Bratislava Is Not Detroit, Just So You Know

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As they continue their pleas for a federal bailout (hopefully while forgoing end-of-the-year bonuses and use of corporate jets), the figureheads of major U.S. automobile companies took a little left jab to the jaw from, of all places, Slovakia!

“We’re in a good position to grow,” says Maria Novakova, secretary-general of Slovakia’s Automotive Industry Association. “Frankly, we don’t want to be compared to Detroit because we don’t want to end up like Detroit.”

Ouch. This obvious dig at Michigan’s famed, but struggling, automotive industry comes at a time when U.S. car makers find themselves under a harsh magnifying glass gripped tightly by both the American public and government.

In 2006, South Korean auto bantamweight, Kia, successfully opened a $1.36-billion plant in the northwestern Slovakian town of Zilina (pictured). Peugeot and Volkswagen also have operations in Slovakia, a former Communist nugget in Eastern Europe.

Novakova estimates 30,000 new jobs in the automotive sector will ripple through Slovakia’s economy by 2010. Analysts cite the country’s skilled, yet relatively cheap, labor pool, plus low taxes and good highways as primary factors for Slovakia’s automatic automotive boom.

So, congrats to Bratislava, but why disrespect Detroit? Maybe something (other than jobs) was lost in translation.

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