By Russ Bynum
The Associated Press
SAVANNAH, Georgia (AP) — A Ford dealer, angered over the proposed bailout of U.S. automakers, blames the nation’s sour economy on Congress and criticized buyers of Japanese cars, calling the vehicles “rice ready … not road ready” in a radio ad.
O.C. Welch, who owns a dealership near Savannah in Hardeeville, S.C., began airing the minute-long ad on a dozen stations in the area over the weekend. The ad sounds more like a talk radio tirade than a sales pitch.
“All you people that buy all your Toyotas and send that money to Japan, you know, when you don’t have a job to make your Toyota car payment, don’t come crying to me,” Welch says in the ad. “All those cars are rice ready. They’re not road ready.”
Floyd Mori, executive director of the Japanese American Citizens League, said Welch’s remarks evoke anti-Asian sentiments often aimed at Japanese and Chinese immigrants, who came to the U.S. during World War II. He also noted many Japanese automakers’ cars are manufactured in America.
“It’s a blatant, ignorant, racist remark from somebody who should know better,” Mori said.
Toyota spokesman Xavier Dominicis said the company’s cars consistently receive high marks for quality. The automaker employs 36,600 Americans, he said, and about 60 percent of Toyota vehicles sold in the U.S. were manufactured here.
“How do you tell a worker in Kentucky who’s producing a Toyota that his job is worth less than another American autoworker’s?” Dominicis said.
However, the car dealer said he had received more positive calls than negative ones. His dealership sold 15 new cars on Dec. 13 — half of them to people drawn to the lot by the ad, he said.
Welch said he’s mostly mad at politicians, blasting them in his ad as only being good for “slinging mud and spending our tax dollars.” He said the government should offer tax incentives for consumers to buy new cars rather than spend money bailing out Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler. ♦