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Our Vital Auto Industry

Friday, October 31, 2008

It was breathtaking to see the Oct. 27 editorial "Welfare for Detroit" blithely dismiss the domestic auto industry's contribution to the U.S. economy.

The nation's financial turmoil is not of the auto industry's making, yet its effects threaten the livelihoods of millions of workers, the social pact made between company and retiree, and the health of state and community revenue and services. More troubling, the economy's problems are hindering automakers' transformation into stronger companies that build new vehicles with new technologies that consumers want to buy.

Almost 4 percent of U.S. gross domestic product is auto-related, representing 10 percent of U.S. industrial production by value. One in 10 U.S. jobs is connected to our industry, and we provide health-care benefits to 2 million Americans and support nearly 800,000 retirees and spouses with pension benefits. David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich., has said that if Ford or GM fails, as many as 2 million jobs could be lost.

It was also stunning to see The Post describe the workers who build automobiles as relatively "privileged" because they earn about $56,000 a year. Auto assembly plant workers' base wage is about $28 per hour. For a newspaper that serves some of the most affluent communities in America to suggest that $28 per hour is too much reflects a profound disconnect between the editorial writers and the world outside the Beltway.

STEVE HARRIS

Vice President

Global Communications

General Motors

Detroit

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