Cynthia J. Pasky
S3 just marked 18 consecutive years of growth with a focus that for a variety of reasons has never included the auto industry.
As a result, some people were surprised recently when we enthusiastically signed on as part of an effort to highlight the importance of the auto industry to both this region and to the nation as a whole. We not only lent our name to the effort, we wrote a check.
I think most of us in Detroit know we all have a stake in the survival of the core of this nation's industrial infrastructure. That is what the auto industry is in all of its complexity – the core of our industrial infrastructure. No nation can afford to have its basic industrial policy decisions being made by foreign companies.
At the same time, the auto industry is a key component of our national economy. The Center for Automotive Research recently issued a report showing that just a 50 percent reduction in auto production would cost the nation 2.5 million jobs nationwide. That would be a devastating loss, both to the nation and to the 2.5 million workers involved.
It goes without saying that in Michigan and in Detroit we each have a personal stake in the survival of the Big Three, whether you serve them directly, indirectly or not at all. This region and this state would be totally devastated by the failure of even one of the automakers, let alone all three. The ripple effects would hit us all.
While they haven't gotten the credit they should, the Big Three have been making the tough decisions required for their future prosperity. They have made tremendous engineering investments to create the world class, fuel efficient, alternative energy vehicles they must manufacture to compete in the world economy. They have products on the market and in the pipeline that will compete directly and successfully with anything coming from other countries.
Here in this region we have been focused on the impact of this debate on us, but it has ramifications far beyond southeast Michigan or even the U.S. I just returned from a business trip to Denmark, Sweden and London and everywhere I went, the debate over the fate of the U.S. auto industry was topic number one. At one major dinner in Sweden that's all they wanted to talk about. They knew that the impact of this debate goes far beyond our borders.
While our immediate focus has been on the debate in Washington, once we have moved beyond the immediate crisis, we need to take time to learn from what has happened and from the dynamic of the debate. We need to ask the question, "How did three multi-billion dollar entities develop such a horrible national reputation that members of Congress feel comfortable fighting against doing anything to stabilize their industry?"
We have to do a better job in the future of making sure the rest of the nation realizes the importance of the auto industry to our national economy and to our national security. And we need to do a better job outside of this region of telling the story of what they have accomplished developing new technology and improving their quality. Many of the reactions I have heard from other parts of the country show that people truly don't understand the technical and quality advances that our automakers have achieved in recent years.
We also need to avoid the human tendency that often rears its head to want to pit one group against another. One complaint we have heard involves a discrepancy that people in this region feel was present in the treatment the auto industry received compared to the treatment the finance industry received before Congress. The fact is we need all the jobs that have been under discussion, both in manufacturing and in finance. We would better spend our time analyzing how we allowed the perception of our core industry to fall so far below that of finance and then work to correct that perception.
In the end, we are all in this together. No single sector of our economy can be successful if another major sector is falling apart.
For all of these reasons, I have been very supportive of the efforts underway in Washington to provide some breathing room for one of the most basic parts of this country's economy and our industrial base. I'm please to see that the combined efforts of thousands upon thousands of us both here and around the country seem to be bearing fruit. We simply cannot afford to have anything else happen, no matter what our field of endeavor.
But we also must remember that a successful outcome in Washington is only a beginning of a much longer term effort to return the industry to a point where it not only is successful, but where the nation recognizes its success and recognizes the stake we all have in its continued well-being.