The chairman of General Motors Corp. broke ranks with the automobile industry yesterday by strongly opposing any protectionist legislation aimed at foreign car manufacturers.
In a speech to GM stockholders here, Thomas A. Murphy lambasted what he called "the phony elixir of protectionism" which, he said, "would invite retaliation abroad. Instead of trying to turn the clock back we should be devoting our energies to . . . making American business generally more competitive with the foreign merchandise here at home," he declared.
With imports rising to on of every four or five cars sold, Ford Motor Co. urged that trade restrictions believed on Japanese manufacturers. Dougles Fraser, president of the United Auto Workers, went to Japan to warn of possible quotas unless the Japanese started building more of their cars in this country.
From also serves on the board of Chrysler Corp., a condition of the bailout deal in which the union agreed to provide the troubled company with a large infusion of cash. Fraser claimed that his inclusion would give the workers "a voice in the highest echelons" of the corporation.
In response to a stockholder's question, Murphy said GM opposes putting labor representatives on its board of directors. "We shouldn't have directors who represent only one constituency, such as labor or environment, but rather those who can look at the total situation," Murphy said. "Also it is a mistake to have (as a director) a labor leader who will be negotiating collective bargaining agreements with competing companies."
When asked if it was important for GM to "make sure Ford and Chrysler don't go under." Murphy recalled that there had been 2,000 automobile manufacturers in this country and that loss was as much a part of the American system as profit.
Murphy expressed confidence about a greater degree of cooperation today between business and government, another way of saying that the voice of business is coming through louder these days at the regulatory agencies. But he warned against proposed changes in automotive fuel-economy regulations that would benefit only certain manufacturers, saying that any changes must apply to all U.S. and foreign car makers alike.