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The Good News About America's Auto Industry

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The Good News About America's Auto Industry

Sure, Detroit is hurting. But in the Sunbelt, foreign carmakers are expanding, hiring, and stoking local growth

Nandra Barnes knows about dead-end jobs. For seven years, the single mother of three labored as a welder at an air-conditioning factory in Grenada, Miss., a gritty job that, at $11.50 an hour, left her living paycheck to paycheck. Job security? Forget it. With every dip in orders, the factory would lay off more workers. "It seemed like there were always cutbacks," she recalls. Barnes was fearful of the day she would get the tap on the shoulder.

So when Nissan Motor Co. (NSANY) opened a sprawling $1.4 billion assembly plant in nearby Canton, Barnes jumped at the opportunity and was lucky enough to snare one of the 4,200 jobs at the plant. Today, Barnes makes bumpers for Quest minivans and the four other models Nissan produces at the factory, where she earns more than $20 an hour -- a princely sum not just for rural Mississippi but for almost any U.S. blue-collar worker these days without a union card or a college degree. Barnes, 39, even has enough money left over after paying the bills to give her three kids things that she never had -- including, she hopes, a college education. "With this job I finally feel secure that I can take care of my family," she says. "I plan on retiring from here."

This uplifting auto industry tale is the one you're not hearing these days: the good news story. It has been drowned out in the past year by the relentlessly downbeat headlines coming out of Detroit. Bankrupt parts makers. Massive job cuts by General Motors Corp. (GM ) and Ford Motor Co. (F ). Enough red ink to make the Rouge River truly rouge. It's easy to get the impression that domestic car manufacturing is headed toward the same inevitable extinction as American textile, apparel, and consumer-electronics production.

But the reality is more nuanced. Look past the trouble in Detroit, and the auto industry is anywhere but in decline. In a growing number of Southern hamlets such as Canton, Toyota (TM ), Honda (HMC ), Mercedes (DCX ), and other foreign car manufacturers are providing nonunionized jobs -- 33,000 since 2000 -- that pay almost as much as United Auto Workers earn farther north. Consumers are enjoying more choice than ever, while the market as a whole is humming. Car sales in the U.S. inched up last year, to 17 million vehicles, the third-highest ever.

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Full URL: http://yahoo.businessweek.com/magazine/con...07/b3971057.htm

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There now, I feel much better. WTF? Businessweek should know better than this! This reads more like a press release put out by Toyota and Honda than a proper, researched article.

There are a couple ways to read this:

1) F**k Detroit, Michigan and the rustbelt. Thank God I won't have to lose my job or my house because I don't live there!

2) Any job is a job, even if it means working for the KKK or Hitler (dramatic license taken for effect - chill!)

Any analysis that I have seen clearly shows that the job replacement is hardly 1:1. Furthermore, it isn't the assembly jobs that are important, it is the highly skilled jobs (metallurgists, chemists, designers, etc.) that are the backbone of America's industrial might. If that goes, so to does America.

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That isn't to say there won't be pain, especially in Michigan. Hiring by foreign auto makers will only partly offset jobs lost as domestic carmakers downsize and their sprawling network of suppliers continues to go through a painful shakeout. Despite new foreign investment, the auto industry employs 200,000 fewer factory workers -- about 950,000 now -- than it did in 2000. Plus, much of the profit made selling cars to Americans heads back to Japan, Korea, or Germany, creating wealth overseas. And even though foreign car companies are investing in the U.S. at a higher rate, imports are still rising, from 2.8 million in 2000 to 3.4 million in 2005, says auto forecaster CSM Worldwide.

Business Week kind of submerges this paragraph. Just another "Detroit be-damned" article that's supposed to make us hate anything that GM and Ford do.

For a change, how about they actually focus on the progress Detroit is beginning to make or ways they can improve? No wonder everybody thinks Toyota is number one...articles like these pretty much burn it into the minds of the average American.

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So how come she makes 20 + per hour.........when we just had all the blue collar haters claiming "the competition" only paid less than 10 ?

I guess you guys didnt catch that part on the news when gorgie porgie went on his foreign trip that had something to do with international trade, they said whom ever the guy from Japan is was his "close" friend.

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