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Published: Sunday, 11/30/2008

INDIA: DRIVEN TO COMPETE

About the project

BY DAVE MURRAY
BLADE SPECIAL ASSIGNMENTS EDITOR

With the U.S. auto industry nearly at its breaking point, Detroit's Big Three is facing yet another threat from an overseas competitor.

This fall, The Blade spent three weeks in India reporting on the rise of the nation's burgeoning auto-industry.

Already looking for government bail-outs and contending with a credit crisis, the U.S. auto industry now must compete with India, a nation of more than one billion people on the cusp of becoming a major player in the worldwide automotive industry. India is aggressively preparing to take Indian-made cars global, and with growing confidence that it can compete everywhere including the U.S.

To tell this story to Blade readers, so many of whose lives are connected to the automotive industry, we sat down face-to-face with the leaders of India's Big Three Tata Motors, Mahindra Motors, and Maruti Suzuki. We also interviewed the CEOs of Ford India and General Motors India about the growing opportunities to sell cars to members of India's growing middle class. And, we went to villages to speak with peasants losing their land to make way for new auto plants.

The story we found in India hit close to home in the heartland of U.S. auto manufacturing.

Mahindra Motors is laying out its plans for launching the Scorpio, a clean-burning diesel-powered SUV that it believes can compete with Toledo's Jeep; Krishna Maruti, an Indian seat-builder, is unveiling its plans to begin building Jeep seats, and Tata Motors, the maker of the world's cheapest car, the Nano, is eager to sell its small cars in the U.S.

What The Blade found is that India with its lofty goals to become an international leader in the automotive business and a pioneer in automotive research should be taken seriously and is a concern now more than ever for the U.S. auto industry.

Blade reporter Steve Eder traveled to India on a World Affairs Journalism Fellowship administered by the International Center for Journalists, a non-profit organization based in Washington D.C. that promotes and facilitates overseas reporting. The fellowship is sponsored by the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.

Mr. Eder, 26, is an investigative reporter with The Blade. Since joining the newspaper in 2004, he has worked on The Blade's "Coingate" investigation, its "Without Warning" plant-closing project, and "Not what the doctor ordered: How health insurance plans shape patient treatment." The reporting that uncovered Ohio's rare-coin scandal resulted in The Blade being named a finalist for the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. He is a graduate of Michigan State University.

Dave Murray, 53, The Blade's special assignments editor, is project editor.



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