Published: Dec. 10, 2008

MSU experts: More than money needed to bail out the auto industry

EAST LANSING, Mich. — It will take more than money to bail out the Big Three automakers, say Michigan State University business, labor and economic experts.


With the economic future of the country at stake, any decision Congress makes in the next day or so regarding the auto industry will be historic. Solutions to fixing the auto industry are as varied as public sentiment.


Whomever President Bush might tap as the “auto czar,” MSU experts offer insights into what may be on that individual’s hubcap.


“Big-time restructuring at the industry level,” said Robert Wiseman, professor of management. “Individual auto companies have now fixed many of their internal problems, which had to be done. Historically, some companies which have come to a head with restructuring have also had to fight to regain their dominance in the industry.


“Whoever is selected will spend several months figuring out where the companies, as well as the industry, stand,” Wiseman said. “The person will have to look at what to keep, junk, sell or shut down. We may be looking at up to two years before we’ll have a better understanding of where we are in the marketplace. This person will have to have long-term vision and the ability to help the industry consolidate and remain competitive globally.”


"What happens in the auto industry in the next few days, and months, could be a turning point for the entire industry worldwide," said John Revitte, professor of labor and industrial relations.


 "The auto-rescue bill and the bridge loans will raise new and unexpected issues beyond just the Detroit Three and their unions. Loans to the auto industry, and the conditions, will also influence relationships with suppliers, dealer networks and other original equipment manufacturers," Revitte said. "We could find the global auto industry moving in entirely unexpected directions."


 “It’s important to help the industry, but it’s also important to help the consumer,” said Douglas Roberts, director of the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research. “Restructuring means retooling, but that won’t help automakers move cars off the lots now, or provide people with financial incentives, for example, to purchase automobiles.


“Also, the shareholder versus stakeholder perspectives will have to be considered. A ‘green’ car that may prove economically responsible may not jive with what shareholders see as a company’s prime responsibility — to provide excellent return on their investments.”


Faculty available to speak to the auto bailout and other economic and labor issues include:


Charles Ballard, professor of economics in the College of Social Science, is a well-known source on business and the economy, including topics such as microeconomics, tax and expenditure policy, state-and-local public finance, taxation, and poverty and income distribution. Phone: (517) 353-2961 or e-mail him at

Richard Block, professor in the School of Labor and Industrial Relations, College of Social Science. An expert in union administration, labor arbitration and government-sponsored training programs, he can discuss strategies announced by General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler in relation to product market and union issues. Phone: (517) 353-3896 or e-mail him at


John Revitte, professor in the School of Labor and Industrial Relations, College of Social Science, and in the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities. He is an expert in auto industry issues, labor and politics, collective bargaining and dispute resolution. Phone (517) 353-8884 or (517) 282-2467 (cell), or e-mail him at


Douglas Roberts, director of the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research, college of Social Science, and former Michigan state treasurer. He is an expert in tax policy, ethics, K-12 and higher education financing, and political strategy and presidential politics. Phone: (517) 355-6672 or e-mail him at


Robert Wiseman, Eli Broad Legacy Fellow of Management and professor of management in the Eli Broad College of Business, is an expert in modeling decision behavior under uncertainty and the role of risk in corporate governance and strategic decision making. He also can discuss the role of CEO risk preferences on firm performance and other aspects of the economic climate. Phone: (517) 432-3508, or (517) 980-1283 (cell), or e-mail him at




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