Chrysler LLC dealer Jim Addis felt so strongly about an op-ed column that appeared last week in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that he fired off the following letter that the paper published today. In his letter, Addis questions and corrects a number of statements and assumptions made in the original op-ed piece by Boston Globe columnist Derrick Jackson. Here is a copy of Addis's letter to the Post-Intelligencer.Guest Columnist: Pull the plug on automakers? Not so fast

 

By Jim Addis

 

Responding to "Pull the plug on U.S. automakers (Wednesday)," I say, "Not so fast." I take issue with Boston Globe columnist Derrick Jackson's op-ed and find many arguments dangerously flawed.

 

While agreeing the U.S. needs efficient mass transportation, there is nothing inherently "evil" about automobiles. Mass transit is cost-effective and works well in densely populated areas. But much of America is suburban, and Americans will always need individual transportation to live and work, not to mention the personal freedom autos provide.

 

Additionally, green speak isn't grease. Does Jackson know that GM (his Hummer example) already is the world's leading manufacturer of hybrid buses? Or Chrysler, with its GEM division, is the top manufacturer of electric vehicles? Or that the Detroit Three now all offer hybrid vehicles and have built hundreds of thousands of alternative- and flex-fuel cars and trucks?

 

Chrysler and GM made strong commitments to building battery-electric vehicles and will start in low volume this year.

 

And before Jackson vilifies U.S. automakers building sport-utilities, etc., check the product lines of the same foreign automakers he praises for building small cars. They also offer SUVs and light trucks. Why? Responding to customer demand.

 

We need U.S. automakers to help produce greener transportation to help America address climate change. Yes, Detroit fought Washington in the past on Corporate Average Fuel Economy. But the issue was that CAFE dictates supply instead of using market forces to create demand. Don't believe? Consider that U.S. sales of hybrid cars collapsed right along with gas prices over the past six months. Prius sales, for example, fell 45 percent in November and December alone. Toyota halted plans to assemble the Prius in Mississippi - even though construction of the plant was 90 percent complete.

 

Concern about the current California emissions bill is about the structure of the bill. Namely, manufacturers would have to meet the standard separately in each state where the California requirements apply. One national standard is what nearly all automakers, domestic and import, are asking for.

 

Despite the misgivings taxpayers have about investing public money into companies, our country needs a manufacturing base. The U.S. auto industry is the backbone of the nation’s economy, responsible for more than four percent of our GDP. Bankruptcy would be devastating: millions of lost jobs, billions in lost wages and billions in lost government revenue.

 

One in 10 American jobs relies on the U.S. auto industry. Here in Washington, Chrysler alone has nearly 60 dealers, 22 suppliers (to the tune of more than $240 million a year), pays more than $2.2 million annually in state taxes, has a payroll of nearly $1.5 million and pays retiree benefits of more than $1.7 million.

 

Car dealerships like mine directly employ, on average, 47 people. We are among the largest local advertisers on television, radio, newspaper and the Internet. We buy services from local landscapers, cleaning services, sign makers and caterers. We are strong supporters of our communities.

 

This is why the three U.S. automakers sought bridge loans: to address the devastating automotive industry recession caused by our nation's financial meltdown, and the current lack of consumer credit, resulting in the critical lack of liquidity within our industry. Read the viability plans Chrysler and GM submitted to Congress. They are realistic, thorough and represent a strong investment in the American economy.

 

Finally, I don't understand why we should want any of America's great institutions to fail as a result of these extraordinary economic times, including newspapers. I for one am rooting for the P-I. I see no benefit to Seattle should it be “beaten into an Internet site” or go under. Seattle would be the worse for that. So, let's be careful what we wish for. Pull the plug on U.S. automakers and all of us might just go down the drain.