Do you care where your car was made?
Survey suggests buy-Canadian important factor but not top of list
News item: The Canadian Auto Workers wants government to help set up an all-Canadian automaker.
In its April report prescribing ways to keep Canada's auto industry healthy, the union says government should commit money and policy support to the idea of a Canadian-owned car company.
The Korean, Japanese and more recently Chinese governments actively nurtured the growth of their domestic auto sectors, the report notes. Emulating them, the union contends, would foster domestic research and development and render the industry less vulnerable to production being moved abroad.
The idea is likely to get no traction among cash-strapped, fiscally conservative governments. Even if they thought it was a good idea, critics only have to say one word: Bricklin. New Brunswick's attempt to get into the car business by building Malcolm Bricklin's plastic sports car in the 1970s left the province with a $28-million debt and egg on its face.
One of the union's other recommendations might be an easier sell. The CAW suggests governments favour Canadian-made vehicles in fleet purchases.
After all, CAW chief economist Jim Stanford notes, the union's public outreach slogan is "buy the car your neighbours build." Why shouldn't that apply to government?
"I think that Canadian consumers will show some preference for Canadian-made vehicles, especially in those parts of Canada where they can see the concrete benefits of having an auto industry," he says.
Maritz Research Canada's new-car buyers study for 2011 revealed about 70 per cent of respondents thought buying a Canadian-made product was important. The figure rises to 83 per cent for those who bought Ford, GM or Chrysler vehicles, says Chris Travell, Maritz's vice-president of strategic consulting.
The trusty Toyota Corolla — a car that not only is made in Canada, but has a lot of Canadian content.
The problem, says Stanford, is consumers don't even know which vehicles are made here.
It does seem to be getting harder discern that easily. The plate on the driver's side door that used to show where a vehicle is assembled often no longer shows that.
The law requires that information in the vehicle identification number but you have to know how to decode it, something Wikipedia can help with.
Even then, that's not the whole story.
The automobile industry has become completely globalized in the last two decades. Components can come from anywhere and be put together in almost any country.
How many people outside the car business know that the Chevrolet Camaro, the stereotypical American muscle car, is built in Oshawa, Ont.?
The American Automobile Labeling Act has requires stickers on all U.S.-sold vehicles to have stickers telling consumers the country of origin and percentage of foreign-sourced parts.