A little over six months ago, I bought my first car. Well, "I bought" is a bit of a misnomer. The UofI Credit Union loaned me some money, and that in-turn was provided to a car dealership. At any rate, it's the first car I've ever owned, which was an important personal milestone. So far, the 2012 Hyundai Elantra (nicknamed 'Lamont,' after The Shadow's alter-ego) has run like a dream.
The search for a car was very eye-opening. I tried to do enough research and test drives to feel as though I was making the right choice. Under consideration were factors such as: reliability, styling, interior space (roominess) and, of course, price. One more aspect to the buying process was that some of my friends were suggesting that I 'buy American.' Not only that, but that I also buy union. Being Democrats, it is important to them to support unions and, apparently, to support the industrial corporations of the U.S.
I was reminded of this situation today on Twitter, when some local Tweeps and I were discussing Chrysler's famous Super Bowl commercial from this year that featured Clint Eastwood growling that "It's halftime in America." It was about as pro-American as a car commercial is likely to get. And it finished with Chryler's latest slogan: Imported From Detroit. A jab at some of the foreign automakers who have dented Detroit's auto reputation that last couple of decades?
The thing is, Chrysler's parent company is Fiat. And Fiat's corporate headquarters is in Italy. Chrysler's CEO is Sergio Marchionne, an Italian gentleman who was recently featured on 60 Minutes, about how he's improved things at both Chrysler and Fiat. Now, I don't care that Marchionne is Italian. Nor do I care that Chrysler is foreign-owned. But what I do care about is the perception that Chrysler is somehow an 'American' company, simply because it's automotive vehicles are manufactured in Detroit.
Hyundai (a South Korean company) has a manufacturing plant in Alabama that my car was built in. Toyota is going to build a plant in Indiana. Volkswagen recently put up a plant in Tennessee so that it could build a more Americanised version of its popular Passat sedan. These are foreign companies, yes, but they are employing thousands upon thousands of Americans. Are they American companies employing Americans? No. But they're still good jobs (if that is important to you).
I dunno. On the one hand, I think that unions are important. I think that the success of American companies is important. But it's also important for folks to have the freedom of choice when it comes to their major purchases -- and a car is a major purchase. In the end, nationalism and unionism should perhaps be factors in the decision-making process, but they shouldn't be the only factors. I'm happy with my little Hyundai.
And it was imported from Alabama, thank you very much.