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Vol. 3, No. 11
October 7, 2006

The Last American Car
by Andrew Angove

Image: MILEPOSTS Garage


Automotive News > Continuing Coverage
American automobile industry delegated to history

DETROIT AM November 14, 2009 - We have good news, and we have bad news. The good news is: when the fictional article, The Last American Car was published, many of you "got it." The bad news is: many of you did not. The Last American Car was not just about the automobile industry. Nor was it about import vs. domestic cars, reliability, build quality, resale value, or many of the other things people professed it to be. In fact, the article could have been about the textile industry, or any one of a number of different industries. It just so happens the article was written for an automotive site, so to stay on topic the automotive industry was used as the example.

It wasn't long before the article was being discussed on blogs, forums, and mailing lists. Some people were very critical, stating that we went too far in our attempt to make a point. We would like to point out to them that it's obvious we didn't go far enough, since so many people didn't seem to understand the point. Others went so far as to say the site itself wasn't very good, for various reasons. One person even made a comparison using Oprah and Roseanne as examples. We were the ones who didn't "get it" on that one.

And there were those who understood, and tried to explain to the others. Our sincere thanks for your efforts, although in many instances those efforts were apparently in vain, which is pretty typical of the mind set of many Americans at this point.

The Last American Car was a story about America and how we've lost touch with what this country stands for. We want jobs that pay well and have great benefits. We want our employers to treat us fairly and provide a safe work environment. We want to go shopping and buy cheap imported stuff and feel confident that we saved a ton of money by doing so. Well you know what? You can't have it both ways!

Buying cheap imported goods does not support high paying American jobs. It never has, and it never will. Do the math. An employer in America can't compete with an overseas employer who doesn't have the same overhead. It costs money to pay American employees, provide them with benefits, and a safe work environment. Overseas, the standards are not the same, nor are the costs. We are not comparing apples to apples. The playing field is not level. This has not worked in the past, nor is it working now, nor will it ever work. Why?

Let's look at the cycle. A company must sell goods or services at a price that covers the cost to manufacture, distribute, pay employees, pay the rent, provide benefits to employees, set a little something aside for emergencies, and make a reasonable profit for future growth and development. When you remove something from this cycle, the circle is broken and it becomes prone to failure. Overseas companies don't have to provide the same considerations to their employees, which gives them an immediate upper hand, and you can forget about good benefits, which lowers the cost dramatically.

So, an imported item can sell for less, since the amount of money needed by that company to manufacture, distribute, pay employees, pay the rent, etc., is much less to start with. It's simple economics. When costs are higher, the sales price of the product must also be high enough to cover them or the company goes out of business.

But many Americans today don't stop to consider this. Those cheap imported goods they buy are putting American companies, and the well-paying American jobs those companies provide, in danger of extinction.

Some people are very short sighted. They say their jobs don't depend on these goods, so it doesn't matter. And that is, frankly, a foolish attitude. It's only a matter of time until it trickles down to them in one form or another. Maybe it will be a smaller raise, a cut back in benefits, or something else that seems innocent at first glance. Even jobs that may seem somewhat protected from the normal economic ups and downs will eventually feel the squeeze given enough time.

We had one genius tell us that even American companies are outsourcing jobs overseas, so they share in the same savings as overseas companies. And the reason American companies are outsourcing? To save money. And for the benefits our elected officials have given them for doing such things.

Ever wonder why the folks voted into positions to protect and serve the American people do things that seem so...well for lack of a better phrase...un-American? What good could possibly come from encouraging American employers to layoff American workers and farm out their jobs to overseas companies? What about the citizens here who are now without jobs?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the United States has lost 3 million manufacturing jobs over the past five years. That's a lot of jobs for one industry to lose. And we will continue to lose them, and lots of others, unless we change the way America does business with other countries.

Instead of providing incentives and tax breaks for American companies that do business overseas, we need to provide these things for American companies that grow and expand their domestic business. No more tax breaks for offshore offices. If you want tax breaks, you create jobs HERE in America to get them.

And to those of you who have the attitude that you're going to look out for number one, and to heck with everyone else, go ahead and buy the foreign cars and shop at the discount stores for the cheap imported goods. Eventually those decisions are going to come back to haunt you. By the time you realize what you've done, it will be too late to change anything.

Americans cannot continue to buy imported goods and expect to continue to have well paying jobs with good benefits. One cancels out the other.

Yes, you may have to suffer with an American car that needs more repairs, (foreign cars can be troublesome as well), or loses its resale value quicker. That's what's known as a sacrifice. This country's founding fathers sacrificed a lot to give us the freedoms and liberties we enjoy today. If we aren't careful, we will lose them.

This response was originally written by the author to be published on December 28, 2005, but was delayed due to the strong reaction the original article drew.

Copyright © 2005 Automotive Mileposts, Inc.
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