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Safavian: Whitmer’s car rebate plan won’t grow auto industry

The automotive industry has a storied history in Michigan, and for more than a century, it has been the lifeblood of the state’s economy. So, it is no wonder policymakers strive to create an environment where the auto industry and its workforce can thrive.

However, Michigan is currently at a crossroads.

In her recent State of the State Address, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer reiterated her plan to lower the cost of buying a car in the state as a way to bolster and ignite the state’s auto industry. Known as the Michigan Vehicle Rebate Plan, consumers buying a hybrid or electric vehicle (EV) produced in a unionized factory would get $2,500 in state tax rebates. If consumers choose a model made in a non-union factory, they’d receive $500 less. The same differential applies to traditional combustion vehicles, prioritizing union-made cars and trucks with a $1,500 rebate compared to $1,000 when it’s made by non-union workers.

However good this plan may seem; it begs a few questions: Why the discrepancy in rebates? Is the Whitmer administration punishing American workers who choose not to unionize? And why is the administration arbitrarily limiting consumer choice?

According to an analysis of Wards Intelligence North American Production data, non-unionized autoworkers are responsible for manufacturing and assembling most light vehicles in the U.S. They made 51% of light vehicles in 2021 and 2022 and 55% in 2023.

The decision to reward consumers for purchasing a vehicle assembled or manufactured in a unionized facility has no basis other than picking winners and losers in the automotive industry. It disrespects the decisions made by American workers about their own workplaces, and it discriminates against those who produce more than half of the vehicles made in the United States.

At the same time, non-unionized facilities in no way produce inferior or less safe vehicles. Instead, they are designed, crafted and manufactured at the highest levels of safety and quality.

Just look at the data. More than half of the vehicles listed on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Five Star Safety Ratings were manufactured and assembled by non-unionized auto companies and their workforces.

The rebate plan also fails to consider the array of decisions working families face when considering a new car. Drivers weigh their monthly budget, wade through different models and trim levels, review safety and rating information, and make a decision that will meet their diverse and changing needs over many years. As it stands, Michigan consumers looking to buy a car won’t be able to get the full credit for more than half of the vehicles on the market, significantly reducing consumer choice.

The distinction between union and non-union production simply does not reflect the reality of today’s auto industry, where all workers contribute significantly to the economy. According to the most recent Economic Impact Report published by Autos Drive America, international automakers have invested $107 billion in the U.S. over the past 60 years, employ 156,000 Americans, and support over two million additional jobs up and down the supply chain across the United States.

In Michigan specifically, they have invested $1.8 billion and employ 5,500 employees. These workers should not be discriminated against for choosing not to unionize but instead should be recognized for their significant contributions to the U.S. automotive industry.

While Whitmer has every reason to support the automotive industry, it is imperative that support is not conditional on union affiliation. The most effective way to grow the automotive industry and make automobiles more affordable is by creating a level playing field for the entire industry, respecting a worker’s right to choose whether to unionize, and promoting consumer choice.

Anything less risks diluting Michigan’s legacy of automotive excellence and the jobs of thousands of American workers who are integral to the U.S. auto industry.

Jennifer Safavian is president and CEO of Autos Drive America. 

This article was originally published by a www.detroitnews.com . Read the Original article here. .

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