Farewell to an American Institution

May 19, 2009
Frankly Speaking

There is nothing quite like the feeling of buying your very first car.  There is a sense of accomplishment and freedom the first time you slide behind the wheel and drive it off the lot.  There are many important memories in your life like your wedding, the birth of your children; but buying your first car is one memory that will always stick with you.  I purchased my first car 30 years ago- a Pontiac Firebird.  I bought it from my hometown Pontiac dealer who had been in business for as long as I could remember.  I appreciated that he knew me and my family, lived and raised his family in our community. 

I mention this because General Motors announced on Monday that it would be eliminating the Pontiac brand in an effort to comply with the restructuring requirements attached to the $15.4 billion in loans from the federal government and to stave of bankruptcy.  By the end of this year, GM will close 1,000 to 1,200 dealerships nationwide.  In two weeks, GM is expected to announce exactly which Pontiac dealerships will be first on the chopping block.  I’m sure I join my fellow Oklahomans in holding our breath that none of the 50 dealerships within Oklahoma will be the first to go.

Perhaps it’s my close connection to Pontiac because it was my first car, but I found this announcement particularly disturbing.  The Pontiac name is synonymous with American culture.  And pretty soon they will be extinct.  Thirty years after I purchased my first car, the poor long-term decisions of the GM executives combined with the poor short-term decisions of the Obama administration have effectively killed off an American institution.  And in turn, they have killed off small town dealerships across the country.

GM estimates that its dealerships support between 30 and 70 employees.  Small towns that lose a Pontiac dealership within in the next year will feel that almost immediately.  That number means 30 to 70 families in their communities will be unemployed and looking for new jobs.  This announcement serves as yet another reminder of our troubling economic times.  But I hope that it will also serve as a warning.  The decisions made in Washington D.C. affect each and every one of us.  I will continue to represent the voices of the people of my district and the people of Oklahoma.  Let’s just hope that Washington starts to listen to us before it’s too late.

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