Auto Industry

Issues: Economy

Importance of the Domestic Auto Industry

My brother, Carl, and I like to say we have the auto industry in our blood. Most of us in Michigan understand instinctively that the domestic auto industry is a national industry that is critical to our economy and national security. The last four years have seen a growing recognition of this fact, and the vital necessity of a strong domestic auto industry is at the heart of federal efforts to help the industry restructure.

U.S. Auto Industry Important to Jobs and Economy

According  to the American Automotive Policy Council, since 2009, U.S. auto sales have increased more than 67 percent.  General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler account for roughly 70 percent of U.S. auto production and supports hundreds of thousands of jobs.  In fact, they account for 66 percent of U.S. auto industry jobs.  Taken together, In total, automakers, suppliers, dealerships, and related businesses support more than seven million jobs. GM, Ford, and Fiat Chrysler have invest more than $30,8 billion in the last six years in their plants, labs, and other infrastructure.  They also invest more than $18 billion in research and development each year.

Maintaining a domestic technological and industrial capacity is not only vital for our economic prosperity, but also for our national security. The National Automotive Center (NAC) located at the Tank Automotive and Armaments Command in Warren serves as a catalyst to leverage government, industry and academia R&D investment with the goal of incorporating commercial technology into Army vehicles. The engineers at TARDEC and the National Automotive Center are working with the auto industry on critical research and development to reduce fuel consumption in the Army’s ground vehicles through electric propulsion and fuel cells, to create a mobile electrical grid, and to develop the use of advanced batteries, artificial intelligence and nanotechnology for the next generation of military vehicles.

Innovation and Testing

As innovation and technological development are key to maintaining competitiveness, together with the Michigan Delegation, successfully advocated for the American Center for Mobility at Willow Run to be designated by the U.S. Department of Transportation as an automated vehicle proving ground.  Willow Run was one of 10 sites selected to encourage testing and information sharing on automated vehicle technologies.  Currently, the delegation is working to secure funding for DOT-designated proving grounds so that critical work and testing can be done.  In March 2017, the delegation and Members from other states with proving ground designations wrote to the House Appropriations Committee urging funding be provided for the upcoming fiscal year.

We must continue to support innovative and forward-thinking efforts that help the automotive industry remain competitive and a source of employment and national pride.  We can do so by building on past successes, such as as the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Program, for which I helped lead the effort to fund during the economic crisis.  This program provides loans to automakers to retool existing plants to produce the next generation of passenger vehicles.

(Updated September 2017)