Congresswoman Lois Capps held a town hall style meeting Tuesday at Toyota of Santa Barbara after she was invited to speak by general manager Mike Caldwell about the ailing economy and how it is affecting the area auto industry.
Capps began the meeting by discussing what she knew of Toyota as a company and as a Santa Barbara business, but quickly moved on to talk about the national economic situation, the election, and the importance of maintaining consumer confidence to keep the economy afloat. “It’s not a bill, it’s not a law - it’s confidence. You get enough people confident again and things can change.”
Caldwell requested the meeting to give his employees the opportunity to directly communicate with their congresswoman. “I wanted my staff to know who represents us and what her positions are and to have a venue to talk to her to voice their opinions on how her decisions will affect them,” he explained. Despite the fact that Capps was at a car dealership, she openly voiced her support to raise miles-per-gallon standards, decrease oil dependency, and move towards cellulose-based fuels instead of ethanol-based ones. “There are brands with fuel efficient cars and American car dealerships need to get with the program,” Capps said.
Although the national economic downturn plays a role in Toyota’s sales, Caldwell reported that things are not as bad as the media says. “It has affected us, but not like it has affected other industries. We had the largest-selling September ever, up 20 percent from 2007.” And hybrids and fuel efficient cars are not the only vehicles being bought. “We’re selling everything because gas prices are back down to last year’s [levels]. People are thinking about overall savings and their budget, not just saving gas… It’s a buyer’s market. No one wants to but right now is definitely the time to grab one.”
Capps’s general message to the Toyota employees was that car sales will most likely fall, but things will get better. “We will make certain changes. I want you to count on a congress that focuses on the economy,” she said. “We had a lot of stuff that shouldn’t have happened. but this is not the time to point fingers. We’ve just got to make it happen.”