The real problem started in the late '70s when the federal, state and local governments paved the way for the first Japanese car company to build a car manufacturing plant in Marysville, Ohio. The first Honda Accord, which ironically sported the license plate "USA001," rolled off the assembly line on Nov. 1, 1982 and changed the domestic auto industry forever. There's nothing inherently wrong with the domestic automakers having competition on their own ground, except that Honda — and the other foreign nameplates that followed — came to town without unions. By not having union representation, the foreign nameplates have been able to pay their workers substantially less in wages and benefits and therefore build their vehicles more economically. They can spend more on each vehicle from sophisticated engineering to higher quality parts and still produce cars for thousands less. And since they're built here, there are no tariffs. Instead of us asking why this was allowed to happen and why it continues, we ask why the domestics can't keep up. It's unlikely that we're going to find an answer when we can't even ask the right question. N
Larry Silvey, a 26-year veteran of the automotive aftermarket, is editor-in-chief of Aftermarket Business and editorial director for the Advanstar Automotive Group, which consists of Aftermarket Business, Motor Age, and ABRN.