Monday, February 4, 2008

Chrysler plant's new parking restrictions are disloyal to its workers

Memo to any American automaker trying to staunch the slide of sales to other domestic and foreign car models: Telling your workers what to drive won't generate brand loyalty.

This is the message that you would think officials at the Chrysler plant in Newark would have learned when General Motors tried restricting where owners of non-GM cars can park at its Boxwood Road site.

Chrysler workers are being told to take their Fords and Chevrolets -- along with the odd Honda or Toyota -- and stick them in a marked-off area of the plant's back lot.

Beginning Monday, only Chrysler-made vehicles may park near factory entrances. Beginning March 24, non-Chryslers parked near the entrance will be towed.

Brand loyalty at this level is appreciated, as this board has advocated before for an industry that is under threat from foreign autos, whether produced here, in Japan, Korea or Germany.

But is it the assumption that these workers, who are facing loss of their jobs come 2009, will see the light and buy Chrysler after being banned to second-class parking status at the sprawling Newark factory?

Like consumer loyalty, workers' allegiance to their products is won, not demanded.

Price points, quality of workmanship, personal design preference are critical factors that determine who -- including workers -- buys what vehicle.

This is not the 40s or even the 60s when those economic times made buying local a mutually beneficial decision for automaker and worker.

As GM learned last year, you can't force your workers to drive the vehicles they make, no matter where you tell them to park.

The insult to their personal choice of a vehicle makes these long-time plant workers more committed to wear the ban as a sign of worker martydom, rather than a red badge of disgrace.

Additionally, it seems gallingly disloyal of the United Auto Workers union to back this discriminatory parking plan, against the wishes of its own members who face losing their jobs.

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