It's a Small (Minded) World After All

Frank Williams
by Frank Williams
its a small minded world after all

If patriotism is a scoundrel’s last refuge, American automakers and their domestic defenders have been fixated on the end game for decades. The Car Connection’s Gary Witzenburg is only the latest industry wag to try to wrap The Big 2.5 in the American flag. In a rehash of a November 2003 editorial for Automotive Industries magazine, Witzenburg offers gullible readers a lesson from his school for scoundrels.

Witzenburg’s polemic– "What's an American Car?"– starts with a proposition. “Say General Motors decides to build Chevrolets in Japan…” The former GM PR flack argues that you couldn't consider this theoretical, made-in-Japan GM product a Japanese car because it was built by an American-owned company.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, Chevrolet builds and sells the Epica and Spark in China. Buick builds and sells the GL-8 minivan in The People's Republic. GM builds Aveos in Korea and sells them at Chevrolet dealers across America. By Mr. Witzenburg’s standards these are all American cars. By anyone else’s, they’re Chinese and Korean.

In Witzenburg's world, a Honda Accord designed by American engineers, fabricated by American workers (paid in American dollars), built in America (Marysville, Ohio) with mostly (though not exclusively) American-made parts is… Japanese. Anyone familiar with multinational automobile manufacturing knows that today's world market simply isn’t simple enough to support Witzenburg’s simplistic logic fed by yo yo bento.

For example, how would the polemicist classify the country of origin for cars built at NUMMI, the joint venture between GM and Toyota? The California plant produces both the Toyota Corolla and Pontiac Vibe. Do their respective badges make the Corolla Japanese and the Vibe American, even though they share parts and roll out of the same assembly plant? Not even dancing Tony Tuttle would agree with that.

As Witzenburg’s rhetoric shifts into high gear, the contradictions raised by his position become increasingly obvious. The writer’s definition of American cars expands to include Chrysler products— even though the company is owned (at least for now) by Germany’s DaimlerChrysler. At the same time, Witzenburg labels Opel a German car brand– even though it’s owned by General Motors.

So the location of a car company’s headquarters determines its products’ nationality; or the citizenship of the people who screw it together; depending on Witzenburg’s personal preference.

Poor Witzenburg. He lives at a time when Australian Holdens become “American” Pontiacs and German Opels become “domestic” Saturns– which are sold in showrooms next to "true American” cars (many of which are built in Mexico and Canada). The Big 2.5’s global production model has removed any remaining justification for the writer's “America first” defense, who must serve at the pleasure of the president.

No surprise, then, that Witzenburg changes tack and adopts the hackneyed “what’s best for America” argument. He states “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.”

Witzenburg seems unaware that these “mostly southern” states have been trying to attract the automotive industry for years. They were snubbed by the American automakers based in the “mostly northern” states. Now the same automakers are crying foul when southern states do whatever’s necessary to lure industrial facilities, using incentives to create jobs for their citizens. Just like Michigan.

“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.”

What Witzenburg doesn’t see, or conveniently ignores, is that the jobs in question were destroyed by The Big 2.5's refusal to recognize and adapt to a changing market, and the way they rolled over and played dead for the UAW. The Big 2.5’s tunnel vision led to this situation, not the efforts of a few state governors to provide a better standard of living for their constituents.

Witzenburg then quotes Jim Allard, professional organist and president of the Ford-funded Level Field Institute. “Is it more important to the U.S. economy for someone to buy a Ford Fusion, although it's built in Mexico, from a company that employs 105,000 SUV-driving Americans than a Honda built in Ohio from a company that employs 27,000 sushi eaters?”

In a word, no. If Americans bought automobiles based entirely on the number of ignorant Americans an automaker employs– not upon the vehicle's quality or value– there'd be only one domestic manufacturer. We'd all be driving something truly nasty (e.g. Lada). What's more, if foreign consumers followed the same rule, they'd never buy an automobile from an American subsidiary.

The Big 2.5 have staked their future on their ability to leverage the world automotive market for domestic success. Their plan contradicts the knee-jerk patriotism they've promolgated– or at least tolerated– ever since the foreign "invasion" began. Ironically enough, Gary Witzenberg is paving the domestics' road to Hell.

[To read Gary Witzenburg's editorial, click here.]

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  • Luigi Bosco Luigi Bosco on Sep 09, 2007

    If it is not from the big three is is not a product from the land of the free. Are you guys in denial? I had a 1990 Chevy which I recently gave to a friend. Unlike it’s Japanese competitors it did not have a timing belt. It‘s V6 engine did not gel and the heads gaskets did not blow. The speedometers recorded the mileage correctly and as it was a wagon it was worked hard most of its life and buried a lot of foreign competition during the 17 years the car was in the family. . What you drive says allot about who you are. Do you really think you do not stand out in a foreign brand on a us road? If you want to buy from a scab do not cry when you are out of work. Foreign jobs are in the south for a reason only ; to employ scab workers. You can put dress on pig but it is still a pig Nissan sent the Armada, Honda sent the Pilot and Mitsubishi sent the Zero; what does that make you, a target? Be different and support America.

  • Robert Farago Robert Farago on Sep 09, 2007
    Luigi Bosco : If it is not from the big three is is not a product from the land of the free. That's a nice, simple rule, but how do you account for Korean Chevrolets, Mexican Fusions and Canadian Silverados? And what about Chinese parts in Chryslers, or Chrysler's recent production deal with the Chinese to build a small car for the American market? By the same token, calling all Southern auto workers "scabs" makes things nice and clear for the intellectually challenged, but are southern auto workers really taking jobs from union workers? I mean, jobs that the union had? 'Cause as far as I know, there were no union workers building cars down South before the transplants set up shop. Also, the southern workers seem unwilling to organize. So... they may be scabs, but they seem happy enough to work without union representation. Do you think they might know something you don't?

  • VoGhost Five years ago, Tesla was ten years ahead of the competition. I haven't seen anything to suggest that's changed.
  • Varezhka They cheapened out on the hardware side too, so we'll see how much they can improve with the software updates. I know they're using faster processors with some of their newer vehicles, but not sure how much faster.
  • Varezhka I mentioned yesterday that I wasn't a fan of Mazda Connect v1.0 in MX-5. Now I count Mazda Connect v2.0 in Mazda3 as among my favorites. Clean, fast, and intuitive without being a distraction to driving.I also don't mind the v7 BMW i-Drive, though BMW also seem to go back and forth between quite good and quite messy between updates. I also liked the screen position better before they incorporated touch.
  • EBFlex When you support socialism I guess it makes sense to support countries that are socialist.This is absolutely ridiculous though. The dementia-riddled, installed president won't allow drilling here and as recently as early November said "NO MORE DRILLING" ( )Why help people here and give them work when you can ship it off to Venezuela? Next, he will be advocating for giving jobs to China who are continuing to commit crimes against humanity (something the elf Fauci wishes he could do).This is insanity. We have tons of oil here. We should be drilling for it and aggressively building refining capacity to turn it into lovely, lovely gasoline and diesel.
  • Kjhkjlhkjhkljh kljhjkhjklhkjh In the news : Rich people join forces to stay ultra rich and EFF poor people in all countries by dividing them against each other and killing them