I don’t know about you, but I’m long past ‘weary’ when it comes to all this talk about the economy we’re forced to endure as our leaders – and, would-be leaders – drone on about what it’s going to take to ‘fix it.’
If anyone really had an answer the economy would be fixed by now. Instead, it’s all starting to sound like the teacher in the old Charlie Brown specials: the “whaw, whaw, whaw…”
Instead of substance and success, it’s all posturing and pontificating. It is especially trying in the middle of the long recovery we are experiencing and just plain painful as we work our way through another election cycle.
If you’re anything like I am, you’ve already made the decision to turn it off and tune it out. The only problem is… I can’t. I can’t just turn “it” off. My brain won’t let me. Not without substituting something in its place and once these clowns started talking about how broken the economy is my convoluted mind began working on “the fix.”
A bit presumptuous because I’m no world-class economist, I’ll agree. But, I’m not an automotive engineer either and I’ve still managed a long and relatively successful career built around the service, maintenance and repair of a host of vehicles I didn’t have the background or education to design.
If it was broken and found its way to me it almost always left in better shape than when it arrived. It had to because I refused to quit until I had a solution! Now, the economy is broken and here’s the connection: Fixing stuff is what we do! So, is taking a shot at fixing the economy really as much of a stretch as it may seem?
Somewhere in the back of my mind it isn’t. In fact, it’s obvious… Apply the same skills and abilities that helped make us relatively good problem solvers and then get out there and do something!
So, here it is… “The Solution…” or at least a solution, according to Mitch! It bubbled to the surface while listening to a short podcast by Robert Reich, entitled: “Whose Got The Right Plan To Boost The Economy?” (Number 16 recorded 9-12-12)
Actually, it was something I’ve been thinking about since American manufacturing first started migrating overseas. Interestingly enough, both Reich and I have come to the same conclusion. Both of us believe the key to our economic future is the return of American manufacturing jobs with salaries high enough to allow American workers to purchase the products they are ultimately and intimately involved in creating.
According to Reich, the purchasing power of our middle class has been shrinking for the past thirty years – a period of time that spans the leadership of both parties – and stagnant for the past eight. Consequently, the problem our economy is facing isn’t a “Supply Side” problem, according to Reich. It’s a “Demand Side” problem, with the return of a strong manufacturing base as its solution.
I agree… But, just agreeing doesn’t necessarily provide a workable solution and here is where you, me and the Automotive Aftermarket all come together to provide a solution I not only believe can work, but one that will work if presented intelligently, supported properly and promoted aggressively!
It all came together when our search for a new and more powerful marketing tool at the shop collided with Robert Reich’s podcast…
As some of you may have already discovered, finding and executing that “killer” marketing tool isn’t always that easy. So, I started by re-examining everything we do and when I got to warranty, I paused for a moment. After all, what more can you do when you already offer a 2-year/24,000 mile warrant: would a longer warranty really be the marketing edge I was looking for? And, then it came to me – an opportunity far more compelling than something ‘just’ for us and here it is.
It starts with two questions: First, when it comes to quality of workmanship, productivity or the ability to innovate, is there anyone out there who really believes anyone in the world can compete a trained, educated, involved and highly motivated American factory worker when that factory worker is given the opportunity to compete?
Second, is there anyone out there who really believes we can’t compete when it comes to quality of product, workmanship, innovation or design: especially, in a Global Economy?
Is there anyone who really believes that our manufacturing capability is somehow less than world-class if or when our workers are allowed the opportunity to compete?
So, where is the disconnect?
The disconnect is price. Or, at least, that’s what everyone keeps telling us. American workers are just too expensive: expensive enough to make American products too expensive. That’s why everything has moved overseas and that’s why the purchasing power of the American middle-class – the only economic engine capable of restoring or sustaining the economy we once knew – has moved with it!
Well, here’s a way… a way our segment of the aftermarket can help bring it back!
We can demand products that are made here: manufactured or at least assembled in the United States. Quality products made in America by American workers!
Will those parts cost a few bucks more? I’m pretty sure they will, but the only way things are going to change is if we change them and the only way we can change them is by getting directly involved!
A number of aftermarket companies have moved at least some of their production capacity overseas for what must what seem like obvious reasons. I want them to bring at least a portion of that capacity home! I don’t know about you, but my experience with a number of ‘off-shore’ products has been less than stellar anyway.
Realistically, the choice is clear: How many of you would choose a part made outside the United States over one made in Texas or Minnesota, Wisconsin or Wyoming, California or Colorado, New York or New Jersey, Alabama or Tennessee?
Not many, I’ll bet.
So, here is what I propose: If you are a manufacturer, give me a break!
No, really, give me a break on the parts that are “Made in the USA.”
Give me a break on the parts that are made here and let me know what that break is: how much you are willing to sacrifice. It doesn’t have to be a lot! Just a point or two… Just enough to let me know you’d like to see manufacturing return to our shores as much as I would! Let me know and I’ll do whatever I can to see that every serious and responsible shop owner in the country is willing to sacrifice with you: willing to help bring those jobs home as well!
If you are a Jobber or Warehouse Distributor, don’t just pass that discount through… Match it! Match it or at least contribute to it and I’ll contribute with you. I’ll match that discount and offer a 3-year/36,000 mile warranty on ANY part manufactured or assembled within our borders and I will promote a program like this actively and aggressively anywhere and everywhere I can.
Why? Because, I believe Americans would pay a couple of dollars more for a part that was made here in the United States by a company employing workers who live here in the United States, spending their paychecks and paying taxes on other things made here that will grow the economy and ultimately benefit us all!
Unemployment is high: American factory workers want to get back to work and our factories are under capacity!
Shipping costs continue to rise causing the difference in cost that exists between foreign products brought here and those Made in America to become less and less of a competitive factor.
American consumers would rather buy American products: or, at least, that’s what they say and I think now is as good a time as any to put them to the test!
We all want the economy to recover and the recession to end and here is something we can all do to move that process forward.
It’s pretty simple really…
If you’re an Aftermarket Manufacturer, give me parts that are made in the United States by American workers. Help make those parts at least a little more affordable by removing as much cost as you can. If you are involved in the distribution industry, help make those parts more attractive by matching what the manufacturer has done. If you do, I’ll buy them, contribute to those allowances and then make those parts available to my clients along with a longer warranty and the very special story that goes along with them…
In fact, I’ll do more than that. I will promote it all proudly and aggressively and encourage every member of the repair community to join us.
I’ll help you create the kind of “Demand Side Economics” Robert Reich is talking about, the kind that will put Americans back to work, the kind that will result in a re-birth of American manufacturing, the kind of re-birth that can and will end the recession.
Give me Aftermarket parts that are Made In America: For Americans and I’ll Buy (And, sell more) American!
It doesn’t matter who you are. It doesn’t matter where you are in our industry: manufacturing, distribution or repair. All that matters is whether or not you care: whether or not you’re willing to do more than nothing!
Help me get this train rolling! This is your chance to make a difference, to do more than just listen or complain. If you’re interested… contact me at:
firstname.lastname@example.org and lets see what we can do…
Mitch, I very much enjoyed reading your blog and watching your video describing to us, in a personal way, your passion for “fixing” the ecomomic climate we find ourselves in today. I find your suggestion compelling, for I too am distraught over the economy and what the future will be like for our children and grandchildren if we continue down the same path.
Like I said, I love the concept, but find it very hard as a small shop owner to know where to begin. I’m a great dreamer but the implementation of an idea is the real obstacle.
Do you believe small shop owners like myself can have any affect prior to seeing the manufacturing companies and suppliers get on board with your idea? Is this a top down or bottom up proposition?
First, thank you for your reply… The simple answer would be a resounding, Yes! In fact, I think we’re going to do just that here at our shop (Not that huge either…). I think it’s just a matter of ‘doing’ it. We have a newsletter and I think I’m going to begin promoting the 3/36 starting at the beginning of the year whether we achieve any consideration from our manufacturers. Although, I have to tell you that we/I have received a number of discreet inquiries from people and companies in the Aftermarket who are interested in taking this to the next level – or, the first level, I guess…
I have a very strong conviction that this is OUR industry and that in order for it to change we need to BE the change we want to see… My goal has always been to hang this ideas out there hoping someone else would be as crazy as I am…
American workers are too expensive only because American shareholders insist that their profits stay up.
Personally, I believe our entire economy and capatalism as a whole have outgrown themselves. Both were a good idea when they were started, to bring this country up from an agricultural economy to the point of being the world’s only super-power. But now it’s time for us (Humanity) to evolve yet again. Capatalism is based on aquiring wealth (greed), how about we base our world on helping our fellow humans? If we used our technology for good (helping mankind) rather than evil (greed), it IS possible.
I think some people might bridle if we talk about evolution. But, realistically, recognizing that we have both a responsibility and an obligation to take care of one another is a basic tenet of any one of a number of traditions that date back to the beginning of time. If we ever got serious about any of it I doubt anyone could argue that we’d have come a long way and that in and of itself would be an evolution of sorts, wouldn’t it?