A Ford Dealer's Perspective on Labor Talks
NOAH ADAMS, host:
Tomorrow in Detroit, Ford and Chrysler start talking about a new contract with the United Auto Workers. GM begins negotiations on Monday. There's a lot at stake here for many people beyond Detroit and the business of building cars. Today in part four of our weeklong series on the auto industry, we focus on the people who sell the cars and the trucks.
I spoke earlier with Joe Alvarez. He owns the Gainesville Ford and Mitsubishi dealership in Gainesville, Florida.
Anybody coming into your lot asking about Ford? Ford lost, what, $12 billion last year? Is anybody's saying, gee, they got to be shortcutting someplace. Is it quality? What's going to happen with - if I buy a Ford?
Mr. JOE ALVAREZ (Owner, Ford-Mitsubishi Dealership): We occasionally get that. It seems like I get that more around the friends of the community that I live in, ask me that - some questions similar to that. And you know, Ford spares nothing at bringing to market the best quality to compete with the Japanese brands. But I don't think so. I think that, you know, they know what they've got to do, and they'll bring to market some terrific vehicles.
ADAMS: What is your breakdown in terms of sales, Ford sales versus Mitsubishi there?
Mr. ALVAREZ: Probably - well, actually, we sell about seven Fords to one Mitsubishi.
ADAMS: Seven to one.
Mr. ALVAREZ: Yeah.
ADAMS: Somebody coming in clearly wanting a Mitsubishi, would you sort of help push that way by pointing out that - well, I just read this - for every dollar GM spends on health care, Toyota spends less than a penny. So the health care costs are not built in to the Japanese cars. And also the union's is a factor. Also the lack of a union.
Mr. ALVAREZ: Absolutely. You know, that is a concern of - always has been in this country. You know, those automobile makers. When you look at the Web sites, you know, they talk about the yen; they don't talk about the U.S. dollar. American manufacturer, the money stays right here, and it's, you know, mom, dads, sons and daughters that work in those plants. And you know, we have to think about that and the health care was there to protect Americans and autoworkers.
ADAMS: Well, if you feel so strongly about Ford and the Big Three in Detroit, and the American car industry, why would you then sell Mitsubishis, the Japanese car?
Mr. ALVAREZ: You know, I think that it's something that subsidizes the location that I have. They're certainly popular amongst the American people, and it gives some diversity for a decision of what somebody wants to drive. If they don't want to drive an American car, then we do have import car as a dealer; that's what we offer.
ADAMS: Rather that than going down the street.
Mr. ALVAREZ: Yeah. Certainly as an American, you know, our - my allegiance is to Ford Motor Company, absolutely. But you also have to have that flexibility because there are so many products, you know, that are so diverse amongst our country that people do retail and have establishments to sell.
ADAMS: What's the worst that could come out of these talks there in Detroit?
Mr. ALVAREZ: The fear of dealers could always be that they are unable to reach an agreement, which, you know, actually ends up in a strike-type term. But I got to tell you, the UAW and Ford have been such great partners. I just don't see that.
ADAMS: Do you, at a time like this, order up a bunch of cars in to get some -fill up your inventory and fill up your backlot?
Mr. ALVAREZ: No. I really don't feel - you know, me personally, I don't know if another dealer would. But I really don't feel like I have that worry. I think the partnership is strong between the two and I think they'll come to an agreement.
ADAMS: Car dealer Joe Alvarez of Gainesville Ford and Mitsubishi in Gainesville, Florida. Thank you, Mr. Alvarez.
Mr. ALVAREZ: Thank you, Noah.
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