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May 24, 1980 - Image 4

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1980-05-24

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Page 4-Saturday, May 24, 1980-The Michigan Daily

American auto workers
may pay for world car

A bloody blow
to democracy
HE CURRENT political and social turmoil
in South Korea is distressing. Although the
rule of the late President Park Chung Hee was
nothing less than autocratic, the nation had made
significant social, economic, and political gains
over the past ten years, and its progression toward
a more democratic state was slow but steady.
But since Park's death last October at the hands
of the KCIA, that progess has been severely cur-
tailed. Martial law has settled in, and brought with
it a reprehensible reign of terror upon not only
those who choose to speak against the government,
but also upon the seedlings of democracy.
Students-the majority of the demon-
strators-have called for lifting the seven month-
old martial law and have urged the government to
hasten repeatedly-promised free elections for
president and the general assembly.
The government's response has been deplorable.
Working under the guise of securing the country
against an impending attack by North Korea (of
which the U.S. military says it knows nothing), the
military government has cracked down on all
freedom of speech and political dissent. The
military has closed all universities. Meetings of the
General Assembly are prohibited. Those who dare
speak out against the government are swiftly
arrested. Government-owned radio stations have
been directed by the military to disseminate only
pro-government news and information.
In one of the most blatant and atrocious moves,
a meeting of 50 student body presidents was abrup-
tly halted and all 50 students were arrested.
The death toll has been estimated as high as 65,
and countless hundreds have been injured and
A relative calm has now enveloped the volatile
cities of South Korea which over the last several
days has seen violent demonstrations and blood-
Now that an uneasy truce has set in, it is incum-
bent upon the demonstrators to try peaceful means
in resolving the disparities separating the two
sides. On the other hand, it must be evident to the
government that its citizens, who have readied
themselves for a 'democratic society, will not
remain passive while repressive measures are im-
posed upon them. It must, with sincere desire to
avoid further bloodshed, seriously consider
demands made Thursday by demonstrators. The
demands include freeing those arrested during the
two-week disturbances, compensating the families
of the dead and injured, and surrendering control
of government-owned radio stations.
If the military government refuses to abandon its
ruthless practices, the students will have little
choice but to continue their fight, which promises to
be prolonged, bloody, and unfortunate for a nation
which had come so close to democracy.

DETROIT-With sales slum-
ping drastically for all U.S.
automakers and 25 per cent of the
workforce-more than 200,000
employees-laid off indefinitely,
things could not look worse for
the American automobile in-
But a dramatically new
product, built with new methods
engineered by highly
sophisticated computers, could
bring Detroit back from the brink
of disaster in the next
decade-although laid off
workers may pay the price of
making the industry more
automated and competitive.
THE PRODUCT is the "world
car," a small, fuel-efficient
model designed for sale
everywhere around the
globe-with component parts
built and assembled in many dif-
ferent countries and financed
through complex international
"I think it's no exaggeration to
say that Ford, and the
automotive industry as a whole,
are currently engaged in the
most massive and profound in-
dustrial revolution in peace-time
history," says Philip Caldwell,
Ford's Chairman of the Board.
"What sets this revolution apart
from anything that has occurred
in the past is its world dimen-
What makes the world car
possible is an entirely new
technology, based on the
microprocessororscomputer on a
chip, which lays the basis for a
fundamental restructuring of
auto operations. The rush to this
technology is continuing
unabated despitetthe current
crisis. In fact, the American
manufacturers will spend over
$80 billion dollars by the mid-
1980s to bring out their new
models, much of it for new
machines and systems.
Ford has just completed a new
$10 million dollar computer cen-
ter in Dearborn, a suburb of
Detroit. During the day the com-
puters are used by Ford
engineers in North America. At
night they are used via cable
hook-up and a data-processing
system by Ford staffers in
Europe, allowing engineers from
Germany, the United States,
England, Switzerland, and Spain
access to the same data base to
work simultaneously-on the same
development project.
SINCE THE 1973-74 oil em-
bargo, the uncertain supply of oil
and its skyrocketing price have
led to a near universal demand
for small fuel-efficient autos. It is
this demand, combined with the
cost efficiency and increased
profitability made possible by
global production, which has
spawned the new generation of
standardized vehicles, with a
great many interchangeable
components that and inanufac-
tured and marketed throughout
the world.

By Harley Shaiken
Ford's first world car is
scheduled to debut in the fall of
1980 as the Escort in Europe and
as the Escort and Lynx in the
United States. It will be assem-
bled simultaneously in the United
States, England and Germany.
U.S. auto companies have long
been used to operating inter-

as large as a machine tool. As a
result, many jobs which have
previously defied automation,
such as skilled machining and
small-scale assembly, can be
eliminated. Chrysler is currently
shifting complicated welding
responsibilities to specially con-
structed, computerized robots,
for example.
The vast integration and labor-
saving that global production

I ,..



UN FAIR! -r> .


nationally. But until now their
foreign divisions have largely
been autonomous nationalaunits,
functioning almost independently
of the parent companies. The new
operations will be completely in-
tegratedon a global scale.
computer advances make it
much easier to coordinate such
operations and develop common
designs, giving the automakers a
great deal of flexibility in
locating production plants.
Among other things, this allows
them to take advantage or
reduced labor costs in developing
In order to avoid supply line in-
terruptions, whether due to labor
trouble or market shifts, the
automakers want to build major
components in at least two dif-
ferent countries. This gives them
considerable leverage over
workers in any given country
because, should a stike occur,
work can be transferred
elsewhere. General Motors will
be sharing engine making
responsibilities for its new world
car, scheduled to appear in mid-
1981, in five countries.
The new technology of inter-
national operations also
threatens the workforce, by
making possible a massive in-
troduction of labor saving
automated equipment. The tiny
microprocessor brings the power
of higetmain frame computers
right to the point of production, in
units as small as a typewriter or

offers carries an impressive
price tag, however. An inter-
nationally supplied and assem-
bled model costs about $1.3 billion
dollars just to develop. As a
result, auto companies are
looking for joint ventures and
alliances world-wide. G.M. has
purchased a 34 per cent interest
in Japan's Isuzu Motors while
France's government-owned
Renault has acquired a 22.7 per
cent share of American Motors.
These enormous costs com-
bined with increasingly fierce
competition as more companies
expand outside their traditional
markets have led some industry
observers to predict that the 30 or
so independent auto manufac-
turers in the world will be
reduced to about a dozen by the
turn of the century.
Withpublic attention in Detroit
riveted on the imports' current 28
per cent market share, industry
spokesmen are maintaining they
need a free hand to buy robots
and build plants wherever costs
are lowest in order to compete.
Ironically, if the automakers
have their way, technology may
mean fewer jobs even in the
companies that do survive.
Harley Shaiken is a Detroit
writer who just completed a
book on industrial
automation. He wrote this ar-
ticlefor Pacific News Service.


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