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Trump’s auto industry claims ring hollow here


Published: Tue, April 18, 2017 @ 12:00 a.m.

Just months after General Motors Co. eliminated the third shift at its Lordstown assembly complex, the Mahoning Valley is coming to grips with more bad news.

Last week, employees on the two remaining shifts at the assembly plant were told that production of the Chevrolet Cruze would be scaled back due to too much inventory.

The demand for small cars nationwide has been soft for some time because the relatively low cost of gas at the pumps has made SUVs and trucks more attractive to buyers.

GM has not said how many Lordstown workers will be affected by the slowdown in production beginning in mid-July.

Ironically, while the Mahoning Valley was having to deal with another setback for its leading employer, President Donald Trump was in Washington boasting about how he is making the American auto industry great again.

“We have thousands of jobs all across the country,” Trump told Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo on April 12. “Look at what’s going on in Michigan with the expansion of the plants by Ford, by General Motors; yesterday Toyota announced that they’re going to spend $1.3 billion to $1.9 billion in Kentucky. … I mean the car industry is not going to leave us anymore, believe me. The car industry is staying in our country. They were leaving – if I didn’t win this election, you would have lost your car industry to Mexico and to other countries. They’re not leaving anymore, believe me. There’s retribution if they leave. There was no retribution.”

After Bartiromo responded with “Right,” the president went on to say; “They’d leave, they would sell their cars in, they’d fire all our people. Now there’s retribution. And they understand that. Now, at the same time, I’m going to treat them great. But we want them to expand their plants, build new plants and that’s what they’re doing.”

WHAT TRUMP SHOULD DO

It’s time for Republican Trump to stop listening to the voices in his head about how his mere presence in the White House has resurrected the auto industry.

He should pay a visit to the Mahoning Valley.

Indeed, a tour of GM’s Lordstown plant would not only enable him to hear the concerns of the workers about the future, but his presence could be portrayed as a show of appreciation for the support he received in the Valley in the November general election.

He carried the predominantly Democratic Trumbull County, had a strong showing in the predominantly Democratic Mahoning County and won easily in Republican Columbiana County.

Trump must understand that while he keeps talking about how he has forced American auto manufacturers to make major investments in their domestic operations, the reality is that what’s taking place isn’t as simple as he portrays it.

In January, the elimination of the third shift resulted in 600 assembly plant workers and 235 fabricating plant workers losing their jobs.

There will be additional job losses with the cutback in the production of the Cruze, which raises serious concerns about the future of the Valley’s economic driver.

So, when President Trumps says that he wants the automakers in America to expand their plants and to build new ones, how does that square with what’s going on at GM’s Lordstown complex?

A little research by the White House will show that in its heyday, there were more than 10,000 employees at the car and van assembly plants, the fabricating plant and the paint shop.

Today, barely 4,000 workers are involved in building the Cruze, one of the top- selling compact cars in the nation. Such is the reality of technologically advanced manufacturing processes. Robots are as common as humans on the factory floor.

When Trump talks up his job-creation initiatives, is he saying that American companies must go back to the old labor-intensive days of manufacturing?

GM’s Lordstown assembly complex is a case study of what has happened to factories in this country.

President Trump may be well intentioned when he talks about wanting to create thousands of good-paying jobs in this country. But, is he being realistic?

Not if what’s going on in GM’s Lordstown assembly complex is any indication.


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