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Who makes car parts these days?

September 12, 2012
By Larry DeHays , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

This is a trick question, like "Where do babies come from." The answer depends on the sophistication of the asker. To some it would be "From mommies and daddies," and to others it might be "From Ohio."

It might surprise some people that all car parts are not made by the car manufacturers. For instance, there are dozens of brands of car batteries, but American batteries are only made by three companies: Delphi, Exide, and Johnson Controls. You almost never see a battery with those labels.

Why is that? The same reason Chrysler makes Dodge and also Plymouth and Chrysler cars and vans, all identical vehicles except for the names. And Ford makes Fords and Mercury cars, also identical vehicles. Generous Motors made Chevy, Olds, Pontiac, and Buick, all with Buick engines for a while. Chevy makes Chevy trucks and GMC trucks, also identical vehicles. Evinrude outboard motors also made Johnson outboard motors. dentical motors.

Why all the different models? It is because we (especially American) consumers are suckers for marketing. We love having lots of choices to consider when we buy, even if there is really no difference in the various products. In places like old Russia, there would be one car, and you would be told to take it or leave it. It is sort of like the case where fancy American cars have steering wheels that we can tilt or even telescope in and out to suit our driving style. The Germans build Mercedes cars with fixed steering wheels. They know where a steering wheel should be. Get over it.

Don't get me started on tires. There once was Goodyear, Goodrich, Firestone, Uniroyal, General Tire and Cooper making almost every American tire. Michelin (French) bought Uniroyal-Goodrich, Bridgestone (Japanese) bought Firestone, and Continental (German) bought General, and they continue to make tires in the U. S. and give them a hundred other names in the marketplace. I told you not to get me started on tires.

In fact, there are thousands of suppliers contributing parts to make our new cars, and then there is what's known as the "after-market" for repair parts. Everyone knows of NAPA, but did you know that NAPA doesn't make anything? They have everything made for them with their logo on it and they market the parts. Almost all after market companies work this way, buying from various manufacturers, and the newest trend is buying from, you guessed it, China. The parts from China are arriving at a small fraction of the cost of U.S. made parts. In some cases the quality is poor, and in some cases it is okay, but it is rare that it is ever superb. Yes, it is harmful to American jobs and yes, it is inferior to original equipment, but if a normally $300 job can be done satisfactorily for $100, many customers choose the savings.

Let Obama or someone else save those American jobs.

If Chinese kids are getting degrees in math and science and building the video games that our kids are wasting their time with, whose fault is that? The video games won't teach them to make car parts, but they may teach them where babies come from. Don't get me started.



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