The Automotive Hall of fame cele-brates the industry's past, but for now it is struggling with a massive budget shortfall that severely jeopardizes its future.
The Dearborn, MI, museum, which opened in 1997, gets most of its funding from auto makers and suppliers, some of which have gone through bankruptcy recently or are still there.
Due to depressed vehicle sales, many companies that gave in 2008 have said they can't afford to give this year, cutting nearly in half its budget, says Jeffrey Leestma, president of the hall, which inducted five new members in October.
Some staff cuts have been made, and there are only three paid employees, including Leestma, and a half-dozen volunteers to keep the building open seven days a week through summer and five days a week the rest of the year.
Attendance also is down. Some 20,000 people have visited the hall annually since 1997, but this year Leestma expects about 15,000.
Leestma shudders when asked if the Hall of Fame is at risk of closing its doors.
“I'm not ready to raise the white flag yet,” he says. “The Automotive Hall of Fame is worth saving.”