Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) is no stranger to the automotive industry. For more than 30 years, she worked at the General Motors (GM) Corporation, where she was president of the GM Foundation and a senior executive responsible for public affairs. She also led the 10,000 Small Businesses initiative, a $20 million partnership designed to help create jobs and economic growth, in southeast Michigan, and is past chair of the Manufacturing Initiative at the American Automotive Policy Council. Tire Review reached out to Dingell to gain her insight on coronavirus legislation as well as issues affecting the automotive industry in an election year.
To see a Republican viewpoint to these questions, check out Rep. Scott Perry’s (R-PA) responses to our questions here.
TR: How do you feel the coronavirus pandemic will change the auto care industry and transportation sector?
Dingell: The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the auto industry in many different ways and the industry will be dealing with the impacts for months to come. The projected economic fallout for the industry is grave. We need to ensure that safety is first and foremost for workers going back to the plants while also ensuring the companies have the tools they need to survive the crisis. The auto industry continues to be the backbone of our economy, and we must ensure it survives the pandemic.
How is your party fighting to support small businesses, such as independent tire dealers and auto repair facilities, at the federal level during this difficult economic time?
Supporting small businesses during the pandemic is not a partisan issue. We’ve passed multiple bipartisan relief packages for small businesses and more needs to be done. New programs like PPP and the Main Street Lending Program have not been perfect, and we must make improvements and tweaks to these programs to ensure they provide the relief they are intended as our nation continues to grapple with the pandemic.
What is the next step for the federal government in supporting these same small businesses, such as independent tire dealers and auto repair facilities? Can we expect another round of a stimulus bill? An extension of unemployment benefits? A tax break on payroll taxes for the employee and employer?
The House passed the Heroes Act in May to ensure that we are providing the necessary resources to small businesses and workers impacted by COVID-19. I strongly support an extension of unemployment benefits, another round of stimulus checks, as well as direct funding for state and local governments who face drastic cuts to public services and workers due to COVID-19. We need to act now to provide more relief to the American people.
What relief would you like to see offered to small businesses, such as independent tire dealers and auto repair shops, this year?
We need to ensure that small businesses that have not qualified for programs like PPP, EIDL and the Main Street Lending program have resources available to them. We need to ensure that small businesses like tire dealers and auto repair shops are not left out of the picture.
What are three issues you feel auto repair facilities and tire dealers should be paying attention to this election year? How will these issues affect their businesses and the automotive aftermarket?
It’s essential that you have a good relationship and dialogue with your state and federal legislators so that you can have an impact on the issues that matter to you. First, if we do not get the health crisis under control, our economy will never recover. Second, we have to keep an eye on the implementation of NAFTA 2.0, or USMCA. Third, we need to focus on how tariffs will continue to have an impact on the industry. Auto repair facilities and tire dealers should make their voices heard on these critical issues.
What is your stance on right-to-repair legislation and how do you recommend those in the industry fight for this legislation?
Right to repair legislation should be thoroughly studied and vetted by all stakeholders who would be impacted. Some states are soon considering legislation that would have a major impact on the industry. I will continue to work with everyone up and down the supply chain to ensure their voices are heard on this issue.
Congresswoman Debbie Dingell represents the 12th District of Michigan in the U.S. House of Representatives. Dingell serves on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and the House Committee on Natural Resources, in addition to being a senior whip. She resides in Dearborn and holds both a B.S.F.S. in foreign services and an M.S. in liberal studies from Georgetown University.