President-elect Donald Trump has put the auto industry on notice: keep your jobs, expansion plans, and new plants in the United States or face dire consequences.
Responding to Trump, Ford abandoned plans to build a $1.6 billion plant in Mexico and instead will invest $700 million in a Michigan plant, while Fiat Chrysler will invest $1 billion and add at least 2,000 jobs at plants in Michigan and Ohio.
As he uses the presidential bully pulpit to shame and force change from the auto industry, President-elect Trump is shaking up the status quo across the board. The result already is more jobs in the United States, and more opportunities for all of us. But in addition to protecting American jobs, Trump’s efforts to keep production in America could also save lives.
Recently, General Motors came under fire by the President-elect for importing the Chevy Cruze from Mexico for sales in the United States. Trump has hinted at imposing a 35 percent tariff on all GM cars imported from Mexico. But there is another factor, more perilous than American jobs.
You see, General Motors builds and sells many cars without airbags in Mexico. This is illegal in the United States, and nonsensical anywhere – after all, the cost of an airbag is trivial to the cost of a car, less than $200 – and General Motors knows this. At least, they should know this.
In 2014, in the aftermath of 2.6 million recalled vehicles for a faulty ignition switch that has killed at least 124 people, Mary Barra, Chief Executive Officer of GM, announced the Speak Up for Safety program to great fanfare, doing so at the time “to make sure everyone knows how serious we are about speaking up and about safety….to make our vehicles safer, to make our whole company a safer organization, and focused on the customer’s safety.”
It was fluff. It was a publicity stunt. It was a lie.
Not only is GM exporting jobs, but building sub-standard, unsafe cars abroad.
Of the U.S. automobile makers, only GM does not offer driver or passenger airbags as a standard safety feature on all their passenger vehicles manufactured and sold in Mexico.
Since November of 2015, consumer advocacy groups and safety organizations have asked Barra to end the unsafe practice of selling cars without airbags in Mexico. Barra has ignored these requests repeatedly.
In January of last year, Mary Barra defended GM’s inexcusable and unsafe practices, saying, “We also have to look at affordability otherwise you cut people out of even having the availability of transportation.”
Airbags making a car unaffordable is a myth. Pricing is more greatly impacted by transmission types, and other upgrade features, rather than life-saving airbags.
We reviewed the facts and issued a stinging report last spring. Of the 297 versions of 96 light commercial and passenger vehicles sold by the three U.S. automakers in Mexico, nine passenger vehicles do not have airbags and are all exclusively sold by GM.
The nine versions of passenger vehicles that GM sells without airbags are all sold by Chevrolet, and according to industry statistics, are all versions of the top three best-selling U.S. models in Mexico for 2015, a whopping 11.2 percent of market share.
Number 1 on the list? The Chevy Aveo, whose model without airbags received a zero-star safety rating from the Latin America New Car Assessment Program (Latin NCAP) after failing a crash test.
Our public charity, Consejo de Latinos Unidos, has been fighting egregious corporate practices and government ineptness for 17 years, having spurred three U.S. Congressional hearings, and numerous state and local investigations.
We have fought insidious business practices, incompetent government agencies, and deceitful billing and collections shams. We have always said businesses and government need to treat people with dignity and respect—as individuals, not a generic process.
Last year, after we launched our hispaniclivesmatter.net website grilling GM and hosted a joint news conference in Mexico City with Poder del Consumidor, a Mexican consumer advocacy group, GM announced it would eventually phase out these vehicles without airbags by 2019—a horrific promise to keep on selling these chariots of death for at least three years.
President-elect Trump wants to make America great. Let’s make America great by offering the world the best, not the cheapest or most unsafe products by moving our plants abroad and manufacturing sub-standard automobiles.
President-elect Trump should hold Barra and GM accountable, and use the bully-pulpit to end the era of chariots of death made abroad. GM should end manufacturing passenger automobiles without airbags, now, today, this very moment.
Although we are a non-political, non-partisan public charity, we understand some critics see President Trump as a danger to Hispanics because of his tough stands on immigration and comments he made in the past.
Regardless, we believe that General Motors is a greater danger to the lives and happiness of Hispanics than President Trump.
People are being injured or killed because of GM’s chariots of death manufactured in Mexico and sold throughout the developing world.
Ironically Barra is a member of Trump’s CEO advisory council known as the Strategic and Policy Forum. Trump could force Barra and GM to treat Hispanics with dignity and respect.
Maybe he can send her a tweet.