-33 mpg on the highway. The most fuel-efficient Chevrolet Malibu gets 33 mpg on the highway, 2 mpg better than the best Honda Accord.

So who do you want to see punished by this? It certainly won’t be the CEOs. They’ll be fine. The other millions that don’t wear white collars, not so much. AIG was handed upwards of $150 billion. The Big Three are asking for a loan, to be paid back, of $25 billion. One company employs about 100,000, the other employs millions. What’s the real difference? The people who work for AIG wake up, shower and go to work. The vast majority of people who work for the Big Three wake up, go to work, come home and shower.

The Big Three catapulted America into the 20th Century as an economic power. During WWII Detroit halted production and turned its attention to building tanks. A quarter of all tanks manufactured in the U.S. came from the Detroit Arsenal Tank Plant, a division of Chrysler. General Motors was the world’s largest employer for most of the last century. The backbone of this country was built on the labor of the automotive industry. And now when it looks bleak, people like you, Mr. Liddick, want to see them crash and burn. I’ll be sure not to call you if I’m in a bind. Finally, off point here. You said “WE” voted for change in the last election. I somehow find it hard to believe that you voted for change. Have a happy Thanksgiving.