WASHINGTON -- The Big 3 and import-brand automakers insist they're not fighting. But if a battle comes, both sides are well-armed with statistics about their importance to the U.S. economy.
The data duel is more than a numerical exercise. Lobbies that represent the Big 3 and import-brand companies use statistics on jobs and investment to influence Congress and the Bush administration.
At stake is government policy on issues such as health care, trade and fuel economy - where the interests of "domestic" and "foreign" automakers can diverge.
Import-brand automakers last week reported that direct employment in their U.S. plants has risen from 59,000 to more than 93,000 in less than a decade. Their companies are responsible for all growth in the U.S. auto industry since 1996, says a study done for the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers. The study was conducted by the nonprofit Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich., which is headed by David Cole, son of former General Motors President Ed Cole.
At the same time, the Automotive Trade Policy Council, which represents the Big 3 on trade issues, is refining its own study. It says the Big 3 still produce nearly 75 percent of vehicles assembled in the United States and employ more than 85 percent of U.S. auto workers.
The Big 3 and six import-brand automakers joined forces six years ago to form the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. That lobbying organization periodically issues reports on the contributions of the entire industry to the domestic economy.