Bits & Pieces

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Have you noticed a certain amount of schadenfreude from Detroit about the Toyota recalls? Maybe it's just the handful of folks I've talked to from Back East, but you'd think the very fact celebrities like Cameron Diaz drive Priora is somehow proof positive the fruits and nuts of California don't make rational decisions about the vehicles we drive. Which is one reason why David Segal's extensive exploration of automotive quality control in the New York Times makes for such compelling reading. (There is a shout-out to NUMMI in the article, too.)

While we're browsing the New York Times, there is another article by Louis Uchitelle about the sudden decline of auto towns like Moraine, Ohio.  We learn that Edward B. Montgomery, executive director of the White House Council on Automotive Communities and Workers, has made 23 trips to cities like Moraine.  He doesn't promise jobs on these trips.  Instead, he promises federal stimulus dollars. Uchitelle writes, "There is an implicit political message in this largess. It goes something like this: Stick with the president and the Democratic Party, and while we cannot bring back mass production with its large-scale employment, we can help you in the transition to other sources of income and jobs."

Speaking of which, I head out today to Fremont, to check out the transition center available to NUMMI workers. As it happens, on this very day, the California Employment Development Department (EDD) announces it's seeking a $33 million federal grant to help these very workers.

The BYD E6 on display at the 2010 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. (Credit: STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

The BYD E6 on display at the 2010 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. (Credit: STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

In other news, California may be home to yet another electric car making facility, this one from China.  The Los Angeles Business Journal reports BYD is looking to open its North American headquarters and an auto assembly plant in Los Angeles County. "BYD Co. Ltd. is one of the world’s biggest rechargeable battery manufacturers and also makes consumer electronics. Despite entering the auto market only seven years ago, its BYD Auto unit is already the fourth largest car maker in China."

It's not a done deal, the BYD facility in LA, but wooing is going on, from LA County Supervisor Michael Antonovich, LA City "Jobs Czar" Austin Beutner, and Bill Allen, chief executive of the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation.  The LAEDC, by the way, tells us LA County is the largest manufacturing center in the U.S., employing 433,200 workers in 2008. Who knew? Now, you do.

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About Rachael Myrow

Rachael Myrow hosts the California Report for KQED. Over 17 years in public radio, she's worked for Marketplace and KPCC, filed for NPR and The World, and developed a sizable tea collection that's become the envy of the KQED newsroom. She specializes in politics, economics and history in California - but for emotional balance, she also covers food and its relationship to health and happiness.

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