Two years ago, I was proud to attend a historic event – the moment the first Chevy Cruze rolled off the line at the Lordstown, Ohio GM plant. And I even took a ride in a red Cruze, similar to the one my wife now owns—a car made, stamped, and assembled by workers from across the state.
Just a few short years ago, in the midst of the Great Recession, companies like General Motors and Chrysler were on the verge of disintegration. The demand for new vehicles dropped precipitously, and without federal intervention, the industry was virtually certain to collapse. Such a breakdown would have put the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of Ohio workers in jeopardy.
In November 2008, 1,000 workers at GM’s Lordstown plant were laid off. Today, nearly 5,000 people – and another shift of workers – build the Chevy Cruze, one of the hottest selling cars in the nation.
While some people were willing to let Detroit go bankrupt, we were determined not to let this critical industry fall by the wayside. We were committed to the tough decision to save the auto industry from disintegration, helping maintain hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs.
In Ohio alone, more than 800,000 jobs are associated with the auto industry, with more than 120,000 Ohioans directly employed by automakers, dealers, and supply-chain parts manufacturers. The Center for Automotive Research found that more than 160,000 auto jobs would have been lost in Ohio in 2009 if the auto industry had not been restructured.
But it’s not just jobs at the Big 3. Ohio is home to more parts suppliers, materials industries, and technology companies that support America’s auto manufacturing base than almost any other state. And the Chevy Cruze epitomizes how central the auto industry is to Ohio.
While the car is assembled in the Mahoning Valley, it features components made at plants all across Ohio. The Cruze’s tires are manufactured in Akron, its seats in Warren, engine blocks in Defiance, metal from Parma, the transmission in Toledo, speakers in Springboro, and the aluminum wheels for the high-mileage Chevy Cruze Eco come from Cleveland.
So in many ways, investing in the auto industry was about investing in Ohio’s supply chain.
When things looked bleak – and when no private financing was available to the auto companies – we didn’t give up on American auto companies or American manufacturing.
The two-year anniversary of the Chevy Cruze is a triumphant time for the automakers and suppliers in our state, but it could have been a far different picture if auto industry detractors had gotten their way. Instead of adding more than a thousand new jobs and new overtime and weekend shifts in Lordstown, GM might have been hanging padlocks on the gates of the complex. Instead of receiving awards and accolades, the company could be passing out pink slips.
And it’s not just General Motors that’s reaped the benefits. In the past year, Chrysler, Ford, and Honda have also announced multi-million dollar investments in their facilities across Ohio. From Defiance to Parma, from Toledo to Sharonsville, from Avon Lake to Lima, and from Marysville to Anna, auto jobs are being created or saved.
But as we continue to work our way toward economic recovery, one thing is clear: we’re not going back to business as usual. High-tech, fuel-efficient cars and clean energy are the future, and the American auto industry is adapting.
That’s why I was encouraged by an agreement laid out by the Administration and American automakers to implement new, stronger fuel economy standards for domestic cars. By 2025, automakers’ fleet of vehicles must average 54.5 miles per gallon. This will make American cars more competitive on a global market and lower fuel costs for Ohio households.
When we decided to save the U.S. auto industry from collapse, Ohio’s steelworkers, plastics producers, and stamping plant workers were able to keep their jobs. Ohio auto parts suppliers were able to hire more people and build capacity.
We owe it to our children and we owe it to Ohio workers to create a climate that fosters innovation and creates jobs – and auto manufacturing plays a tremendous role in that. Thanks to the auto rescue, the American car industry—including General Motors’ and Ohio’s own Chevy Cruze—is on the road to an even greater future.
Sherrod Brown is a United States Senator from Ohio.