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Don't just blame Detroit

November 20, 2008

Re "Pileup foreseen if Big 3 crash," Nov. 17

It is self-righteous to blame Detroit's failures on the reluctance of automobile company managers to build high-efficiency vehicles. Detroit did not focus on making these vehicles because its customers didn't want them. Instead of criticizing Detroit, we should thank the automobile industry for continuing to pay good wages and retirement benefits to so many Americans.

Today, when you go into a store, nearly every product on display will have been made in China. Detroit successfully fought off moving many of its jobs overseas, but just like Levi Strauss and Co. had to give up a century of made-in-America tradition, Detroit has found that it too is no longer able to compete.

Detroit may be on its deathbed, but the disease is not the automakers' alone; it is America's. America's industries can't seem to make a profit the old-fashioned way -- with high union wages, employer-paid medical benefits and generous retirement plans that allowed factory workers to live the American lifestyle.

The question is not whether we can afford to lose Detroit, but whether we can figure out how to retain the manufacturing base necessary for a strong economy.

Michael Ernstoff

Los Angeles

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Major changes for the American auto industry are inevitable and will have painful consequences. The real question is: Do we use public funds to preserve a management structure that is largely responsible for the problems of the industry, or do we allow nature to take its course and force the drastic changes that are needed?

Desirable, quality vehicles such as the Ford F-150 won't go away. They will continue to be produced in a restructured industry under new, leaner management and by a labor force whose compensation is more in line with today's reality.

The Big Three have to accept that their loss of market share is not a temporary fluke but part of a long-term realignment.

Paul Rosenberger

Manhattan Beach

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What's the big fuss about the poor quality of cars made in Detroit? Last week, I rented a Chevy Malibu, and it was a delightful car. Round trip from San Diego to Los Angeles, I drove 286 miles. I used only nine gallons of gasoline. That's nearly 32 miles per gallon!

What's wrong with that, America? Let's quit bad-mouthing U.S.-made automobiles and save these vital industries.

John I. Ingle

San Diego

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If the automakers are to be bailed out, the funds should come from the folks who have profited most from their bad decision-making and who have the cash available: the oil companies.

Morris Schorr

Woodland Hills

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