Autos, politics, and business: U.S. Chamber president comments on auto restructuring

Our biggest concern with the GM restructuring plan announced yesterday, and the ongoing Chrysler restructuring, is the potential for governments and unions to influence production, product, workforce, and management decisions in ways that could jeopardize the automakers’ chances for survival, put politics and special interests above sound business strategy, and disrupt our nation’s trading relationships across the world.

We have already seen some clear examples of market manipulation and protectionism. The UAW has said that it pressured GM to change where the company plans to produce a new line of smaller cars; as part of the GM restructuring, the administration has reportedly closed the U.S. market to Opel; and also blocked Opel’s forays into China so it could not compete with GM.



If members of Congress, along with government officials from the United States to Germany to Canada, are allowed undue influence over management’s decisions, then you can write this down: These companies will not return to profitability and their survival will be seriously challenged. The global talent that exists in the automotive sector must be allowed to do its job and be paid on a competitive basis. Management must be permitted to make tough decisions in a competitive global market without political interference. The political second guessing has already started about decisions to close some plants and dealerships -- tomorrow's Senate committee hearing with GM and Chrysler executives will certainly be one to watch.

Going forward, we will be carefully monitoring the activities of the new GM and Chrysler boards, and we will expose and fight any counterproductive influence by government, unions, or politicians over decisions that should be left to management. And we will continually insist that government reduce and eliminate its ownership stake as soon as possible. The future success of General Motors and Chrysler ultimately depends on whether they can profitably design and build cars that Americans and other consumers actually want to buy -- they need to be allowed to build that future.