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SATURDAY, NOV. 22, 2008

Ford Motor Co.’s F-150 pickup is the top-selling vehicle in America with more than 436,000 purchased through October. But when people stop buying the F-150 — and 26 percent fewer have sold this year than last — it’s not just Ford and its workers that suffer.

Falling sales dry up orders for antifreeze made in Illinois by a division of Honeywell International Inc., computer sensors manufactured by Germany’s Robert Bosch Gmbh in South Carolina and a hood latch part made by the 110-odd employees of Amanda Bent Bolt Co. of Logan, Ohio.

All told, each truck contains 4,350 parts, made by 270 suppliers in 26 states as well as several foreign countries. Every F-150 that doesn’t sell hits literally hundreds of thousands of people who play a role in putting the big machine on the road.

When it comes to the U.S. automakers and their financial troubles, politicians and the public tend to think about the 240,000 jobs that could be lost at the Big Three’s assembly lines in Michigan and nearby Rust Belt states.

Yet suppliers provide about 70 percent of the content in most automobiles, from the seats to specialized bolts on the suspension – everything except the sheet metal and the motor assembly. So when Ford, Chrysler or General Motors Corp. sneeze, 600,000 workers in places as widely scattered as Peachtree City, Ga., and Pittsburg, Kan., are likely to catch cold.

As the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers trade group likes to say, “A lot of U.S. industry goes into every automobile.”

GREEN DIESEL: The conventional wisdom that ultra-environmental vehicles must be either tiny and impractical or festooned with expensive hybrid technology got a kick in the teeth as the diesel-powered Volkswagen Jetta TDI won the Green Car of the Year award Thursday at the Los Angeles auto show.

“The Jetta TDI epitomizes what the Green Car of the Year honor is all about,” said Ron Cogan, editor and publisher of Green Car Journal, which presents the award. “It raises the bar significantly in environmental performance” with EPA fuel economy ratings of 31 mpg in the city and 41 mpg on the highway.

The Jetta TDI achieves “the kind of fuel efficiency offered by gasoline-electric hybrids but in a more affordable way,” Cogan said. Prices for the 2009 Jetta TDI start at $21,990 for the sedan and $23,590 for the station wagon.

From wire reports


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