Wednesday, 31 December 2008 05:15

Chaney --- Have You Driven a Ford Lately?

Written by Janet Chaney

Who would have ever believed that we would be watching the Government battle the financial disaster brought upon the world by a small number of amoral people with limitless greed, self absorption, and a boundless appetite for profit. The fate of our country unfolds while we battle on the homefront to keep life as we know it for ourselves and our families. It seems to me it is the time for us to all act like Americans and fight for what is right in our Homeland.  If we don’t, who will?

During World War II, my mother and father met while working in the shipyards of Portland, Oregon.  They were building Liberty Ships—ships that were heading into the Pacific Theater of War.  In fact, my mom was a ‘Rosie the Riveter’, a welder, not necessarily by choice but by neccessity. Those were heady times, America was at war and Americans banded together to save the world.   
Everything is much more complicated now, and there are no clear demarcation lines on the battlefields.  In fact, we are not sure what to do. The quagmire of our nation’s political assembly’s possibly holds the future of  the American Automobile Manufacturing industry.  We can all debate and pontificate this squalid turn of events, this bad hand of cards we are dealt— probably to no avail.  It is more than easy to point fingers at the bad judgement, the frivolous excess, but almost all of us have a degree of guilt.  
American automobile manufacturers have to survive in order to keep heavy manufacturing alive in our economy and we have to support it. Somehow. Even if it’s just to make a future Rosie the Riveter possible.
So let’s remember the Legacy of our forefathers and pay close attention to our surroundings and stand arm-in-arm as Americans. The progress of our country will depend on our progress as individuals. We have to do what is right!  
Here is a letter from an American who works in a Ford Dealership.   One individual determined to make a difference.
Dear Editor:
As I watch the coverage of the fate of the U.S. auto industry, one alarming and frustrating fact hits me right between the eyes. The fate of our nation’s economic survival is in the hands of some congressmen who are completely out of touch and act without knowledge of an industry that affects almost every person in our nation. The same lack of knowledge is shared with many journalists who are irresponsible when influencing the opinion of millions of viewers.
Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama has doomed the industry, calling it a dinosaur. No, Mr. Shelby, you are the dinosaur, with ideas stuck in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s. You and the uninformed journalist and senators that hold onto myths that are not relevant in today’s world.
When you say that the Big Three build vehicles nobody wants to buy, you must have overlooked the fact that GM outsold Toyota by about 1.2 million vehicles in the U.S., and Ford outsold Honda by 850,000 and Nissan by 1.2 million—both in the U.S. GM was also the No. 1 automaker worldwide, beating Toyota by 3,000 units.
When you, Mr. Shelby, claim inferior quality from the Big Three, do you realize that Chevy makes the Malibu and Ford makes the Fusion—both rated higher than the Camry and Accord by J.D. Power’s independent survey on initial quality? Did you bother to read the Consumer Report article that rated Ford on par with the best  Japanese automakers.
Do you realize that the Big Three’s gas guzzlers include the 33 mpg Malibu that beats the Accord in mileage. And for ‘09, Ford introduces the Hybrid Fusion whose 39 mpg is the best mileage for a midsize vehicle, including the Camry Hybrid. Ford’s Focus beats the Corolla and Chevy’s Cobalt beats the Civic.
When you ask: how many times are we going to bail them out, you must be referring to 1980. You must not know that the only Big Three bailout was Chrysler, who paid back $1 billion, plus interest. GM and Ford have never received government aid.
When you criticize the Big Three for building so many pickups, surely you’ve noticed the attempts Toyota and Nissan have made (spending billions) to try to get a piece of that pie. Perhaps it bothers you that for 31 straight years Ford’s F-Series has been the best selling vehicle. Ford and GM have dominated this market and when you see the new ‘09 F-150 you’ll agree this won’t change soon.
Do you realize that both GM and Ford offer more hybrid models than Nissan or Honda? Between 2005 and 2007, Ford alone has invested more than $22 billion in research and development of technologies such as Eco Boost, flex fuel, clean diesel, hybrids, plug in hybrids and hydrogen cars.
Wake up. It’s 2008 and the quality of the vehicles coming out of Detroit are once again the best in the world.
But perhaps Sen. Shelby isn’t really that blind. Maybe he realizes the quality shift to American. Maybe it’s the fact that his state of Alabama has given so much to Honda, Hyundai and Mercedes Benz in order to get factories built there that he is more concerned about their continued growth than he is about the other people of our country.
Sen. Shelby’s disdain for “government subsidies” is very hypocritical. In the early ‘90s he was the driving force behind a $253 million incentive package to Mercedes. Plus, Alabama agreed to purchase 2,500 vehicles from Mercedes. While the bridge loan the Big Three is requesting will be paid back, Alabama’s $180,000-plus per job was pure incentive.
Sen. Shelby, not only are you out of touch, you are a self-serving hypocrite, who is prepared to ruin our nation because of lack of knowledge and lack of due diligence in making your opinions and decisions.
After 9/11, the Detroit Three and Harley Davidson gave $40 million-plus emergency vehicles to the recovery efforts. What was given to the 9/11 relief effort by the Asian and European Auto Manufactures? $0, Nada, Zip!
We live in a world of free trade, world economy and we have not been able to produce products as cost efficiently. While the governments of other auto producing nations subsidize their automakers, our government may be ready to force the demise of our whole industry. While our automakers have paid union wages, health benefits not provided by our government, and legacy debt, our Asian competitors employ cheap labor and pay no substantial health costs. We are at an extreme disadvantage in production cost. Although many UAW concessions begin in 2010, many lawmakers think it’s not enough.
Some point the blame to corporate management. I would like to speak of Ford Motor Co. The company has streamlined by reducing our workforce by 51,000 since 2005, closing 17 plants and cutting expenses. Product and future product is excellent and the company is focused on one Ford. This is a company poised for success. Ford product quality and corporate management have improved light years since the nightmare of Jacques Nasser. Thank you Alan Mulally and the best auto company management team in the business.
The financial collapse caused by the secondary mortgage fiasco and the greed of Wall Street has led to a $700 billion bailout of the industry that created the problem. AIG spent nearly $1 million on three company excursions to lavish resorts and hunting destinations. Paulson is saying no to $250 billion foreclosure relief and the whole thing is a mess. So when the Big Three ask for 4% of that of the $700 billion—$25 billion to save the country’s largest industry, there is obviously opposition. But does it make sense to reward the culprits of the problem with $700 billion unconditionally, and ignore the victims?
As a Ford dealer, I feel our portion of the $25 billion will never be touched and is not necessary. Ford currently has $29 billion of liquidity. However, the effect of a bankruptcy by GM will hurt the suppliers we all do business with. A Chapter 11 bankruptcy by any manufacture would cost retirees their health care and retirements. Chances are GM would recover from Chapter 11 with a better business plan with much less expense. So who foots the bill if GM or all three go Chapter 11? All that extra health care, unemployment, loss of tax base and some forgiven debt goes back to the taxpayer, us. With no chance of repayment, this would be much worse than a loan with the intent of repayment.
So while it is debatable whether a loan or Chapter 11 is better for the Big Three, a $25 billion loan is definitely better for the taxpayers and the economy of our country.
I’ll end where I began—on the quality of the products of Detroit. Before you, Mr. or Ms. Journalist continue to misinform the American public and turn them against one of the industries that helped build great this nation, I must ask you one question. Before you, Mr. or Madam Congressman vote to end health care and retirement benefits for 1 million retirees, eliminate 2.5 million of our nation’s jobs, lose the technology that will lead us in the future, and create an economic disaster including hundreds of billions of tax dollars lost, I ask this question not in the rhetorical sense. I ask it in the most sincere, literal way.
Can you tell me?
Have you driven a Ford lately?