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Michigan congressman calls on GM to reverse Chinese-made import decision

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Michigan congressman calls on GM to reverse Chinese-made import decision

David Shepardson / Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — A Michigan member of Congress called on General Motors Corp. to reverse its decision to import vehicles from China starting in 2011.

Rep. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, urged GM to drop its plans to start importing vehicles from China.

"They can build those vehicles in the United States. They can build small vehicles (here)," Peters said, noting that Ford Motor Co. and the Chrysler LLC-Fiat SpA alliance plan to build small cars in the United States.

"The priority has to be to keep domestic American jobs. The reason the taxpayers have made substantial investments in these companies … is to keep American workers working in American plants."

The UAW has criticized GM’s decision to boost imports from low-wage countries, saying higher imports will allow GM to eliminate four U.S. assembly plants. GM has said the percentage of imported vehicles will remain about the same from 2009-14 — roughly one-third of vehicles sold here.

GM president and CEO Fritz Henderson told Bloomberg Television that the company was open to changing its import strategy and could drop plans to import vehicles from China

"I think you will see in the end a substantially lower amount of volume would be brought in and a substantially higher amount will be built here," Henderson said. "You’ve got to be fully competitive."

Peters rejected the idea that GM can’t profitably build small cars here. He also criticized the decision to cut 21,000 hourly workers by the end of 2010. GM will close 13 assembly plants by the end of next year.

In a confidential 12-page presentation to members of Congress last week, GM disclosed it will start importing vehicles made in China starting in 2011 and expects to import 51,546 in 2014.

GM also said it will shift more production of vehicles bound for the U.S. market to China, Mexico, South Korea and Japan.

GM said it will boost U.S. sales of vehicles built in those four countries by 98 percent — or about 365,000 vehicles — while shrinking production in Canada, Australia and European countries by about 130,000 vehicles.

GM imports from South Korea to the United States will jump from 36,967 vehicles in 2010 to 157,126 in 2014.

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