Charitable gifts can be seeds that eventually return dividends. Some are seen, others unseen.
Publicity associated with gifts has an advertising value, and some gifts, such as sponsoring a race, are more marketing than charity. Some gifts benefit education, a long-term investment in building better employees. And some gifts are made because a business wants to be a good neighbor.
A gift of a car can be excellent publicity. In Tokyo, Nissan gave a limited edition SR-V Color Magic car as a wedding present to Namie Amuro, the popular singer who has appeared in SR-V commercials.
When Kenny and Bobbi McCaughey in Iowa became parents of septuplets, Chevrolet donated a 1998 Express 15-passenger van to move the family around.
General Motors will give four cars customized by New York fashion houses to Concept: Cure, a breast cancer research group.
Phil Guarascio, vice president of marketing and advertising, told a newspaper that there was clearly a marketing issue in the gift: 'To create interest in the brands and to affect people's attitudes about General Motors.'
Peugeot will combine straight-forward sponsorship with charity at the Lowther Stakes horse race at York, UK, in August. Besides prize money, it will split £5,000 ($8,000) among the top jockey and two charities: the Injured Jockey's Fund, and the Motor and Allied Trades Benevolent Fund.
Contributions to education can result in a better-skilled pool of workers.
In Thailand, Ford recently helped support a training program that should improve the skills of the workforce.
Nissan Motor Corp. USA donated $50,000 to North Harris College to help establish courses designed to enhance training of dealer service technicians.
Josephine Ford, the daughter of Edsel Ford and granddaughter of Henry Ford, gave $20 million to Detroit's automotive design school, the Center for Creative Studies. Her late husband, Walter Ford II, was chairman of the school's board of trustees for more than 30 years.
General Motors donated $200,000 to the SAE John P. Stapp Found-ation to use as scholarships for safety engineers.
'GM sees this donation as an opportunity to demonstrate our own commitment to safety leadership, societal responsibility and concern for our customers,' said Kenneth Baker, GM's vice president for global research and development.
Most of the visible automotive giving seems to fall into the 'good neighbor' category.
For example, when an ice storm crippled much of Quebec in January, the Canadian auto industry pitched in.
Toyota gave $50,000 to the Canadian Red Cross, the Canadian Auto Workers' union gave $250,000, and so did Ford of Canada and its dealers.
Detroit's United Way Community Services, an umbrella organization for charitable giving, got more than $27.5 million from auto companies and their workers.
Support to improve the community gives automakers a chance to express their philosophy.
BMW Manufacturing Corp. in the USA donated $500,000 to the South Carolina Aquarium. 'We came to South Carolina not merely to build cars, but to help build the future,' said Carl Flesher, BMW's vice president of community and corporate relations in South Carolina.
Chrysler Canada gave $750,000 for new equipment at an Ontario hospital. 'I am not just talking about investment in employees, plant and tooling,' said Yves Landry, chairman of Chrysler Canada. 'I am also talking about philanthropy and community building.'
Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc. has donated $2 million toward construction of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.
'Adding Disney Hall to Los Angeles' cultural mosaic will make for an exciting expansion of performing arts offerings in our city,' said Yoshio Ishizaka, president of Toyota Motor Sales USA. 'Toyota is delighted to be a part of such a wonderful project.'