The view from my couch

Levelling the Field
by Cheryl Lauer
January 31, 2007

Since Japanese auto maker, Toyota, announced they would be entering NASCAR in 2007, the fans have been bombarded with all kinds of rationalizations and "spin" about this move. Most recently, former Ford driver and 1999 Winston Cup Champion, Dale Jarrett, has been at the forefront of these statements. He points out that the Toyota Camry, the production model which will be promoted through NASCAR is made in America. He goes on to say that the Chevrolet Monte Carlo is made in Canada and the Ford Fusion is made in Mexico. These things are true, yet Ford and GM remain American owned corporations, while Toyota profits still go back to Japan. Ford and GM also make the majority of their vehicles in the United States; can Toyota say the same? Dale Jarrett asks fans where the televisions in their homes were made. This is where Jarrett really lost me in making such a comparison. Because as far as I know there are very few, if any, TVs made in America these days, so we really have very little choice when we purchase those products. The difference when it comes to the vehicles we choose to buy is completely different. We still have the choice to "Buy American" when it comes to cars. Statements such as Jarrett's and the many foreign car commercials I'm bombarded with just smack me as rationalizations or a defensive posture by those affiliated with Toyota. I guess they think if they say it long enough, NASCAR fans will believe that the company is actually American. I guess I'm just not that gullible.

But what really bothers me is that that foreign car manufacturers who rely primarily on inexpensive labor in other countries are now claiming their cars are American. Brian France and NASCAR are even claiming they are American cars too, so race fans should joyously embrace their entry into NASCAR this year. What I see is that the foreign manufacturers have already started to dominate American car sales and now they want to totally crush the competition by using NASCAR to promote more truck and car sales. NASCAR would have us just conveniently forget the number of layoffs of American auto workers at Ford and GM recently. Last night, there was an excellent report by Dan Rather on a little-known satellite/cable network, HDNet. The show was called The Future of Ford and can be seen again tonight at 7pm eastern. I understand that HDNet is not available in very many households, but that network does have a transcript of the show on their website. I highly recommend every NASCAR fan read it and you'll find out more about the impact foreign manufacturers are already having on the American economy. Here's a link to the transcript which admittedly is a little hard to read as it flows without the benefit of the video to aid in differentiating who is speaking. The site also will offer the ability to download and view the video, hopefully within the next few days, and when it becomes available, we will post the link here for you to "see" the report.

The show also mentioned a report on auto manufacturers by the Level Field Institute. If you don't have time to read the entire Dan Rather transcript, I encourage you to take a few minutes and check out this report and the organization's website - LevelFieldInstitute.org. You'll find that while the foreign manufacturers do employ many Americans in their U.S. plants, that employment has a very small impact on the American economy. It's a very interesting report that really puts all the "spin" by Toyota and by those involved in NASCAR in perspective. It's not about employing a few thousand Americans, but the overall impact on the American economy. Level the Field is a very apt title for this research group because race fans (and all Americans) really need to hear a slightly different view of this subject.

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