That Is Depressing

In an odd turn of events, a David Brooks column that I almost completely agree with:

There are many experts who think that the whole restructuring strategy is misbegotten. These experts think that costs are not the real problem. The real problem is the product. The cars are not good enough. The management is insular. The reputation is fatally damaged.

But if you are in the restructuring business, you can’t let these stray thoughts get in the way of your restructuring. After all, restructuring is your life. Restructuring is forever. Restructuring is like what dieting is for many of us: You think about it every day. You believe it’s about to work. Nothing really changes.

When the economy cratered last fall, the professionals at G.M. went into Super-Duper Restructuring Overdrive. In October, they warned the Bush administration of a possible bankruptcy filing and started restructuring. In December, they came back asking for a loan while they … (wait for it) … restructured.

One thing I do take issue with is that American cars are all bad. I just don’t agree with that premise. I had a 1983 Chevy Celebrity that I bought from my grandmother’s estate while I was an undergrad, and that car drove every day, reliably, for 24 years. Beyond changing the oil every couple of thousand miles, some new tires and a battery here and there, that car was a gem. It had a great engine, got decent (for the time) gas mileage, started no matter how cold it was, and never once broke down. I loved that car and would own another one in a heartbeat. Sadly, they don’t make it anymore.

I’m sure there are people who have had miserable experiences with American cars, and I have no doubt that there was a time period where American cars were inferior. I know my father will go to prison before purchasing another Chrysler ever after an experience with a Chrysler wagon in the 80’s, but I think American cars have gotten a bad rap the past decade or so.

Having said that, my mother, sister, and I all drive Subaru wagons, my brother has a Toyota Corolla, and my father drives a Honda Pilot. I guess we just hate America, although my brother-in-law does own a Harley.

One other thing I think about regarding what I believe is the imminent demise of GM. years ago, it was not uncommon in certain regions of WV for there to be only one car dealership, and everyone in the area drove either a Ford pick-up truck or a Chevy pick-up truck, and part of the regional identity was whether or not it was a Ford or Chevy area. You would see hats that said “Ford- Fix or Repair Daily” in Chevy areas, and vice versa. I don’t know how much that has changed the past couple of years, but I wonder if it still holds true. Certainly WV can not be the only place that was like this.






205 replies
  1. 1
    ploeg says:

    GM cars are notable for having faulty rack systems, but apart from that they’re fine. My Buick Regal POS had the alternator go right after I bought it used (replaced by dealer warranty). Other than that, the rack, and the regular wear-and-tear, it’s been smooth sailing. It was made in Canada, which probably makes all the difference.

  2. 2
    Incertus says:

    GM is certainly capable of making good vehicles–I’m currently driving a 1995 Saturn which, once it got the early kinks worked out, has been a hell of a vehicle. I think part of the problem is their product line, which is where restructuring can help–if it’s done right. And that’s a big if. But the thing you can almost certainly bet on is that the people who’ve been in charge for the last twenty years can’t do it–there’s too much institutional inertia at play. Do both Chevy and GMC need to make what are essentially the same trucks? I doubt it, but the people who’ve been with GM for years aren’t going to be able to choose which line lives and which dies.Someone from outside, without all the baggage, is going to have to make that call, and if the people on the inside don’t like it, they have to be moved out of the way.

  3. 3
    Walker says:

    One thing I do take issue with is that American cars are all bad

    As a Jeep owner, I am a firm believer that the Diamler buy-out was the best thing to ever happen to Chrysler. Bad for Daimler, though.

  4. 4
    Phaedrus says:

    Had a buick wagon that was a smooth ride and worked like a charm. Went to Subaru when I could finally afford a new car because no one domestic made a small four wheel drive with good gas mileage (at the time).
    Don’t know if I’m out of main stream, but my other car is a Chevy Geo – great car, never a problem.
    US cars got that bad rap in the 70s. After that they got the quality back but they never really concentrated on efficiency. That plan worked well for a while, but it’s coming back to haunt them now. Ever see "who killed the electric car" – be nice for GM to have that in their back pocket now.

  5. 5
    DougJ says:

    You’ll have to forgive me for not believing that David Brooks knows fuck all about the car industry.

  6. 6
    kay says:

    The WSJ has totally devoted today’s edition to this. There’s a lot in there, but two things stuck out.
    One is the GM bondholders. They hold billions in unsecured debt, and they made no concessions in the plan presented to the Administration. The Obama task force were not pleased.
    Two is the fact that both GM and Chrysler have retained bankruptcy counsel, and both have well-developed contingency plans. GM’s involves a "good" GM and a "bad" GM. In return for debtor in possession financing by the government, GM will put the 20 billion in taxpayer funds already borrowed in the "good" GM. In other words, they will agree not to discharge the debt to the government in any bankruptcy or bankruptcy-like action. The recently resigned GM CEO participated in drafting the bankruptcy plan.
    To me, it looks like they’re moving forward assuming they really only have until June before they move to Chapter 11, contra Brooks, and have been operating under that assumption for two months.

  7. 7
    Persia says:

    Good point, Walker. Hubby swears by his Jeep.

    The other thing that just drives me insane about this whole debate is the discussion of health and pension costs, as if they just Magically Appeared Out of Nowhere and a) no other company ever had to deal with these things b) health costs aren’t affecting anything else in this fucking economy. It’s reporting in a vacuum taken to absurd heights.

    Phaedrus, I had a Geo for years. Chevy no longer makes it. I always get pissed when they talk about ‘no one’ wanting small cars– that’s all I’ve ever bought.

  8. 8
    wilfred says:

    Gm started making better cars after it was overtaken in the 70’s (see Halberstam’s The Reckoning). But massive capital investment in technology usually takes its toll in the long run in any industry – that’s the hx of capitalism – there’s no one taking up all the surplus value of excess production. Nothing new. Other companies will be hammered shortly as cars start to last like Cuban Bel-Airs.

    BTW, GM is a multinational company, not an ‘American’ one. Any action to save it from bankruptcy is about saving the asses of the shareholders and foreign jobs as much as American ones.

  9. 9
    John S. says:

    And in a not-so odd turn of events, the media continues to have no fucking shame:

    Blame for downturn not fixed on Obama

    Imagine that, after 2 months on the job, most Americans don’t blame Obama for the economy, but wait!

    Most respondents in poll point to financial industry as culprit, but doubts rise about administration’s recovery plans.

    Never mind the poll, we here in the media don’t care what the poll says. DOUBTS ABOUT ARE OBAMA ARE RISING! His poll numbers are tanking. Also. Watch Dan "I have" Ballz work his mojo:

    The percentage of Americans in the new poll who said the country is on the right track still stands at just 42 percent, but that is the highest percentage saying so in five years and marks a sharp turnabout from last fall, when as many as nine in 10 said the country was heading in the wrong direction.

    Oh, wait. Fuck those poll numbers that don’t prove my point. How about this:

    There is now a pronounced divergence between Democratic and Republican perceptions of the economy, a bigger partisan divide than the one that occurred 16 years ago after Bill Clinton took office. In early 1993, people in both parties were about equally likely to see the economy as improving, but now the number of Republicans who say it is souring is more than double that of Democrats.

    Yeah, bitches! Clinton, Clinton, Clinton. And it’s 1993 all over again. But wait, it gets worse for Obama:

    A sharp rise in optimism has occurred among Democrats, who are about three times as likely to approve of the country’s course as they were just before Obama’s inauguration. Independents, too, are more optimistic, with twice as many feeling positive as in mid-January. Among Republicans, there has not been significant movement in either direction.

    See that proves…oh, wait. Fucking poll again. Lemme find some shit about Obama somewhere…

    Overall, almost two in three Americans, 64 percent, said they have confidence that Obama’s economic policies will improve the economy, but that number has dropped since he took office and began to implement his ideas. Before his inauguration, 72 percent were confident that his economic agenda would lead to a recovery. Now, after two months of vigorous debate about his stimulus package and ambitious budget blueprint, confidence has decreased by 13 points among independents and by a similar amount among Republicans.

    See? His poll numbers are tanking!! Ok, we’re back on track. Stay with me people…

    Criticism of the banks, large corporations and consumers is roughly comparable across the political spectrum. But there is clear disagreement over whether Obama bears any of the blame, with Republicans far more likely to say yes than are Democrats or independents.

    There it is baby! Republicans hate Obama, therefore Americans are having doubts about him as President. GOLD, BABY, GOLD!

    Seriously, this is the most mountainous pile of shit I have read in a long time. That MSNBC saw fit to put this giant pile of crap on the front page with a GIANT HEADLINE tells you all you need to know. Clinton rules are officially back, the media have the long knives out for the President that doesn’t give them pithy nicknames and suck up to their egos, and it’s only a matter of time before their bullshit starts to take traction.

    Oh, and fuck Dan Balz. Jon Cohen and the Washington Post.

  10. 10
    Carnacki says:

    My 1986 Ford F-150 ran forever without any major repairs until I finally sold it to a neighbor so I could buy a minivan for my wife and our then-growing family. I bought another truck last year, a 1991 Chevy that I suspect will last a long time too.

  11. 11
    Carnacki says:

    Also, John, in the EP of WV we don’t have the Ford-Chevy regionalism. If you can’t find what you want, it’s a short drive to Hagerstown, Maryland or Winchester, Virginia to find it.

  12. 12
    El Cid says:

    Quick favor someone. I’m getting this message from Israeli newspaper website Haaretz:

    Forbidden

    You were denied access because:

    Access denied by access control list.

    They’re actually banning me. I verified it with a computer I access remotely. The site is up and functioning properly. It’s odd — I’ve never, ever commented or e-mailed their sites. But I have linked to their articles.

  13. 13
    John Cole says:

    @Carnacki: I am talking about years ago. Things probably changed.

  14. 14
    4tehlulz says:

    @El Cid: Banned for hotlinking, maybe? Has your computer ever been used as a zombie?

  15. 15

    John, this part what you wrote reminded me of my childhood:

    [E]veryone in the area drove either a Ford pick-up truck or a Chevy pick-up truck, and part of the regional identity was whether or not it was a Ford or Chevy area.

    I spent a significant part of my youth in rural southwest Louisiana. I remember kids getting into arguments over which pickup truck was better: Ford or Chevy.

    Boys whose dads drove Fords weren’t interesting in hearing any of that "Chevy" crap from the kids whose dads drove Chevys. And if you didn’t like it, you could haul your dumb ass back to your house with that ridiculous Chevy parked in the gravel driveway.

    I can smell the cut grass and hear those angry, high-pitched voices from here.

  16. 16
    JL says:

    @John S.: The article that they wrote about Michelle was even more misleading.

    At first, they didn’t like the way she was talking about her husband’s dirty socks. Then, they said she always looked angry. Later, they questioned her patriotism when she commented that she only recently became proud of her country. They even made hay over her biceps when she dared show up sleeveless for her husband’s address to Congress in January. Now, two months into her husband’s presidency, as Michelle Obama embarks on her maiden official overseas trip, the first lady is enjoying a second look from the American public —

    Her poll numbers were high (76%) but her poll numbers were high two months ago (72%). During the summer the time frame that they were speaking about, her poll numbers were similar to the other spouses with a large majority not knowing much about her. The WP sucks.

  17. 17
    El Cid says:

    @4tehlulz:

    Banned for hotlinking, maybe? Has your computer ever been used as a zombie?

    Simple question — what’s the definition of "hotlinking"? If I link to a Haaretz article, I link to the whole article, not to a photo or something. I don’ have a blog.

    How would I know if my PC is being used as a zombie? I have all the Windows firewall, Windows Defender, other antivirus / antispyware stuff going.

  18. 18
    4tehlulz says:

    @UncommonSense: Why do people argue about the most inconsequential bullshit? Why can we save that for things that matter, like Web browsers and operating systems?

  19. 19
    Gus says:

    I like big American sedans, mainly because I need the leg room. My ’98 Buick Le Sabre has not only been mechanically solid, it gets almost 30 mpg on the highway.

  20. 20
    Napoleon says:

    , I had a Geo for years. Chevy no longer makes it.

    Actually Chevy never made it. It was a rebadged Suzuki Spirit. My ex had one. Most or all of the small cars offered by the domestics are rebadged cars from other companies.

    As for Brooks, why would anyone listen to what he has to say about the economy. I find the article in the current Washington Monthly on past restructuring more interesting on this subject.

  21. 21
    DecidedFenceSitter says:

    From what I remember:

    American car manufacturers did suck in the late 70’s and early 80’s, it is acknowledged fact. They did some massive retooling, but as any marketer knows, good reputations takes forever to build, bad reputation takes but an instance.

    Well in this case, forever is about 7-9 years – or about two generations of good cars before you see any reward on improving quality. It takes that long for people to see the new quality.

    Strikes me as true – especially as regards Hyundai which came on with cheap cars, and then gradually improved quality and reputation.

    (Note on the 95 Saturn – it was originally built by GM using Japanese style manufacturing TQM line, quality goes down hill in 2000 or so when it switches to a more traditional command and control American style line)

  22. 22
    NonyNony says:

    @Persia:

    The other thing that just drives me insane about this whole debate is the discussion of health and pension costs, as if they just Magically Appeared Out of Nowhere and a) no other company ever had to deal with these things b) health costs aren’t affecting anything else in this fucking economy. It’s reporting in a vacuum taken to absurd heights.

    I will agree that the press is not doing a good job of explaining why these two things are such a burden for GM, Ford and Chrysler but not for the rest of the auto industry. And when they do try to talk about it they try to make it out like "eeeeeevil unions" are forcing the companies hands.

    The problem is that these are some of the oldest manufacturing companies in America that are still operating in the US. They were unionized early on and they still operate old-fashioned pensions because a lot of their infrastructure was setup before we even had such things as 401k’s in the tax code. Because of this, they’re not only paying health care for their current workers, but they also have obligations to their retired workers – obligations those retirees negotiated in good faith as deferred compensation decades ago, choosing to take guarantees of retirement pay and health care in their old age and allowing the company to pay them a lower wage up front than they were demanding at the time. (And it doesn’t help that NONE of these companies were smart about funding their pension systems – they’re all underfunded to one degree or another).

    That’s why it’s a big problem for GM and Ford and not for, say, Toyota or Microsoft or other companies. It isn’t the current workers that are costing them money – there was a graph floating around last November (from the NYT maybe? Now I can’t find it) showing that costs for Ford and GM per worker were roughly the same these days as for Toyota or Honda if you discarded the legacy costs. The unions have made a lot of concessions to keep the companies alive, but the pensions and health care costs continue to drag.

    And recent reports are suggesting that those aren’t really the biggest drains on the companies these days – the contracts that they’ve signed with dealers over the years force them to keep brands in operation long beyond their useful shelf life. Voiding a bunch of those contracts and killing off a number of brands would let them downsize somewhat rationally and refocus their business on a smaller selection of cars. Of course it would also put a number of car dealerships out of business, so they’re not lining up to renegotiate terms and are in fact demanding that their contracts be honored.

  23. 23
    El Cid says:

    FWIW, I came really close to buying a used Dodge Caliber, but I wouldn’t come near touching one with a CVT transmission, and that’s all that one could find.

  24. 24
    cleek says:

    US automakers turned-off multiple generations of car buyers by building crappy cars for a decade? that sounds impossible.

  25. 25
    Nancy Darling says:

    Incertus, I drive a ’95 Saturn, too. I call her my little mule—she doesn’t look like a Thoroughbred, but she’s steady as a rock and runs on cheap feed. My brother had a ’94 Saturn when he moved to Alaska in ’95. It was closing in on 300,000 when they moved back down in ’06. It may still be on the road as they gave it to their housekeeper when the Anchorage Saturn dealership reneged on a deal to buy it to display on their show room floor. He’s lucky he never hit a moose. The average winter moose kill on the highway between Palmer and Anchorage is around 160 and that will generally total your car. Alas, my next car will be foreign (listen for the sound of my Dad spinning in his grave) because I need a pick up for my little farm, a place to haul Mijo as the dog hair is a huge problem, and passenger space. The Ford small pick-up only comes in extended cab. I’ve decided on a Nissan Frontier 4WD crew cab. Any negatives on the Nissan, anyone?

  26. 26
    kay says:

    @John S.:

    I don’t know how they can continue to push the line that people like Obama personally, but dislike his plans.

    The right track number has tripled under Obama. The "track" is the plan, right? It’s forward-looking?

  27. 27
    gypsy howell says:

    America is a car culture. We have a love affair with cars.

    But when was the last time you heard anyone say they loved a GM car – absolutely positively had to have one, the way people want iPods and iPhones.

    Not "Well, it probably won’t break down." Not "eh, I need a car and it’ll do." When was the last time Detroit made a car that people had a strong positive emotional connection to?

    That’s what’s wrong with GM. And Ford. And Chrysler.

    Shame on them, in a country like ours, for 40+ years to not produce a car that anyone really wants to have.

    I have no doubt that the UAW could build a really great car. Too bad no one in management created something like that for them to build.

    And don’t get me started on gas mileage.

  28. 28
    p.a. says:

    from Angrybear

    I didn’t think of that

    Robert Waldmann:

    JimLuke argues that GM will almost certainly go bankrupt because …

    there may be thousands (perhaps even millions) of seperate bondholders, the vast majority have no voice in the negotiations. Instead, there is a “bondholders’ committee”. Who is on the committee? The “experts” and the large bondholders: primarily banks and bond funds. These banks and bond funds presume to speak for all bondholders. But their interests are not in line with all bondholders. We know that there are very large number of outstanding Credit Default Swaps (CDS) contracts on GM. So who likely holds the CDSs? The very same large banks and bond funds that are negotiating. So, in effect, if GM goes BK, then the bondfunds/big banks are hedged and get full payment via the CDS. If they agree to a restructuring, they get less than full payout. So there’s no chance they’ll agree.

    Looks like restructuring may be spin to make it seem like, Hey, we tried. Really.

    The quality of American autos has certainly gotten better (my source is Consumer Reports), but the problem still is with smaller cars; that is our weakness. They’re better, but still not close enough to the competition. And the entry-level cars set the trend for new owners for years- especially if the experience is good. Also, doesn’t perception lag reality, an CW is hard to overcome.

  29. 29
    Patrick says:

    The reliability of American cars is just one factor. While they have made some ground on the Japanese (some models more than others), they are still not as reliable on average (thanks everyone for your personal anecdotes). But they might be reliable enough, which comes to the biggest problem with American cars: the dealer experience.

    My last three cars were Hondas. I walk into the dealership, sit down, they have a price, a few options, done. Even if it is happening, I never feel like I’m being suckered. They don’t offer rust proofing or vehicle etching. I don’t have to buy Package C for $5000 extra to get cruise control (and thus get a sun roof, cargo nets, roof ties, extra cup holders, and a racing stripe I never wanted). Going into an American dealership is just not a pleasant consumer experience. George Constanza might get off on it, but most people are like Jerry and just want to pay a fair price for a car and get on with their life.

    If I look online, the price I will get on a Honda or Toyota is basically the price I will get from the dealer. On an American car, it is anyone’s guess what they want to sell you that day at what price. For every great deal for that dealership, that is a consumer that got F-ed and will not be buying a GM car ever again.

  30. 30
    wilfred says:

    We have a love affair with cars

    We also had love affairs with horses, cabriolet buggys, steamships, 50’s Bulgemobiles and, briefly, dirigibles. Things change.

    India is selling the Tata for $2,000. Not many Indians will be willing to buy up the surplus production of the West if they can make it cheaper. In the new socialism, behemoths like GM are doomed, as is the car industry in general, I think.

  31. 31
    andy says:

    As someone who grew up ingrained with a general aversion to American cars, I’ve been very happy with the two Ford Fusions I have owned. I bought the 96 model when the line first started and loved it, until someone rear-ended me at 50MPH and shoved me into a Land Rover’s steel bumper. I walked away with a single, minor scratch. All but the passenger compartment was totaled.

    That pretty much solidified for me that I was getting another Fusion, so now I drive a loaded 2008 and am still very happy with it (although I have not yet had an opportunity to test its safety features!).

    Plus, I can talk to my iPod – who could ask for more? (I do not need friends, shut up).

  32. 32

    @Incertus: We just sold our 1994 Saturn Wagon last year. It was a great vehicle and did its share of hauling home improvement materials from Home Depot. But it was time for a newer vehicle when we decided to move across the country.

    OT:

    Q: What do a whale and a jackass have in common?

    A: They both work for Fox News :

    … Fox is beefing up its conservative ranks, recently hiring National Review’s Jonah Goldberg.

    I hope the green room is well stocked with plenty of free sandwiches, cheetos and Mountain Dew. But I hear they keep an armed guard near the entrance in case any DFH’s try to wreak havoc on the delicate little flowers.

  33. 33
    MattF says:

    I had a Ford Taurus in the 80’s that I was happy with until it fell apart after ten years. Not so bad. Except for the dealership, who were thieves and liars. Thieves and liars in the "Maryland state regulators shut you down" sense.

    One aspect of GM/Chrysler bankruptcy where I don’t see much coverage is the independent parts suppliers– are they just going to hold their collective breath while the courts figure out when they get paid?

  34. 34
    El Cid says:

    Fox is beefing up its conservative ranks, recently hiring National Review’s Jonah Goldberg.

    Funny, I would have said "larding up."

  35. 35

    My father is from WV (Moundsville) and he has been a Chevy man all his life. He wouldn’t buy a Ford if you paid him.

    I have to disagree with your premise John. It isn’t that American cars are bad it is that Japanese cars are better. You can take a chance on a Chevy or Ford or you can buy a sure thing with a Toyota or Honda.

  36. 36
    The Moar You Know says:

    I’m sure there are people who have had miserable experiences with American cars

    1982 Ford Escort. I sold it to a junkyard for $50 and felt bad about ripping off the junkyard. Seriously.

    and I have no doubt that there was a time period where American cars were inferior.

    Depends on your notion of "inferior". The true SHIT TIME for the Big Three was between 1972 and 1990. However, I have another definition. I have a 1997 Nissan pickup with 160,000 miles on it, and a pimpin’ 2004 Ford Explorer with a bit under 50,000 miles. If forced to own just one of them, it would be my brokedown hard-ridden Nissan in a heartbeat.

  37. 37
    Zifnab says:

    @gypsy howell:

    Not "Well, it probably won’t break down." Not "eh, I need a car and it’ll do." When was the last time Detroit made a car that people had a strong positive emotional connection to?

    I’ve heard people crow over vintage Ford Mustangs and classic Corvettes. The Chevy Impala was a generally solid vehicle from what I heard when my friend drove his. I see quite a few Saturn Sky Redlines cruising around downtown Houston. And my room mate swears by Jeeps, if they’re made before 2002.

    There are good American cars. There are even American cars people feel passionate about. The Ford Explore was a freak’n American staple from 2000 to 2005. Soccer moms bought those things in bulk. They "absolutely had to have one".

    But the Japanese just have their manufacturing skills down and the Americans simply don’t. I went car shopping three years ago and the first place I looked was American dealerships. Every car I looked at was in the $23-26k range until I finally started looking at Japanese models and the price fell $4-5k. Comparing 4Runners to Explorers got me the same results. Cheaper, better cars, bottom line.

    The American manufacturers needed to step up their game for years. They just never did it.

  38. 38
    kay says:

    @p.a.:

    There’s two options. The government oversees the restructuring, or a bankruptcy court does. The government will act in that capacity until June. After that, it’s the courts. That’s essentially what Obama said. Brooks thinks he won’t follow through. I’m betting he will, because it’s the least bad option.

    I think they probably end up in bankruptcy. Given the two options, I don’t know that that’s the wrong result. I don’t think Obama has any intention of running the automobile industry, for a number of good reasons, some of them political.

  39. 39
    jprice vincenz says:

    Have a Ford 450 with the triton engine (i.e., ten cylinders) and it runs like the giant gas-consuming devil it is, but it also runs perfectly, even when towing the small foreign car behind it up steep grades. 8 MPH is something some folks will get all pissy about, but we don’t use it often, and I’m sure that some purity troll will never have flown in a half-full plane or will be able to justify high electric bills or whatever.

    My point: we had a better-than-average Kenmore fridge ‘s compressor die after seven years. Now Kenmore might make great products generally and ours might have been the anomaly, but I’ll never buy another Kenmore (or Maytag, Frigidaire, and all the other minor brands that are subsumed under the Kenmore label). And I’ll never buy another Buick based on the POS that died on us after a few years.

    It’s just that as a consumer I cannot take chances on products that have historically acted in an inferior fashion. How the American car industry will ever overcome the bias it allowed since that idiot Lee Iacocca created the K car is a question I don’t think has a positive answer. If I had a choice between a Suzuki or a Geo, which can be essentially the same car, just different labels, I’d opt for the Suzuki. I believe that kind of decision-making happens all the time, and that’s what kills the American car industry.

    With rightwingers out to kill the UAW and unconcerned about the collateral damage to the auto industries that insulate the union, I say that they’re as doomed as PanAm was (shitty service all the way, but they did assist service members and their families admirably). When the patriotic appeal is gone, it’s dead.

    JPV

  40. 40
    HeartlandLiberal says:

    My purchased brand new 1978 Pontiac LeMans: I loved the way that car drove, smooth and handled beautifully, interior was classic bench seat comfortable. Sadly, at 13,000 miles the silver gray paint started peeling off, and GM told me I could suck it up, it was out of warranty. This was a wide spread paint failure GM would not take responsibility for from the period. By 100k miles, the car was rattling and falling apart. Its last 10k miles till it dies at least provided my mom-in-law with a way to get to the store.

    My 1985 Lincoln Towncar: engine fell apart dropped rod at 90k miles, had to have engine replaced with a rebuilt. Body creaked and groaned like a rusting Titanic, the once expensive looking dash turned to powdered dusty talc if you accidentally brushed against it and broke a piece off.

    My Ford Taurus from late 1980’s dropped its transmission at 70K. As did virtually all of them, so I hear.

    So I bought a reliable early 1990’s Mercedes 300E, and we have a fantastic 1995 Volvo 850 Turbo, classic Volvo fire engine red with, as we call it, a ‘tail feather’ spoiler.

    My only problem now? The damned things are so reliable I think the only way I will be able to ever justify replacing them is to take an elephant gun to an engine block.

    I would get in either one and drive cross the country without hesitation. Not sure I would do that with an American car. I know that supposedly in the last 10 years reliability has increased. But the ones I have driven over that period as rental cars are all so ergonomically sucky, and the interiors such cheap plastic I would not have one. One has to wonder sometimes if the big three every grasped that they could not go on selling planned obsolescence ‘moron mobiles’ to the American people after the point the peeps had caught on to this strategy?

    See this famous sci-fi story:

    Kornbluth’s the Marching Morons

    commented on here, note the remark about the cars:

    Kornbluth and Eugenics

    The really interesting quality of the story is the idea —as Frederik Pohl puts it in his introduction—that this is about the corruption of the human spirit, not the human gene pool. The point about the marching morons is that they live in a world of the phony and the second rate, and are constantly told that this is the best that history has ever offered anyone. Their cars are elaborately chromed, wonderfully finned—and pedal powered. The superfast trains move at FORTY FIVE miles an hour. Their food—well, anyone who has eaten American fast food recently knows already what it is like.

  41. 41
    Walker says:

    @Persia:

    The other thing that just drives me insane about this whole debate is the discussion of health and pension costs.

    It is worse than that. The people bitching about health and pension costs are also the people having vapors about the sanctity of contracts.

    Think about that for a second.

  42. 42
    sgwhiteinfla says:

    GM makes Cadillac and I have never heard anybody refer to a Caddy as a shitty car. Not ever. Some of the brands just aren’t as "trendy" or the hot new thing or whatever and they do make gass guzzlers but also they do make some good cars and trucks. Its the easy way out to say its all about the quality but that ignores the fact that Toyota and just about every other car maker are also losing truckloads of money right now. The global recession is a drag on everybody and that just so happens to include car makers who rely on banks to lend so their customers can finance their purchcases.

    Now of course the legacy costs hurt but thats more an indictment of our health care system than it is the business model of GM. What people never point out about those legacy costs is that they function much like the "retention bonuses" of Wall Street firms. GM and other auto manufacturers were able to keep many of their best employees for decades precisely because they knew that while they may not break the bank in salary while they are working, after they retired they would be taken care of. Its interesting that nobody in the press ever makes this analogy but I believe its a sound one.

    Now could the Big 3 have done some things better? I think that obviously yes they could. But I also believe that we live in a nation where perception becomes reality. Of all the people I know who have GM/Ford/Chrysler vehicles currently, I don’t hear any of them complaining about them. I have also owned Ford Expeditions and a Ford F 150 and both of those were great for me, no problems whatsoever. But the CW is that Toyota makes better cars and trucks and so people just hear that or read it in a magazine and believe its so without ever trying to find out for themselves.

  43. 43
    El Cid says:

    It’s too bad, because I’ve been pretty proud of how well the U.S. auto companies’ products have been doing, particularly their merging of the European and even Australian lines with U.S. products. There is such a thing as too late, and this might be it.

    On the other hand, not too many mass production automakers are doing well right now, even in Europe & Asia.

  44. 44
    DRD 1812 says:

    I guess we just hate America, although my brother-in-law does own a Harley.

    Harley-Davidson almost went under in the early 1980s. People just weren’t buying those antiquated clunkers with their 50s styling and 40s technology. They were buying far-superior motorcycles from Japan, bikes that were generations ahead of Harleys in terms of performance and reliability.
     
    Then Reagan came to the rescue and in 1983 slapped a 45 percent tariff on imported bikes with displacements above 700 cc. Harley restructured and started doing better selling its image — the retro styling started catching on with older buyers getting their first bikes, baby boomer weekend rebels. Without that punitive tariff, Harley would be history.
     
    It’s not a secret that most Harleys are still technically inferior to the imports. They sell based on marketing and patriotism, not quality. Because what’s more patriotic than having your crappy product rescued by a federal bailout?

  45. 45
    p.a. says:

    f’in Windows f’in company LAN. had to reboot.

    comment 28 everything from "I didn’t think…" to "…no chance they’ll agree" should be blockquotes. I locked up trying to edit. Why does the preview show blockquotes one way then the post is screwed up if there are line breaks in the quote?

  46. 46
    The Other Steve says:

    My last three cars were Hondas. I walk into the dealership, sit down, they have a price, a few options, done. Even if it is happening, I never feel like I’m being suckered. They don’t offer rust proofing or vehicle etching. I don’t have to buy Package C for $5000 extra to get cruise control (and thus get a sun roof, cargo nets, roof ties, extra cup holders, and a racing stripe I never wanted).

    It’s interesting. I owned an Acura Integra years back, and I’ll never buy another Acura or Honda in my lifetime. Many of their dealers are by far the scummiest, and their service is terrible.

    The Honda dealer here in town was sued by the Attorney General back around 1998 for selling people $500 rust proofing packages, and then not actually performing any work. (probably because cars were rustproofed at the factory already) When we were looking for a car last year we stopped in there. Still high pressure and scummy as all hell.

    And Honda has been notorious for suckering people. For years, many of the options on cars were "Dealer Installed", such as Air Conditioning, radios and such. This meant there was no standard price for the options, it was up to what the dealer could get away with charging.

    I suspect people’s opinions of car companies are very regional, largely depending on the dealer network available to them.

    For instance, in fairness, the other Honda dealer up north of us is actually pretty good. And it shows, as unlike the scummy dealer the good dealer just built a new facility a few years back that is 4 times the size of the scummy guys. Still our last vehicle was a Toyota RAV4, as the CR-V isn’t available with a V6 and was of obvious cheaper construction.

    Still, I love my BMW like no other car. It’s such a joy to drive.

  47. 47
    KevOH says:

    I drive an American car (Ford) that I paid thousands less than comparable Japanese and European models. It has a superior ride, handling, NVH, and has a more efficient powertrain (more MPG & better performance) than the top selling vehicles in its class. I used to drive Hondas, but Honda’s switch to an inferior front suspension and the chronic lack of attention to NVH made me consider other options. I am glad I did because I have over 60k miles on my Ford with zero issues and a car that I enjoy driving.

    I just don’t understand why less than half of American new car buyers don’t even consider (let alone test drive) American cars. This lack of consideration is likely why the American auto industry is doomed.

  48. 48

    Back in ’68 and ’69 most of my sex life was lived at the drive-in inside a Buick stationwagon. When you put down the back seat you could hold an orgy in there.

    I drive a Corolla now. Even if I could find an interested partner for a little smooching with that big hump between the bucket seats you can’t even manage a hug. And the back seat? Forget it.

  49. 49
    Michael D. says:

    I had a Chevy Cavalier Z-24 in 84 that I drove for years. I also had a Taurus – worked great. Americans can make some great cars.

    And we do make great cars. We have just been concentrating on the wrong cars.

    People say “Well, the Big 3 have just been making the trucks and SUVs people want!” I believe advertising works. The Big 3 have concentrated their ads on these gas gussling profit vehicles. Americans have been buying them because they THINK they need them.

    GM, Ford and Chrysler have made their own beds.

  50. 50
    El Cid says:

    @sgwhiteinfla: Cadillacs have been among the best cars in the world the past decade or so. The head guy on Top Gear recommended as the best overall single car to have to his colleague — remember, this is a performance car fan show, not Consumer Reports — a Cadillac. (On of the V-series sedans, I forget which model, not the XLR.) To own, and drive, in England. Not ‘if he were in the USA’. But there. And in Europe, the Focus is huge. Winning awards and races too.

  51. 51
    Svensker says:

    @El Cid:

    No problem with Haaretz here. Are you sure it’s not a glitch at your end? They’re pretty liberal, can’t imagine them blocking somebody (especially, after having read their comments, crickey!).

  52. 52
    Napoleon says:

    @DRD 1812:

    Harley-Davidson almost went under in the early 1980s.

    I read an article in the last week or so (likely in the NY Times) that they are getting hammered right now with a combo of aging demo and the fact that their buyers are not buying because it is one of those purchases you can put off with the economy being bad.

  53. 53
    The Other Steve says:

    GM makes Cadillac and I have never heard anybody refer to a Caddy as a shitty car.

    Talk to someone who bought a Cadillac in the 1980s.(Cimarron)

    Or the 1990s(Caterra)

    Or the 2000s…(any of them)

    The cadillacs in the 1980s were so bad that the trunks wouldn’t even close properly. The parts just didn’t fit together.

    Nobody I know buys a Cadillac. If you want a luxury car it’s either BMW or Lexus, possibly Mercedes. Not Cadillac.

    GM has damaged their image so bad, I don’t think it would matter what they built today. Nobody is even going to look at them.

  54. 54
    PeakVT says:

    One thing I do take issue with is that American cars are all bad. I just don’t agree with that premise.

    The aren’t all bad or unreliable, but the Detroit 3 have not put the same level of effort into their car lineups as they put into their truck lineups over the past two decades. The result has been cars that are now nearly as good as imports (the gap has closed and all cars are much better than they were even 10 years ago). But given the rap American manufacturers earned in the 1970s and 1980s, nearly as good just hasn’t been good enough to bring customers back into the showroom for cars.

  55. 55
    Halteclere says:

    I find that there is a big difference between the "Big Three" vehicle advertisements and foreign vehicle advertisements. Nissan’s "zoom zoom" marketing campaign makes driving a Nissan look fun. Cadillac’s "When you turn on your car, does it return the favor" or whatever marketing campaign makes me say "ugh". And how about that Honda Rube Goldberg add? Brilliant. Dodge’s "That thing got a hemmi in it" white trash add makes my skin crawl.

    Pretty much the Big Three advertisements either insult my intelligence – "I’m going to need a bigger boat!" – or ruin decent songs by using them over and over and over and over and over and over in car commercials. (See Bob Seager "Like a Rock" and Led Zeppelin "It’s been a long time since I’ve rock and rolled".)

    Even if one recognizes that the Big Three’s quality has caught up to that of foreign manufacturers, the advertisement campaigns doesn’t provide any incentive to buy from the Big Three.

  56. 56
    El Cid says:

    @The Other Steve: It’s all variable. I went to one Japanese-brand dealership and got the complete stereotypical miserable slimy car dealer treatment, not just from one guy but them all (i.e., listening to not one word I said about model, just repeating "What can I do to get you in a [Brand X car] today?" Across the street, though, another Japanese-brand dealership was an utterly, completely different experience, the best I’ve ever had. (Incidentally, they all hate the dealership across the street. Hate ’em. Had a list of various complaints made against them too.)

  57. 57
    ksmiami says:

    Maybe Steve Jobs could design cars???

  58. 58
    Dennis-SGMM says:

    The other thing that just drives me insane about this whole debate is the discussion of health and pension costs…

    There isn’t really any discussion because an actual discussion would lead to the inevitable conclusion that the businesses and politicians who now bellyache about "legacy costs" are the same ones who conspired together for years to thwart anything that even looked like Universal Health Care. They threw shit on every one of us and now they complain that we stink.

  59. 59
    burnspbesq says:

    Over 35 years of car ownership, I have had two Volvos, two VWs, and one each of Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Porsche, and Audi. I don’t think I am biased against the formerly big three, but at no time have they ever provided vehicles that suited my needs as well as what I ended up with.

    I have to get another car some time in the next 12-18 months, for my kid to use when he goes away to college. I would have seriously considered a Saturn Vectra (which is a rebadged Opel), but with the impending demise of Saturn, he is most likely getting a certified ore-owned VW.

  60. 60
    Salvo says:

    I had a 1997 Ford Escort. When it died after 300k miles, I got a used 1997 Ford Escort. I would love to get another one.

    Oh wait. Ford discontinued them around 2000 to focus on their SUV line. For 8 years, the US manufacturers didn’t make a car I wanted to buy. So I stuck with my little Escort until it died.

    Next car? I’d like a Prius. Ford started making the comparable Fusion a couple years ago, but you know what? It’s too late. I’ve moved on.

    And I think that’s the problem in a nutshell. The romance is dead, I’ve found a new girl, and she’s got an awesome hybrid motor.

  61. 61
    Michael says:

    Obviously, the 70s to 80s disasters were the fault of the UAW. UAW designers came up with the ideas, UAW cost accountants came up with the budgets, UAW engineers set up the product parameters and lines, UAW executives approved everything and UAW marketing men created the ad layouts.

    /wingnut mode

    One other, serious thing – as pretty much all the "contracts are sacrosanct" assholes are so dismissive of obligations to those who retired. At what point does someone express the inconvenient fact that the shareholders and executives from that era won’t be giving back pay, dividends and capital gains for that period of time that the retirees (who won’t be able to go back into the workforce to replace what they’ll be losing) worked? I mean, talk about taking it up the ass – they deferred so that executives, bondholders and shareholders could get current gain, and now they’re being left in the cold.

    This is "social compact" breaking on a grand scale, and threatens the solvency and benefit levels of the Pension Benefit Guaranty folks.

  62. 62
    DRD 1812 says:

    GM makes Cadillac and I have never heard anybody refer to a Caddy as a shitty car. Not ever.

    Then you aren’t old enough. In the 1970s Cadillacs were as shitty as everything else made by GM then.

  63. 63
    El Cid says:

    @The Other Steve: There are boatloads of 2000’s Cadillacs driving here around Atlanta, including those of pro baseball, basketball, and football players, residents of elite suburbs, the business parks, you name it. Many of the models are nearly as fast as ‘Vettes, so, a lot of people with money like that. And they’re built very well.

    But then, I grew up hating Cadillacs for being idiotic boats for senior citizens, and then re-badging cars like Celebrity’s, and cheap marketing ploys (i.e., the "Lisa Catera" character on Ally McBeal). If I made it rich I’d still probably want a BMW or something offbeat European, but in the real world I would very well consider a Focus or Fusion or Caliber or several other models.

  64. 64
    BenA says:

    The product isn’t the issue. There are systematic problems with large industry in the United States. The conservative movement of the last 30 years and their accomplices have jobbed the system so a large union based employeer cannot win. We don’t have the rediculously low labor costs of the far east nor the single payer health care of Europe and Japan… Single payer health care in this country would instantly solve 80% of the problems facing the US automakers in the long term.

  65. 65
    4tehlulz says:

    @Bob In Pacifica: That hump explains why the Japanese birthrate is so low. Why does Toyota hate Japan?

  66. 66
    Brian J says:

    There’s a lot about this I want to say, but I’ll take it one step at a time.

    I’m sure there are people who have had miserable experiences with American cars, and I have no doubt that there was a time period where American cars were inferior. I know my father will go to prison before purchasing another Chrysler ever after an experience with a Chrysler wagon in the 80’s, but I think American cars have gotten a bad rap the past decade or so.

    Having said that, my mother, sister, and I all drive Subaru wagons, my brother has a Toyota Corolla, and my father drives a Honda Pilot. I guess we just hate America, although my brother-in-law does own a Harley.

    The problem is that most people don’t look at a car as some sort of vanity purchase, whether it’s because they are practical or because they don’t have enough money to spend on something they really want or because of some other reason. This doesn’t mean they don’t care about the look and feel of the car, just that the main concern for most people is getting around and not having that many issues besides normal wear and tear. American cars almost certainly aren’t as bad as their reputation suggests in some quarters, but for whatever reason, they lost the public relations game that makes people think so.

    This might be unique to my area, but most of the cars for the middle class involve at least one from either Nissan, Honda, or Toyota. My house has two Toyotas (one Camry and one Corolla), one Honda (the Civic) and one Nissan (a Pathfinder). Even in households where American cars do better than average in representation–those that own SUVs–they seem to go no higher than 50 percent. It’s hard to see how these companies can survive unless they change this composition, which they seemed to be realizing, even if it is a bit late.

    Now, this might be because I’m not a bankruptcy attorney, but amidst the talk of fascism and how awful it is for this much involvement in business, Matt Ygleslias made a good point that what’s going on seems to be bankruptcy in all but name. Correct me if I am wrong, but wasn’t one of the arguments for government involvement that nobody would provide DIP financing for Chapter 11, which means the company would face Chapter 7, something that would be good for no region, person, or company? Didn’t people who argued against a bail out say that the government should put the companies into bankruptcy, even if it was a special arrangement because of the credit crisis? How is what people like Joe Stiglitz recommended during November and December so different from what is happening now?

  67. 67
    anonevent says:

    @andy: I had a ’95 escort. It was hit twice in the back by large cars while sitting at a stop. Completely messed up the front end of those cars; chipped the paint on the escort.

  68. 68
    cleek says:

    I owned an Acura Integra years back, and I’ll never buy another Acura or Honda in my lifetime. Many of their dealers are by far the scummiest, and their service is terrible.

    our local Acura dealer is great. my wife’s bought three cars from them (CL, MDX and TSX) and hasn’t had any trouble with the cars, or with the dealer, or with the service department. no haggling, no screwing around, no tricks. based on her experience, my next car could very well be an Acura too. (as soon as i’m done with this Toyota)

    as they say : YMMV.

  69. 69
    The Other Steve says:

    I just don’t understand why less than half of American new car buyers don’t even consider (let alone test drive) American cars. This lack of consideration is likely why the American auto industry is doomed.

    Because for 15 years I drove American cars and defended them, until I finally broke down and bought something else. An Acura Integra. I hated that car, mainly due to the dealers, but it was still better to drive them anything made by the Big Three.

    It’s fascinating. At the time I bought the Integra I was also considering a Ford Contour SVT. You still see a lot of Integra’s on the road. But I have yet to see a Ford Contour of any sort. They’re all dead. They’re all fucking dead and in fucking scrap yards. Every single one of them.

    And the Contour was supposed to be Ford’s best vehicle. It was a European designed model. Car and Driver later apologized for including it in their Top Ten lists.

  70. 70
    anonevent says:

    A Washington Post article on how firing GM’s CEO is concerning banks makes an interesting point:

    The three companies the government does control — American International Group, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae — were required to replace their chief executives. The government has not, however, required any banks in which it took smaller stakes to replace its top executives. It did pressure Citigroup to replace several members of its board of directors.

    This move against GM is not unprecedented, and the bank CEOs should be concerned about whether they’re doing the right work.

  71. 71
    Bootlegger says:

    Found-On-Road-Dead

    I still see pickups with a large sticker on the back window of cartoon Calvin pissing on either the Ford or Chevy logo, depending on which brand the truck is. This signage is eclipsed only by the cartoon Calvin kneeling in front of a Roman torture device praying to his god. I’d like to find one where cartoon Calvin is peeing on the Roman torture device.

  72. 72
    The Other Steve says:

    our local Acura dealer is great. my wife’s bought three cars from them (CL, MDX and TSX) and hasn’t had any trouble with the cars, or with the dealer, or with the service department. based on her experience, my next car could very well be an Acura too.

    When you’re sitting at the service counter complaining about the brakes squealing in your Integra and the guy’s telling you there is nothing they can do it’s perfectly normal.

    And the lady next to you is talking to a different person complaining about the brakes squealing in her RL and the guy’s telling her "Yes maam, we’ll look right into that and fix it."

    It’s unlikely you’ll ever buy another Acura ever again.

    Unless it was an RL, I suppose. But then after they introduced the new model and dropped the list price by $10k, greatly depressing the used market for the older models… that’s unlikely too.

  73. 73
    BenA says:

    @anonevent:
    I loved my ’95 Escort. I put 150k on it before the water pump went in 2005. I should have paid the 300 bucks to fix it. I bet I’d still be driving it.

    I have owned nothing but American cars… 5 cars over 500k miles on them… no major issues. My V6 Impala gets the same highway gas milage as an Accord with an Inline 4 and is a much more comfortable car with a better ride. The powers that be in this country see the credit crisis as a convenient opportunity to bust unions and rob the tax payers.

  74. 74
    The Other Steve says:

    I had a ‘95 escort. It was hit twice in the back by large cars while sitting at a stop. Completely messed up the front end of those cars; chipped the paint on the escort.

    After 1991 the ford Escort was actually a rebadged Mazda 323.

  75. 75
    Balconesfault says:

    @John S.:
    Great post, but…

    the media have the long knives out for the President that doesn’t give them pithy nicknames and suck up to their egos

    Do you really think that this is about anything more than who signs the paychecks for the editors who decide what makes it in the paper?

  76. 76
    El Cid says:

    Many areas are weird about brand loyalties. Here in Georgia the other day in the gas station I heard an interaction between the cashier and a nice white country boy who took the time to explain why he could not buy any of their Pepsi brand drink products because of some rival NASCAR team or set of teams that Pepsi supported.

    If you lose that sort of brand loyalty, you’re screwed. Unreasonable or not, this kind of stuff weighs.

  77. 77
    sgwhiteinfla says:

    Talk to someone who bought a Cadillac in the 1980s.(Cimarron)
    Or the 1990s(Caterra)
    Or the 2000s…(any of them)
    The cadillacs in the 1980s were so bad that the trunks wouldn’t even close properly. The parts just didn’t fit together.
    Nobody I know buys a Cadillac. If you want a luxury car it’s either BMW or Lexus, possibly Mercedes. Not Cadillac.
    GM has damaged their image so bad, I don’t think it would matter what they built today. Nobody is even going to look at them.

    I personally own a Cadillac Escalade and I see them EVERYWHERE. And many of the older folks in my neighborhood have the bigger Cadillacs like a DTS or an older model Seville. The Cimarron was not a shitty car, it just wasn’t the prototypical Cadillac. But it still was a quality automobile as was the Caterra. I would put a Caddy up against anything Toyota puts on the road including their Lexus sister vehicles in terms of quality and thats real. Oh and by the way, just because people think Mercedes or BMW are status symbols doesn’t make them a better car. And I won’t even go into how GM innovated with their OnStar system.

    http://www.edmunds.com/cadilla.....eview.html

    Although the Cadillac Escalade wasn’t the first luxury SUV sold in the U.S. market, it was the first light truck in the history of the Cadillac brand. Early versions drew plenty of criticism, but in retrospect, the Escalade deserves much credit for being the vehicle that transformed Cadillac’s image from traditional and geriatric to youthful and flamboyant. Now in its third generation, the Escalade is still the best-selling full-size luxury SUV.

  78. 78
    jibeaux says:

    Well, I’ve got a Ford Freestyle, which I think they subsequently started calling the Taurus X or something dumb, anyway it’s a crossover and I love it. It once developed a very strange problem with the brakes (which was that it applied them volitionally), but amazingly it was a $200 fix and that’s the only problem so far.

  79. 79
    Dennis-SGMM says:

    @anonevent:
    Still driving my ’92 Escort wagon. Still getting 30mpg. Bought it new at a giveaway price because everyone wanted an F-150 at the time.

  80. 80
    KevOH says:

    @The Other Steve: Perhaps you exaggerate slightly? My neighbor has an SVT Contour and loves it. A coworker also owns and races his SVT Contour. For a mid to late 90’s sporty small car the SVT is really a great car, as was the 99-00 Honda Civic Si.

    That said, I can agree with you on the regular contour.

  81. 81
    The Other Steve says:

    Pretty much the Big Three advertisements either insult my intelligence – "I’m going to need a bigger boat!" – or ruin decent songs by using them over and over and over and over and over and over in car commercials. (See Bob Seager "Like a Rock" and Led Zeppelin "It’s been a long time since I’ve rock and rolled".)

    The worst Big Three ad ever was around 2001 when General Motors apologized for building shitty cars the past 20 years and said "But now we’re better!"

    Worst thing was, in 2008 they had to issue another apology for building shitty cars, then saying "But not we’re better"

  82. 82
    jenniebee says:

    Jeremy Clarkson rips on American cars every chance he gets, but he owns a Ford GT and he loves the Corvette. Which is to say that the couple of things that the domestic car companies do well, they do very, very well. They make a few very decent mid-price sports cars. They are the people you want to go to for very large luxury cars. They make some indestructible trucks.

    But the rest… their marketing people controlled the thinking too much on their sedans. They decided that, rather than give consumers a choice of a well-appointed smaller car, there was more money to be made in forcing the buyer to accept a larger car in order to get the more comfortable trim and features. Even after "planned obsolescence," the same supply-side marketing idea that got them into that disaster was allowed to continue to flourish. So everything got bigger as it got better, which was not the way that the European and Japanese companies took things, which lost the Big 3 market share in a market they were insisting didn’t exist (or, at the very least, wouldn’t have if everybody else would just go along with their way of thinking!)

    So this is the problem that the Big 3 have – they can make good cars, but they keep expending effort trying to manipulate their consumer base that would better be used taking a lesson from their successful lines: just build a good car already.

  83. 83
    p.a. says:

    Off topic, but how about appliances? My main fridge is a GE from 1966, my stove is GE 1958- the 8 inch coil is original. It’s really nice, there’s a switch for the 8 inch so I can use just the inner coil, a built in analog meat thermometer that shuts off the oven at the desired temp, 2 120 volt outlets, one of them that works off the timer, and I bought an oven thermometer to check the thermostat. It’s spot on. The cellar kitchen (yes, I’m Italian-American) has a GE fridge from the 1950’s (same model was in one of Elaine Benes’ apartments), a GE freezer circa 1972- both parents worked for GE- and an kerosene-on-gas stove from before 1920. It was originally wood or coal-on-gas but was converted. I’ve been thinking of converting back, but it is currently exhausted into the furnace chimney, which is illegal, and I have more pressing needs than moving, repiping and reexhausting it.

    I know the refridgerators and freezer are energy hogs, but new ones have a life expectancy of 10 years at best, so I figure I’ve saved in replacement costs what I expend on energy, and I am interested to see if these chestnuts will outlast me.
    Washer and dryer are, sadly, new. Old ones just didn’t have what it takes.

    Now for small appliances…

  84. 84
    Bootlegger says:

    This probably bodes ill for NASCAR too. Dodge only got in in the last 10 years or so, finally breaking up the Ford/Chevy duopoly. Then Toyota got into it a couple years ago, and of course are now winning races. So, will Dodge now be Fiat in NASCAR? That will be cool as heads explode. Similarly explosive would be if GM goes into bankruptcy and there is no more Chevy in NASCAR.

    I love Subarus John, great cars. I’m totally convinced their rally racing experiences translate into their quality cars. If you think about it, this is the only kind of auto racing that even could translate directly on to the road.

  85. 85
    BenA says:

    @The Other Steve:

    After 1991 the ford Escort was actually a rebadged Mazda 323.

    I think that was just the engine in the GT. Not to mention they went through redesigns in 1993 and 1995.

  86. 86
    The Other Steve says:

    Perhaps you exaggerate slightly? My neighbor has an SVT Contour and loves it. A coworker also owns and races his SVT Contour. For a mid to late 90’s sporty small car the SVT is really a great car, as was the 99-00 Honda Civic Si.

    That said, I can agree with you on the regular contour.

    Perhaps they’re just such bland styling that I don’t recognize them on the road. But I seriously haven’t seen one in years.

  87. 87
    Cat Lady says:

    @Bob In Pacifica:

    Buick Roadmasters. Once in a while, I’ll see an old 70’s Roadmaster station wagon, and just marvel at how ridiculously big they are. My best friend had one, and three of us could hide under the back deck to get into the drive-in for free.

    I loved my 2000 Grand Cherokee, never had any problems, except for the brakes, which they fixed on recall. That was my first V-8, then gas hit $4/gal., then I got my CR-V. Kind of sounds like a sewing machine, but it’s got what I need for New England winters. Great service too.

  88. 88
    anonevent says:

    @The Other Steve: Some of that was the most recent Ford running the company that did that. He killed off the Contour before it really got going; killed the Escort, Ford’s good small car; and killed the Taurus, the best known car behind the F150 and the Mustang. The only good reason is because their names didn’t begin with F – he replaced them with the Focus, Fusion, and 500. I like my Focus, but his decisions didn’t seem to have any reason to them.

    The new CEO has brought back the Taurus, though it will take years to build the name back. And in 2010, the Fiesta Jeremy on Top Gear used in the beach assault exercise will be built in America.

  89. 89
    BenA says:

    @jibeaux:
    I have the Taurus X. It’s a tiny bit bigger than the Freestyle but that’s about it. I hate the car they’re replacing it with the the Ford Flex… Blah.

  90. 90
    gbear says:

    The last two vehicles I’ve owned have been used Ford Rangers. Part of the attraction (other than being able to haul stuff) has been that the Rangers roll off an assembly line in my very own city.
    That said, Ford hasn’t bothered to update the trucks for centuries. The mileage is pathetic and never improves from year to year.
    The Ford factory in St. Paul is on it’s last legs and will be closing in the near future (although Ford has been nursing the closing along in order to bust the unions here). I’d already decided that I wouldn’t be buying another Ranger due to the piss-poor mileage. Too bad because I like it otherwise. I have no idea what my next vehicle will be.
    Last spring I bought a Taiwanese Kymco People S250 scooter to cut back on gas consumption and have a little more fun getting around. The truck sat in the garage for weeks at a time last summer.

  91. 91
    Napoleon says:

    Just for grins, what I have owned:

    80 Chevy Citation, bought new, a complete POS and the last American made car I bought
    87 or 88 Mazda RX-7, bought new (great car)
    older first or second generation Honda Civic
    older Mazda GLC (good car)
    used Ford Festiva (this was a rebadged Kia, based on an old Mazda design)
    second used Ford Festiva
    used Ford Aspire, which was just a renamed Festiva (you can tell this car treated me well since I bought 3)
    76 Triumph TR-6
    01 Toyoda Echo (good car)
    old Chevy Suburban (a POS)
    02 Toyoda Tacoma (very good truck)

    I currently still have the Echo but have been thinking of replacing it.

  92. 92
    The Other Steve says:

    I think that was just the engine in the GT. Not to mention they went through redesigns in 1993 and 1995.

    Nope. Entire car.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F.....h_America)

    I think it was part of their World Car strategy. They had bought the stake in Mazda, and instead of redesigning the Escort they just took the Mazda car and resold it everywhere as the Escort.

    It was not a bad car. I knew several people who had them, and while cheap and kind of flimsy they did generally run well for years.

    It was better after 1994 or so when they eliminated the automatic seatbelts in nearly all cars.

  93. 93
    Andrew says:

    My purchased brand new 1978 Pontiac LeMans: I loved the way that car drove, smooth and handled beautifully, interior was classic bench seat comfortable.

    Consider yourself lucky that you had a ’78.

    I learned to drive on a ’77 Grand LeMans and the word ‘handling’ should never, ever enter a discussion about that line of cars. Piloting that vehicle was akin to sailing a supertanker. You issued commands to the engine room and at some point in the future, it’s massively detuned V8 complied very, very slowly. As for steering, you could turn the steering wheel all of the way around before the car leaned in that direction and started squealing the tires. At 10 miles per hour.

  94. 94
    jibeaux says:

    @BenA:
    I just thought it was weird that they started calling it the Taurus X when as far as I can tell it doesn’t resemble a Taurus, isn’t built on that platform or anything…kind of a decision of "wait, we stopped making the Taurus but that name had decent credibility, let’s slap it on a completely different car." I don’t know if that’s what they were thinking, just what it seemed like to me. Do you like yours?

  95. 95
    Brian J says:

    GM has damaged their image so bad, I don’t think it would matter what they built today. Nobody is even going to look at them.

    If they keep running those commercials where Kate Walsh, the redheaded hottie from "Private Practice," or that lovely dark haired woman who looks like a younger Sela Ward, talk about how their Caddies practically bring them to have an orgasm, I might buy one…if I were in the market for a car like that. Maybe I can just enjoy the commercials instead.

  96. 96
    BenA says:

    @The Other Steve:
    They didn’t eliminate the electric seatbelt until after 1995.. because I had a 1995 Escort with one. It sucked…. but other than that the car was great for me for 10 years and 150k.

  97. 97
    The Other Steve says:

    Some of that was the most recent Ford running the company that did that. He killed off the Contour before it really got going; killed the Escort, Ford’s good small car; and killed the Taurus, the best known car behind the F150 and the Mustang. The only good reason is because their names didn’t begin with F – he replaced them with the Focus, Fusion, and 500. I like my Focus, but his decisions didn’t seem to have any reason to them.

    Actually they didn’t kill the Taurus.

    It’s just that for years most Taurus sales had been fleet cars(rentals). They were having trouble attracting buyers to dealerships to buy a Taurus because they could buy a one year old model for half price. So they made a decision to continue selling the old style Taurus to the fleets, but then rebadge the newly designed model as the 500 and sell that through dealerships hoping to make it unique and attractive. It was actually a pretty innovative idea, I think.

    The problem was, by this point everybody was pretty well trained to stay away from Ford dealerships if you wanted to buy a new family sedan. So 500 sales were pretty bad. Plus it was a dumb name.

    They gave up on this strategy and changed the name of the 500 back to Taurus, but it’s still mostly just sold to fleets not individuals.

  98. 98
    Napoleon says:

    @Andrew:

    That sounds like my dads 1978 Oldsmobile Delta 88 that I learned to drive in.

  99. 99
    The Other Steve says:

    They didn’t eliminate the electric seatbelt until after 1995.. because I had a 1995 Escort with one. It sucked…. but other than that the car was great for me for 10 years and 150k.

    I was saying in general. It depended on the car and when they were redesigned. They were phased out from around 1994-1997. But yeah, those automatic belts were sucky.

    I had a friend with a ’92 Dodge Colt. You’d hit a bump and the seatbelts would disengage. It was kind of funny, if not annoying. :-)

  100. 100
    Tom65 says:

    Apart from having the corporate HQ in the US, what qualifies as an "American" car these days? Hondas are built in Ohio, Subarus are built in Indiana, BMWs are built in South Carolina, Mercedes are built in Alabama, Toyotas are built in California, etc.

  101. 101
    Keith says:

    It’s a shame about GM generally because they’re at the forefront of the (affordable) plug-in hybrid tech front with their Volt. On the other hand, I’ve never liked the styling on most US cars, although generally, their quality has been pretty good from what I hear from friends who own them. And Car & Driver raves about some of the European Ford models (much better styling with great mileage), which inexplicably never show up in the States.

  102. 102
    BenA says:

    @jibeaux:
    I love mine. The extra row of seats rocks with kids… and I didn’t want a minivan. I really don’t have a single complaint. Decent gas milage on long trips… had it for about 9 months and already took two 2500 mile road trips in it.

    It might just be styling with the Taurus X… but when you see one next to a Freestyle it is a bit bigger. It’s not a huge difference but it’s noticable.

    What Ford did was take the 500 and the Freestyle and rebrand it as the Taurus and the Taurus X…

    My main question though is when did stationwagon become crossover. ;-)

  103. 103
    Bootlegger says:

    @Brian J: Howie Long is selling me on their new mid-size SUV. Our family is getting bigger and we’ll need a 7-seater soon. I’m thinking of going GM just to help save the unions.

  104. 104
    The Other Steve says:

    I would put a Caddy up against anything Toyota puts on the road including their Lexus sister vehicles in terms of quality and thats real. Oh and by the way, just because people think Mercedes or BMW are status symbols doesn’t make them a better car.

    I had a buddy with a Caterra. You would not believe the weird problems he had with that car. Just flat out weird. Radio would just suddenly change channels, or A/C would go haywire. Then one day the car just wouldn’t start. And this was on a 2 year old model.

    I own a 2002 BMW 325xi, best car I’ve ever owned flat out. It’ll turn 7 years old next month, and it drives better at 7 then anything American or Japanese brand new.

    If you buy a BMW with a stick, it isn’t a status symbol. It’s a work of art. It’s the idiots who can’t drive and run a slush box who are just buying it as a status symbol.

  105. 105
    jibeaux says:

    @BenA:

    I had a Volvo 940 wagon. THAT was a station wagon. You could haul, like, four coffins in it, but only five people. People look at the Freestyle and they don’t really know what to call it, some people call it a van and some people say they like my truck. Not many people call it a wagon, not mine anyway, it’s a little too beefy looking, I think. So I think it’s a crossover if people don’t know what it is. Also it has to have the third row.

    EDIT: Okay, 9 people, IF four of them are in coffins.

  106. 106
    harlana pepper says:

    I drive a Mazda (11 years old, no problems whatsoever with general maintenance), mom drives a Toyota, dad drives a Mitsubishi truck (I know, I know) and my brother, who is a self-described redneck, drives a Firebird — which he is dying to trade in for a Japanese car. I tried AND TRIED to tell him he needed to buy a Honda. Of course, here we are a few years later and now he agrees.

  107. 107
    Bootlegger says:

    @Tom65: All with union-free labor that is paid less than their union counterparts and the states with those factories absorbing the "legacy costs" of their future health care and retirement. Check out how those particular states rank in distributing health care and putting people in housing. Those auto workers are in the gentle hands of compassionate conservatives.

  108. 108
    harlana pepper says:

    It seems what we are seeing here is that different people have had different experiences, some good, some great, some bad, with their American made cars. Consistency sure seems to be a problem.
    Biggest problem I’ve had with them is cutting off in cold weather. My first car (well not MY car, but my parents let me drive it) was a ’65 Dodge. Looking back, it was quite a nice-looking piece of machine (white with red interior), but we had that problem with it – used to totally freak my mom out at stop lights. I can still feel the panic – she wasn’t much for driving.

  109. 109
    Steve V says:

    My wife drives a Toyota Highlander. Had to drive a rental, a Chevy sedan, for a while, and it was like going back to the 1980s. Crappy brakes, crappy ergonomics, handled turns like hell. Just a terrible car. Sister in law came to visit and rented a compact American car … don’t remember the model. Same problem. A Corolla looked like a luxury car next to it. Just terrible driving experiences.

    However reliable American cars might be, the few I’ve seen in recent years drive like crap compared to any foreign models. It shouldn’t be hard to make a car that people enjoy driving.

  110. 110
    BenA says:

    @jibeaux:
    I grew up with the old Volvo box wagon and a 760 Wagon… loved those things.

    I had a Trailblazer before the Taurus X. The thing was built like a truck but was practically useless for hauling stuff and maybe fit 4 people. The Taurus X is a much more useful car, I can fit a lot more people in it, and the fold down seats all the way to the front really is useful. I still need to get a trailer hitch on the Taurus X…

    I still think it’s a wagon though. ;-)

  111. 111
    Adrienne says:

    The American manufacturers needed to step up their game for years. They just never did it.

    There’s a lot of blame to go around for that. They have been subsidized and coddled for years by every level of government which led them to (falsely) believe they were competitive. There were numerous incentives built into the tax code for people to purchase their vehicles which artificially kept their sales high on certain vehicles. They didn’t give a shit about quality and efficiency because they lobbied very aggressively to 1) keep their subsidies and 2) fight increases in the fuel efficiency standard. This one two punch kept them afloat for years.

  112. 112
    Bootlegger says:

    @BenA: I didn’t realize Ford was making an all-wheel drive 6-seater. I’ll have to look into that.

  113. 113
    John T says:

    @Bootlegger:

    I’d like to find one where cartoon Calvin is peeing on the Roman torture device.

    Heheh, I’ve also had the idea to splice those two stickers together. But that would be just begging to get my car keyed (or worse) by a nutty christianist, probably not worth the risk.

  114. 114
    BenA says:

    @Steve V:
    I think rental cars give American cars a bad name for the most part… because you really are driving the most stripped down barest version of the car.

  115. 115
    The Other Steve says:

    It seems what we are seeing here is that different people have had different experiences, some good, some great, some bad, with their American made cars. Consistency sure seems to be a problem.

    They used to say never buy a Chevy assembled on Monday or Friday. :-)

    Part of it is consistency of vehicles. A large part of it though is what you are used to. If you’ve never owned a good car, then it’s amazing what you will put up with.

    I used to be a big defender of American automobiles up until the mid 1990s. But I felt I was burned one too many times, and I suppose now my attitude is "fuck ’em".

    The problem is, they burned about half of the American population one too many times. Few people I know will even visit a Big Three dealership, even to look. You see this at the auto show even, the populations are nearly entirely segregated.

  116. 116
    Rainy says:

    My Mom bought a Ford Escort in 1990. She hated it. She had to start fixing something on that thing after a year. She bought a 92 Nissan Sentra, too and let me drive the Escort after I got my license. I drive the ’92 Nissan Sentra right now. You don’t have to do anything to do that car except change the oil, do a tune up and change the tires. That’s it. You shouldn’t have to do major engine work to a car after only 5 years. Sorry.

    My Mom has a 2005 Hyundai Elantra now. She has to constantly replace the sensors in that thing.

    So it really depends on when the car was made and by who. I’m sure American cars are much better now.

  117. 117
    harlana pepper says:

    Aw, go ahead and have yer Sela Ward Caddie fantasies, never mind, don’t want to ruin it for you, BrianJ — ;)

  118. 118
    The Other Steve says:

    I think rental cars give American cars a bad name for the most part… because you really are driving the most stripped down barest version of the car.

    No, the cars really are that bad.

    My parents have a Buick Rendezvous, and I can’t drive it long distance. The steering is so sloppy, you have to continually correct as you are driving and it’s exhausting.

    Otherwise it’s not a terrible vehicle. It’s just hard to drive.

  119. 119
    BenA says:

    @Bootlegger:
    I actually have the FWD drive version, but yeah they have an AWD version too…. it’s technically a 7 seater… the rear seat is a two seater, but it’s not that small… much bigger than the Highlanders joke of a third row seat.

  120. 120
    harlana pepper says:

    Anyway, my next car is gonna be a Honda, I’m sorry. The brand is totally dead to me. I really hate to be that way, but there it is.

  121. 121
    BenA says:

    @The Other Steve:
    /*shrug*/ I have a 2008 Impala and the steering is fine, test drove the Honda Accord, Toyota Avalon, and the Hyundai Azaria and it compared very favorably. I had a 2004 Trailblazer with absolute mush for steering though.

  122. 122
    Balconesfault says:

    @jibeaux:

    Well, I’ve got a Ford Freestyle, which I think they subsequently started calling the Taurus X or something dumb, anyway it’s a crossover and I love it.

    I see the Freestyle as symptomatic of why Detroit is so screwed up.

    Anyone who thinks that advertising doesn’t shape how a lot of the buying public decides to spend their dollars should ask why the f corporations spend so damn much money on it, then. And at a time when Detroit could have been taking the lead to push the fuel efficient cars they were making out the door, by running advertising focussing on fuel efficiency and economy, they were pumping all their ad dollars into bigger behemoth sales.

    The Freestyle is a great car, gets me 28 mpg on the highway while loaded with 4 or 5 boy scouts headed to a campout. And had it been being sold last summer, when oil/gas prices exploded, they’d have been able to move them like hotcakes. But they’d already replaced it with the less fuel efficient/bigger engine Taurus X.

  123. 123
    Zifnab says:

    @BenA: That’s more amenities though. If your brakes are soft or your engine overheats or your crank shaft breaks, all the leather seating and climate control in the world won’t make you feel better.

    People can handle driving cars without all the bells and whistles. But they can’t handle driving a car that doesn’t… you know… drive.

  124. 124
    harlana pepper says:

    @The Other Steve:

    I won’t put up with much if I don’t have to. If my car doesn’t run smooth with general maintenance, I am NOT a happy camper. I’ve never had that problem with Japanese cars so I guess I’m pretty spoiled. The only issue I’ve have about the Mazda is that it "sheds" upholstery from the top (roof) in powdery little pieces – almost like it has dandruff.

  125. 125
    jibeaux says:

    @jibeaux: @BenA:

    Well, in keeping with the different cars, different stories, no consistency theme, I hated mine, it was a lemon, and repairs cost a fortune, and I comparison shopped. Had it about a year and a half. When I dumped it for $1250, I tallied up the repair costs and the depreciation, and just about sobbed. I could’ve leased, oh, any car on the market for what I spent on that thing. I literally could have had 18 months of a top of the line, brand new BMW. And I know there are a million other people who have 400k mile Volvos, but personal anecdotes really shape your views.

  126. 126
    The Other Steve says:

    I have a 2008 Impala and the steering is fine, test drove the Honda Accord, Toyota Avalon, and the Hyundai Azaria and it compared very favorably. I had a 2004 Trailblazer with absolute mush for steering though.

    Maybe for kicks I should go test drive an Impala to see if they improved much.

    The last American car I drove that didn’t have sloppy steering was a Dodge Neon. But in generally they’re really badly overpowered. The Grand Prix’s I’ve driven as rentals have been really bad.

    Still worst car ever was the Chevy Malibu.

  127. 127
    El Cid says:

    I also wish the U.S. government (Congress & the administration) had not collaborated with the idiot leadership of U.S. automakers in the 1990s to delay any real increase in fuel economy standards; in favoring SUV production over passenger vehicle production in taxes on the justification that they were really just like work trucks; and in literally giving away $100K to small businesses to get them to buy brand new, over 6500 lb vehicles, so that all sorts of douchebag local gym or cellphone store owners could drive around in a free Hummer.

    Imagine how things would have been different had we said, no, all fuel economy standards will rise, both fleet average and per vehicle.

    Or, no, we will tax your bullsh*t ‘SUV’ as much as the passenger car alternative, so that we’re not subsidizing consumers to buy SUV’s.

    Or, no, we will only give small businesses tax breaks to buy real work – utility vehicles, and we will preferentially support fuel efficient vehicles, etc.

    But, no, we had to choose to give in to the very worst and short-sighted impulses of the U.S. auto industry, while our foreign rivals kept upping their fuel economy (and / or lowering engine size and / or weight) standards.

  128. 128
    BenA says:

    @Zifnab:
    I’m with you on that… but if your only experience with American cars is the base model stripped down Chevy Cobalt you got from the rental car company… your not exactly getting the best look at a one.

    I drove a Nissan Altima from Enterprise and it was absolutely awful. It was loud, was not responsive, and handled like a yak.

  129. 129
    jibeaux says:

    @Balconesfault:

    Huh. I always thought it was the same car, different name, but I definitely believe you guys that the Taurus X is bigger. Mine seems plenty big enough, seats 7 no problem although adults would certainly be a little cramped in the third row. I have not achieved 28 mph real world, though, although since no one exclusively highway drives it’s possible I get that much on the highway only. It’s not bad at all mileage for the size, if you need the 7 seater, and it holds anything. I got a coffee table and a really tall bookcase (almost 8 feet) in it once at the same time and closed the tailgate on ’em just fine. I recommend it, bootlegger!

  130. 130
    Don SinFalta says:

    I have to say, my experience has been rather different from the conventional wisdom on car quality. I’ve owned 5 Japanese cars, a 73 Toyota Corona wagon, an 81 Mazda GLC, a 95 Lexus LS400, a 96 Toyota Corolla, and a 2001 Honda Odyssey. The Lexus is the second most unreliable piece of junk I’ve ever owned (after an Audi 100). The 73 Toyota was a piece of junk too, but Toyota was known for making junk back then. The Mazda’s engine had to be replaced just before it made it to 100,000 miles, and the Corolla got totalled by my daughter before it had been around long enough for me to know how good it was. I think I’m done with the vaunted Toyotas. The Honda has been a fine car, I’d have more where that came from. Over the same timeframe, I’ve owned 3 GM cars (and trucks), all of which suffered from mediocre efficiency and syling, but none of which gave me any particular quality problems. 2 Chryslers, same comments as for GM. 1 Ford, another pile of junk. So my personal experience just doesn’t support the quality advantage of the Japanese at all, I now prefer to buy Japanese (selectively) because Detroit just hasn’t been building anything I want to buy, since I don’t want an SUV or a pickup truck.

  131. 131
    BenA says:

    @jibeaux:
    I actually got over 28mpg, the only time I have, around 32mpg on the road trips I took, from PA to Manitoba, and back but that’s true of any car.

  132. 132
    harlana pepper says:

    I also drove a ’72 Chevy Caprice in my college years (talk about navigating a house on wheels) which accounts for my supreme ability to back into and park in tight spaces

    Yep, that’s right, I’m old as dirt :)

  133. 133
    Balconesfault says:

    @jibeaux: The Taurus X isn’t really bigger, except for the engine. We own the Freestyle, and I spent a week last winter driving a rental Taurus X around California – and the interior is almost identical, except for a few fit and finish difference.

  134. 134
    Laura W says:

    @Bootlegger:

    I’m thinking of going GM just to help save the unicorns.

    I need to stop scaning comments so quickly.

  135. 135
    jibeaux says:

    @BenA:

    That’s pretty great. I’m always checking my tire pressure but I think I might need to get a digital gauge for better accuracy. I’m not a stop-and-start driver, either, so I’m not sure what else to do, but if anyone has advice I will listen.

  136. 136
    canuckistani says:

    But when was the last time you heard anyone say they loved a GM car – absolutely positively had to have one, the way people want iPods and iPhones.

    1970 Pontiac GTO Judge. A friend of mine had a chance to buy one in 1977, couldn’t raise the cash and he pretty much pined away and died. His empty shell still walks the earth today. Tragic.

  137. 137
    jj says:

    In my relatively short lifetime, I have owned a Datsun wagon, Toyota Wagon, two Chrysler sedans (a LeBaron and Sundance), a Chevrolet Corsica, A Honda Prelude, a VW GTI, A Toyota Celica, A Pontiac Firebird (with v8), a Subaru Impreza and a Mk1 Cadillac CTS-V (my current car)

    The only cars I’d actually go so far as to call "unreliable" were the Chryslers (bad trannys) and the VW (bad electrics). The GM Products did me well – I bought the Corsica from a state auction with 100K. The tranny leaked but it ran for another 100K with no problems until I finally got tired of having it broken into by crackheads.

    The Honda, Datsun and Toyota were swiss watch reliable and the best car I have ever driven by far is the new Mk2 Cadilllac CTS-V. It really is a masterful piece of engineering, though I fear an ultra high performance sedan with a superchared V8 isn’t exactly what the market or GM needs right now.

    I don’t buy that American car makers’ products are necessarily inferior, only that their lines are far too redundant and their marketing unfocused & sporadic.

    Combine these crippling levels of overcapacity, legacy/health costs and STIFF competition from foreign competitors and you have a recipe for calamity.

  138. 138
    Brachiator says:

    One thing I do take issue with is that American cars are all bad. I just don’t agree with that premise. I had a 1983 Chevy Celebrity that I bought from my grandmother’s estate while I was an undergrad, and that car drove every day, reliably, for 24 years.

    This is the problem. GM is not making 1983 Chevy Celebrities anymore.

  139. 139
    Martin says:

    Well, I drive a Honda that was made in Ohio. It’s fantastic – exactly the vehicle that we needed – not bigger than our house, functional, simple without a ton of shit glued on it to help make it look fancy, and reliable as hell.

    Our Saturn before it was great. My relatives drive Toyotas made in the US. The quality of manufacturing here is excellent. The quality of design, relationship to the needs of the market, where R&D dollars are going – those are the problems. Across from my office is a research group that works on fuel cells and hybrid auto tech. Their partners are all Japanese. The US companies have been fighting this change all the way. They fought fuel standards, they fought hybrids, they fought all the *market forces* pulling them in the right direction. They were sure that they were bigger than the consumers and that we would yield to whatever they made.

    As far as I’m concerned, you can fire the entire management team from all of the US automakers and I’m confident we’d gain more than we’d lose.

  140. 140
    Brian J says:

    I also drove a ‘72 Chevy Caprice in my college years (talk about navigating a house on wheels) which accounts for my supreme ability to back into and park in tight spaces

    Yep, that’s right, I’m old as dirt :)

    My brother drove an uncle’s old ’86 Caprice his senior of high school (1999-2000). We called it the Uncle Buck car, because while it looked like a piece of junk but actually drove nicely. (My uncle drove it to and from work and used another, nicer car to get around on other occasions.) I don’t remember if this was before or after this blue car had a white hood put on after my brother dinged it up, but one day when he was driving me and other people to school, it stalled out literally every ten to twenty feet. There was a very angry line of cars behind us for the entire way, but I don’t think people were angrier at any point other than when it happened as he was making the turn into the parking lot. I kind of miss that eye sore stinking up the neighborhood, even though it’s been gone for many years.

  141. 141
    BenA says:

    @Balconesfault:
    I just looked at the specs on Edmunds.com…. out of curiousity… they are virtually the same there’s just a couple of inches difference in height, etc. So in practice there’s no difference… I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t insane because the Taurus X just looked bigger side by side… which is true… but not enough that there’s any practicle difference. :-)

  142. 142
    Original Lee says:

    @Patrick: I agree that the dealership is a big negative in the car buying experience. Even last week, when I was in the throes of buying a new Honda, it was awful. I had competitive prices from 3 different dealerships but decided in the end to go with the dealership that treated me like a rational human being and seemed less douchebaggy than the others.

    I have owned so far:
    1960 Plymouth Fury with push-button transmission
    1970 Chevy Nova with standard transmission
    1976 Datsun wagon with standard transmission
    1984 Chevy Chevette with standard transmission
    1990 Ford Festiva with standard transmission
    1994 Ford Taurus station wagon
    1997 Ford Taurus sedan
    2001 Honda Odyssey minivan (still have this one)
    2009 Honda Odyssey minivan (just bought this last week)

    I sold the Fury in 1980 because it was too rusted out to drive safely, but it still ran like a champ and only needed oil changes. All of the standard transmission cars were sold when they needed a second clutch replacement, and all of them were terrific up until the very end. The Ford Festiva, in particular, I really hated to part with. It had 120,000 miles on it and was still a fun car to drive. Both of the Tauruses were terrific cars but the transmission was the big problem for both of them. A cousin who used to work for Ford told me that the weak point in the transmission was the part that got hit when the car rocked after being put in park and the brakes came off.

  143. 143
    BenA says:

    @jibeaux:
    Nothing real practicle… I don’t get anything close to the 28mpg in day to day driving… but my commute is probably a pretty bad scenario for driving anything but a hyrbid (or a bicycle… which I probably should consider)

  144. 144
    Miriam says:

    I owned a Dodge Neon for 11 years until it was totalled and it was the best car I ever owned. Now I drive a Ford Ranger truck that runs like a top. (Well Ok, I’ve had to replace the handle on the tailgate and fix the passenger side window but they were relatively inexpensive.)

    I buy American because I support unions. I figure I should put my money where my mouth is. And the truck is made locally here in St. Paul which is even better.

    I think there are good American cars, and bad American cars – you just need to do your homework. But that is true of any car you buy.

  145. 145
    Balconesfault says:

    @Martin:

    They were sure that they were bigger than the consumers and that we would yield to whatever they made.

    As far as I’m concerned, you can fire the entire management team from all of the US automakers and I’m confident we’d gain more than we’d lose.

    Bam. Exactly. It’s as if these guys all got into the business because they loved selling big powerful cars … and dammit, sell big powerful cars was what they were going to do, even if it meant spending most of their advertising budget telling people that a hemi-engine with power to tow a battleship was what they needed for their solo 40-mile commute to work each day, or they were some kind of pussy-man.

    That and spending their entire lobbying budget to protect their ability to maximize sales of those dinosaurs.

  146. 146
    Original Lee says:

    @HeartlandLiberal: The silver paint was a recurring GM problem. My grandfather was an Oldsmobile engineer, and he used to laugh about the time his company car had silver paint that gradually turned lurid purple. I think the design and marketing people had a hard-on for silver and ignored the protests of the engineers who knew there would be failures.

  147. 147
    harlana pepper says:

    @Brian J:

    Funny, this car was light blue with white top also – I actually got to pick out the color (I was 8 yo) and I remember I was so frickin excited that we had a new car I used to sit inside the car and play with the lighter – I mean I couldn’t drive the freakin thing at the time, that’s all I could do was push the lighter in, let it cool, and then pop it back in again. Aaaah, car memories – just look at all the car-related memories, good and bad, on this thread. It’s kinda sweet.

  148. 148
    gnomedad says:

    @Bootlegger:

    I still see pickups with a large sticker on the back window of cartoon Calvin pissing on either the Ford or Chevy logo, depending on which brand the truck is.

    I want to puke when I see these. Bill Watterson passed up megabucks of merchandising for the sake of his art and deserves better. He’s probably just too decent to sue whoever makes them.

  149. 149
    gbear says:

    In my 34 years of owning cars I’ve only had 5 vehicles:

    67 Chev Bisquane (or whatever it was called)
    78 Toyota Corolla Station Wagon (bought new)
    87 Mazda 323 Station Wagon (bought new)
    92 Ford Ranger 2wd stick (used)
    02 Ford Ranger 4wd auto (used)

    I’m starting to think it’s time for a new vehicle and I have NO idea what I want. I may be headed back into small wagons again and kind of like the size and looks of the Vibe but I’m skittish about the Pontiac brand. I recently read that they’re built in a plant that also builds Toyotas, so maybe that’s a good sign?

    Given that I can’t afford anything right now anyway, my choices are limited to the current car, the scooter, walking or the bus.

  150. 150
    Corner Stone says:

    @ksmiami

    Maybe Steve Jobs could design cars???

    Ha! Then they’d be smaller and smaller until no one could fit, and they’d be obsolete before Marketing had a chance to send out sales copy. I like your thinking though.

    I have a 95 Chevy Tahoe that my dad was the original owner. Has +200K miles on it, starts every time and rides like your in a nice narco induced dreamstate – that is to sa it rides like buttah. I love it, love every bit of it. Most times I talk to my dad he asks if I’m interested in selling it back to him.
    With that said, my daily driver is a 2008 Honda CR-V. Gets way better gas mileage and drives nice as well. If it was just me I’d still drive the Chevy everyday and not worry about it but with a small child I need something I *know* is going to get us from A to B everytime. No matter how much I enjoy the Tahoe, I just don’t trust anything with that much mileage. Friend I work with is a lifelong Volvo driver and has one with over 300K miles on it. He jokes that my tahoe is just now getting "broke in".

  151. 151
    MAS1916 says:

    Team Obama is now running automobile manufacuring! Yeah! He now gets to handle laying off thousands of UAW workers! Oh wait… he won’t do that… he will just invest billions more of our tax dollars in propping up this loser.

  152. 152
    harlana pepper says:

    I was always jealous of people in college who drove Celicas. I wanted one really bad.

    But then in the ’80’s they totally changed the body style and it was soo uuuuugly!!! I’m like, wtf did they change this cool body style into an ugly box?

  153. 153
    p.a. says:

    I have a 2001 Grand Cherokee with brake rotors that would warp in less than 20,000 miles of use until my mechanic found aftermarket pads that don’t destroy them- a cousin and 2 coworkers had the same problem with 2000 and 2001 models. Torque converter blew at 40,000.

    After MisFail invaded Iraq I bought a ’94 Accord 4 cyl (not vtech) 5 speed and have driven it every day since. Except for reg. maintenance I’ve put in a front axle and an instrument cluster. It has approx. 225k miles (I went about 6 months and 1 speeding ticket w/o the instruments). I use the Jeep for long trips, hauling, and once a week to make sure it is still alive. The guy who sold me the Honda wanted to buy it back for his son when he got his license. Sorry Joe, no way. Now that he sees how the kid destroys the Explorer he bought, he says he’s glad I still have the Honda. When it goes I’m afraid I’ll cry like a baby.

  154. 154
    Ed Drone says:

    GM makes Cadillac and I have never heard anybody refer to a Caddy as a shitty car. Not ever.

    To repeat my jape of the other day, the modern "Welfare Cadillac" IS Cadillac!

    And the part about Chevy vs. Ford territories is true. You’d find only a Ford or a Chevy dealer in each small town, but not both. And this would be true in the next town, too — I don’t know how large each "territory" was, but it was there. I don’t think it was a formal thing, just an "understanding."

    Ed

  155. 155
    Napoleon says:

    @gnomedad:

    I want to puke when I see these. Bill Watterson passed up megabucks of merchandising for the sake of his art and deserves better. He’s probably just too decent to sue whoever makes them.

    Watterson lives just a few miles from me and is very reclusive. I read a story in a local alternative newpaper a couple years back that starts with an imaginary scene where he comes out of a business near his home and sees one of those stickers in the back window of a truck and it makes him sick.

    Oddly his dad is an intellectual property attorney (just like Calvin’s dad) so he wouldn’t need to go far to find someone who would do the suing for him.

    A PS, right around the corner from where Watterson use to live locally there is a local institution, the Popcorn Shoppe, and they had a kids drawing contest where they hung up all the drawings submitted and what do you know, among them was a perfectly drawn Calvin.

  156. 156
    b-psycho says:

    …but without Cadillacs what will America’s pimps drive?

  157. 157
    gbear says:

    @Corner Stone:

    A long time ago Bill Gates compared Microsoft to GM. Here was GM’s response: If Microsoft made cars.

  158. 158
    Tsulagi says:

    My backup car and the one I use for going skiing, hunting or towing a trailer is a 12-year old Jeep Cherokee. It’s still running great. The 4WD with high and low range is excellent. Don’t even own a set of chains for it; no snow conditions have ever stopped it.

    Primary car is a BMW M5. Absolutely in love with it. Kind of a poorer family man’s civilized Porsche 911 Turbo with a real back seat for kids or adults. Too cheap to buy one new, got a great deal on it as a 3-year-old lease return with only 17k miles.

    While really attached to my Jeep, one big reason love the BMW is the intelligent engineering and design work. Routine maintenance including brake jobs is a pleasure to do. Everything out in the open, and for simple things like changing windshield wipers, air filters, or bulbs don’t even need a screwdriver or any tool.

    Whereas with the Jeep, because of the AC compressor location, to change the plug in the #1 cylinder I have to pull the top radiator hose to get at it. And changing the oil filter is a pain in the ass as it’s not easy to get to plus comes off the engine horizontally and sitting above the starter motor. Not smart. That and other aggravating stuff just showing brain-dead design work, or more likely just not giving a shit thinking/hoping all maintenance will be done by a dealer.

    But to be fair, the SO has had two Japanese cars that were much worse for maintenance/repair work. Seemed almost purposefully designed to thwart the home mechanic and force them to take it to a dealer. Luckily one was stolen and the other totaled.

  159. 159
    InflatableCommenter says:

    @Persia:

    It’s reporting in a vacuum taken to absurd heights.

    True enough, although they might miss the point even if the press did start reporting it.

    Basically the UAW has long ago engineered itself what looked like a stable middle class situation with healthcare access built in through the working years and then beyond. Not unlike what we are going to end up with, sooner or later, for everyone in this country. To say that they were ahead of their time in this regard, or that they led in this regard, would be a vast understatement. I happen to think that most of the congenial things about our middle class lifestyle-workstyle was paid for with the blood, sweat and tears of the labor movement.

    But anyway, the car companies’ problem right now is a macrocosm of the plight of a large part of the rest of the American middle class: The government of this country has shirked its responsibility in this area, and the costs of that neglect have fallen onto the shoulders of workers, families, communities, and corporations in a big way … and getting bigger every day.

    This story is not about the car industry. It’s about the YOYO approach to government ushered in by the so-called conservative movement in the last 30 years. It’s about the effects of trying to hold back, or turn back, the inexorable and relentless pressure for progressive policy and shared responsibility that is required in order for a modern economy and society to work.

    The car industry’s problems in this area are the tip of a vast iceberg. Reporting that explained that and illuminated that would be welcomed.

    Unfortunately, we don’t have an information industry that is up to that task. Yet.

  160. 160
    InflatableCommenter says:

    @b-psycho:

    The are driving Escalades right now. Soon it will be Mercedes.

  161. 161
    John S. says:

    I may be headed back into small wagons again and kind of like the size and looks of the Vibe but I’m skittish about the Pontiac brand.

    I’m in the market for a new car at the end of the year, and I’m thinking more along the lines of a VW Jetta Sportwagen. Aside from the peril of diesel pricing, I’m not sure I have seen any major gripes about this vehicle.

    Anyone have any thoughts on the matter?

  162. 162
    Tsulagi says:

    @DRD 1812:

    Harley-Davidson almost went under in the early 1980s. People just weren’t buying those antiquated clunkers with their 50s styling and 40s technology.
    ..
    It’s not a secret that most Harleys are still technically inferior to the imports.

    Thems fighting words! One other vehicle I carry forward from my single, pre-family man days is a ‘67 Harley FLH 1200cc Shovelhead with both kick and electric start. Nothing, absolutely nothing sounds as great and soul satisfying like the sound of a Harley V-twin, especially the older ones. Show me a 40+ year old Japanese bike with around 100k miles still running strong. Doesn’t exist.

  163. 163
    EddieInCA says:

    I love my American Cars:

    1. A 1963 Modified, custom Ford Fairlane 500 Sports Coupe.
    2. A 1965 Ford Mustang Convertible
    2. A 1956 Mercury Monterey Two Door Coupe.

  164. 164
    Andrew says:

    Show me a 40+ year old Japanese bike with around 100k miles still running strong. Doesn’t exist.

    I’m going to go ahead and tell you that you’re wrong, given the (probably) millions of old Hondas with well over 100k miles still running all around the world.

    E.g. Over 60 million Honda Super Cubs have been sold since ’58 and they’re incredibly reliable.

  165. 165
    The Raven says:

    Part of what’s wrong, though, is the US non-health, non-care, non-system wrings money out of the US automakers. So there’s a financial advantage to being an automaker in, say, Japan or Germany, and over the long haul, that tells: there’s more money for R+D and more money to improve production.

  166. 166
    brantl says:

    The problem with the assholes at GM was that they were wedded to the easy buck, and wouldn’t plan for the switchover when people would need fuel efficient vehicles. They kept going for, AND LOBBYING FOR, the easy buck of gas-guzzling cars. No look ahead, no innovation. When they needed to try to be competitive globally they just stuck to the gas guzzlers, and part of that is due to the fiscal obligation that has been construed to exist in our laws for publicly owned companies to their shareholders to maximize profits and to solely do that, AND THAT NEEDS TO BE CHANGED. PERIOD.

  167. 167
    sparky says:

    my experiences:
    first car was a retired Ford Police Interceptor. fun to drive, but for regular, reliable transportation a POS. also, required premium gas for it to get its 8 blocks to the gallon.
    replaced it with a Toyota Tercel, which ran fine until it was stolen.
    same with the !NEW! Toyota Camry, which I didn’t care for, but that didn’t matter cuz that was stolen too. (my former hood is now a hip part of Brooklyn but it sure wasn’t then).
    Volvo 240 wagon. great car, even though i beat it to death.
    i currently am using parents’ hand-me down Honda, the first one i convinced them to buy in 1993. 215k and a few k in repairs later going pretty well. even survived the Florida hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005.
    oh, and i had a Ford Escort for a while in the mid 1990s. worst POS i have ever driven. before i convinced parents to buy Hondas, they used cars that required stopping every hour to fix or cool off. garbage, every single one of them.

    oh, and for the person writing in about how great Caddys are–what about if you want a car that doesn’t assume a bottomless pool of non-Co2 producing oil? exactly. making one fancy-ass car the size of a mobile home doesn’t make you a good car company.

    also, Wilfred is right. some day (maybe sooner rather than later) all of these discussions will be as dead and dusty as the corner blacksmith shop.

  168. 168
    Tsulagi says:

    @Andrew:

    Over 60 million Honda Super Cubs have been sold since ‘58 and they’re incredibly reliable.

    Never heard of a Honda Super Cub; had to look it up.

    49cc?! Four, count them 4 hp? That’s not a motorcycle, that’s a toy.

  169. 169
    Martin says:

    Part of what’s wrong, though, is the US non-health, non-care, non-system wrings money out of the US automakers. So there’s a financial advantage to being an automaker in, say, Japan or Germany, and over the long haul, that tells: there’s more money for R+D and more money to improve production.

    That’s partly true, but not entirely, otherwise Honda, Toyota, and damn near everyone else wouldn’t have plants in the US.

    And those companies do a lot of their R&D in the US, even. The US guys are just doing the wrong R&D. They’re focusing on racing, horsepower, and a million things outside of making cars. Some pretty good stuff has come out of the US recently – OnStar, as an example, but GM didn’t allow it to open up into as profitable an enterprise as it could because they decided to use it as a crutch to hold up the desirability of GM cars, rather than open it up to all the automakers and let it be profitable on its own.

    But our last car buying experience was insightful, if anecdotal. We were looking for a small, efficient hauler. Something with AWD/4WD that we could take to the snow, camping, etc. We needed to be able to jam 4 people and a few weeks of camping gear in it. The big-3 didn’t have a single vehicle that fit our needs. They had big haulers like the Explorer, but I don’t want to get 14MPG, and it was bigger than we needed. There were virtually no wagons, crossovers, or small SUVs from the big-3 and most were geared around fitting 7 people (we have 4 and a dog, we don’t need 7). The few vehicles that did deserve a look were horribly inflexible on the interior and would have required a much larger vehicle to haul what we wanted compared to what a smaller/cheaper/better mileage vehicle from Honda or Toyota would do. We actually shopped for a US made vehicle and wound up with a Honda that fit all of our needs, was cheap, and was made in the US.

  170. 170
    Napoleon says:

    @Tsulagi:

    49cc?! Four, count them 4 hp? That’s not a motorcycle, that’s a toy.

    The Budweiser Clydesdale Wagon has more then that.

  171. 171
    gypsy howell says:

    I’m thinking more along the lines of a VW Jetta Sportwagen.

    Have a 2005 Jetta TDI wagon, and like it a lot. I hear the new ones are even better. VW stopped importing diesel wagons for a few years, or I might have held out for a newer, plusher model. Gets about 40 mpg, and would do better, I’m sure, if Mr Howell didn’t drive like a maniac. Perfect size for us, the dog, and an occasional kid-home-from-college.

    One downside- we had to replace the timing belt at 75k miles (probably could have waited longer, but Mr Howell didn’t want to take a chance on it)- so there’s a $1000 "tax" right off the bat.

    This is my first VW, but I’m a fan now.

    Previous cars:
    1978 Honda Civic – loved loved loved. The Little Red Rocket Sled. 175k+ miles, until one day someone went WHAM into the back of the poor thing. I still miss it.

    Numerous 1970s-1990s box-styled Volvos – several 240Ds, 940s, 960 wagon- all loved loved loved, but would never ever buy the sanitized, homogenized Ford-ized versions today.

    The rest of the current fleet:
    2005 Corolla – little grocery store runabout. Just fine, but no love.
    1997 Ford F-150 – the farm beast.

  172. 172
    gypsy howell says:

    I love my American Cars:
    1. A 1963 Modified, custom Ford Fairlane 500 Sports Coupe.
    2. A 1965 Ford Mustang Convertible
    2. A 1956 Mercury Monterey Two Door Coupe.

    I rest my case. 40+ years since they made a car you could love.

  173. 173
    passerby says:

    @UncommonSense:

    My grandparents, aunts and uncles were cattlemen and rice farmers in SW LA. The ONLY trucks they would buy for the farm were Chevrolets. So I was taught and have always assumed that Chevy made a superior pick-up truck.

  174. 174
    Indylib says:

    I need to buy my daughter a small, reasonably fuel-efficient 4WD. Any suggestions from people who drive them? I like both the Honda CRV and the Toyota RAV4, but does anybody have any info on Jeep Liberty or Hyundai Santa Fe? I won’t go GM, she is currently driving a 1997 Bravada that has less than 100,000 miles on it and is falling apart daily, despite the fact that it was babied all it’s life.

  175. 175
    valdivia says:

    totally OT but it looks like that letter that we sent to Russia seems to be paying off. Should be interesting to see how the next couple of days play out with Obama in Europe.

  176. 176
    Andrew says:

    49cc?! Four, count them 4 hp? That’s not a motorcycle, that’s a toy.

    Okay, so it can’t go up steep hills, but it is the single best selling thing with an engine ever, so it obviously works pretty well.

  177. 177
    brian griffin says:

    @b-psycho:

    what will pimps drive without caddie? dude, you are so behind the times.

    the pimps drive new bmw’s with 22" chrome wheels. the kids who want to look like pimps, otoh, drive their grandparents’ old gm cruisers, jacked up on 24’s with color-shifting paint

  178. 178
    brian griffin says:

    @Martin:

    foreign makes have assembly plants in the US. for the most part, that’s different than having both parts factories and assembly plants here.

    in other words, it’s worth paying almost-uaw wages and benefits, just to be able to sell a foreign car made of foreign parts, as a domestic one. Plus, all the southern states are lining up to give them the plants for free, so it’s win-win for the foreign companies. most of their employees still get govt health-care, just not the ones at the end of the assembly line.

    I do agree with you on the finding a car that’s flexible in what it can do. it’s why I drive a saab 9-5 sportcombi (from GM!) and couldn’t find an American car to really suit our needs.

  179. 179
    Corner Stone says:

    @Martin #169 – which Honda did you pick? And did you say a few *weeks* of camping gear? As in a month of camping?

  180. 180
    Joel says:

    U.S. cars are fine. They’re certainly no less reliable than those made by their markedly more successful european competitors.

    The issues, as I see it are:

    1) Design (many U.S. cars are ugly)
    2) Marketing (U.S. manufacturers pushed their big vehicles aggressively, pitching to the (extremely unstable) wealth in rural/exurban markets and alienating the more liberal, environmentalist urban markets.
    3) Branding. The car companies are synonymous with old, and of good times gone by. They need to reinvent themselves, like Apple did in the mid-late 90’s.

  181. 181
    Halteclere says:

    @passerby:

    My grandparents, aunts and uncles were cattlemen and rice farmers in SW LA. The ONLY trucks they would buy for the farm were Chevrolets. So I was taught and have always assumed that Chevy made a superior pick-up truck.

    Funny! Where I grew up in Missouri, Dodge was the brand people bought for use on the farm only, Ford was the brand people bought for both farm and city life, and Chevy was the brand that people bought that never left the city.

  182. 182
    EddieInCA says:

    I love my American Cars:
    1. A 1963 Modified, custom Ford Fairlane 500 Sports Coupe.
    2. A 1965 Ford Mustang Convertible
    2. A 1956 Mercury Monterey Two Door Coupe.

    Of course, I’d never have an American car as my daily driver. My everyday car is a 2002 Mercedes E320. Runs like a dream. Never fails to start. And nice on the eyes. Plus 23+ mpg.

  183. 183
    REN says:

    I suspect that if gas was still near $4:00 a gallon, that more of this conversation would be taken up by American car companies refusal to address this issue in any serious way.

    I worked at American car dealerships for 30 years in the service end of the business and have been saying for many years that this reckoning for them was simply a matter of time.It is most assuredly a management problem. I can’t think of the clowns name ,but until very recently one of the heads at GM was shooting his gob off about global warming being a hoax. He is not an isolated example in that industry.

    Just in case anyone doesn’t realize it this reduction in fuel costs is temporary and if you haven’t gotten yourself a fuel efficient car yet, I would strongly advise that you do so.Especially now that there is talk of a tax credit this year for doing so. As many others here with some insight into this management mentality have stated, they made this bed and they should now have to lie in it.

    Someone here was talking about the popularity of the Ford Focus in Europe. Are you aware that the model that is so popular there is the one with the very efficient diesel engine which approaches 60 miles per gallon? In a perfect example of management shortsightedness, Ford says that Americans will not accept a diesel engine in a passenger car,and have no plans to introduce it in the American market.Unbelievable! Right there in a nutshell is the management philosophy that has gotten them where they are today.

  184. 184
    Fax Paladin says:

    @Bootlegger:

    Howie Long is turning me off Chevys. Ford comes up with a useful idea — the side and back steps on the new F-150 — and Chevy’s response is to have Howie deprecate the masculinity of anyone who needs one. "C’mon! Take your hernia like a man! You gotta play hurt!"

  185. 185
    Crusty Dem says:

    Joel says:

    U.S. cars are fine. They’re certainly no less reliable than those made by their markedly more successful european competitors.

    I’m sorry, this is just BS. Ask anyone who’s switched from GM to a Honda or Toyota. My last US car was a 1995 Chevy Cavalier, which I bought largely because I got several thousand off with the GM card. In theory it was a good car. Nice mileage, good power, decent handling, a little cheap on the interior, but overall a solid design. But it was an unmitigated disaster of a car, with flawed construction showing up within 6 months. The passenger seat started to disintegrate in the first year due to something spilled on it in the factory. The oil pan leaked onto the clutch plate, burning out both in the 2nd year. The newly replaced clutch self-destructed the next year. There were multiple other problems, some design, some construction, that resulted in trips to the dealer (most of which were repaired w/o cost to me, due to being in the warranty period). When a natural disaster destroyed it after 4 years, my insurance company cut me a check for $7,400 and I thought I was guilty of insurance fraud, since I didn’t think it was worth $4,000. Switched to Honda and never looked back. The only repair I’ve had in my Accord is a new window motor/clutch (which is their one design disaster), other than that, it’s like a new car…

    I know it’s my N=1 example, but I don’t know anyone who’s gone to Honda or Toyota and has any intention of going back to GM.

  186. 186
    priscianus jr says:

    I love our 2000 Buick Century. Gets 30 mpg on the highway and still has plenty of pep.

  187. 187
    Crusty Dem says:

    Joel says:

    U.S. cars are fine. They’re certainly no less reliable than those made by their markedly more successful european competitors.

    And I need remedial reading. Not sure about Euro vs US, just Japanese…

  188. 188
    gnomedad says:

    I’m wondering if we could somehow move the wingnuts onto Ford vs. Chevy. It could dissipate a lot of hate and help heal the country.

  189. 189
    InflatableCommenter says:

    I’m sorry, this is just BS.

    No sale. You cherry picked a car that had its design roots in the early 90’s, and which was also sold as the Toyota Cavalier.

    The car is not an example of modern automotive technology (say, model year 2000 or later, just as a crude cutoff point).

    The car carried componentry whose design and manufacture characteristics could probably be traced back to the 1980’s easily, maybe earlier.

    No car in this class can be considered remotely typical of the mainstream products being manufactured today.

  190. 190
    binzinerator says:

    @Martin:

    The US guys are just doing the wrong R&D.

    I’ve always suspected a good deal of the R&D they’ve done was with no intention to actually use it but to deny someone else from using it. I can’t recall now but I read somewhere recently that GM owned or had the rights to the most extensive collection in the world of patents relating to alternate energy vehicles. They stuffed them all in a vault and that was that.

    Their idea of strategic vision was to stake out a future technology and sit on it, not use it. If there ever was long-range planning, it was defensive and reactive not leading and proactive.

    Now they have to scramble to turn their defensive stockpile of R&D and patents into production vehicles.

    This is where Japan completed the pwnage (the other part was their quality management approach). The engineering and technical challenges to mass produce these vehicles are as daunting as what went into the original research. (Like, how the hell does one get a million super-capacity batteries, which itself may require solving enormous technological and mass production problems).

    I don’t think the Volt is going to save GM because it should have been on the street this year to make that happen. It’s vaporware. And GM doesn’t have the time to figure out what Toyota and Honda have spent the last decade doing — figuring out how to get new technology in the form of a one-off hand built concept car to the street at a hundred thousand units a year. Toyota’s Prius has been on the road for a dozen years already. That experience is priceless.

    The Big 3 are so fucked. To turn all that R&D they’ve been sitting on into products that will save them will require more of the one thing they can’t buy even if they throw a trillion dollars at it: Time. And they don’t have 4 months worth, let alone 4 years.

    Japan: TQM + R&D for acutal products not positioning = TDP (Total Detroit Pwnage)

  191. 191
    Gordon, The Big Express Engine says:

    Not sure if this sentiment was expressed upthread, but a car is one of the biggest purchases a person makes in their life. You might only buy a handful of them in a lifetime. If GM does not sell me my FIRST car, the chance of them selling me cars #2, 3 an 4 etc. is greatly reduced.

    The reason Toyota (and Honda and Nissan) is winning the perception (and reality game) is that they make great small cars for first-time buyers. The experience is overwhelmingly positive for most people and that helps create lifelong customers. The Big 3 deliberately avoided these cars for various reasons not worth reiterating here and consequently they have enormous hurdles to get over to win customers back from the Japanese.

    Also, the dealer franchise networks are absolutely killing these guys. They can’t shut product lines down. The fact that dealers make most of their money from after service, parts and used cars makes them unaligned with the producers. Sadly, this state of affairs is result of decades old strategy of purposely NOT owning their own dealerships, so they could cram down inventory in lean times on the dealer network. This has come full circle and is really biting them now…

  192. 192
    John Cole says:

    Gordon- That is a great point.

    BTW- I can’t believe I am the only one who owned a Chevy Celebrity. I just loved that car to death.

  193. 193
    Mike G says:

    Someone here was talking about the popularity of the Ford Focus in Europe.

    Which points to another problem. The Focus was a big seller in Europe, but when they brought it to the US Ford de-contented and cheapened the parts to make it more profitable, and ended up with a lemon that required 14 recalls and sold in middling numbers. Detroit is run by accountants always going for the corner-cutting and fast buck, with contempt for the product.

  194. 194

    @John S.: I can remember how the media throughout 2004-2005 went out of there way to ignore the evidence that Bush’s poll numbers were on a steady decline. He started out at about 60% and finished near 40%, yet the media were the last ones to openly acknowledge that Bush wasn’t popular anymore.

    Yet, with only two months to go in Obama’s administration, these same people are desperately sifting the polling numbers for some evidence that Obama’s popularity is tanking.

  195. 195
    Blogging in the Wind says:

    @original lee: you reminded me of my very first car, a 1964 Plymouth Valiant with the push button transmission on the dash and a slant-6 engine that would haul balls. The right side of the car was totally smashed in (got it at 16 from my grandfather), but man oh man, that car was FUN!!!!

    @bob in pacifica: my 2004 Toyota Avalon has a back seat that would accommodate multiple orgies! And its the quietest, most comfortable car I’ve ever owned.

    I swear by the Japanese these days. Can’t afford the insurance or maintenance of a German car, been burned way too many times by American and Korean cars.

  196. 196
    DRD 1812 says:

    Nothing, absolutely nothing sounds as great and soul satisfying like the sound of a Harley V-twin, especially the older ones.

    And no bike I’ve ever owned sounded as good as my 1969 BSA Lightning, last of the classic British twins, in those rare periods when it was running and not falling apart (BSA = bastard’s stopped again). Sound isn’t everything. After the BSA I bought only Hondas and Suzukis that sounded like sewing machines but ran like Swiss watches.

  197. 197
    Comrade General Stuck says:

    @John Cole:

    I bought one of the first Chevy Citations that came of the assembly line. It was a factory demo even before the commercials started on TV. I paid 6000 bucks for it and it was a great car that carried me all over the country during my ramblin’ days.

    You can’t buy a decent golf cart for that money today, I suspect. Times have changed.

  198. 198
    tammanycall says:

    I am a devoted Prius owner who recently rented a Ford Escape Hybrid while on vacation. I HIGHLY recommend the Ford. In fact it will probably be the next automobile I buy.

  199. 199
    The Raven says:

    They’re certainly no less reliable than those made by their markedly more successful European competitors.

    But both, it turns out, are less reliable than those made by Japanese firms. (See Consumer Reports, which provides the only unbiased publicly-available data on the matter. Their April car issue is just out.)

    Martin, yes, Japanese auto manufacturers have plants in the USA. But they are largely non-union plants in states with anti-union governments. I think they probably make up the expense of health care by paying lower salaries.

  200. 200

    hmmm, two years ago I spent a week driving a rental Subaru wagon with 1500 miles on it, brand new, it sucked eggs. Sloppy steering, sloppy handling, tanny shifting constantly, no power engine, and sucked gasoline for what you got. Now what I had to compare it to is a different philosophy, but that car sucked eggs.

    ’74 K5 Blazer 4×4
    ’78 K20 Silverado 4×4 w/utility bed
    2004 SSR
    62 Chevy II sedan (sort of 425HP SBC, etc)

    Now I’ll admit the SSR cost a hell of a lot more than that Subaru and seats 2, but there was no comparison in anything other than gas mileage where the SSR was marginally worse.

    The Chevy II (Nova) is ridiculously over powered and pretty much hand built but it outperformed that Subaru in every catagory except gas mileage – it really is a bit bad on that one, 15mpg premium in race tune.

    We owned an 04 Pontiac Grand Am, I didn’t like it but my wife did and much better than her Civic CVCC, so…

  201. 201
  202. 202
    Andy K says:

    Having said that, my mother, sister, and I all drive Subaru wagons….

    I owned a lot of cars in my career slingin’ pies, and my two favorites were the ScoobyDoo wagons (’89 GL and ’92 Loyale), but unless they’ve done a major upgrade on the gearing, I’d say you’re nuts for owning one in mountainous WV. I had a hard enough time getting up the smaller, glacially carved hills here in western MI….

    My best friend has driven hi-lo for GM since ’85, and he gave me shit when he first saw me get out of the ’89 GL, but when I pointed out that there wasn’t an American equivalent that combined mpg with traction (I got 24 mpg in front-wheel-drive, and about 15 mpg in four-wheel-drive, and could change on the fly as conditions required), he shut the hell up.

    Never had real problems with my Chevys or Chryslers, but Fords are just shit.

  203. 203
    Digital Amish says:

    can’t resist…

    Car history:

    ’64(?) Datsun pickup. 4 speed on the column with a backward shift pattern. Piece of shit.
    ’68 Opel GT. Fun, fun, fun except for maintainence.
    ’74 Datsun 710. Piece of shit with a capital POS.
    70 something Ford midsize sedan. Piece of shit.
    ’60 Chevy pickup. The height of American car building. 5 stars.
    70 something Chevy LUV. Inheirited from Dad. Piece of shit.
    ’66 International Travelall. Solid.
    ’76 GMC 3/4 ton 4×4. Inheirited for father-in-law. Piece of shit.
    ’90 Chrysler minivan. 280k still ran great but the heads were going.
    ’96 Ford F150 2wd. 230k and faultless.
    ’02 Impala . Eh.. just another car but trouble free so far.

  204. 204
    Andy K says:

    @Digital Amish:

    You just reminded me that Ford trucks aren’t so bad. That’s why my step-dad, who grew up on a farm with Fords, drives Fords to this day. But now he drives a Ford minivan…which gives him headaches.

  205. 205
    reality-based says:

    @jprice vincenz:

    My Kenmore fridge also died on me after seven years.

    The really irritating thing is, in my Mother’s North Dakota Farmhouse are an International Harvester Refrigerator and a Monarch Electric Stove – both bought new in 1950 when Rural Eletrification finally reached North Dakota.

    Both appliances have worked like Trojans, feeding harvest crews and 22 grandchildren and the like, for what – 60 years now? Without a single repair to either of them?

    The stove also has a firebox on one side where you can burn wood or coal – it’s come in handy, when ice storms take the power lines down.

    – just sayin – when my seven-year-old Kenmore, never did-a-lick of work for my single-person household, started wheezing – I was PISSED.

    They kinda match the 1959 furnace, and the 1951 International Harvester Pickup 4×4, which we also still use on the farm –

    And while we’re talking American manufacturing – I was raised to buy American cars, indoctrinated on 350 v-8 Family Oldsmobiles that ran at least 250k miles. Even in Japanese-car-obsessed Silicon Valley, I stubbornly kept to the old ways. And you know what I got for it?

    A 1995 Olds Achieva that started falling to shit at 38,000 miles, finally dumped at 52K miles:

    A 2001 Taurus – replaced the starter at 25k miles, the alternator at 30k, the tranny at 40K miles, car got totalled immediately afterwards

    A 2005 Taurus (replacement) – replaced the starter at 28k miles – now at 35K miles, the windshieled washer pump is burnt out, the "check engine" light keeps flickering on, and the tranny feels like mush.

    And no, I take great care of my cars – I’ve just had three lemons in a row. How, in God’s name, CAN I buy another American car now – no matter HOW much I think I should?

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