As I think about last night’s State of the Union address, one idea sticks in my mind: buying American.
For a long time, it didn’t matter to me where my products were built. For example, the computer I’m using to write this post was built in China. As long as the product was affordable, high-quality, and did its job, it could have been built anywhere. The exception was cars. After a bad experience with a Ford Mustang II, I made a point of buying mostly Japanese cars. We’ve owned Toyota vehicles since the 1991 Camry we bought just before our wedding. There have been exceptions, like a 1991 Saturn SL1 we had for 14 years. After a while, we also stopped caring about where our cars were manufactured. It didn’t matter whether the car came off an assembly line in Korea or Alabama, as long as it got us where we need to go.
Now, we’re in a situation where we have to brave car shopping in 2023. The car we decided on was a Chevrolet Bolt EUV. At first, it didn’t matter that it was built in the United States, except that it enabled us to qualify for the full Federal tax credit. But the President’s State of the Union address got me thinking about how that car will be built.
To buy this car, our local dealership has to put in a custom order. That order will go to GM’s manufacturing plant in Orion Township, Michigan. The workers at this plant come from UAW Local 5960. Right now, those union workers are waking up, making breakfast, packing their lunches, kissing their children goodbye as they send them off to school, and listening to their favorite sportscasters talk about LeBron James beating Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s scoring record and the upcoming Super Bowl as they drive to the plant to build my car.
It’s a shame Chevrolet doesn’t offer the same deal as German automakers that let you travel to the plant to take delivery of your vehicle. They give you a tour of the plant, let you drive your car right off the line, and cruise around the area before shipping it home. I’ve never been to Michigan, so this could be an interesting trip. But what would make the trip meaningful for me is to see the faces and shake the hands of the workers who built my car.
This experience would be like when I first started working at AST. Our assembly plant was in the same building as the R & D department I worked in. I ate lunch with those workers. We played ping-pong in the rec room. We hung out at company parties. When I bought my first AST computer in 1991, I took tremendous pride in that product. That’s because I knew the people who designed and built it—including me who wrote the user’s manual.
When it matters where your products are built, it matters who builds them. When you realize workers like you build the products you use, you care about their working conditions, want them to get paid well, and make sure they have good medical care and pensions. You care about their families and communities. You want them to be treated the same way you want to be treated. You won’t accept products built through exploitation, including child labor and inhumane working conditions. Well-treated and well-paid workers provide quality products and services.
As consumers, we want our products to work well, but we also want them to reflect our values. I will be proud to drive my Bolt because I know who made it.
To learn more about our family’s history with Chevrolet and other GM vehicles, read this article on my brother’s website, Victory and Reseda.