Six months after their meeting was cancelled by a scheduling conflict, the leaders of America’s Big Three domestic automakers finally get to meet with President Bush at the White House Tuesday. And they will have plenty to talk about.
Chief among the topics of conversation will be the rising cost of health care, pensions, energy and commodities, like steel. The auto executives are also expected to discuss trade issues, such as the big advantage an artificially weak yen is giving Detroit’s Japanese rivals.
“They will probably talk about issues that are on the industry’s mind right now, like national health care and steel prices. But will there be tax relief for the industry? I don’t think so,” said George Magliano, director of automotive industry research for the Americas at Global Insight. “It’s really more of a meet and greet.”
One of the biggest problems the Big Three faces is the cost of health care for employees and retirees, which adds some $1,000 to the cost of every car they make. Automakers argue that they have already negotiated significant health care benefit reductions with their labor unions, and now it’s up to Washington to fix the broader national problem.
“The U.S. government doesn’t pick up health care costs for U.S. manufacturing, whereas many foreign governments do pay health care bills, and so relieve that cost,” said Alan Tonelson, a research fellow at the U.S. Business and Industry Council, a Washington-based research organization that follows manufacturing. “So Bush will hear from the automakers how the U.S. health care system puts companies like theirs at a competitive disadvantage, but I don’t think they are going to be able to give him very clear advice on this. It’s a much broader problem.”
From MSNBC here is what WMC can learn from true business leaders: