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Old 05-11-2006, 05:06 PM
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Default Buy American: Buy Toyota!

Thought you would find this interesting. It's from the Wall Street Journal, so it's probably true. It's an interesting comparison of how international everything has become. There really is no such thing as a true American car anymore.
Matt




May 11, 2006


Mom, Apple Pie and...Toyota?
Ford Says It's Patriotic to Buy
A Mustang, but Sienna Is Made
In Indiana With More U.S. Parts

By JATHON SAPSFORD and NORIHIKO SHIROUZU
May 11, 2006; Page B1


Few sports cars have captured the nation's imagination like the sleek Ford Mustang, a 21st-century reincarnation of an American classic. The Toyota Sienna minivan, by contrast, speaks to the utilitarian aesthetics of Japan: refined interiors, arm rests and lots and lots of cup holders.

Yet, by a crucial measure, the Sienna is far more American than the Mustang. Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that were publicized in "Auto Industry Update: 2006," a presentation by Farmington Hills, Mich., research company CSM Worldwide, show only 65% of the content of a Ford Mustang comes from the U.S. or Canada. Ford Motor Co. buys the rest of the Mustang's parts abroad. By contrast, the Sienna, sold by Japan's Toyota Motor Corp., is assembled in Indiana with 90% local components.



There's more than a little irony in this, considering Ford has launched a campaign to regain its footing with an appeal to patriotism (catchphrase: "Red, White & Bold"). "Americans really do want to buy American brands," asserted Ford Executive Vice President Mark Fields in a recent speech. "We will compete vigorously to be America's car company."


As the Mustang shows, though, it's no longer easy to define what is American. For 20 years now, the dynamic car makers of Asia -- led by Toyota, Nissan Motor Co. and Honda Motor Co. -- have been pouring money into North America, investing in plants, suppliers and dealerships as well as design, testing and research centers. Their factories used to be derided as "transplants," foreign-owned plants just knocking together imported parts. Today, the Asian car makers are a fully functioning industry, big and powerful enough to challenge Detroit's claim to the heart of U.S. car manufacturing.

The result is a brewing public-relations war, with both sides wrapping themselves in the Stars and Stripes. Toyota, for example has been running commercials touting its contribution to the areas of the U.S. economy where it has built factories.

Next year, the staid Toyota Camry will undergo the ultimate rite of passage by entering the most prestigious circuits of the National Association of Stock Car Racing. Toyota President Katsuaki Watanabe said his company's vast network of dealerships saw the Nascar link as a crucial marketing tactic to raise Toyota's profile in the U.S. heartland. "Our dealers told us it was really important to do this," he says.

On Thursday, the Level Field Institute, a grass-roots organization founded by U.S. Big Three retirees, is scheduled to hold a news conference in Washington. Among the points the group is expected to make is its belief that comparing relative North American component content is an ineffective way to determine who is "more American" among auto makers. A better way, says Jim Doyle who heads Level Field, is to look at the number of jobs -- from research and development to manufacturing to retailing -- each auto maker creates per car sold in the U.S.

Mr. Doyle says the institute's study shows that Toyota in 2005 employed roughly three times more U.S. workers, on a basis of per car sold in the U.S., than Hyundai Motor Co. Each of the Big Three manufacturers in the same year employed roughly three times as many U.S. workers, on a per-car-sold basis, as Toyota. "What's better for the American economy?" Mr. Doyle asks. A GM car "built in Mexico with 147,000 jobs back here in America or a Honda built in Alabama with 4,000 or 5,000 jobs in America?"

Measuring local content is extremely difficult because a part made in America can be assembled from smaller parts, some of which might come from abroad. All of which underscores how the line between what is and isn't American, at least in the auto industry, is "going to be increasingly difficult to pinpoint" as car makers become increasingly international and produce more in local markets, says Michael Robinet, a vice president at CSM Worldwide.

General Motors Corp. is importing Korean-made cars to sell under the Chevy nameplate. Japanese car makers are using American designers for cars being sold in China. Some of the high end luxury BMW "imports" on the road are made in South Carolina. "We don't look at it as an American industry," says Mr. Robinet. "It really is a global industry."

That said, the Japanese manufacturing presence in the U.S. is growing. Foreign-based auto makers in the U.S., led by the Japanese, account for 1.7% of U.S. manufacturing jobs, according to a report by the Center for Automotive Research, Ann Arbor, Mich. After $28 billion in cumulative North America investment -- and annual purchases of parts reaching $45 billion or more in recent years -- 67% of the Japanese-brand cars now sold in North America are made in North America, according to the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association.

Japanese investment in U.S. production was a response to the trade tensions of the 1990s, when tensions flared over Japan's surplus with the U.S., of which autos and auto parts were a large portion. By spreading investment across the U.S., Japan's car makers have won crucial allies among U.S. politicians. Last year, when President Bush took to the road to tout his Social Security plan, one of his first stops was a major Nissan plant in Canton, Miss., a conservative corner of the country where the phrase "buy American" no longer means what it once did.

"As the son of a union member, I'll admit that free trade is an issue with which I've struggled," says Republican Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi, who has a Nissan Titan pickup truck in his garage. But he adds: "Remember that every Nissan built in Canton also was engineered by Americans, for Americans."

What isn't clear is how Mustang fans like Fred Barkley, president of the Bluegrass Mustang Club of Lexington, Ky., would react to the news that the Mustang is only 65% American, at least by one government measure. Mr. Barkley, owner of three Mustangs, one from 1965 and two from the early 1990s, says it "doesn't bother me too much." Told the Toyota Sienna has higher North American content than the Mustang, he is unimpressed. "I wouldn't buy a Sienna," he says. "I don't like them because they are foreign."


URL for this article:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB114731076341249773.html
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Old 05-12-2006, 07:26 AM
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"I don't like them because they are foreign."

More cynical students of human behavior often describe what we usually do as follows: we decide things on an affective basis, then find rational arguments to support our already-made decision.

That guy is a model of efficiency. He skipped the second part.
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Old 05-12-2006, 07:39 AM
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Quote:
A better way, says Jim Doyle who heads Level Field, is to look at the number of jobs -- from research and development to manufacturing to retailing -- each auto maker creates per car sold in the U.S.
Quote:
Each of the Big Three manufacturers in the same year employed roughly three times as many U.S. workers, on a per-car-sold basis, as Toyota.
Utter nonsense. Perhaps this explains the extraordinary difference in quality between the Mustang and Sienna. (I've rented a few Mustangs and ridden in my sister-in-law's Sienna). Ford can't afford quality parts and decent assembly because they've got to too many people on the payroll, and collecting pensions.

My $.02,

Mark
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Last edited by ScaldedDog; 05-12-2006 at 10:45 PM.
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Old 05-12-2006, 11:34 AM
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Yeah, I agree. "Look at us, we're inefficient!" Hardly a great selling point.
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