WASHINGTON -- Import-brand automakers have been responsible for all of the growth in the U.S. auto industry since 1996, the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers says.
The statement summarizes a flurry of statistics made public Wednesday in a study commissioned by AIAM to show the economic impact of member companies that have plants in the United States.
In many respects, the study merely documents what is reported day-in and day-out about import-makers' gains in the U.S. market. Those gains are made mostly by companies based in Asia and largely at the expense of the Big 3. The study, by the Center for Automotive Research, a nonprofit institute in Ann Arbor, Mich., updates a 1998 version reflecting 1996 conditions.
One purpose of such studies is to demonstrate to lawmakers and other government officials that an interest group deserves favorable treatment -- or at least fair treatment -- when laws or regulations are being written.
Four members of Congress were on hand for the unveiling of the study to applaud the benefits of import-brand automaker plants in their districts.
They were Rep. Mike Oxley, R-Ohio, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee; Rep. Bud Cramer, D-Ala.; Rep. John Hostettler, R-Ind.; and newly elected Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Tex.
"We want to be your friends in Congress," Cuellar said to the industry executives in the room.
Tim MacCarthy, president of AIAM, would not name any particular pending proposal that would help competitors, namely the Big 3, at the expense of his association members - which include Honda, Nissan, Toyota, Hyundai and 10 other automakers.
But MacCarthy said they constantly need to be on guard for possible proposals on taxes, trade and fuel economy.
"I always worry about what I call the death of thousand cuts," he said.
MacCarthy said one fault of the study, conducted late last year with mostly 2003 information, is that it is already out of date. Import-brand automakers have announced additional expansions that will mean at least 9,000 more factory jobs by 2006.
Sean McAlinden, vice president of the Center for Automotive Research and author of the study, was asked if he analyzed how many Big 3-related jobs are replaced by each new import-brand automaker-related job.
He said most of the new U.S. production by import-brand companies offsets vehicles that previously were imported from overseas factories, but there would be some losses in employment at companies with declining market share.
"You can cut it either way," he added.
McAlinden's report wrestles with the issue of how to identify the Chrysler group of DaimlerChrysler AG. Technically it is a foreign-owned company and ought to be on the import-brand side of the ledger, the document says, but to keep comparisons with the 1998 study valid, the Chrysler group continues to be treated as a "domestic" company.
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