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Thursday, Feb 2, 2023
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Solution to Big Three’s Woes Not Found in Bailout

How deep is the hole? Our auto industry has a hole in it. What we need to figure out is whether that hole is repairable or broken beyond repair. When you have a hole in your roof, you call a roofer and have the hole patched. When your coffee cup has a hole in it, you throw it out and replace it with a new one. When will our government figure out whether General Motors, Ford and Chrysler are cups or roofs? Giving bailout money to the auto industry is like giving a microscope to a blind man. The auto industry has been in trouble for decades, minus the vision to see where it was heading and what it would take to get there. Its market share and sales have steadily declined, and it has burned away billions of dollars in capital. The amazing thing is that American automakers have continued to blindly move ahead without looking at their more successful competitors to see how and why they are creating a better product, marketing it more successfully and doing both for less money. Have General Motors, Ford and Chrysler considered what the auto buying public really wants? How about a reasonably priced vehicle that is safe, fuel-efficient and is easily and inexpensively repaired? A big part of the problem U.S. automakers face is that they are paying far more than their foreign competitors for labor and benefits. These excesses include much higher wages, exorbitant pension commitments, expensive medical benefits and union contracted wages to thousands of people who are not even working but are paid to be available. I’d like to get paid for just being available, wouldn’t you? If the American auto industry is repairable, our government needs to find out what the appropriate patch is so it can be fixed. U.S. carmakers need to make a top-quality product at a reasonable price. To do so, they need to listen to consumers, produce what they will buy, and rein in excessive costs. There is no doubt that if we want to preserve the American automotive industry and protect the jobs it creates, autoworkers will have to be paid reduced compensation. On the other hand, if our automakers are broken beyond repair (and the unions and their workers are unwilling to accept reality), maybe it is time to take the government’s bailout money and invest it in industry to create products that we import from other countries. Every day we import buses, railcars and commuter trains, such as the MTA buses throughout Southern California. Large merchant and cruise ships transport products and carry millions of people around the world every day. How many are built in the U.S.? We have the perfect waterways near many of our states with high underemployment and skilled labor forces. We could create new industries and create long-lasting jobs. With the cooperation of businesses, unions, business-friendly states and our superior knowledge of building the best, we could be the No. 1 builder, user and exporter of buses, trains, railcars and large ships. Wake up America and be creative again. We can fix it. Rickey M. Gelb is managing general partner of Gelb Enterprises, a real estate development and property management company.

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