American car companies should make American cars

Cadillac and Lincoln, America’s top luxury automobiles for the past one hundred years, are failing because many of their vehicles are being imported, mostly from Mexico. The Made in the USA Foundation conducted a survey with Harris Interactive recently, and discovered that, by an overwhelming percentage, Americans would prefer to buy, and will pay more for, American-made products, particularly luxury goods.

It is astounding that two major German companies, Mercedes Benz and BMW, manufacture more luxury vehicles in the United States than either Lincoln or Cadillac.  And neither BMW nor Mercedes manufactures cars in Mexico for the American market.

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Lincoln’s 2012 total U.S. sales were a meager 82,150 cars and trucks, a decline of 4 percent, compared to BMW, which led U.S. luxury car sales with 281,460 units sold, up 13.5 percent from the previous year. Lincoln sales peaked in 1990 at more than 200,000 vehicles. Its sales are now only 40 percent of what they were 20 years ago, while U.S. car sales are booming.

The Lincoln MKZ is made in Mexico; the Lincoln MKT is made in Canada. But the Lincoln MKS and the Navigator are made in the USA. This can all be very confusing to consumers. Consumers think that Lincoln and Cadillac are American cars, but 74 percent of Lincoln’s sales were imports!

For the year 2012, Cadillac sold 149,782 new luxury vehicles in the United States This accounts for a decline in sales from the year before of 1.7 percent. Cadillac was one of just five brands sold in the U.S. to show a decline in annual sales from 2011 to 2012, joining Lincoln, Jaguar, Suzuki and Mitsubishi. The Cadillac SRX is made in Mexico and represents 38 percent of Cadillac’s U.S. sales. The new Cadillac XTS is made in Canada.

General Motors, while still being majority owned by the U.S. government, had the audacity, and stupidity, to move production of the Cadillac SRX from Michigan to Mexico.

BMW manufactured 301,519 vehicles at its Spartanburg, S.C., plant in 2012. Seventy percent of the vehicles produced there were exported, making BMW the USA’s largest automotive exporter. More than two million BMWs have been made in Spartanburg. Thirty percent of the vehicles that BMW assembled in South Carolina, or 90,000 vehicles, were sold in the United States. More than 200,000 vehicles were exported. Remarkably, BMW built more vehicles in the United States than it sold here.

Mercedes reported sales of 274,134 cars and trucks in the United States in 2012, a 12 percent improvement from 2011. Mercedes manufactured 182,000 vehicles in Alabama, selling 74,000 in the United States while exporting 108,000 units. In total, 25 percent of Mercedes sold in United States are made or assembled in the United States.

The message for Cadillac and Lincoln is to follow BMW and Mercedes’s example and build more cars in the United States. If Mercedes and BMW can do it, why can’t American car manufacturers build luxury cars and trucks here?

From Joel D. Joseph, chairman, Made in the USA Foundation, Los Angeles


Mortgage tax break  doesn’t help middle class

In the call for reduced government spending, the home mortgage interest deduction has a target on its back. At a cost of $90 billion to $108 billion annually, who is benefiting? Only one-fourth of taxpayers filing returns claim the deduction; a third of that money is claimed by people with annual incomes of $200,000 or more. Forty-two percent is claimed by those earning $100,000-$200,000 annually and 4.3 percent is claimed by those earning less than $50,000. Those earning $200,000 or more saved $1,862, while those earning $49,777 or less saved $120. Hardly an equitable distribution. Aside from the cost and subsidizing of high-income earners’ home purchases, the mortgage interest deduction has a negative impact on housing prices and debt accumulation. Studies show the deduction raised home prices by 3 to 6 percent, increased mortgage debt and contributed to housing bubbles. Increase homeownership: pass the Fair Tax (H.R. 25 / S. 122) and eliminate personal and business income taxes, capital gains taxes and estate and payroll taxes. The Fair Tax makes the mortgage interest deduction unnecessary. Payroll, savings and investments are not taxed, thus wealth grows faster, and that down payment can be achieved with less debt.

From Beverly Martin, Fulton, Mo.


Bipartisanship in the NRA is a thing of the past

A decade ago, when the National Rifle Association (NRA) backed universal background checks, the organization truly was nonpartisan. Time and money has changed all that. 

Witness the lineup of speakers at the NRA’s annual meeting in Houston this past weekend: Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum et al. represented only the most conservative factions of the Republican Party. Whatever semblance of balance that once existed within the organization has now been replaced by hyperpartisan rhetoric and a shrill, take-no-prisoners platform. 

If the NRA ever wishes to reverse course, I suggest it start by inviting GOP Sens. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, John McCain of Arizona, Mark Kirk of Illinois and Susan Collins of Maine to speak next year. They were the only Republicans to vote in favor of the Senate’s gun control proposal in mid-April.

Wouldn’t that be something? A real cross-section of GOP speakers talking up the NRA.

From Denny Freidenrich, Laguna Beach, Calif.