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Auto industry key to economy, jobs
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Editor, Now that the presidential election is over, one of the surest ways to set off a heated discussion at your neighborhood coffee shop or diner is to pose this question: Should Washington bail out Detroit?
Let me assure you that I’m certainly familiar with the arguments against the federal government helping the U.S. auto industry survive the most severe economic crisis since the Great Depression. Somehow the fact that I work for a General Motors dealer doesn’t stop close friends or total strangers from telling me that if GM, Ford and Chrysler can’t make it through this crisis on their own — well, too bad for “Detroit,” but it really doesn’t affect anyone else. Or does it?
The reality is that every state — and virtually every community — in America has a stake in the future of the domestic auto industry.  General Motors, Ford and Chrysler directly employ 240,000 people, provide health care to nearly 2 million Americans, and pay pension benefits to 775,000 retirees and surviving spouses.
That’s just the start. GM, Ford and Chrysler support another 5 million jobs, American jobs at parts suppliers, service providers, and, of course, auto dealerships like mine, supporting jobs in all 50 states. In fact, GM alone has more than 6,000 dealerships in the U.S. These independent small businesses employ some 344,000 people with a total annual payroll of $16.8.
The financial crisis is obviously hurting every sector of our economy. But the auto industry — foreign as well as domestic — has been hit especially hard because the car business runs on credit, and the credit markets have stopped functioning as they normally do.  Lenders have stopped lending because many have suffered massive loan losses and are struggling with their own balance sheets and capital reserves.  
As a result, automakers and suppliers can’t get credit to invest in retooling factories or developing advanced-propulsion technologies.  Dealers can’t get credit to finance their inventories and other routine business expenses.  And consumers can't get credit to buy new cars.  And even for those consumers who could get loans, gloom about the economy and worry about their own jobs have discouraged car-buying and driven consumer confidence to an all-time low.
A new study by the highly respected Center for Automotive Research (CAR) concluded that if all three U.S. automakers were to cease operations, the U.S. economy would lose 2.95 million direct and indirect jobs in the first year. Governments would lose at least $156.4-billion in taxes over the first three years.
What about a less dire scenario? According to the CAR study, if Detroit cut output and employment by 50 percent to meet ever-shrinking market share, which would mean contraction by two of the automakers, 2.46 million jobs would be lost initially, and governments would lose $108-billion in revenue over three years.
Make no mistake, the collapse of the domestic auto industry would plunge our already fragile economy into a deep recession, costing American taxpayers far more than the cost of taking action now to help this critically important industry weather the economic storm.

Mike Reed,
General Manager
Nesmith Chevrolet of Hinesville
With information from GM
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