Issue: Dec 2008


'The Engine of Democracy' Coalition to Send Workers From 50 States to Washington to Support Auto Bri



by John Larkin

The Engine Of Democracy, a coalition of organizations representing more than 6 million jobs related to the American automotive industry, today announced plans to send representatives from all 50 states and the District of Columbia to Washington, D.C., to show support for $25 billion in federal loans to General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC.


Spearheaded by suppliers and dealers in all states, this effort shows the massive, nationwide support for the federal loans the automakers need to help ensure the national security of the United States, the continuation of a robust automotive manufacturing base and the economic well-being of the nation and its citizens.


"This is about line workers, parts suppliers, dealership mechanics, and hard working moms and dads earning a living for their families," said Carl Galeana, an automobile dealer in several states and a coalition organizer. "As Americans, we depend on the auto industry to drive our economy in these very tough times. The role it played in reinvigorating our economy after 9/11 is just one example. And please, let's not forget how this industry turned on a dime and became what President Roosevelt called 'The Arsenal of Democracy' during World War II."


On December 5, 2008, 51 people from the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia who are directly or indirectly employed thanks to GM, Ford or Chrysler will gather outside the U.S. Capitol Building to tell their employment story and the impact of automakers on their locale. Each participant will be wearing a red, white and blue sport jersey with key data about the industry's impact on their state emblazoned on them.


"America's car companies play a crucial role in the nation's economic engine," said Neil DeKoker of the 400-member Original Equipment Suppliers Association. "Almost 4 percent of U.S. gross domestic product is auto-related and represents 10 percent of U.S. industrial production by value. Ford, GM and Chrysler account for more than 70 percent of U.S. production and support more than 6 million jobs across all 50 states and the District of Columbia."


According to Driving the Future: The New American Auto Industry by The Automotive Trade Policy Council, the U.S. auto industry invests $10 billion in this country in plants and equipment each year. In addition, the U.S.-based auto industry is second only to the semiconductor industry in R&D spending –- $12 billion last year alone, the study said.


A significant portion of that R&D money is spent developing alternative energy vehicles that will move the U.S. away from its dependence on oil. Without the work of GM, Ford and Chrysler, the U.S. could be forced to import critical technologies such as batteries, biofuel technology, advanced internal combustion engines and transmissions, hybrid systems, and fuel cells. That, in itself, has all the markings of a national security disaster.


The auto industry has one of the largest economic multipliers of any sector of the U.S. economy. Its growth or contraction can be detected in changes in the U.S. Gross Domestic Product. In many states, employment in automotive and automotive parts manufacturing ranks among the top three manufacturing industries, according to a recent report by the Center for Automotive Research (CAR).


The Engine of Democracy coalition also will launch a microsite entitled "The Engine of Democracy," Monday with the URL www.THEENGINEofDEMOCRACY.com. Automotive employees, retirees, car owners, auto supplier employees, dealership employees, mayors, state legislators and interested citizens will be encouraged to go on the site and add their stories about America's car industry and its impact on their lives. Visitors also will be encouraged to write their Congresswomen, Congressmen, Senators, Secretary Paulson, President Bush and President-Elect Obama –- as well as legislators from other states –- to encourage the U.S. Government to approve a bridge loan for America's car companies.


Visitors also will be able to see the impact of Detroit's automakers on their state as well as key facts and myth-busters concerning Detroit's automakers such as:


The automakers are requesting a bridge loan, not a bailout as Wall Street has done. The companies need the loan because the U.S. credit freeze has essentially closed capital markets and squeezed their cash flow from operations that are being devastated by extremely low consumer demand across the industry. This freeze is happening as the automakers are in the midst of huge restructuring costs, heavy pension and health care payments and massive-yet-crucial product and advanced technology investments so that today's and tomorrow's vehicles are even safer and more environmentally friendly.

GM, Ford and Chrysler make vehicles Americans want to buy. 50 percent of the products sold in this country come from those companies. The best-selling vehicle in the U.S. is a Ford; No. 2 is a GM product. 

Motor vehicles and parts are the single largest export from the U.S., topping aerospace, medical equipment and communications. 

According to J.D. Power, three of the top five brands for dependability are American made: Buick, Cadillac and Mercury. The 2008 Chevy Malibu is the highest ranked midsize car in initial quality. The 2008 Chevy Silverado ranks highest in large truck quality. Ford quality is on par with Toyota and Honda. 

Ford has the most five-star safety rated vehicles in the industry and GM has the same number of vehicles as Toyota that achieved the top safety rating, according to the Institute for Highway Safety. 

GM, Ford and Chrysler build fuel-efficient vehicles. GM has twice as many models that get 30 mpg or better than its nearest competitor. GM's four new midsize crossover vehicles have best-in-class fuel economy. GM has eight hybrids on the road today, with a total of 20 planned by 2012. The 2-Mode Chevy Tahoe full-size SUV was named Green Car of the Year last November. The new Ford Fusion Hybrid and Mercury Milan Hybrid beat the Toyota Camry Hybrid by 6 miles per gallon. In minivans, Chrysler is better than both Nissan and Toyota and basically tied with Honda. 

GM, Ford and Chrysler have been restructuring their businesses over the past few years that included the loss of tens of thousands of jobs, a new labor contract with the UAW that will bring costs in line with foreign competitors in this country, and productivity gains that have put them on par with the competition. Ford was profitable in the first quarter of 2008 before the economic crisis began and has been working for two years to improve its balance sheet through aggressive restructuring while accelerating the development of new, safe, fuel-efficient and high quality products. GM has reduced structural costs in North America by $9 billion since 2005, eliminated raises and bonuses for executives and salaried employees, and aggressively addressed its manufacturing footprint, shifting from truck and SUVs to smaller cars and crossovers. 

According to The Harbour Report, the manufacturing productivity bible of the industry, GM has more plants leading their respective segments in productivity than any other competitor, foreign or domestic.

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