By on February 13, 2008

x08bu_lc045.jpgCanadian Auto Workers president Buzz Hargrove knows what's killing the North American auto industry: imports from South Korea and Japan. He's upset that Canada imports more vehicles from Asia and Europe than Canada ships to those areas. And if the problem continues unchecked, he's predicting GM and Ford will be in bankrupt within 10 years.  His solution? The Globe and Mail reports Buzz wants Canada and the U.S. to ban imports from Japan and South Korea until they open their markets to North-American-built vehicles. Reality to Buzz: they don't want your vehicles. If you've never been to those countries, roads are narrow, city streets are clogged and parking is at a premium. The average GM, Ford or Chrysler product from this side of the globe would fit in there like an orca in a fishbowl. Also, I don't know about Canadian sales, but the majority of Hondas, Toyotas, Nissans, and Mitusubishis sold in the U.S. are bolted together in North America, not imported. He needs to put the blame where it belongs: on the auto companies that sat by complacently resting on their laurels and denying the imports were a threat until they lost customers they'll never regain.

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35 Comments on “CAW Boss Buzz Hargrove: Ban Imported Cars...”


  • avatar
    tony-e30

    I thought we already knew how NA automotive manufacturers reacted without a strong foreign presence in the market. Isn’t that the history lesson from the malaise era?

  • avatar
    SatinTypeS

    I’m a Korean American but I had never been to S. Korea until I was 18, after graduating highschool. After we got off Seoul’s superhighway, there was not a time when I got into a car that I didn’t feel like we were not going to get into some accident. To this day I am amazed how narrow the roads are, and how closely people are willing to drive next to each other without getting into an accident. I can see why they would rather ride a train or bus.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    If bullshit were music CAW union boss Buzz Hargrove would be a one-man band! He is grandstanding for his naive dues paying members.

    Notwithstanding the Harper government substantially lowered corporate taxes Hargrove is trying to extort more taxpayer handouts for the Diminishing-3, so they can continue pumping out unsellable product to shoehorn into dealer storage compounds.

    Buzz says the Japanese and Koreans are not buying a fair share of D3 cars. He wants their auto exports embargoed. If North Americans won’t buy the crap issuing from CAW factories, why would foreigners?

    The domestic brands’ woes are wholly self-inflicted. Having squandered a 99.9-percent market share by producing abysmal vehicles and abusing customers for decades they are in a death spiral and the ground is coming up very fast!

  • avatar
    CanuckGreg

    Buzz Hargrove is an absolute grade A asshole. His lamentations about “them damn ferrin cars” and blame-gaming has grown more and more desperate and pathetic with each passing year, to the point where even the most fervent left-leaning weenies are dismissing him as a tinfoil hat clad buffoon. His time as a person of influence and relevance to the Canadian public policy landscape is rapidly coming to a close.

  • avatar
    jolo

    SatinTypeS, I agree and it’s been 30 years since I was there.

    We used to joke that the width of a road was two times the width of a bus minus one foot. Everytime two busses passed each other on the road, one set of tires were always on the shoulder.

    When I was there, Korean drivers were not good drivers (courteous, patient, speed-limit-driving, etc), but they were skilled drivers. You rarely saw or heard about a car accident. They could maneuver their little kimchi cars all over the place and get to where they needed to. Usually you wanted to change your pants, but for the most part, it was an E-ticket ride through town.

  • avatar
    paulpita07

    He is just trying to make a point that a lot of other countries protect there companies unlike what we do here in North America. Do you think it is fair that we offer very low tariffs on imported goods while it is nearly impossible to export? Do you think its fair that China requires teaming up with a foreign company if they want to sell there cars there (essentially splitting profits as well as providing technical expertise)? Its not that they dont want GM/Ford/Chryslers its that they make it extremely hard and not worth the effort to sell cars in foreign land. Thats all he was trying to get at.

  • avatar
    thalter

    Hey Buzz, while you’re at it, how about banning unions, with their wage and benefit packages that put domestic automakers at a competitive disadvantage?

  • avatar
    Redbarchetta

    Wouldn’t it be funny if they did ban all import cars and people just started buying used imports and the domestic dealers STILL had tumbleweeds as customers.

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    paulpita07 :
    February 13th, 2008 at 1:13 pm

    He is just trying to make a point that a lot of other countries protect there companies unlike what we do here in North America. Do you think it is fair that we offer very low tariffs on imported goods while it is nearly impossible to export? Do you think its fair that China requires teaming up with a foreign company if they want to sell there cars there (essentially splitting profits as well as providing technical expertise)? Its not that they dont want GM/Ford/Chryslers its that they make it extremely hard and not worth the effort to sell cars in foreign land. Thats all he was trying to get at.

    So, the obvious solution is to punish your own citizens by raising the price of products they want (foriegn cars in this case) through increased tariffs or by taking that product away entirely (embargo)?

  • avatar
    gotsmart

    One point that’s missed (or ignored) by Buzz is that some of the best-selling and highest-quality “imported” vehicles from Honda and Toyota (not to mention Nissan, Suzuki and Hyundai) are actually made in Canada and the USA by non-unionized workers.

    Do those count as “imported” vehicles in Buzz’s estimation? Or is he going purely by sales numbers of foreign-branded cars?

    And guess what? The cars that the Asian markets want are already built there. (e.g. the Buick LaCrosse, anyone?)

    The big problem with the Diminishing-3 has as much to do with high union labour rates and crushing retirement and health care costs. Buzz, you’re a part of the problem, not a part of the solution.

  • avatar
    Bancho

    Can you imagine a Chevy Tahoe on the streets in South Korea or Japan.

    Domestic automakers are at their best building trucks and SUVs. Generally, when it comes to cars, especially compacts. They are a complete no show.

    What have they done to change that perception? The Challenger and Camaro? Please, low volume wanna-be retro muscle cars are embarrassing to produce at this point.

    On another note, if it’s so expensive to build cars for domestic consumption, why would another country want to overpay when they can negotiate to build the cars they want in their country cheaper? The “Big 3″ don’t have any problems setting up shop in other countries to build cars there.

  • avatar
    Redbarchetta

    It totally forgot Canada doesn’t have any domesticly owned auto companies. All the cars there are imports, Buzz’s members build imports by that definition. And what about the cars GM builds in Asia and “imports”, those would be OK of course.

  • avatar

    Actually, Buzz is wrong in thinking that other countries are protecting their home grown cars from foreign competition. The car making nations have this fairly well sorted out – out of sheer self-interest. If you erect protective tariffs, then your own product will suffer abroad.

    Buzz must be really dumb, and desperate. That’s a dangerous combination. He should have spent more time figuring out how to work together with the car makers his members were working for, or not working for, as the case may be.

  • avatar
    Blunozer

    Someone needs to take a hardcover, large print edition of Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” and smack Buzz in the head with it. Repeatedly.

    Every thing that comes out of his mouth is stupider than the last.

    Banning foriegn cars? That would just up the resale value on current Hondas, Toyotas, and Mazdas. I’d rather pay $25K on a used Honda than $20K on a new GM.

  • avatar
    Jacob

    Wasn’t Japanese auto market open for a while now? American car companies all tried and failed to penetrate it though. South Korea still has some major barriers to car imports, but it seems like those will be removed soon as a result of a major bilateral trade agreement that’s being worked on. I do doubt though that American car companies will somehow succeed in exporting large quantities of cars there. Besides being a small country, it has four domestic brands which had been catering to the local tastes for years.

    Yes, it is unfair that China has some serious barriers to imports unless cars are manufactured in China in joint partnerships with the local companies. What a great way to lose jobs AND western technology to Chinese for only a song. It’s only a matter of time before those Chinese companies will steal enough technology to satisfy their domestic demand (and elsewhere in the world) on their own without working in any partnerships. Blame Clinton administration for letting China into WTO without working out a better deal on car trade.

  • avatar
    TeeKay

    If even Americans don’t want to buy American cars, how can you blame the other countries for not wanting to buy our POSs?

  • avatar
    NickR

    Buzz…um, there is a Honda plant in Ontario, a Toyota plant, and a Suzuki plant. Do we ban those cars to? God, he comes up with crap.

  • avatar
    Bancho

    Just out of curiosity, as the US dollar strives to achieve parity with the peso, is it true that Canada is now the most expensive country to build cars in?

  • avatar
    oboylepr

    If bullshit were music CAW union boss Buzz Hargrove would be a one-man band! He is grandstanding for his naive dues paying members.

    Notwithstanding the Harper government substantially lowered corporate taxes Hargrove is trying to extort more taxpayer handouts for the Diminishing-3, so they can continue pumping out unsellable product to shoehorn into dealer storage compounds.

    Buzz says the Japanese and Koreans are not buying a fair share of D3 cars. He wants their auto exports embargoed. If North Americans won’t buy the crap issuing from CAW factories, why would foreigners?

    The domestic brands’ woes are wholly self-inflicted. Having squandered a 99.9-percent market share by producing abysmal vehicles and abusing customers for decades they are in a death spiral and the ground is coming up very fast!

    Well said GW, well said.

  • avatar
    dean

    I’m as fond as the “Americans don’t want American cars, why should foreigners” sentiment as anyone, but, sliding market share notwithstanding, a lot of Americans do buy “American” cars. So it is really a pretty lame argument.

    As has been said, a Honda built in Ontario is exactly as Canadian as a GM built there. That is to say, not at all. Buzz is so full of it the whites of his eyes are brown.

    I’m no international trade expert, but there probably are some barriers to exporting vehicles to Japan or Korea. There are non-tariff barriers as well, so even if there aren’t punitive duties there may be some real barriers to export. And even if trade were completely unobstructed, a degree of nationalism would probably keep the US penetration low.

    (Besides, can you imagine a Japanese driver getting excited about a Cobalt?)

  • avatar
    Bancho

    The oddest thing I ever saw personally was a RHD Cadillac Eldorado parked in Tsim Sha Tsui Hong Kong. It was a gargantuan beast parked on this tiny street in HK. I wish I’d taken pics (this was back in 1993 before I had a digital camera).

    Aside from that beast, I was amazed by the variety of neat small cars they had (and that I wish we could get more of here).

  • avatar
    troonbop

    “a Honda plant in Ontario, a Toyota plant, and a Suzuki plant. Do we ban those cars to?”

    Uh, oh, somebody’s figured out step two of buzz’s clever plan; get rid of non-union plants.

  • avatar
    lprocter1982

    troonbop:

    Actually, there’s two Toyota plants in Ontario…

    Indeed, I think more ‘imports’ are made in Canada than ‘domestic’ cars. If Buzz really wanted to ban imports, everyone in Canada would be driving Crown Vics, Impalas, Civics, Camrys, Suzuki SXTYGHRSOWP66747s, or Acuras. Oh wait… we already do.

  • avatar
    PJungnitsch

    From what I understand the Japanese market always was open but Ford and GM decided to stick to Europe for overseas expansion, reasoning that the ‘sandal wearing, goldfish tender’ market would never amount to much.

    IIRC they never bothered to design models specifically for Japan or even change the steering wheel to the correct side. It’s not like the Japanese don’t buy American stuff, Harley dominates Honda, Yamaha and company in the big bike market there.

    The Japanese never would have gotten very far in North America selling only RHD kei cars.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    “From what I understand the Japanese market always was open but Ford and GM decided to stick to Europe for overseas expansion, reasoning that the ’sandal wearing, goldfish tender’ market would never amount to much.”

    I think Ford built Model Ts there, but that might not be very relevant today.

    One bit of advice for buzz and all the US auto execs – It’s the product, Stupid! No need for a ban on imports, just make good cars here. Is that really impossible? Or just improbable?

  • avatar
    DPG

    If Buzz could get the Honda & Toyota workers to drop some union dollars into his hat, he wouldn’t be saying ban imports.

    Toyota, Honda, Nissan do not attempt to sell all of their Japan market vehicles here in North America, because they know they wouldn’t sell.

    Buzz sounds like the idiots at GM.
    Why listen to what the customer wants? Like a electronic store selling tube TVs, when everyone is looking for plasma/LCD.

    If it don’t make dollars, it don’t make sense (cents).

  • avatar
    Kevin

    Dear Buzz:

    YOU are a foreigner and you LIVE in a foreign country. Quit acting like you’re my paisano.

    /s/ 300 million U.S.-Americans

  • avatar
    terrier

    Interesting post from “Blunozer”. Perhaps he doesn’t read much and doesn’t realize that most impartial observers (J.D.Power for instance) now rate GM product, in many cases, to be of at least as good quality as Toyota or Honda. Hard to believe that any knowledgeable buyer would pay more for a used Japanesewhatevermobile than a new GM. Consumers magazine no longer recommends Toyota.

  • avatar
    unleashed

    J.D.Powers…impartial???
    Oh, please!!!!

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    idiot.

  • avatar
    Orian

    # Jacob :
    February 13th, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    Wasn’t Japanese auto market open for a while now? American car companies all tried and failed to penetrate it though. South Korea still has some major barriers to car imports, but it seems like those will be removed soon as a result of a major bilateral trade agreement that’s being worked on. I do doubt though that American car companies will somehow succeed in exporting large quantities of cars there. Besides being a small country, it has four domestic brands which had been catering to the local tastes for years.

    Yes, it is unfair that China has some serious barriers to imports unless cars are manufactured in China in joint partnerships with the local companies. What a great way to lose jobs AND western technology to Chinese for only a song. It’s only a matter of time before those Chinese companies will steal enough technology to satisfy their domestic demand (and elsewhere in the world) on their own without working in any partnerships. Blame Clinton administration for letting China into WTO without working out a better deal on car trade.

    China wasn’t admitted into the WTO until 2001 – during Bush’s administration.

    Clinton supported China’s entry bid in 1999, but it wasn’t until the rest of the world voted to allow them in back in 01 that they were admitted.

    If you think some of China’s business laws are unfair, India is just as bad. They require the same sorts of agreements for a foreign company to work there.

  • avatar

    Buzz has been saying this “comment” for several years now, I heard him on a local Radio station a few days ok saying the same thing, he was saying people should endorse J.D.Powers and not CU or Phil Edmonston Lemon-Aid books, all these media publications have a “bias” imho!
    I do agree if both Honda and Toyota plants here in Ontario where under the blankett of the CAW, he would not be saying the same things.

  • avatar
    Blunozer

    @terrior:

    I read plenty. J.D. Power is pretty much up there with “Consumer Digest” with impartiality (ie NONE) I’ve even done one of their “surveys” a whole 3 months after I bought the car. Some measure of reliability there.

    You want impartial, check an AutoTrader. See which holds its value more, a Civic or a Malibu. In the great equalizer that is known as the used car market, a 2005 Civic is worth $14K, the 2005 Malibu (a supposedly more upmarket car) sells for $10K.

    For those of us who eventually want to trade in our cars (ie Everybody) a foreign car makes for a much more sensible choice.

    Also, on a personal level… I’ve owned GM and Ford products. I’ve also owned Hondas. Guess which brand provided the best ownership experience?

  • avatar
    Bancho

    The domestics *have* improved in quality. Now their next task is to build something I actually *want* to buy. I don’t want a truck. I don’t want some dowdy vanilla sedan. I don’t want some SUV/CUV that the industry is terrified to call a wagon. I don’t want some pseudo-retro “halo” car.

    It’s already been mentioned that the horrific resale/trade-in value certainly doesn’t reflect the improved quality either.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    I rode all over S. Korea in a Hummer. It can be done :)


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