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It's a Jeep thing

| Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012, 9:03 p.m.

“China is one thing, but Italy?”

“Ah, yes, you speak of the recent hullabaloo surrounding the Jeep brand.”

“You got that right. I don't want our prized American brands being made anywhere but America!”

“Relax. Mitt Romney was playing footsie with the truth when he said that Jeep plans to move all its plants from the U.S. to China. Jeep is a division of Chrysler and Chrysler has no such plans. Chrysler has added 7,000 jobs in the U.S. since its 2009 government bailout.”

“But there are plans to expand Jeep production in China.”

“Yes, but that's nothing new. Jeep began making cars in China since the mid-1980s!”

“They did?”

“In 1985, says the Los Angeles Times, Jeep set up a plant to produce the Jeep Cherokee in alliance with China's state-run automaker. China is now the world's largest auto market. Wouldn't you want to build and sell Jeeps there?”

“Well, what about plans to make Jeeps in Italy?”

“That part you have right. As part of its government-managed bankruptcy in 2009, Chrysler was sold to Italian automaker Fiat SpA. Fiat announced plans to manufacture a new Jeep SUV in its Italian plants — mostly because their plants are under-utilized due to the slow European economy.”

“But they plan to export that Jeep back to America! I'm all for a global economy, but there is something wrong about Italians making a Jeep and selling it back to us!”

“I understand your emotional attachment to the Jeep brand. It is an American icon with a unique heritage.”

“You got that right! The American Bantam car company invented the Jeep in 1940 in Butler. It was an innovative design that would contribute greatly to our success in World War II. After the war, it became a beloved American brand, and still is.”

“I couldn't agree more. I recently bought a new soft-top Jeep Wrangler and love it. It is capable off-road. It has the distinct Jeep look. And every time I drive past another Wrangler owner, I am greeted with the ‘Jeep wave.' You have to own a Jeep to understand.”

“Oh, I understand. That's why I want to keep Jeep a purely American brand.”

“Look, I understand your nostalgia, but the global economy has already changed many American icons. A Belgian company now owns Budweiser. A German company owns Alka-Seltzer. A Japanese company owns 7-Eleven. A Swiss company makes Gerber baby food.”

“Tell me it ain't so!”

“It gets worse. Levi's blue jeans are now made in Latin America and China. The Converse high-top basketball shoe is made in Asia. GI Joe and other Mattel toys are made in China!”

“Surely there are some traditional American brands that are still made here?”

“Yes, Harley Davidson still makes its iconic motorcycles here. Kitchen Aide makes most of its mixers here. Weber still makes the world's finest grills here. But it is getting harder for American manufacturers to maintain profitability.”

“But why?”

“Expanding EPA rules and regulations are increasing energy costs. An expanding money supply is inflating gasoline and transportation costs. Additional mandates, such as health care, are increasing employee costs. Employees at these companies are giving up wage concessions to keep their jobs. There is a LOT we can do to make the U.S. more friendly to manufacturing.”

“Look, I know the world is changing. I have no problem with Jeep expanding to new markets. That ultimately makes the company more profitable and, to that end, benefits American workers.”

“Then what's your problem?”

“I want tough-guy American assembly-line workers putting my Jeep together, not some Italian guys who sing opera music and eat Gorgonzola cheese!”

Tom Purcell, a freelance writer, lives in Library. Visit him on the web at TomPurcell.com. E-mail him at: Tom@TomPurcell.com

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