Please allow me a momentary rant before getting into the subject of this week’s column, the excellent Subaru Forester, which has been made in Japan since 1997 and successfully sold in the United States since 1998.
My rant is occasioned by national news showing our new president bragging about “keeping” automotive jobs in the United States.
Please, people. Don’t buy it. It’s bull.
The only thing “keeping” U.S. automotive jobs here is that U.S. automotive companies — notably Ford and General Motors — have finally awakened to global competition and started giving Americans and global buyers vehicles they want at prices they almost can afford. Period.
Oh, yes, Chrysler. It is no longer an American company, per se. It went bankrupt in 2008 and was taken over by Italy’s Fiat. It’s now called Fiat Chrysler Automotive. Fiat wanted to cash in on America’s truck mania, particularly its lucrative affection for Jeeps. Chrysler needed small, attractive cars, which Fiat made and Chrysler didn’t. By taking over Chrysler, Italy’s Fiat “kept” jobs in America.
Many politicians worldwide would have you believe they can keep automotive jobs in their respective countries. It is nonsense. The global reality is this: You build where you sell, which is why Toyota, Nissan, BMW, Kia, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz and many of their suppliers all build and sell in the United States in addition to their home countries.
It would be nice and fair if American automakers could do business in Japan and South Korea as easily as they operate here at home; and do business in South America, Europe and China. That would be good for the U.S. competitive spirit, too. Learning how to give customers in those foreign countries what they want has made American automakers better companies producing more likable products.
It is all about money — consumer demand, sales, profits — and finally jobs. The jobs come only if adequate consumer demand exists. The jobs stay only if adequate consumer demand is fed the way consumers want it fed. It has little to do with presidential posturing or executive orders or, for that matter, United Auto Workers union bargaining.