Americans were once the most patriotic and proudest citizens. It was a trait I admired growing up in Toronto, where Canadians simply regard “Canada Day,” which celebrates the consolidation of three territories into a single nation, as a day off work. The 4th of July was once a very big deal in America, and I admired the patriotic pageantry from north of the border.
American pride and patriotism have waned in recently years, with the New York Times leading the charge. The Times’ opinion page on the eve of the 2019 July 4th holiday thought it an ideal time to post a video arguing why Americans were mistaken believing they lived in the world’s greatest country.
The following month the Times published its “1619 Project,” which laid the groundwork for its continuous reporting that America was founded on racism and that America remains a fundamentally racist country. Although most Americans perceive China is their greatest enemy, New York Times reporters say thinking bad thoughts or ascribing bad motives to China is yet another example of the country’s pervasive racism.
American pride and patriotism were once reflected in the nation’s advertising, and no brand celebrated its red, white, and blue roots more than GM’s Chevrolet division. Chevrolet became the top selling car brand in the U.S. because of its embracement of television and the medium’s early stars. Check out Dinah Shore singing her heart out, “See the USA in a Chevrolet.” Another example of Chevrolet’s advertising brilliance was getting the cast members of Bonanza, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and Bewitched to introduce Chevrolet’s new lineup of 1965 cars.
Perhaps the ultimate display of Chevrolet’s embracement of American patriotism was the commercial I’ve featured linking the brand to the most quintessential American associations, “baseball, hotdogs, apple pie, & Chevrolet.”
There was once a saying that “What’s Good for GM is Good for America,” but these days what’s good for GM, as well as Ford and Tesla, is good for Mexico. GM’s Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup trucks, two of the company’s most profitable vehicles, are assembled in Mexico. GM’s Blazer EV and Equinox EV will be manufactured in Mexico, which likely will be the assembly location of choice for more GM electric vehicles.
Mexico’s economy minister tweeted in January that GM has advised that its Mexican plants will exclusively build EVs from 2024. As Mary Barra, GM’s CEO, has vowed that the automaker will sell more EVs than Tesla by 2025, it’s clear that Mexico will take on increased importance.
Mexico is also of growing importance to Ford, where the company operates three plants and assembles its electric Mustang. Ford increasingly is moving design and engineering jobs to Mexico, where last fall it opened an expansive $260 million facility to house its expanding workforce to 9,000 workers. Meanwhile, Ford is laying off thousands of its Michigan workers.
Tesla, which owes its existence to U.S. and California subsidies and clean air regulations, recently announced it will invest $10 billion in Mexico to build a giant battery plant it refers to as a Gigafactory. According to California Governor Gavin Newsom’s office, Tesla received more than $3.2 billion worth of direct and indirect California subsidies and market mechanisms since 2009. Elon Musk seems to have forgotten about the taxpayer largesse he was showered with, but Ralph Nader recently reminded him.
Congress intended for U.S.-based automakers to move their manufacturing operations to Mexico with the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, which provides the same generous subsidies for vehicles assembled in that country as if they were assembled in the U.S. Mexican minimum wage is $11 a day, Bloomberg reported. Workers who produce car parts typically earn just under $700 a month, while those who make vehicles earn around $1,000.
From a dollars-and-cents point of view, manufacturing in Mexico seems like a no-brainer – except to Honda.
“Honda has a traditional quality to manufacture where demand exists,” Toshihiro Mibe, Honda’s president and CEO, said at the recent ground-breaking ceremony for Honda’s electric battery plant in rural Ohio, a milestone he thought important enough to attend. “Because we want to supply high quality automobiles for American customers, we naturally want to build cars and the batteries here in America.”
According to news reports, Ohio only spotted Honda $237 million in grants. In exchange, Honda will initially invest $3.5 billion to build the plant, which will create 2,200 jobs. The investment is projected to increase to $4.4 billion. As well, Honda will spend $700 million to retool three of its Ohio plants to build electric vehicles and provide components for them. The expansion will add 327 jobs. Honda employs 14,400 Ohio workers.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently announced with great fanfare that Michigan will give Ford some $1.3 billion in subsidies to build a $3.5 billion battery plant on fertile farmland in a major tourist area called Marshall. Ford said it will create 2,500 jobs, paying on average about $45,136 a year — 15% less than the median household income in the county where Marshall is located.
While Marshall-area political dealers tout the deal, area residents strongly oppose it, and have retained an attorney to review legal options on how to derail the plant’s construction. By comparison, Honda acquired its battery plant land from a willing Ohio farmer named Dave Martin, who either had a prior relationship with the company or developed one as part of the sale. I found no stories about local opposition to Honda’s battery plant.
According to this story in the Columbus Dispatch, Martin still has sizeable acreage to continue farming. He has a deal with Honda whereby it ships motorcycle parts from Japan in cargo containers to Ohio and Martin sends the containers back filled with Ohio soybeans. The farmer will continue growing soybeans when the plant opens, giving Honda a vested interest making certain the property is environmentally protected.
Marshall residents have good reason to fear a lithium battery plant in their backyard given Ford’s environmental record.
Bloomberg recently reported that much of the aluminum in Ford’s F-150 is linked to a refinery in Brazil allegedly responsible for sickening thousands of people.
New Jersey’s attorney general filed a lawsuit last June alleging that Ford dumped waste on the homelands of the Ramapough Lenape Nation, a Native American tribe recognized by the state. The lawsuit accused the company of disposing thousands of tons of toxic paint sludge and other pollutants on the site of a former iron mine in northern New Jersey in the 1960s and 70s, then donating or selling the land without disclosing the contamination. As a result, tribal members say they have experienced cancer, birth defects, and other negative health effects.
Ford last September agreed to pay $7.8 million to settle EPA allegations that it illegally installed a device that defeated the emission control system in 60,000 1997 Ford Econoline vans. EPA said the system led to an increase of smog-causing nitrogen oxide emissions well beyond the limits of the CAA emission standards when the vans were driven at highway speeds.
Honda is transparent about its battery plant. The company has publicly said it’s a joint venture with South Korean-owned LG Energy Solutions. Ford insists that it will own and operate its Marshall plant and is merely “licensing” technology from a company based in China. Virginia governor Glenn Youngkin said he believes Ford is just a front for the Chinese battery company, and so do others.
Honda’s loyalty to America is longstanding. A trade publication last June released its survey of cars and trucks it deems the most “American made.” The publication determined American-made not only based where vehicles are assembled, but also factored in parts content, engine origins, transmission origins, and U.S. manufacturing workforce.
Tesla vehicles claimed the first, second, 5th and 6th slots, while Honda vehicles garnered the 4th, 8th, 9th, and 10th spots.
GM, a company bailed out by U.S. taxpayers in 2008, had no vehicles making the top 10 American-made list. Ford had one, the No. 3 ranked Lincoln Corsair. The Jeep Cherokee ranked 7th.
Seems obvious to me that what’s good for Honda is good for America.