On Wednesday night, Chicago police arrested three men after they were caught vandalizing seven Toyotas at the Chicago Auto Show. While it sounds like dumb kids gone wild, the alleged vandals claimed they were angry about American jobs shipped overseas.
Richard Data, 20, Edmund Grzeszkiewicz, 28, and Bryan Kjellman, 21, all of Orland Park, Ill., were caught taking a razor blade and a flathead screwdriver to a blue Toyota Camry. It was the seventh Toyota or Lexus they'd managed to vandalize on the floor at the Chicago Auto Show before security caught them.
The damage included everything from roughed-up dashboards, punctured leather seats to broken door handles. Total estimated damage: $30,000.
According to several reports, the three — two of whom described themselves on Facebook as fans of drag racing and "Top Gear" — said they were motivated to vandalize Toyotas because they were angry about American jobs being shipped overseas. Toyota promptly noted that of the seven vehicles they vandalized, three of them — the Camry and two Tundras — were built in the United States. The group also hit a Lexus LS350, a RAV4, a Prius and a Land Cruiser.
Targeting Toyota for such economic vandalism doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Sure, Toyota closed a UAW-represented California plant employing 4,000 people in 2009, and shifted production to Canada. But the company does have nine other U.S. assembly plants and employs 28,300 people here; it's also working on its 10th plant, in Mississippi. No other foreign automaker has quite so large a U.S. presence. True, it's not from an automaker headquartered here in the United States, but its not too shabby either.
Every big automaker shuffles jobs around the world; many of the hot new products at GM, Ford and Chrysler come assembled from Mexico, and earlier this week, GM CEO Dan Akerson called China a "crown jewel" of the company.
It's true that foreign automakers send their profits to their home countries, and don't employ nearly as many highly paid white-collar workers in the United States as the Detroit Three. But it's also a disadvantage — it's how foreign automakers can get into serious trouble when they ignore government requests to fix defects or misunderestimate American tastes.
The stunt will preserve at least one job in the United States: the car upholstery expert who gets to fix their damage.