Level Field Institute's Jim Doyle: Consumers should care about unfair trade practices.
The goal of the Level Field Institute is to tell consumers and government officials which import-brand companies play by the same rules as U.S. automakers. The institute's founding president, Jim Doyle, says the answer is: Not many.
But Tim MacCarthy, the top Washington lobbyist for the import-brand companies, said a better name for the organization might be the New Flat Earth Society.
The institute seems to be trying to revive outdated us-vs.-them attitudes, says MacCarthy, president of the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers.
Not so, counters Doyle, 39, a U.S. Commerce Department official during the Clinton administration and the son of Michigan auto workers.
Doyle says he remembers such ill-advised stunts as parking Datsuns in shopping center lots so Americans could destroy them with sledgehammers.
Instead, he says, the institute plans to use valuable but not easily understood information to show that the marketplace doesn't always provide a level playing field.
Doyle says consumers should care whether import brands take advantage of unfair trade practices, use less domestic content or don't offer employees competitive pay and benefits.
The institute is supported entirely by families of Big 3 and supplier employees and retirees, Doyle says. He hopes to disclose the group's advisory board soon, he adds.
Doyle says the institute is getting no corporate or union money, but it is seeking it.
The institute's first campaign accuses Toyota Motor Corp. of trying to act American for its U.S. customers. At the same time, the institute says, Toyota plans to expand in Iran, a nation the U.S. government calls a state sponsor of terrorism.
That claim is based mainly on overseas media reports, some of which quote a top Toyota official in Australia.
According to news reports, the Washington office of Toyota Motor North America Inc. has advised Congress that the company has no production facility in Iran and does not plan to build one.
Toyota spokeswoman Martha Voss says the company has had negligible sales in Iran.
She says she is not aware of plans to expand there.
You may e-mail Harry Stoffer at [email protected]