The buyer, not the bully pulpit, saves the jobs
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.
Warren Brown ON WHEELS