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Expert: Mississippi auto making on solid footing in turbulent industry

By JACK WEATHERLY

Mississippi does not face a negative impact from the fact that General Motors this week announced it will shutter five plants and lay off thousands of workers in the United States and Canada.

GM does have an indirect presence in the state – a distribution center in Rankin County and two manufacturing operations —  though the company declined to tell the Mississippi Business Journal where and how many workers.

Regardless, “yesterday’s announcement does not impact Mississippi,” said Stephanie Rice, a spokeswoman for GM.

Matt Doude, associate director of the Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems at Mississippi State, said that auto making in Mississippi is on solid footing.

Carlos Ghosn, the chairman of Nissan, was summarily fired and jailed on Nov. 19 in Japan on vaguely stated reasons that claim he illegally enriched himself by at $40 million to $80 million at the expense of the company, according to published reports.

Suspects in Japan can be interrogated for up to three weeks without being formally charged.

Ghosn brought the Nissan assembly plant to Canton in 2003 and introduced auto making to a state not known for advanced manufacturing, with a few exceptions. Ghosn (pronounced gone) was considered widely as savior of Nissan.

Nissan was followed in 2011 by Toyota in Blue Springs. Between them they have created more than 8,000 direct jobs.

The GM decision is indicative of the influence of China, Doude said.

“It used to be that cars were designed for the U.S. and sold in other places,” Doude said. “Now the cars are designed for China and sold in the U.S.”

China’s economy is the second biggest in the world and the biggest auto market in the world, he said.

Nearly twice as many cars are sold in China than in the United States, he said.

“So many people in China are buying their first car,” Doude said.

And the Chinese government is mandating electric and clean-energy vehicles.

GM plans to redeploy some $4.5 billion in annual savings to more profitable truck, electric-car and autonomous-vehicle manufacturing, according to The Wall Street Journal.

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