Ryan forces GM's hand

(Editor’s Note: On Saturday, General Motors took down its new 2019 Chevrolet Blazer SUV from the company’s huge “Chevrolet Fountain” display above centerfield at Comerica Park in Detroit. The move comes on the heels of Mahoning Valley Congressman Tim Ryan’s public tongue-lashing of GM for spotlighting a vehicle that’s made in Mexico.

The following column was written earlier last week and focuses on GM’s arrogance and the damage it has done to this region.)


There’s a story making the rounds in the Mahoning Valley that two General Motors dealerships had the new Chevrolet Blazer in their showrooms when they were asked – politely, of course – by residents, including GM Lordstown retirees, to remove the vehicles from public view.

Why? For the simple reason that the Blazer is made in Mexico.

But even more heart-wrenching for the people of the Valley is the fact that distribution in the U.S. of the redesigned and re-engineered iconic American vehicle began just weeks before the 53-year-old Lordstown assembly plant was idled by General Motors.

Whether or not the story about the local dealerships is true, the underlying message is clear: GM’s unpatriotic decision to build the Blazer in Mexico while padlocking the Lordstown assembly plant and three other facilities in the U.S. and one in Canada must be denounced.

So, has the giant automaker taken the foreign-made SUV out of the spotlight?

Get real. In fact, it has doubled-down on rubbing our noses in the Blazer.

Consider this headline on the website autoblog.com: “Comerica Park beats its American chest by adding Silverado and Blazer to Chevy fountain”.

Accompanying the piece by Tony Markovich is a photograph of the Detroit Tigers baseball park’s huge General Motors’ display called “Chevrolet Fountain.” At either end of the Chevrolet sign – complete with the globally recognizable bowtie logo – are the Silverado and the Blazer.

The Tigers’ first home game is Thursday against the Kansas City Royals.

On that day, thousands of baseball-hungry fans will fill Comerica Park and will have a clear view of the Blazer, the SUV being built in Mexico, where very few – if any – assembly line workers can actually afford to own a car, let alone the one they’re making.

The Blazer, which is built in GM’s Ramos Arizpe plant in Coahuila, carries a price tag of $29,995. The fully equipped top-of-the line version costs about $49,000.

In November 2017, just 10 months after General Motors ended the third shift at its Lordstown plant, Reuters wire service reported the company was going ahead with its plan to manu-facture the new Chevrolet Blazer SUV in Mexico.

The company’s decision was a public repudiation of President Donald J. Trump, who had demanded that American automakers close plants abroad and create jobs at home.

Trump warned he would punish GM, Chrysler and Ford financially by withdrawing tax benefits they now enjoy if they did not do his bidding.

Indeed, Trump publicly lashed out at CEO Mary Barra for idling the Lordstown assembly complex while rolling out a new product that’s made in Mexico.

But Barra and her management team not only told the president and the people of the Valley to stuff it, they decided to publicize the fact they’re producing a new vehicle in a foreign country and selling it in America. Incidentally, Mexico is famous for lax workplace regulations, environmental standards and slave wages.

By displaying the Blazer in Comerica Park, GM has revealed its lack of empathy for all those Americans who are directly or indirectly affected by the closing of the four plants.

Congressman Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, who has been on the frontlines of the battle to keep the GM Lordstown facility open, had this to say about the display in Detroit:

“In the wake of GM closing plants across the country, it’s a slap in the face for American workers to showcase foreign-made cars alongside America’s pastime. It’s not enough that thousands of families lost their livelihood or were forced to move away from their communities, but now they must watch as a foreign-made car is propped up in Motor City of all places. This tone-deaf display is an insult to their tireless work and dedication to this company. GM should know and do better.”

The company’s decision to abandon the Lordstown plants and the four others in the U.S. and Canada will have a devastating impact on local economies.

The closings will affect 3,300 production jobs in the United States; 2,500 jobs in Canada; 8,000 salaried employees.

But here’s the political component that should be viewed as a gift from GM to the slew of Democratic candidates who are seeking the party’s nomination for president: The display of the Chevrolet Blazer in a major baseball park in the city that made America’s auto industry the greatest in the world is a reflection of Republican President Trump’s broken promises.

Trump assured the American people he would rebuild this nation’s manufacturing might by rebuilding the steel industry and creating thousands of auto manufacturing jobs.

He has done neither.

As the Mahoning Valley, which gave the Republican presidential nominee a huge vote in the 2016 election, well knows, there aren’t any steel mills rising up along the banks of the Mahoning River.

And, the GM Lordstown assembly complex, which has been an economic mainstay for the region for more than half a century, has fallen silent.

The empty parking lots that are larger than football fields are ghostly.

On the other hand, GM’s unveiling of a new vehicle that’s made in Mexico is proof of Trump’s failure to deliver on a major promise.

Shame on the Democratic candidates for president if they fail wrap the Blazer around Trump’s neck.

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