Can electric cars revive Michigan?

A recent USA Today story gives an overview of the progress American automakers have made in recent years, and also the challenges ahead. While larger factors such as cutting labor costs and restructuring supply lines (and, let’s be honest, building cars that aren’t junk) will be the main driving forces behind the industry’s revival, electric and hybrid cars will also be part of the picture.

What [GM CEO Dan] Akerson finds exciting, and believes is a mark of GM’s integrity and a harbinger of its success, is that the company continued to work on the controversial Chevy Volt extended-range electric car even during the distractions of Chapter 11.

“I want you to think of God Bless America playing in the background,” he says, knowing how this will sound: “Great nations make things. They don’t flip hamburgers and live on class-action suits. They make things.”

That ambition has also prompted a coalition of businesses, advocacy groups and individuals to kick off a campaign that it hopes will help revive Michigan’s auto industry by promoting electric cars.

The Built by Michigan campaign was formally launched with a series of events last week, and will promote policies to provide incentives for EVs – including rebates for car buyers (a bill proposed by U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabanow) and clean fuel standards.

One of the more interesting features from the site is this handy map, which shows all of the manufacturers in the electric car supply chain:

View Electric Vehicles: Built By Michigan in a larger map

It’s a good reminder that the auto industry extends well beyond the final assembly lines — all those parts have to come from somewhere, and Michigan, which has lost more than 120,000 auto industry jobs since 2006, could use the work.

You can also follow the campaign on Twitter.

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