The Japanese "don't do very many stupid things, but they're absolutely stupid to have a tariff on our automobiles at all," according to Douglas Fraser, president of the United Auto Workers union. They should remove the trade barriers completely "because we'd only sell a handful anyway," Fraser said.
Given the price of gasoline ($1.50) to $2 a gallon) in Japan and its limited roads, the average American car today would have little appeal in Japan, Fraser told a meeting here last week of the Detroit Auto Writers Group.
But as the U.S. cars shrink and start to appeal to both Japanese and European buyers, "We should insist, we should get very, very tough - if you're going to want free trade, it has to be fair trade, and it has to be a two-way street," he said.
Fraser told the Detroit group - which is composed mostly of magazine writers - that he expects the largest American car in five to seven years to weigh 3,000 to 3,100 pounds and yield between 19 and 21 miles a gallon. "Obviously that means you're going to have to sell a lot of cars getting 30 to 35 mpg" to meet the 27.5 mpg average called for in 1985 under federal law, he said.
Asked what the main issues will be in the big three contract negotiations that start soon and expire in September of next year, he said one would be finding protection for retirees against inflation.
But Fraser said he expects to make additional progress toward the four day work week. He indicated that would be through enlarging the concept where UAW workers would get more additional planned and paid individual days off through the year. During this year Big Three workers receive seven.
On a variety of other topics, the UAW president said:
He has been surprised how well automobile sales have done this year, he had expected that a good showing would have been just to match last year.
The UAW strike fund is now about $230 million, but after inflation is factored in that is just rougly equal to the $160 million when the 1970 GM strike began.