The buyer, not the bully pul­pit, saves the jobs

The Washington Post Sunday - - CAR - War­ren.brown@wash­post.com

Please al­low me a mo­men­tary rant be­fore get­ting into the sub­ject of this week’s column, the ex­cel­lent Subaru Forester, which has been made in Ja­pan since 1997 and suc­cess­fully sold in the United States since 1998.

My rant is oc­ca­sioned by na­tional news show­ing our new pres­i­dent brag­ging about “keep­ing” au­to­mo­tive jobs in the United States. Please, peo­ple. Don’t buy it. It’s bull. The only thing “keep­ing” U.S. au­to­mo­tive jobs here is that U.S. au­to­mo­tive com­pa­nies — no­tably Ford and Gen­eral Mo­tors — have fi­nally awak­ened to global com­pe­ti­tion and started giv­ing Amer­i­cans and global buy­ers ve­hi­cles they want at prices they al­most can af­ford. Pe­riod.

Oh, yes, Chrysler. It is no longer an Amer­i­can com­pany, per se. It went bank­rupt in 2008 and was taken over by Italy’s Fiat. It’s now called Fiat Chrysler Au­to­mo­tive. Fiat wanted to cash in on Amer­ica’ struck ma­nia, par­tic­u­larly its lu­cra­tive af­fec­tion for Jeeps. Chrysler needed small, at­trac­tive cars, which Fiat made and Chrysler didn’ t. By tak­ing over Chrysler, Italy’ s Fiat “kept” jobs in Amer­ica.

Many politi­cians world­wide would have you be­lieve they can keep au­to­mo­tive jobs in their re­spec­tive coun­tries. It is non­sense. The global re­al­ity is this: You build where you sell, which is why Toy­ota, Nis­san, BMW, Kia, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz and many of their sup­pli­ers all build and sell in the United States in ad­di­tion to their home coun­tries.

It would be nice and fair if Amer­i­can au­tomak­ers could do busi­ness in Ja­pan and South Korea as eas­ily as they op­er­ate here at home; and do busi­ness in South Amer­ica, Europe and China. That would be good for the U.S. com­pet­i­tive spirit, too. Learn­ing how to give cus­tomers in those for­eign coun­tries what they want has made Amer­i­can au­tomak­ers bet­ter com­pa­nies pro­duc­ing more lik­able prod­ucts.

It is all about money — con­sumer de­mand, sales, prof­its — and fi­nally jobs. The jobs come only if ad­e­quate con­sumer de­mand ex­ists. The jobs stay only if ad­e­quate con­sumer de­mand is fed the way con­sumers want it fed. It has lit­tle to do with pres­i­den­tial pos­tur­ing or ex­ec­u­tive or­ders or, for that mat­ter, United Auto Work­ers union bar­gain­ing.

It pri­mar­ily has to do with sales — giv­ing peo­ple the ve­hi­cle they want, sell­ing to them what makes and keeps them happy.

Look at the Subaru Forester. It ar­rived in the Ja­panese mar­ket, where it is made, in 1997. It has been on sale in the United States, Aus­tralia and other parts of the world since 1998. Its sales re­main strong world­wide be­cause Fuji Heavy In­dus­tries, maker of all things Subaru, truly un­der­stands the art of the deal: Give peo­ple what they want at a price that makes them happy. Do that and you won’t have to worry too much about Don­ald Trump or the UAW.

That is what Subaru has done and is do­ing with the Forester, a cross over util­ity ve­hi­cle that has been en­larged a bit, beau­ti­fied at a slight cost to util­ity, and kept sen­si­ble and com­pet­i­tive in its class for 2017.

There is an­other twist. Be­cause it is a glob­ally con­sumed prod­uct, the Forester can be made where it is cheap­est for Fuji Heavy In­dus­tries to make it, which hap­pens to be Ja­pan, at the mo­ment.

The Forester used for this column was the 2.5i Tour­ing, equipped with a 2.5-liter, hor­i­zon­tally op­posed four-cylin­der gaso­line engine. It has all of the lat­est ad­vanced elec­tronic safety equip­ment, such as blind-side mon­i­tor­ing and for­ward-col­li­sion mit­i­ga­tion. It comes with a rea­son­able price.

It does not have Trump’s bless­ing or a union la­bel.

Subaru un­der­stands the art of the deal: Give peo­ple what they want at a price that makes them happy.

SUBARU

War­ren Brown ON WHEELS

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