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Automakers React to Terrorist Attacks - 2001-09-24


The attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on September 11 shook all segments of American society. The three major automakers based in Detroit the Chrysler division of DaimlerChrysler, Ford Motor Company and General Motors reacted as one.

After the initial shock, anger and grief in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, the makers of cars and trucks, like so many others, wanted to help; one way was with money.

DaimlerChrysler announced a $10 million donation to support the children of the victims. Company spokeswoman Jodi Tinson said, "The company really wanted to look out for their needs by offering this money, committing this money, so they can look to the future and know that they will have their educational needs and other needs met as they grow up and move on. Because, there's nothing worse than losing a parent in something like this."

Additional donations are coming from employees, dealers and suppliers of DaimlerChrysler.

General Motors and Ford are each contributing a million dollars to the American Red Cross, and will match employee contributions dollar-for-dollar. Both companies are offering fleets of trucks, vans and sport utility vehicles to be used in the disaster recovery efforts. Ford is also contributing $1 million to the Salvation Army. And each company's employees volunteered in a variety of ways, from donating blood to helping in the relief efforts.

The so-called "Big Three" experienced some disruptions in their production, due to tighter security at the nation's northern and southern borders. General Motor's Ed Snyder said, "Our plants, just like the plants of just about any other industrial organization, were impacted by the movement of parts across the borders, both in Mexico and Canada. It did not close any plants, but it did cause delays in the plants, because the borders, obviously, were backed up quite a bit with inspections and things of that nature."

In light of the devastating events and the uncertain future all the automakers are reluctant to make predictions about their sales. For example, Jodi Tinson of DaimlerChrysler said, "Obviously, when things like that do happen, people's attention is focused on other things. So, we expect that our September sales may be down, but we won't have specifics until October 2."

With consumer confidence in sharp decline, automakers are trying hard to generate demand. Both Ford and G.M. have announced no-interest financing on new vehicles, and some of those loans are for as long as sixty months.

George Pipas, U.S. Sales Analysis Manager for Ford, says his company's plans for the future are suddenly emphasizing the near-term. "We certainly are shortening the intervals of our planning, basically taking it on a day-by-day basis," he said.

Like everyone else in America, folks in the auto industry have marked September 11 as the day everything changed.