Circle 020: Douglas Fraser, Industry in Trouble, November 12, 1980

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With a vintage mixture of charm, wit, and disarming frankness, United Auto Workers President Doug Fraser gave his personal touch to post-election analyses, the future of the American auto industry, and, as a sharp critic of Ronald Reagan, said of his own future:

"There's no fear of me getting a call from the President-elect naming me as an ambassador."

Of the presidential election, Fraser based Ronald Reagan's victory largely on the failure of the Executive Branch and Congress to "address the people's problems." The Democrats might have fared better, he felt, if on election day, "We opened the bars and closed the polls." But giving a perspective of the Reagan presidency, Fraser reminded that the awesome responsibility of the job "has a sobering and moderating effect," and thinks Reagan "will behave in that manner."

On the nation's auto woes: "Unless you have economic recovery, and unless interest rates decline, the whole auto industry is in trouble." He said the "tremendous" penetration of foreign cars will continue in the foreseeable future, but feels that America will be able to compete with the Japanese by 1983. He further predicted, "You are going to see an electric car in 1984 from General Motors."

GM, he assured, is "going to make it" on its own in the future, but does not think Ford and Chrysler can successfully compete with the Japanese. Thus, to protect the jobs and security of American auto workers, he would not be against such mergers as Ford-Toyota or Chrysler-Mitsubishi.

But he warned that sacrifices will be necessary for the American economy to recover, and that "simplistic answers" are out. From the response of his audience, Fraser's forthright, "tell it like it is" manner, was definitely "in."

By Robert A. Jordan (Writer/Columnist, Boston Globe, Boston MA)