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Dealerships offer community support

No invention played a stronger or more enduring role in American history or culture as the automobile.

When Henry Ford rolled out his first Model A in 1903, he turned the key on a movement that would shape and improve life in the this country into the next century and, by all signs, far beyond.

But, in the heart of the country where the world’s automobile obsession began, the two remaining automakers – Ford and General Motors – are having trouble staying on the financial road.

“Golden parachute” pension plans awarded in the competition-free boom days before Honda and Toyota are now sucking out profits for workers who haven’t riveted a side panel in decades.

After plant-closings in the 1980s and 90s nearly destroyed American auto-cities like Flint, Mich., the bleeding has sadly continued into the 21st century.

But that’s not to say Ford and GM aren’t still the “heartbeat of America,” to borrow from a painfully outdated ad campaign. While the people who make Mustangs and Suburbans are being laid off in record numbers, thousands of other Americans enjoy stable long-term jobs with the locally owned companies that sell them.

In cities large and small, men and women enjoy the benefits of employment in service, sales, executive and clerical fields thanks to the thousands of local GM and Ford dealerships, which despite a barrage of bad press, still enjoy some of the best brand recognition this side of Coca-Cola.

And with their local sales – likely the most frequently purchased big-ticket item on the market – they do much to help local economies, and fill the tax coffers that pay for public services.

The prevalence of dealerships offering the automobiles of the Big Two makes it possible for citizens in towns of any size to drive just a few minutes and pick up a new Mustang or Cadillac – two of the best-looking car designs in recent memory.

It also makes a service call just a lunch-break kind of exercise, rather than forcing the owner an hour up the road, with rental required to get back to work.

Though the media has been tough on Ford and GM for their continuing cost-cutting, its not right to blame the local guys with the companies’ logos under their names.

Earlier this week, we ran a couple of cartoons in this space that were pretty tough on Ford. We heard through the grapevine that the local dealership – Two Rivers – got some phone calls about it. We weren’t aiming to hurt anyone local.

In fact, the two situations are quite similar. With everything we write and cover, this staff lacks the time – and, admittedly, the talent – to craft a satirical cartoon for this page every day. So we get a batch of cartoons from a national syndicate.

That’s probably why, at least once, you noticed a cartoon here that was also printed by one of our competitors.

Many newspapers draw from that same well.

With Ford closing 14 plants and dismissing around 30,000 workers, the syndicated cartoonists were pretty hard on Ford. We ran two of them.

But that choice was in no way related to our opinions of Two Rivers, its personnel or its management, any more than the local dealership should be blamed if you don’t like the new body style on the Fill-In-The-Blank.

-David Goodwin is Managing Editor of The Demopolis Times. He can be reached at david.goodwin@demopolistimes.com or by calling (334) 289-4017.