NASCAR head weighs in
NASCAR chairman Brian France has lobbied the US Congress to support a financial rescue plan for the struggling Big Three automakers: Chrysler, Ford and General Motors. The trio, which participate in NASCAR, are pleading with Congress for a bailout to prevent their companies from going bankrupt. “I’m writing you as a concerned American who wants what is best for our general country,” France wrote. France’s letter said that if the auto industry failed, 3 million people would lose their jobs in the first year and another 2.5 million over the following two years. He said personal income in the US would drop by US$150 billion in the first year and domestic automobile production — even by foreign manufacturers — would likely drop to zero.
More than 70,000 lose jobs
Employers slashed nearly 71,000 jobs last month, the worst single month drop in 26 years, in a clear indication that the US recession is beginning to wreak havoc on manufacturers and workers across the border. Statistics Canada said on Friday that the jobless rate had edged up to 6.3 percent last month from 6.2 percent in October, despite the fact that 48,000 fewer Canadians were looking for work last month. Falling commodity prices and the impact of the slumping US housing and auto sectors have dealt a blow to the forestry, mining and manufacturing sectors across Canada.
Okay Air suspends flights
Okay Airways Co (奧凱航空), China’s oldest private carrier, suspended flights earlier than planned yesterday because airports demanded cash payments for refueling, company president Liu Jieyin (劉捷音) said. Two airports, in Zhuhai and Sanya, refused to refuel the company’s planes on credit, leading Okay Air to stop all passenger routes yesterday, Liu said in an interview broadcast on China Central Television. The company had originally planned to suspend passenger flights from next Monday. Okay Air’s biggest shareholder, Junyao Group (均瑤集團), last month asked for the suspension as it tries to oust Liu, saying the management can’t guarantee safety levels. Losses from daily operations were increasing, Xinhua said, citing Wang Junjin (王均金), chairman of both Okay and Junyao. Okay Air won’t cut staff and has employees on paid leave as it attempts to resume flights before the Lunar New Year holiday next month, Xinhua said.
Argentina funds purchases
Argentina announced on Saturday it would make US$9 billion available to finance car purchases in an attempt to slow job losses in one of the industries hardest hit by the global credit crunch. Under the plan, first-time car buyers can get their vehicle financed and demand could be boosted by some 100,000 units a year, Argentinian Manufacturing Minister Debora Giorgi said at Government House. “We are aiming to reorient where funds are going so that they stop being used for financial speculation and start helping bolster the economy and maintain jobs,” she said. There are some rules: The plan covers 12 lower-priced vehicles, two at each of the main automakers in the country. And the car’s value cannot top 31,000 pesos (US$9,100). It can be financed up to 60 months. Some 150,000 people work in Argentina’s auto industry, which exports vehicles worth US$8 billion annually — about 36 percent of manufactured exports. The funds will be taken from the state-held pension system.