NACM Survey Shows Virulent Opposition to Auto Bailout

Responses to NACM's December 2008 Survey question, "Do you support a government bailout of the 'Big 3' auto companies?" showed that a majority of respondents opposed the government's proposed bailout of the Ford Motor Co., General Motors Inc. and Chrysler LLC. All in all, 66.8% of participants answered "no," and 28.8% responded "yes." Only 4.4% noted that they had no opinion on the matter.

Last month's survey also elicited the most additional comments of any prior NACM survey, indicating the strength of respondent opinions and, in some instances, showing some participants' outright revulsion at the thought of a government bailout aimed at helping an industry that, many believe, dug its own grave. "Not only no, but hell no!" said one respondent. "The auto industry has been totally oblivious to the needs of their customers, selling whatever brought the highest profit. This allowed unions to demand ridiculous wages and executives to receive obscene pay levels. It's time to start over," said another respondent. "Stupid hurts. It's supposed to. That's how we learn," added another participant.

Among the "yes" respondents, most admitted that their positive responses were made begrudgingly and that they only supported the bailout because they feared the negative impact of a Big 3 bankruptcy, or that they would only support a bailout that came with major restrictions on executive salary, reduce company spending and concessions by the United Auto Workers union (UAW). "Yes, assuming that the bailout includes a comprehensive plan to address and remedy the industry's structural issues, particularly pension benefit and retiree healthcare expenses," said one respondent. "I am philosophically opposed to the bailouts in general. However, since the government has bailed out the financial sector to the extent they have, it makes no sense to let the Big 3 go under if it can be avoided," said another respondent, one of very few auto-industry sympathizers who participated in the survey. "No other industry has been more maligned, nit-picked and needlessly over-regulated as the automobile industry," the respondent added.

Many objected to the use of the term "bailout," insisting that they supported loans to the industry, rather than a "blank check" that the word "bailout" connotes. Other respondents rejected the idea of any government money not put toward a Chapter 11 filing supervised by the government, an option that many found fairer and preferable to federal financing. "The Detroit 3 must go prepackaged Chapter 11 more to get free from the UAW contracts and the dealer franchise organization," said one respondent. "The government, banks bailed out by the government and other major banks need to be the [debtor in possession] lenders. We all have a lot to gain if this is done correctly."

This month's survey asks for opinions on the value of customer visits. To participate, visit www.nacm.org.

Jacob Barron, NACM staff writer

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