Big Three are big, but not all of the U.S. auto industry

In the debate over the rescue of the Big Three automakers, what gets lost is that General Motors, Ford and Chrysler are not the sum total of the U.S. industry.

Foreign companies have made big capital investments in car and truck plants in the United States. Everyone thinks of Toyota and Honda. But don’t forget BMW and Daimler, Nissan and Hyundai.

The Center for Automotive Research’s economic impact report on the contraction of the Big Three has gotten a lot of news coverage. The group says up to 3 million jobs could be lost in the first year after a total collapse. The 2007 U.S. employment for the Terrible Trio was 239,341.

Foreign car makers don’t have as many, but they employ more than I realized.

The Association of International Automobile Manufacturers has been keeping a low profile lately, but its members directly employed 92,700 people in the U.S. in 2007.

The group has 14 companies as members, including Toyota, Honda, Nissan and even Cherry Hill-based Subaru. BMW and Daimler don’t belong, but they employ nearly 9,300 in two states.

So that’s more than 100,000 U.S. workers for the foreign companies. I’m sure I’ve missed some others.

No automaker is immune from the global economic swoon: Toyota laid off workers from its Texas truck plant, and Mercedes offered buyouts to all of its Alabama workers.

The point is, the U.S. auto industry won’t vanish should the Big Three CEOs fail to leave Washington with $25 billion in loans.

Feting Lenfest

Cable pioneer and philanthropist H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest will receive the 2008 William Penn Award from the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.

The award is considered the highest honor given to a local business executive. As per chamber tradition, Lenfest won’t get the award until April 17.