A Little Celebrating on the Auto Front
On Friday in Detroit, much hoopla surrounded President Obama’s visit to GM and Chrysler plants celebrating the fact that they’re still alive and kicking.
Earlier in Southern Pines, the mood was a bit more restrained, but equally positive.
“When we got word, there were a few high-fives and some pats on the back,” said John Beaver, general manager of the local Chevrolet-Buick-GMC dealership. “And then everybody went back to work.”
The reason for the subdued handshakes: The local agency, which earlier had been placed on the list to vanish into thin air, had just learned that it had just been handed a whole new six-year lease on life. And 35 employees are no longer looking at unemployment.
Despite the contrast and the geographic distance between them, the two scenes had much in common and sprang from the same cause: last year’s auto bailout legislation — which, though far from universally popular, undeniably accomplished much of what it was designed to do.
En route to his second stop of the day, at GM’s Hamtramck Assembly Plant, Obama had to pass a depressing sight: row after row of shuttered warehouses and mothballed plants characterizing Rust Belt Michigan. But at least there’s still a GM, and there’s still a Chrysler Corp. And both, stripped down — and, in the case of Chrysler, coerced into a marriage with Italy’s Fiat — are doing better than anyone had a right to expect a couple of years ago.
That all has to be considered good news, even if the final verdict on the success of the bailout is still out, and even if we all hope never again to have to see our government take such an unprecedentedly radical plunge into the workings of the free market.
The new, leaner and meaner GM appears to be doing more than hanging on. It is selling cars, getting good consumer reviews on many of them, reporting profits and venturing into unexplored technological ground. Not only is the local dealership staying open, but one of these days it will no doubt be displaying, right here in River City, an early model of the Chevrolet Volt, first in a cutting-edge new line of plug-in electric hybrids.
By then, the agency may be in the process of moving away from its present location on U.S. 1 and into a spanking-new home on busy U.S. 15-501. This planned relocation and expansion will provide visible evidence of a newfound viability — something in which all Moore Countians, regardless of what brand of wheels they prefer, can only rejoice.
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