April 2, 2006
Written by C.N.
I’ve written before about Toyota being the first “foreign” automaker to compete in NASCAR, the “all-American” racing series. Despite Toyota and other Asian car companies having several factories in the U.S. that employ tens of thousands of workers, many Americans will forever consider them a foreign (and therefore ‘un-American’) company. Well, a new Christian Science Monitor article argues that the prosperity of Asian factories in the U.S. benefits the auto industry in the long run:
It’s a tale of two industries. One is downsizing its workforce, discounting its prices, and is based in Detroit. The other is building factories, expanding its market share, and calls the South its regional home. But these days, domestic and foreign automakers are two sides of the same US auto industry. . . .
Against that backdrop of cutbacks, the rise of foreign “transplant” factories helps explain a surprising fact: For all the difficult news about plant closings and big quarterly losses, America’s auto industry is retaining jobs better than other traditional industries. Overall employment in domestic manufacturing is down sharply during the past 15 years, yet the automotive sector employs more people than it did in 1990.
In some ways, each Ford pickup that rolls off a Michigan assembly line still represents a bigger boon for the US economy than a made-in-America Toyota. Domestic nameplates tend to contain more US-made parts and more US-based design value. But the larger trend is that such lines are increasingly blurring as all major auto companies go global. Productivity gains, too, have been spurred by the arrival of transplants.
As the article mentions, the “social value” of a Ford, GM, or Chrysler car is perceived to be higher than that for a similar Toyota, Honda, Mazda, or Hyundai that’s also built in the U.S. (we’ll conveniently ignore for now that Chrysler is owned by Daimler-Benz, a German company).
Americans have a right to judge different companies however they want and certainly, to spend their own money however they want. But at the least, Americans should recognize that whenever someone buys a car that has a Toyota, Honda, or other Asian nameplate on it, that it too represents another benefit for the U.S. economy in many ways.
Remember that a Japanese car has been the best selling passenger car in the U.S. for the past ten years or so. In other words, Americans can be “patriotic” but also sensible at the same time.
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Asian Automakers in the U.S." Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2006/04/asian-automakers-in-the-us/> ().
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