By on September 1, 2006

model_t_assembly_line22.jpg The flame wars regarding “imports” versus "domestics" have reached Fahrenheit 451. Ironically enough, I’ve doused those fires by banning “any comments that attempt to impugn this site's authors or its commentators for an anti-domestic car bias.” And I mean it. To those who would malign this website on that basis, I state for the record that TTAC writers apply their critical facilities without fear or favor, regardless of a manufacturer’s national origin. Although I haven’t asked my scribes to take a loyalty oath, I’m sure they love their country. What they don’t love is crap cars.

News flash: the publisher of this site, the author of the GM Death Watch, would like to see The General build an affordable sedan that kicks the snot out of the so-called imports. Why? I’m a pistonhead. I’d like to drive that car, and it would force other automakers to raise their game. I’m well aware that The Big Two Point Five’s supporters will perceive this statement as weak and irrelevant: a personal failure to place our nation’s best interests above personal passion. They believe that car journalists ignore the “fact” that promoting “foreign” cars endangers their fellow Americans’ economic well-being. They consider us the import-loving enemy within.

Back in the 70’s, when the import invasion was just that– an invasion of foreign-made cars by foreign-owned manufacturers– this argument carried some weight. But not much. If ever an industry needed a wake-up call, it was the U.S. automotive market. By and large, in general and in specific, The Big Three’s cars were crap. Now I’m not going to tender my exact definition of “crap.” Suffice it to say, many of the imports were better built, better handling, more fuel efficient and cheaper than their American competition. Equally important, the journalists who pointed-out the imports’ relative excellence were not responsible for their arrival, or the domestics’ abject failure to rise to the challenge.

Today, the “buy American” argument is totally without merit. A number of TTAC articles have noted the imports’ American design and manufacturing presence relative to The Big Two Point Five’s outsourcing. When GM, Ford and DCX build and import foreign-made cars and slot an ever-increasing number of Chinese parts into their vehicles, their supporters have no right to drape themselves in the American flag. They also have no right to label critics of GM, Ford and DCX products unwitting opponents of the American working class, when the companies themselves show no compunction about selling foreign-made products to their American customers.

Nor are The Big Two Point Five's Supporters on solid ground when they suggest that TTAC’s car critics have been so blinded by their love of “foreign cars” they can’t see that GM, Ford and DCX have caught-up with the competition. My writers know their way around cars. They know what makes an interior a pleasure palace or a penalty box. They understand the subtle differences between engines, transmissions, suspensions, brakes and steering. They are not in the thrall of European dynamics or style; they can appreciate a big, brash comfy cruiser as much as a gorgeous, sharp-handling sports car– regardless of the vehicle's country of origin. If a TTAC writer says a Ford product is two model cycles behind a comparable Toyota, it’s the truth– to the best of that writer’s knowledge and critical abilities.

The pro-Detroit flamers last refuge is reliability; I’m well and truly fed up with arguments on this score. Supposedly, the gains made by The Big Two Point Five’s products in the most popular reliability studies prove that their cars are now as good as anyone else’s (no matter what anyone says to the contrary).  In fact, the closerthanthis results listed by these studies simply show that the battleground over automotive excellence has shifted. It’s no longer good enough for a car’s suspension not to break; it has to deliver superlative ride quality. A long-lasting engine isn’t a major advantage; it’s got to be smooth, powerful and fuel efficient. The real competition now surrounds perceived quality and, lest we forget, dealer service. I don't consider it biased to suggest that The Big Two Point Five have a long way to go in these areas.

In short, TTAC is an equal opportunity website. Do I really need to cite all the positive reviews this website has given The Big Two Point Five's products, or the negative reviews afforded imported cars? Tallying-up the hosannas and Bronx cheers within those two categories would reveal nothing but an invidious distinction. The cars and their manufacturers get what they deserve. Nothing more, nothing less.

So here’s the deal. If you want to hash out this issue, do it right here, right now. Get it out of your system. Do American cars suck, or are journos giving them a bum rap? You be the judge, jury and… executioner. But once you’ve had your say, you’re done. If you disagree with a reviewer over his or her assessments of a car, feel free to let rip. But I will NOT tolerate knee-jerk xenophobic attacks. All such comments will be deleted. Their authors will be banned. That is all.

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108 Comments on “Imports vs. Domestics: The Debate Stops Here...”


  • avatar
    Jim Boyd

    Good idea–as has been said by Samuel Johnson, invoking “patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”

  • avatar
    Johnny Canada

    Did I miss something? I thought we were all having a good time.

  • avatar

    Yes and no.

  • avatar
    Matthew Potena

    Amen, brother.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    I’ll go a step further.

    I WANT American cars to be better than the cars from other countries.

    And I’m pro-union.

  • avatar
    Lesley Wimbush

    Amen.
    From the owner of an import … and a Dodge. And I plan to keep ’em both for as long as they’ll have me. :))

  • avatar
    Lesley Wimbush

    Amen to that too, Jonny.

  • avatar
    Rodney M.

    As an owner of a Mazda and a Ford I feel like I’m fairly unbiased (yes I know they’re both FoMoCo products). I’ve also had Toyota and Dodge vehicles in the last five years. I’ve felt in the last year or two that American cars have gotten better and I have been fairly vocal about it. That is until I recently acquired my Freestar Limited. After the seventh day in the shop in the last two months I decided to stop at the Honda dealer to see what all the fuss was about the Odyssey. It really does feel like a whole step up in quality from my Freestar, even though I have the top of the line model. I’m now getting a little squeemish in my (Ford’s) hard pleather seat.

    Also, my 02 Mazda Protege (read Mazda’s cheapest model) hasn’t been to the repair shop yet.

    Please big 2.5, don’t make me out to be a liar.

  • avatar
    chanman

    Lesley, technically speaking, there are no domestic brands for us ‘nucks. ;-)

    We’ve got foreign brands made here and foreign brands not made here, despite our tendency to use the US-perspective on domestic and import brands.

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    RF – I could not agree more. I own (and love) a Honda Accord and a Jeep Liberty. And lust for certain Porsche’s, Aston Martin’s, and BMW’s. Oh, and the C6 Corvette’s. I guess this makes me some kind of freaky automotive libertine.

  • avatar
    jaje

    I own a GM and a Honda. I think GM still makes the best trucks – most solidly built and most reliable (even over the mighty Toyota – and kinda how they have fallen). I was a true domestic lover with Camaros and Dodge Shelby Chargers – my favorite cars at that time. However, it was the constant repairs and work they needed and I couldn’t afford to pay for such. I went against my father’s wishes and his threats and bought an 85 Prelude with already 100k on the odometer (it’s ability to handle and accelerate impressed me so much I shunned displacement and forced induction for sky high redlines). My father said I’d have to sell it in a year b/c its “hamster” engine would not last with the way I thrash the cars and race them. That car lasted me until law school at 275k before the first time it broke down. When I was in college and my father’s 1 year old Chrysler New Yorker (loaded to the gills) kept on breaking down every week for months on end. He was forced to drive my car for almost 2 years with his “domestic” hiding in the shop. Well he now drives an Accord that has over 200k miles on it from brand new. He will not sell it (it did break down once – rear main seal failed just as Honda was discovering the problem – Honda paid for the tow, work and even his 90k timing belt maintenance for the inconvenience).

    I own a GM pickup and love it. It has 120k miles on it but it’s like a maytag appliance. As for cars – I visit my bro-in-law and ride in his Impala and watch parts falling off, noises of concern, and when we get back his Cavalier with 120k on it looks like my old Prelude if it had 2,000,000 miles on it.

    For cars…Honda & Toyota has the cream of the crop. They aren’t perfect but their consistency of reliable and good cars is just unmatched – I prefer Honda just b/c of its better focus on driving and after researching the company to find that the entire mahogany row are all engineers it makes sense as to why. Trucks, I’d tip my hat heavily towards GM as they don’t have these Rollover problems or cruise controls in 20M cars like Ford has. Dodge is just a distant also ran and really doesn’t do anything well. They just exist by carving out niches and selling there until competition beats them away (think Caravan and PT Cruiser).

  • avatar
    Lesley Wimbush

    chanman: Remember the early 70s Manic GT? Built in Quebec! :)

  • avatar

    I’ve upset fans of just about every brand with my reviews at one time or another. I’ve been called an import hater and a domestic hater. Life would be easier if I made every review positive. Then I wouldn’t be implying that anyone bought the wrong car. But I just can’t do it.

    There aren’t many bad cars anymore, despite all the anti-domestic talk on the net. But there also aren’t many great ones. Instead, we have lots and lots of average cars.

    I’ve found anti-domestic talk most virulent on Acura boards. Why this would be the case I don’t know. Perhaps because Acura was the first foreign luxury brand to make cars in the U.S.? People on these boards like to talk about how much better the Japanese-built models are. They ignore that the Japanese-built RL is the most troublesome Acura in recent memory. In general, emotions guide these debates much more than facts do.

    Finally, I’d like to point to my Amazon review of Mickie Maynard’s book, The End of Detroit. Ms. Maynard likes to talk about how excellent her Lexus is. Yet her book is sloppily written, with a large number of errors. Does someone who does shoddy work themselves deserve a problem-free car? Do all these Americans who hate American-built cars perform flawlessly at their own jobs? Right.

    My two book reviews on Amazon; Maynard’s book is the second one:
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/cdp/member-reviews/A1PDK0LSZTX7LB/ref=cm_pdp_reviews_see_all/104-9303787-3087160

  • avatar
    philbailey

    The Korean imports that GM is rebadging are by far the best things that they sell in the B category. History repeats itself as once again the Cobalt/Pursuit pair are starting to show the old Cavalier/Sunfire characteristics of helping you to get to know your dealer technical adviser really, really well. America still can’t make a Swiss watch, but it’s awfully good at producing grandfather clocks and always has been.

  • avatar
    4runner

    I’ve often thought that when one purchases a vehicle based on national origin – one is doing a significant disservice to that nation.

    For example, if one buys a Chevrolet Uplander minivan (considered by many to be the worst in the field) instead of a more capable offereing, GM is undeservably motivated to “keep the status quo.” By encouraging GM to “keep the status quo” – GM will grow weaker, not stronger.

    Therefore, if you really want to help GM or Ford, go out and buy the best car for you – even if its a Toyota. Throw away national origin. Reward those companies that have done a good job and motiviate those companies whose offereings are lacking.

  • avatar
    Jaded

    This is an interesting discussion to me. I used to really feel strongly that I should buy American (though I did secretly lust after some BMW’s and Porsches). But, after having a couple of Chevy Citations from the early 80’s (ugh), a 90 Mercury Sable (tie rod broke at 30K miles – fortunately at parking speed), and a 94 Mercury Villager (Nissan/Ford partnership built in America), I gave up. Each of these cars was better than the one before, but none of them inspired confidence in their reliability or were especially pleasing to own or drive.

    The Japanese did it right – they started slowly, developing their products and focusing on providing value and reliability. This approach provided a solid foundation for continued growth – and gives them the reputation to survive the periodic problems that pop up – as with Toyota recently. Now they provide cars with all the attributes and features that used to be a Detroit statement. The whole approach was a long-range plan and it has paid off well. I see the Korean companies taking the same approach now.

    In my view, the big 2.5 have been guilty of a limited – and thus constantly changing – vision. They have tried flash and features (Pontiac plastic, heads-up displays, On-Star, etc.), styling changes, horsepower, pricing and finance deals. But, they have not mastered the basics of building a range of solid, reliable cars that are pleasing to drive and own. Until they focus on the basics for the long-term, they will not catch up. It may be too late already.

    The bottom line is that it is now a global market and companies must produce quality to survive. The reviewers must tell the unvarnished truth about the cars, because the market will reveal the truth anyway.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    I think its gotta happen. TTAC-reviews often surface on forums and this topic usually flames-on to no end…that’s fine, but it isn’t necessary here.

    Our readers deserve better subject matter in our comments section.

  • avatar

    The root problem is that too many people both cannot deal with uncertainty and, perhaps as a consequence, don’t like to do much thinking. They prefer simple rules where one choice is perfect and the other is awful. They avoid facts that might disrupt their peace of mind. These people tend to take the most extreme stands, and to back them up with the most emotion.

  • avatar
    Terry

    Hello!! I am a Shop Foreman/Master Tech in a Mazda/Subaru dealership that also services GM cars. In the last 33 years, Ive worked in Fiat/Lancia, Subaru, SAAB, Ford, Oldsmobile, Alfa-Romeo, Chevrolet, and BMW dealerships, plus an independent shop, and from working on all these(and many other) cars, here is MY take:
    The domestic buyer has lower expectations than the import buyer. They bought that GM because their father owned them, his father owned them, and his father before that etc. It;s amusing to hear the GM customers in the waiting room talk of replacing engines and transmission in their cars as if they were in for a face lift.
    Put an Olds up in the air(name your year), and you could scrape off enough oil leakage to lubricate 4 sets of wheel bearings. And the owners never complain of it!
    In ’91 the Mazda Navaho(Ford Explorer Sport) came out. I can’t tell you how many owners came in saying…”Ive owned Mazdas for 15 years, and have NEVER had an oil spot on my garage floor til now! WHAT’S THE DEAL??!!” When I told them their Mazda was actually a Ford, some called me a liar–til I showed them the manufacturer’s decall on the door post. First they seethed in anger, then cringed in shame. They thought they were buying a Japanese import!
    You also have to ask…just where did all these import buyers come from anyway? The answer is simply: We ALL had domestic cars, and blindly bought them as did generations before us. Once the imports proved superior engineering in lieu of annual body sheetmetal changes, the battle was lost. The parents bought that inexpensive Corolla for the kid in school, then figured out it got way better economy than their Caprice wagon and stayed out of the service department to boot. Toyota came out with a bigger Corona, the ’73 gas crisis hit, and it was all over from there. Once the head of a household went import, it was only natural for the rest of the family to follow suit. And they never returned–there was no reason for them to try domestics again.
    I remember a Chevrolet ad–circa ’72– showing an Impala in the garage parked next to a Toyota. The tagline read”Go ahead and buy that import, they make a great SECOND car”.
    I also have a problem with GM selling import cars, but it’s not OK for consumers to buy imports.
    A telling sign–every domestic car ad I see touts low price, never engineering or content. Says it all right there.
    It’s entirely possible that SOME domestics are better than their import counterparts in terms of reliability, value, performance, etc. But as it now stands–and I see this EVERY DAY on the job–nobody cares anymore.

  • avatar
    chanman

    Lesley, ehhhmmmm…. early 70’s would roughly be a decade before I was born. (1984)

    I have good childhood memories of an ’86 Aries K. Well, except the one time the brakes failed downhill while mom was driving my brother and I to school. That was a lot less cool.

    Recent family cars are a ’90 Taurus (stored), ’93 Buick Century and ’94 Nissan Quest (first non-American make for my parents since the original VW bug)

    I’m sure any new car would be much better in terms of safety and ergonomics, but the Buick’s antiqued control systems are my personal bugbear. The highbeams simply don’t work.

    But I digress, they’re really all ‘imports’ =D

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Farago — stop reading right now.

    Here’s an exceptional article on the lunacy of only buying British by Jezzo (Jeremy Clarkson)

    http://tinyurl.com/jqegg

    Same story over here.

  • avatar
    Darrencardinal

    Amen. The content and mood of this article is long overdue. I grow weary of domestic apologists always whining that critics simply have an import bias. In particular, the posts by Gearhead 455 are annoying and predicable. If you want to hear from a union goon Big 2.5 apologist, just read his lame posts. They are as illiterate as they are biased. Please, if you are going to post, as least have a 6th grade grasp of the English language. I have owned a Pontiac that was junk (an ’82 Firebird), as well as a 1990 Ford Ranger that would leave puddles of oil in the driveway.

    I had to put a quart of oil in that junker about every 3 weeks. I liked the truck otherwise, I liked the interior, I liked the size and power of the vehicle, and it had a nice bed that would a hold a lot. Also, it was pretty good to tow a boat with. But the oil slick in the driveway got really old. Eventually, the engine died, and I got a replacement Jasper engine. But they failed to fix the oil leak and that new engine eventually died, after the warranty expired of course. So I put a second engine in, and traded it for a Mazda Protege. You can imagine what fun it was having two engine failures. The engine coolant got mixed in with the oil, somehow. It made a hellacious smell coming out of the tailpipe, I tell you what. Kind of sickeningly sweet.

    The Pontiac was parked in a garage but managed to rust anyway. It had the 2.8L v6 and had no power, getting on the highway was practically an act of suicide. Not fun. Plus, the car just fell apart, with wires and stuff sagging out below the dashboard. The car just had a clumsy feel to it, and the trunk was not very useful. The overall fit and finish was poor. You just felt like everything in the car was cheap plastic.

    In contrast, I had a 93 Geo Prizm (a Toyota Corolla clone), and this was quite good. The car had excellent fit and finish and good power, getting on the highway was no problem. It also got excellent gas mileage.

    I now consider myself a Mazda guy. I have owned a 99 Protege that was excellent, fast and fun with excellent fit and finish and good gas mileage. The interior was inexpensive without looking low rent, the transmission shifted well, and road noise was not a problem. I drove it from Louisville, KY to California with no problems.

    I now have a 90 Mazda Miata that is just sweet. The car holds the rode like it is on a rail, it accelerates very well, and the sound the engine makes is fun, fun, fun! The top is easy to put up and take down, and the trunk, though small, will actually hold something. I dreamed for years of having one of these and am not disappointed. The paint is excellent, it still looks almost brand new. Zoom, zoom, indeed! As someone once said, this car really is so good it makes you want to stand up and cheer. Go Mazda! Why can’t the Americans build a car like this? The Solstice and Skye seem like inferior copies of this car. They look good, but have no trunkspace and the top is harder to raise and lower. And what about Ford? They used to have a car called the Mercury Capri but it was inferior compared to the Miata.

  • avatar
    ktm

    I guess I missed something somewhere. I never really saw any flaming (well, serious flaming) and did not catch any import-versus-domestic bashing. I can understand your frustration if it indeed happened and you are taking the appropriate stance, however, based on what I have seen to date (and it may have been deleted prior to my reading) there has not really been any incendiary remarks.

  • avatar
    ktm

    In gearhead’s defense, he has stated that he is simply offering a counter-opinion to all of the ‘domestic bashers’ and ask that ‘we’ at least give domestic’s offering a fair shake.

  • avatar

    RF keeps a pretty close eye on the comments. I think this is why the ones still visible are a cut above the discussion you’ll find elsewhere on the Internet.

    One reason I’m conducting my own reliability research is that people continue to provide repair histories that suggest that the domestics are still turning out junk, and that Japanese cars are flawless. Even CR’s ratings don’t sugguest nearly so wide a gap. So either popular perceptions are inaccurate, or CR’s results actually seriously understate the difference between American and Japanese cars.

    I don’t know the answer. But I’ll find out.

  • avatar
    kablamo

    Mr. Farago thank you, thank you THANK YOU. I’ve been through several automotive boards and when the import vs domestic debates start they never end. Arguments about bias are completely circular and aimless because they’re based on individual opinion and judgement. Discussion stalls because arguments are refuted as personal bias.

    Hopefully this will keep discussion at a certain maturity level, and stick to specific criticisms rather than broad, generalized, often unrelated issues some readers feel are implied (which is nonsense).

    My impression of the GM Deathwatch is that it’s a realistic and sometimes unforgiving examination of how GM is running its business. Occasional bright spots don’t change the fundamental course the company is still on, which would eventually lead it to a major reorganization. It’s got nothing to do with the nationality of the brand or bias. As someone interested in automotive business and cars in general, having the industry’s biggest company for more than 50 years looking down the barrel of a gun makes me interested and watching every move closely and critically. It’s nice to know there are still some people who aren’t going to call a multi-billion dollar turnaround a success based on reduced losses and subjective JD Power survey ratings.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    KTM,

    You missed the point entirely — there is no defending gearhead, as he refuses to let facts get in teh way of his thinking.

    This is not the Faith About Cars.

  • avatar
    radimus

    You mean there is still such a thing as an “imported” and a “domestic” car? With US companies sourcing parts for cars assembled overseas and foriegn companies sourcing parts for cars assembled in the US, I didn’t think there was any longer a point to such designations.

  • avatar
    wstansfi

    Big 2.5 – testing patriotism with every new model!

    I realize this contribution is neither philosophical, nor based on expansive statistics – it is anecdotal observation that has been repeated over and over.

    The most recent example was last weekend: I rented a Malibu for 4 days and as soon as I got in the car, before even turning over the engine, I pulled the seatbelt over and saw that the fastener had been attached to the belt backwards. That is, in order to fasten the safety belt, both the lap and the shoulder belts had to be twisted 180. Had the buckle been attached appropriately, the belts would have lain flat. I spent an entire 6 minutes turning over the buckle on the strap – it wasn’t easy! From this, and the mere 2500 mi on the odometer, I surmised that the buckle had probably been put on the belt backwards at the factory.
    I know, I know… this is trivial. It doesn’t affect the ride or the ability of the car to endure countless northeast winters. It was less annoying than the vibration in the dash over 50mph, or the sound of the car straining at stool at speeds over 30 mph (Lesley, that’s doctor-speak for struggling to have a bowel movement.)

    Still, I felt that this said it all – this car was put together by people who just don’t care. It was passed along by supervisors and inspectors that don’t care. It was installed in a factory by management that didn’t tell its employees that they would be rewarded or penalized for whether or not the seatbelt was installed correctly. Does it really matter if the labor that put this car together or not was unionized? Why don’t the higher-ups at GM take responsibility for this? Most importantly, how can I trust that the rest of the car was put together correctly if the seatbelt – a pretty simple device – was not put together correctly.

    I’m not trying to say imports are necessarily better. In fact, I think some imports may be worse. After pricing some new cars, I have to admit I can’t afford the cost of ownership related to the horrific depreciation associated with Audi and VW.

    So what? My mother has always bought “American.” The last time she bought a car, she fully admitted that she hated her local Buick dealer, that the previous car had had countless problems, and that a Honda or Toyota would almost certainly have been a better value. What kept her in Buick? Patriotism. So, here’s the same question that any social scientist would ask you: How much longer will Americans continue buy “American” just because it’s “American”? More succinctly, at what point will the dollar value of buying “American” equal the value of buying the best car for the money. Sounds like in California these questions have already been answered.

    wstansfi

  • avatar
    mikey

    As a lifetime G.M. employee I am the first to defend our product to anybody that knocks it.As R.F. and others have pointed out this debate is endless and TTAC has too much class to let it go on any longer.
    I own 3 vehicles a GRAND AM GT,a FIREBIRD rag top[my baby] and our workhorse a JIMMY. Yes they do break and sometimes I get very POed at my employer, I have been known to call it a GRAN DAMN ,I d`ont know if I can spell intake manifold gasket,but I can tell you what it cost.
    Having said that,I have owned G.M.my whole life and allways will. G.M have looked after me since I was 18 and I pay them back with loyality.From where I stand the debate is over.

    P.S I think gear head brought something to TTAC

  • avatar
    dj

    Robert:

    I couldn’t agree more. It’s about the car, period. When I think about the “patriotism” advantage US automakers have had over the years, myself only recently seeing through the guilt, I get a little embarrassed. US automakers didn’t respond to the call for nearly three decades. Only recently have they made the changes necessary to compete globally (without the patriotism effect), and they only did this because more and more American’s refuse to buy inferior products out of guilt.

    I care about US automakers for one reason and one reason only. Their products represent the abilities, intellect, and creativeness of all Americans. I want Ford and GM to build great cars because I want to be proud of my country.

    I guess even now with two Hondas in the garage, I am struggling with my incessant desire to be a patriot on the dealer’s lot.

    dj

    p.s. I think Ford and GM need a “No” man. This person could single-handedly save them. “This interior design element is crap; redesign it. This car doesn’t get good gas mileage; reengineer it.” Could it be that simple?

  • avatar
    DaveClark

    DJ:

    I’m volunteering my free time to be that “no” man. I WANT to say “yes,” mind you. I really do. Sadly, I would be saying “no” alot. I would like to be called Dr. No. Can I wear a lab coat?

    Ford and GM: Your cure has arrived, now take your friggin’ medicine!

  • avatar
    Jan Andersson

    We love your country too!
    If a European’s point of view could be of any interest, here’s some facts. Sweden (and I believe Norway even more) is a retirement home for American oldtimers from the fifties and sixties, even the forties. In the summertime, I can’t drive ten miles without seeing one or two more or less well maintained, but many are in mint condition. To understand our fondness for these cars, you have to go back to the time when they were new and look at the competition. American cars had everything European cars didn’t have at that time, the looks, the comfort, the power, and most important-just like drinking a bottle of Coca-Cola; it gave you an image of being an American. After the war, everything that was American was good and everyone’s future. It was the cars, the jeans, the haircut, rock, jazz and folk music, the surfing, the authors, the homes, barbecue, and so on. Also, lots of Scandinavian immigrants reported home about well off living styles. For many Scandinavians, this feelings haven’t faded to this day, and amazingly, younger people are taking over (or importing) the old cars and love them just as much as their grandfathers did. Smart guys drive smart cars, but they can’t win the hearts like guys with macho vehicles. By the way, two motorcycles of three in Sweden are Harley Davidsons.
    But we are not driving American cars from the seventies, eighties or nineties. Why? An American car should be wider and longer than any European, with a V8 engine that could move a freight train. The styling should be artful and showy, with a paintwork color never found east of the Atlantic.
    In 1955, my grandmother’s brother retired in Milwaukee, and went back home to his birth place for the first time ever in a brand new Ford Customline, painted two-colored light and dark blue. No one here had seen a two-colored car before, and I can still remember every minute I was going with him in that car.
    The late American cars didn’t have much of this, and subsequently, didn’t sell in Europe. But then came the PT-Cruiser. My son got one, and after 55k, no trouble whatsoever. I don’t think any European brand could match that record, and he still loves it. The American spirit is not dead after all; the new Mustang and Chrysler 300C hold the fort, to our delight!

  • avatar
    Joe ShpoilShport

    Mr. Farago: Good onya for doing it this way. I do get the feeling however, you might need to relax a little. =O) I do understand and appreciate your passion, though. On the other hand you could start a whole new website with a team of researchers to to substantiate the truth, what ever it may be.

    I could relate stories of my experiences and cars but let’s just go to my bottom line. Toyotas and Hondas are better built cars than Fords and Chevys. Have been for some time. I say that as an owner of a 2000 Ford Contour since new, with 70,000 miles that has never been in the shop. Thats pretty good. On the other hand, I avoid dealer repair facilities like the plague and have effected some repairs myself.

    There are many ways to skin a cat. Domestics don’t need to be more reliable than imports. They just need two things:

    – Offer more bang for the buck
    – Take care of their customers

    They haven’t done either and that’s why they’re where there at today. And, to be honest, I don’t see them doing it any time soon.

  • avatar

    Jan,

    I’ve heard this before, but you say it so well! Perhaps the 300 represents a European view of what an American car should be, which is why it was created after the Germans took over. It’s even got a more upright windshield like cars had decades ago.

  • avatar

    Joe,

    I was just on the phone with Chrysler Customer Care yesterday. Wasn’t getting anywhere. At one point the guy said, “It’s not my job to use common sense. It’s my job to follow company policy.” When I asked him if I could quote him on that, he repeated it more slowly. And when I suggested that instances like mine were exactly why they were still losing market share, he didn’t disagree.

  • avatar

    My testimony. I’m a Ford guy, as was my father before me. (His father was a GM guy, but I don’t know the reason for the schism.) My wife and I own a Toyota Sienna, Honda Element and Audi S4. We’ve owned a Mercury Tracer, Hyundai Excel, Saturn SL1, VW GTI VR6, and Honda CR-V.

    I’m a proud and patriotic American, the first generation in my family born in the United States. When I brought the first new car my wife and I owned (the ’92 Saturn SL1) to my mother’s father–a naturalized citizen and union man–to show him, his only question was “is this American?” (We had an excellent experience with the SL1, both in terms of reliability and dealer treatment, by the way.)

    I am proud that our Sienna and Element were built by American workers.

    I want to “buy American”, whatever that means. I would love for the replacement for my S4 to be a Ford product. I will give the big 2.5 the benefit of the doubt in terms of quality and reliability. (Heck, as a VAG fanboy, I have to be willing to cut the domestics the same slack in reliability.)

    However, the only thing I can do to help Detroit is to do what I do today, which is assess my needs for vehicles as rationally as is possible in this emotion-laden product category, and spend my dollars accordingly.

  • avatar
    jerry weber

    jaje In your blog is the answer to the American Mfg.s problem. If trucks make a come back, then GM FORD & CHRYSLER have the best products and are in the best position to exploit this market. But if the return to small efficient cars is a permanent thing than I don’t think the big three can catch up. They have seeded the small market for forty years to the foreign brands. From the 1960.s valiant, corvair, falcon. to the seventies, pinto, vega, etc. the big three put their worst foot foreward in small cars. Then when they had an imperfect but possibly fixable product ie. corvair they simply dropped it and went on to more important (read large products) things. (This dropping products at the slightest hint of a downturn still haunts our American companies) With a forty year head start, the foreign brands have fine tuned the hell out of their once crude rigs and made them segement leaders. I remember how toyota in the mid sixties sold cars. They had just adequate small 4 cylinders to sell but they brought them over loaded with radios and other options the big three were charging extra for, it got them in the door and the rest is history.

  • avatar
    Critical Thinker

    This is a serious question. How many of you are fairly sure that both GM and Ford will cease to exist someday in the near future?

  • avatar
    Blunozer

    In my 32 years I have owned the following: Mitsubishi, Ford, Pontiac, Honda, and 2 Mazdas.

    The Mazdas were hit and miss, but wicked fun to drive.

    The Mitsu and the Honda were bullet-proof, but not the most fun.

    The Ford and the Pontiac were both unreliable and unsatifying to drive. This is Ford and GM’s worst sin… The only thing people remember about them is how unreliable their Taurus or Grand Prix were.

    My RX-7 was a maintenence nightmare, but I still have fond memories because it was FUN!

    Daimler Chrysler has it right. Say what you will about the 300, Challenger, the Calibre, etc. At least DCX cars have some personality. I don’t care how many horror stories I hear, part of me will always want a Hemi powered Magnum.

    GM? They are getting better, but not fast enough, thanks to its bloated management/union structure. They also seemed to determined to make sure every car they make has an achilles’ heel. Almost all of its vehicles, save the ‘Vette, have a reason not to buy it. Like the Caddy’s cheap interiors, the Solstice’s lack of trunk, and the Impala’s outright blandness.

    Ford? What the hell? They can’t figure out what to do. Lately they seem to be a fountain of dumb ideas. “Lets dump any car name that doesn’t start with F!” “SUVs start with E!” “Lets destroy the last of Lincoln’s dignity!” Its as if the Mustangs success was purely by accident.

    The foreign automakers are not without their faults as well:

    Honda: Lately, they seem determined to make their vehicles ugly and heavy. Have you seen the new CRV?

    Toyota: Wow, those are an awful lot of recalls lately…

    Mazda: Quit hanging out with Ford… He’s a bad influence.

    Suzuki: Please go back to making cheap, fun cars and mini SUVs… And stop rebadging 2nd rate Daewoos and Equinoxs.

    Subaru: B9 Trebeca… Nuff said.

    BMW: So… Damn… Ugly… Almost make me forget about iDrive.

    Mercedes: Lexus is still shaming you.

    VW: The Rabbit? Are you kiddin’ me? How about working on reliabilty instead of bringing back a stupid name?

    Hyundai: Too damn dull.

    See? I’m an equal opportunity nit-picker!

  • avatar
    orbitmonkey

    So let me get this straight. You have banned people from arguing or debating the motives or bases of your authors opinions when it comes to whether they are against American cars, and instead given us your assurances that they are not?

    Wow, how very American of you to squelch that debate.

    Color me confused.

  • avatar

    You are not confused. You are correct.

  • avatar
    kablamo

    mikey – I think it’s great to have some people willing to assert the GM point of view as a counterpoint to what is overall definitely a negative outlook on GM product. That said, like I brought up earlier, the debate has to be mature and about the products; accusing people of being “Jap lovers” or “anti-American” isn’t the issue in most cases, despite some posters’ opinions. I am not accusing you of anything, just bringing up what is usually a huge obstacle to a proper discussion about the issues.

    Another issue that is unavoidable is that some people care more about driving and are more fickle than others, and probably want different things from their cars. Many people (enthusiasts especially) will be less tolerant of bad design in things like suspension tuning, engine design and interior ergonomics. To me, it’s clear some manufacturers are run by people like that, and others are simply selling widgets that happen to allow people to get places (something GM has admitted in the past and I would *strongly* argue still does). Passion is not quantifiable yet but for some it is perceivable. For those that do care, it is definitely noticeable when you drive a vehicle, whether or not it was engineered by people passionate about what they are producing. I personally don’t get that impression from most GM and Ford vehicles though.

  • avatar

    With the “most,” you are correct.

    I’ve been saying for some time that the area GM is most clueless about is steering and handling. They’ve developed some world-class engines in recent years, but the way they tune their steering and suspensions kills road feet and makes the cars all feel larger than they are.

    Ford has been better at turning out great driver’s cars. I owned a 1996 Ford Contour SE that was clearly developed by drivers for drivers. So much so that for 1997 they watered it down a lot in an attempt to appeal more to mainstream buyers. Go back and read reviews of the 1995 and 1996 Contour SE, and you’ll see what I mean. The ride was extra firm, the steering quick with good feel, and the buckets were very tight. My wife hated them, but I miss them a lot.

    Ditto the Focus SVT and even the current Focus ST.

    Of course what both of these products have in common is that they were developed primarily by Ford of Europe. Ford’s U.S. operations has been in constant turmoil pretty much forever–they’ve never been able to stick with a strategy for more than a couple of years, and this has hurt them big time.

    Family ownership should have been a stabilizing influence, Sadly the opposite appears to have been the case. For this the family has only itself to blame.

  • avatar
    CSJohnston

    Robert,

    I regret to see that this column was written but agree that it had to be done. I could not believe the bile that came forth from the last GM Deathwatch article (and I do not think Gearhead should shoulder all of the blame, fellow commenters). The import vs domestic debate is emotional and any article that strays into that territory will face those emotions at its peril.

    However, we are all grown-ups here and this is not talk radio (it’s not, right?) so we should all be able to express our own personal opinions in a civil tone and back up statements with at least a modicum of substance.

    I think we live in a great car buying era. For the most part, your reviewers criticize vehicles for not being “good enough” not for being “bad”. When the biggest knock on a new domestic piece is that it has mismatched plastic or hard seats or an import lacks “soul” or has questionable ergonomic or design issues it means that we are talking about the margins of excellence not excellence itself.

    My business forces me to remain unbiased (or at least, to supress my bias) against vehicles import or domestic or I lose business. I’ve driven vehicles from almost every major vehicle manufacturer (I have not, as yet, spent a lot of time in new Hyundais or Kias) and they have all been problem free or have had problems that have been very easy to fix. My level of service at dealers (of all stripes) has been exemplary (I’m nice to them, they’re nice to me… go figure).

    Let the debate rage on but let the debate be framed by reason and decency. Something may actually come out of it!

  • avatar
    CSJohnston

    Michael Karesh,

    I owned a `96 Contour SE and then I owned a 1998.5 Contour SVT. I sold it a couple of years ago and to this day I regret I did so. That car had it all and I thought the dark blue interior made it distinctive!

    I have said to many friends at Ford that they had me as a loyal customer until they dropped the Contour and failed to replace it with something else.

    Oh wait, all the really cool Ford cars are sitting on Mazda lots now!

    Ford Fusion… where’s my 5 or 6-speed manual and SVT version? If it’s anything like my Contour, I’ll be there with my chequebook!

  • avatar
    robbe

    Import / domestic .. it is tough to tell these days .. especially north of the 49th!!! … should I buy a Honda built in Aliston, Ontario, Canada .. .or a GM built in Korea or Mexico? Which is better for my Canadian economy? Which is better for my patriotism?

    Writers for this site, other sites, and the major magazines are auto enthusiasts at heart and they write articles assessing cars based on that paradym and a set of generalized purchasing criteria. For any given purchase, for any given person, the purchasing criteria may be completely different. I bought a lumina van because I needed an appliance that had an engine I could maintain when it got old … and I could get it for $6 grand less than any competition. Next purchase may be a GM to (likely mis-guided) attempt to keep Oshawa Jobs and maintain my house value. But for now .. .it is the drivability and luxery of the FX that won me over ..

    In summary … Understand what the writers are telling you … make your own criteria … drive lots of cars … and love your choice ..

    I live in Oshawa … most of my friends work at GM. I work at a supplier (though not at the GM account). I would love to support my town and my friends by purchasing a GM car … but they build the IMPALA … I just can not take that big of hit on enjoyment … If I was buying a truck .. sure … but a passenger car … sorry… I seriously looked at the Malibu when I purchased my altima … the Trailblazer family when I purchased my Pilot … and the CTS and SRX when I purchased my FX … but IT is just not there when comparing these products head to head .. it is not an allegience issue …

    I would LOVE for GM to build a car that I can proudly call my own … but the two-seaters and flatbeds where they compete well … are not in the cards right now … maybe a new Holden sourced GrandPrix? Maybe the Saturn Aura

    I seem to have appreciation for the different characteristic of cars … as the diversity of the cars I have owned and loved is wide… starting at my first car

    Datson 510 (used … loved it .. but it was crappy)

    Datson pickup (used .. got me to and from hockey)

    Mazda RX7 (used … wow … fun)

    Honda Prelude (first new car … ho hum … never an problem)

    Chevy 4-door blazer (worst experience ever .. .sold it after 6 months and bought a …)

    Isuzu (geeze … can you imagine I ditched a $30K 4-door beautiful blazer for this … but it was a great choice … can not even remember the model … car was fun … paid cash it was sooo cheap during the sell off … and replaced the whole engine top end at 100K … guess I got what I paid for!)

    Plymouth Sundance (used … ok … relative defaulted on the loan and I GOT to bail them out)

    Chevy Lumana van (ok … I TRIED … a nice white dustbuster .. it did the job done)

    Saturn (good basic transportation bordering on enjoyable to drive)

    Olds Aurora (used … LOVED the luxery in this car – obviously age has me teatering toward luxery from drivability – I sold it with 250K Miles on the car … and never did more than brakes and tires … likely would have had another … if the axe on the division had not fell)

    Nissan Altima 3.5SE (loved the car … even with the wonky tranny and stearing … it hit home on the space, passing acceleration, comfy fit for me, and 4.5 years later .. it still looks good … classic lines will do that)

    Infinit FX (hard to tell .. it has been in my driveway for 3 days … so only time will tell … I HOPE it will give me the versitiliy and drivability .. while a touch of the luxery I miss from the aurora)

    During purchase events … I drive cars … and drive cars … and drive cars … Each event brings with it different criteria .. and as you see … quite varied results … but I can not find overall fault with the assessment of the writers on this site .. or in fact with the major magazines to which I subscribe …

    I likely should rework this … and delete most of the dribble … but my wife wants to go shopping … and I am good … because it is 60 miles of back roads away … and 120 miles on the road far outweighs a couple hours of “antiquing”

    Enjoy your driving … rob

  • avatar
    Nels Nelson

    I’ll weigh in with my comments and perspective then honor Mr. Farago’s wishes and shut up.

    I love cars. I own a lot of cars. From a ’56 Continental Mark II and ’68 Mercury Cougar 7.0 Litre GTE to a ’03 SVT Focus and ’02 Mercedes Benz CL600 I recently purchased. There are too many more to list in between.

    I particularly like the post by Jan Andersson. My gripe with American cars today is that they are not American enough. They need to stop trying to be European or Asian and get back to what they do well.

    When I think about Toyota, I think about my neighbors down the street who live in a beige house and have three beige Toyotas. To quote John Kenneth Galbraith: “the bland leading the bland”.

    As for this obsession with reliability that borders on being a fetish, I find it somewhat perplexing and I don’t think I’m the only one. I seem to recall comments made by Peugeot when they left the U.S. market about not being able to understand that the majority of American car buyers wanted nothing more from their cars than reliability. No place in this country for quirky Gallic LeCars. Just give them Toyota Corollas that they can drive 200,000 miles with nothing more than oil changes and gas. How exciting.

    I’m going to get rid of the CL600. Purchased Mercedes WIS on eBay and installed it on my laptop. It scared me. I understand now why these cars depreciate so much. Hope I can sell it before the hydraulic pump for the Active Body Control fails.

    One last thing and I’m gone. The SVT Focus is more fun and enjoyable to drive than the CL600. I’m going to keep the Focus.

  • avatar

    Robert F
    This is the first time I have posted on your site although I have read it regularly for many months. Your reader forum is by far the best as the worst posts have been deleted or excluded.

    However, spirited debate should not be excluded as long as the posts are not racist or attack other people. Note I said people and not people’ opinions.

    Believe it or not that spirited debate makes these forums interesting and compelling. To do otherwise puts this forum at risk of becoming an echo chamber.

    As long as ground rules are estabished as to not calling other people names idiots morons,etc and excluding racist terms I think all posts should be allowed.

    Many of the most virulant xenophobic anti-import car posters are fine as long as they are forced to make their case without name calling, using racist language or questioning the patriotism of other posters.

    In fact they make compelling reading as posters on many sides of a debate can clearly embarrass themselves with information that is non factual or wrong, when postings containing the actual facts are subsequently posted by others.

    If someone wants to make a claim that buying a domestic is better than buying an import or they disagree with a review based on alleged import or domestic bias, then let them post but they will typically be rebutted unless they have any facts to back up their claims.

    I love reading the many postings on both sides and I would hate for this forum to become sterile. Remember most people don’t realize what makes compelling reality television is usually conflict between people.

    Just keep everyone civil and non racist and I think your forums will be fine.

    Sherman Lin

  • avatar
    TexasAg03

    Robert,

    I couldn’t have put it better myself, especially regarding reliability. I think you make an excellent point; that all cars are fairly reliable in terms of not breaking.

    When I shop for a car, I look at ones that I like, that I think drive well (for their given purpose), and ones that “feel” good. I currently own a Suburban and an F150. However, my next vehicle could well be a BMW or a Lexus or a Honda. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

    I would love to buy a car that is 100 percent American made (designed and built). However, no such vehicle exists. Therefore, I buy what I think is the best vehicle for what I need and/or simply the one I want.

  • avatar
    KingRocky

    Here’s the thing:

    GM and Ford manufacture cars around the world. They deliver to the American market EXACTLY what their focus groups/polls/etc. say that the majority of the American market wants!

    Americans like their Impalas, Five Hundreds & LaCrosses just the way they are, thank you. They love them so much, that Toyota went out of their way to design and manufacture the “Japanese Buick,” or as its better known, “Avalon.” The 1st generation Avalon even had the same floaty ride & poor handling as the Buick. But to purchase that Avalon, you will pay a price premium over your standard issue Buick sedan.

    In fact, a large number (I DID NOT SAY “ALL”) of GM’s & Ford’s vehicles are priced LOWER than their “equivalent” import models. Pontiac, Chevrolet, & Ford sedans cost lower than Toyota, Honda & Nissan models of the same size, and we buy them en masse like the discount cars that they are.

    Its the American consumer that dictates the quality & performance of American vehicles. By purchasing these vehicles, we are, in effect, telling American manufacturers to do more of the same. Ì„I call it the “Wal Mart” mentality: American consumers are quite happy with Good Enough (TM). As long as the price is low, we will settle for Good Enough.

    Witness the victory of VHS over Betamax, or the huge market share of Windows over Macintosh. Betamax blew away VHS in terms of quality & performance, the same way that Mac blows away Windows. Yet consumers will usually pick the lower-cost item and tell themselves that it’s “Good Enough.”

    So what to buy, the Pontiac G6 or Honda Accord? Both about the same size, same features. Both ride and handle about the same (in general terms). Both offer good warranties. The G6 gets above average reviews, while the Accord gets excellent reviews. But here’s the kicker: The G6 costs thousands less than the Accord.

    If you’re “Joe Consumer,” what would you buy?

  • avatar

    CSJohnston,

    Perhaps I was biased because I owned the SE, but I drove the SVT a couple of times and didn’t like it as much. They reduced the effort in the steering and shifter with the refresh, going from a rod to a cable for the latter, and this applied to the SVT as well. I also didn’t care for the design changes to the center console and the rear end. Your impressions, since you owned both?

    The ride actually improved with the SVT. The SE had a very harsh ride.

    In either car I loved the sounds made by the V6. Reviewers went both ways on whether the engine was too loud for its own good.

    The Mazda6 and Fusion don’t feel at all like the Contour. They’re larger, and have the lighter feel Japanese cars tend to have. The Contour, especially in SE form, felt quite German. Very ruggedly constructed, probably over-engineered. (Ford spent an insane amount of money on the development of the car.) My current car, a Mazda Protege5, feels flimsy in comparison.

    Oddly enough, the closest thing you can probably get now is the Jaguar X-Type. It’s much more refined than the Contour, and you’d never tell there was a Contour there from driving it. And except in some colors with the sport package it just doesn’t look right. But some common characteristics remain. People who criticize the X-Type for simply being a Mondeo in drag first never understood how solid a car the original Mondeo/Contour was, or drove the Jag and Mondeo/Contour back-to-back.

  • avatar
    CSJohnston

    Critical Thinker

    Define “near future”. GM and Ford have good cash reserves and they are selling vehicles. My guess is that they are not losing money on all of their lines.

    As I said in a previous comment on another thread, both companies have flirted with disaster before (I think Ford has faced the B-word at least three times in its 103 year history). These companies have tremendous engineering, design and manufacturing capabilities not to mention extensive sales and distribution channels. What they need is focus. I think that is the primary issue. Ford needs a Hank the Deuce and GM needs Al Sloan. They do not have these guys at present.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Michael Karesh —

    Chrysler service is still that bad, huh? I don’t remember the details because it is all fuzzy, but when my old man died, we had to deal with his leased Grand Cherokee. The dealer said for us just to return it, there is a death clause in the lease, etc. I drove it to the dealer, signed some papers, gave them a death certificate, and…

    … received a bill a few weeks later for $27,000, the full new price of the vehicle.

    We made a lot of phone calls to a lot of people at Chrysler and were basically told, “I feel awful, but pay us.”

    My Mom was on the dangle and a lawyer friend advised her to just pay the money and take the Jeepp since a lawsuit would cost more time and money than it was worth.

    Let’s just say that was the last Chrysler product my Mother ever purchased.

  • avatar
    ExtraO

    My first post here at TTAC, though I’ve responded anonymously to a survey before…. What got me visiting the site in the first place is that it was the one place I’d found where I could get a relatively unvarnished accounting of the decline of GM.

    Gentleman,…. guys, (& gals too, if you’re here), could I offer a thought simply for your consideration in regard to this “domestic” vs “foreign” thing?? I confess I haven’t read all of the posts, so if somebody else has already brought this up, I apologize for the repetition.

    One of the points that Mr. Farago has made -that there are parts from all over the world in what are nominally “domestic” cars- underlines the fact that the iron is more in touch with reality than most of us. It doesn’t know where it is made and it doesn’t care. If we sit around here spending our time being “pro” this or “anti” that when it comes to where our transportation (or toy) is made (or where we imagine it’s made) then the problem can only tend to get worse, because we are acting out an attitude rooted squarely in the middle of the 19th century. –And such a world view can never hope to correctly address the realities of the 21st. As long as we try to hold on to points of view that have outlived their usefulness, we’re going to create problems for ourselves and we’ll never solve anything.

    Functionally, the Port of Los Angeles is today a lot closer to Yokohama & Shanghai than L.A. was to Detroit for the first several decades of the existence of the automotive industry. Think about it. Manufacturers will need go to the route that makes the most economic $en$e, and they can’t care if that means the jobs go away -even tho’ they might personally prefer that they stayed close to “home”. To act otherwise means that they will be eaten alive in this 21st century, and to the extent that their union contracts keep them mired in the past they will be eaten. We can either get with the program or suffer the consequences, but the change has already happened. When it comes to cars and trucks, “American made” or “foreign” are ghosts. They’re just ideas in our heads that don’t help anymore,and as painful as it apparently is going to be, there is no turning back the clock. It’s past time to simply put “Made on Earth” on the firewall and move on to more pertinent stuff.

    If a given marque -whether it be housed in Flint or in Stuttgart or in Guangzhou province is not up to snuff, it’s gonna be in trouble, and if fans -or the builders- of that particular marque are not up to hearing how they’re blowing it, then they’re history or soon will be. If they’re unable to distinguish between what it is that they do and what it is that the other guy -who’s more successful- is doing, they’re toast. And so are all the jobs of the people that work for them.

  • avatar
    CSJohnston

    Michael Karesh,

    I agree with you on the `96 Contour interior, much better than the SVT (which I think was a victim of Nasser’s “de-contenting” strategy) especially the full centre console in the SE versus the half-console in the SVT. Other little things like the door handle lighting and door switch lights not in the SVT were disappointing. I think the late `90’s were the beginning of Ford’s end as one of the better makers of car interiors.

    As for the exterior, I liked the front end change but the back became overwrought. I bought the SE because, like you, I liked the clean look of the body. I liked what SVT did with dual exhaust, the lower body cladding and the larger 5-Spoke Wheels on the 1998.5 SVT.

    With respect to the shifter, although it went from a rod to a cable, I thought the shifts were still good and precise, that being said, I did have the shift cable adjusted once because the throw was pretty short going into first gear (it was very noticeable on cold days).

    Steering was lighter but I also thought it was much more responsive in the SVT. I felt I could adjust more precisely going through corners versus the SE.

    And how can an engine sounding that good be too loud?

    Interestingly enough, I traded the SVT in on a Platinum `03 X-Type Sport 3.0 with a 5-Speed Manual. While I love the car for its performance, looks and luxury, the SVT was more fun to drive IMHO. As to your point about the X-Type being on the European Mondeo platform, I saw that as a positive.

    A short anecdote, I was at a car wash with the Jag and a guy pulled up next to me in an `01 or `02 Audi A4. His first comment was a sneering “so how do you like your Ford?” My immediate response was “great thank you, how’s your VW?”. He laughed and suddenly realized we were both driving “impure” luxury marques. We spent the rest of our wait for wash bays arguing about the merits of Ford and VW engines and then disparaged every one else’s car… especially those BMW guys!

    Time and money permitting, I would likely pick up a well-maintained Contour SVT again. A 1999 with the horsepower upgrade if possible!

  • avatar
    RicardoHead

    Is this issue settled now?

  • avatar

    I’m just barely old enough to remember when it was only Ford vs. Chevy that got this stupid. It’s an artifact of human nature to portray issues in two parts, us and them. I think Mr. Farago will be exercising his fingers banning arguments for some time to come.

  • avatar
    Rastus

    insightOwner,

    Nah, I don’t think it’s necessarily human nature. I think it’s the brainwashing we’ve been raised with since day one. What do you do in early grade school? Color in maps of the world, indicating pink for “China”, green for “Germany” and “Blue” for USA. Of course, when one looks at the earth from space, it’s a one continuous mass.

    It’s all utter and complete BS. I think the “us vs. them” is not necessarily human nature at all…but an integral part of our political structure. Now, when you’re talking politics and governments, of course it’s “us vs. them”.

    That’s why I feel no shame in not supporting “my own”. I’ve owned GM and Ford, and well…I “Was” neutral…until GM and Ford proved me wrong. You see, I have given them both the benefit of the doubt. It was GM and Ford who have let me down, not the other way around.

    Anyone and any company who EARNS my business has a right to HAVE my business. Which is why I will never buy GM and Ford again.

    The GM Death Watch did not spring into existence from nothing. Its origins lie completely within GM’s managment and culture.

    *GM* created the GM Death Watch series!!!

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    The G6 costs thousands less than the Accord. If you’re “Joe Consumer,” what would you buy?

    The Accord outsells the G6 by 2:1, and that’s not counting minimal fleet sales with the Accord which would probably skew the non-fleet sales ratio even higher.

  • avatar
    BuzzDog

    Jonny Lieberman wrote:

    …when my old man died, we had to deal with his leased Grand Cherokee… received a bill a few weeks later for $27,000, the full new price of the vehicle….My Mom was on the dangle and a lawyer friend advised her to just pay the money and take the Jeep…

    Jonny, I am SO SORRY about your father’s death, and hate hearing that you had such a bad experience. I have twice had similar experiences after the death of a loved one.

    If this actually did end with you mother having to buy out the contract at the full purchase price of the vehicle (OUCH!), it’s unfortunate that a second legal opinion wasn’t sought. As a 26-year banker, I will tell you that in the event of death the creditor IS NOT in the best bargaining position. It’s a shame that no one in the family was in the mood to call their bluff on this, but you can certainly understand this given the shock of a death. Since legal action also is costly to the creditor, it’s sometimes a good idea to say, “Fine, come get the vehicle. You can then sell it and sue the deceased for the difference.” But again, when one is mourning this is not always easy to do.

    Not sure at what point in the lease term the death occurred, but at worst your mother should have been stuck with the difference between the current residual value on the lease and the current book value of the vehicle.

  • avatar
    Darrencardinal

    “The G6 costs thousands less than the Accord, if you are Joe Consumer, which one would you buy?”

    I would buy the Accord, hands down. The resale value will be a lot better on the Honda.

    But maybe I’m “biased.” I had a Firebird that was a sluggish piece of crap. And I don’t work for GM.

  • avatar
    New2LA

    Being Comment #63, I’m wondering if anybody will even bother to read this.

    I was born and raised on GM products. My father worked his way up the “GM Status Ladder” (Chevy to Olds to Buick and then to Cadillac) early in his life and bought new GM models every couple of years. I remember well when he proudly displayed his early Caddy deVille’s in the front driveway of our house.

    This, despite the fact that GM sold him some pretty bad lemons. Worst car ever was a (then-new) ’77 Buick Skyhawk for my teen sister. Equipped with the engine everybody over 70 raves about — the 3.8L V6 — the car refused go uphill. The engine rusted after just 2 years of service to us. Plus, a watery mixture flooded the passenger compartment floor; as a 10 yr old, I had to remember to lift up my feet when my sister put on the brakes, otherwise my feet would get soaked.

    Question: 30 years later, why does GM still put the SAME basic engine in 30% of it’s ugly, blobular sedans?

    I love old GM cars. And I love GM. My first car was a hand-me-down Grand Prix (the ’79 variety sans 2bbl 120 hp V8 – I used to flip the air cleaner cover to get that great venturi sound when I floored it). So what if the right hand side door sagged and had to be lifted to close it, it was my first car. I love 70’s Caddy’s and 60’s Olds convertibles like my dad used to drive.

    They all had one thing today’s GM cars lack: Character.

    So why won’t I even consider a GM car today? Same reason why I like eating at fine restaurants rather than The Olive Garden. I don’t like mediocre crapola.

    GM’s cars suck.

    To those of you who are big American car fans and think the world is out to get you: you have to compare GM’s current crop of cars to those of the competition, not to themselves. That’s what I do.

    For example — you have to compare that 3.8 pushrod 6 to Honda’s lovely 3 and 3-1/2 litre engineering masterpieces — you know, the ones they build new from scratch once every decade but GM doesn’t. You have to compare the quality of Caddy’s plasticky new interiors to those of the Eurpoeans. F*&K the few grand I may be saving by buying one of their new Art & Science cars (The Art & Science that Zigs? sorry) over a BMW or Mercedes, but in the luxury market, people aren’t looking for value.

    Therein lies GM’s problem: always trying to be the value proposition even when nobody is asking it to.

    Look at major trends in our country: people are moving away from value and into pure luxury. 30 years ago, would you imagine paying extra for the privilege of getting your groceries at a ritzy Whole Foods market? Didn’t think so. Have you been to a Best Buy lately? Next time, take a look at all the people who are buying those ultra-expensive plasma tv’s and tell me they are searching for value. How many new homes are still being built with 8 foot ceilings? Value is not a part of current American trends.

    GM is handicapped by money-sapping unions happy to make sure its people make unbelievable sums to work the assembly lines, an old-time dealer network that can’t be broken (they are the driving force behind the upcoming and rediculous) Pontiac Cobalt, for example), and by a bean-counter management style that could care less about things like leadership, quality and innovation.

    Every time GM announces a new car, I still get excited. Reminds me of being a kid, when cars like Sevilles and Trans Ams were cool. But every time – like clockwork – I am let down. If I had a dime for each time GM “almost” matched the Japanese or Eurpeans with their new releases, I’d be able to afford the cost of southern CA real estate.

    I have, unfortunately, given up hope on my old favorite. I have no plans to purchase any new GM models whatsoever. Not a single one fits what I am looking for. I will continue to look to BMW and Mercedes, perhaps even Lexus for the forseeable future. Please, give me a reason to look at GM!

    So for those of you who hate the fact that people like me exist, like somehow we “just can’t see the light” (what – that GM-Buick wins the ridiculous JD Power “quality” awards?), all of your crying and bitching won’t get me into your cheap, plasticky, ugly, boring cars.

  • avatar
    New2LA

    PS: Almost forgot: my dad stopped buying GM cars in 1990.

  • avatar
    theguest59

    My only 2 new cars in 30+ years of driving were an 85 Ford Tempo and an 89 Ford Escort. Junk. Absolute mechanical garbage. Major mechanical problems with both (the Escort was purchased to replace an A/C deprived Tempo.) Ok, the Escort was kind of fun to drive when it did run. Except that I seemed to be driving it to a mechanic much of the time to fix one thing or another.

    Recently, purchased a low mileage 2003 Sonata after much research into what I could afford in the “recent used” market. Buick Century and the Chevy Impala (both used) were a close second. No way I’d look at a Ford product after my earlier wallet burning experiences.

    Reliable, well designed cars that are fun to drive and have decent gas mileage will appeal to potential owners across the board. Years ago, Honda and Toyota took the “entry level” market with small, quality cars and were eventually able to expand their lines and keep the quality (most of the time.) The Koreans seem to be doing that as well.

    The Big 2.5 comes up with the Cobalt, Stratus or lets a promising car like the Focus die on the vine. They don’t get it. Brand loyalty only goes so far.

    I hope they do “get it.” However, with the energy crunch in place for 33 years and stiff competition from abroad, it seems like they are lost more often than not.

  • avatar
    BarryO

    So we should limit our comments to the contents of a review. That sounds fair.

    Does this mean that TTAC will only review cars, and drop the Death Watch series?

  • avatar
    Transylvanian

    What I picked up from the original post was one line regarding this import vs. domestic issue, and that is that GM increasingly uses parts in their cars that were manufactured in China. Now that leads to a tought: is car manufacturing in general and in particularly in the US (and this determines the world market in a large part) going in a direction of the “disposable car” ? I just could not get a better term for this – after paper plates, plastic forks, clothing items that fade out faster than they go out of style is this the next step in consumer madness, just buying the “best deal” where the most important parameter is how cheap the car is ? We keep talking about quality issues, but really when somebody buys a Hyundai are they really talking about quality or just about best quality for the buck (achieved by reducing the number of bucks) ? Every choice we make when we buy something worse for a little less money drives the world towards having more badly and hastily built “crap” and in the end this costs way more than the up-front price. Why does Mercedes and Toyota have reliability problems recently ? Because they HAVE to push prices lower or the cheap competition will kill them and therefore they HAVE to use parts from cheap and unreliable sources or have to cut something in design/testing. If GM will put engines fully assembled in China in their cars then by our choices we have really achieved to get the message to the automakers: we don’t care how you do it, we don’t care how much you pollute the environment or waste resources or underpay your workers (preferable in a far away country so we don’t have to see it) – just make it cheap. Is that really the message that we want to tell ? Because this is the message that is being received.

  • avatar
    qfrog

    The boy that cried wolf desensitized his potential provider of aid in a time of need. The 2.5 have produced cars that I regard as uninteresting seccond rate appliances for ages. Whatever I drive needs to be interesting and inspiring on top of capable and reasonably reliable, the styling must also appeal to my tastes. In my case the deck is heavily stacked against domestic cars.

    I’m disinterested in the domestic cars for any number of reasons apart from the cars. Honestly I don’t really want to be associated with the nascar lot and pickup truck driving good old boys that verbalize in slaughtered english with key phrases like “get-er-done”. I dont want to be a model away from driving the same car as a guy with a gun rack in his rear window.

  • avatar
    mikey

    Hey new2LA I got a 3.8 in my FIREBIRD the best engine ever concieved by man,the 283 runs a close 2nd,but the 3.8 rules am I raving yet?wait untill I`m 70.

  • avatar
    New2LA

    Mikey, that’s cool that it worked for you – sure didn’t for us. Hey, do you have a 2-gen F-body? (screaming chicken T/A is my favorite).

    So congrats, I think you are the first person in history to call the 3.8 the best engine ever conceived by man. Problem is, the point you make – that your engine actually worked – still does nothing to make me want to go out and buy a GM.

    I like INNOVATION. GM used to be a big innovator – remember auto starters, THM’s, wraparound windshields, airbags and front-wheel drive luxobarges? For the first 4 decades of its existence, GM was on fire. So what about now?

    The “GM 3800” (f/k/a Buick’s 231 V6) has little, if any innovation. Compare that to engines from other manufacturers that compete in the same markets, even the upstart Koreans. Again, I bring up Honda. Take a look at Toyota. Nissan. All have created engineering marvels. The engine in the car I chose to buy, for example, is a race car-inspired inline 3 liter with an aluminum AND magnesium block and stepless timing. It has ultra smooth power delivery, and some of the sweetest sounds this side of a V12 – things GM still can’t match.

  • avatar
    Yuppie

    Re: all the comments seeing where vehicles are “really” made, see also:

    http://www.caranddriver.com/comparisons/10245/mid-size-four-door-sedans.html

    Accord (USA), Camry (USA), Sonata (USA), and Fusion (Mexico)

    And this article can hardly be biased against Ford, the Fusion came in 2nd. That’s not surprising. It is made by workers who are not protected by big unions, so their workmanship actually matters.

    The problem with the pro-Big 3 “patriots” is that 1. they don’t let facts (or truth, since this is TTAC) get in the way, 2. they are still reliving the past when the Big 3’s ladder of progression (e.g. GM => Buick => Cadillac) served accurately as a gauge in a working person’s (man, back in those days)professional development, or 3. both of the above.

    E.g., most patriots don’t really “believe” that my Accord was made in Ohio. Even my educated (engineering undergrad and law school grad) friend. He said that he does not believe in that “final assembly” B.S., conveniently overlooking the Fusion example or the fact that GM is selling rebadged Korean-made cars. Then again, he voted for Bush, so what can I say?

    It’s sad to see all the missteps of the Big 3. For a while, when I was really into hot hatches, all I wanted was a Ford Focus RS. But of course Ford never brought it over, so pervasive was the “good enough” mentality.

  • avatar
    CSJohnston

    qfrog,

    As an erudite Redneck or “les cous rouges” as we refer to ourselves in the NASCAR salons imbibing fine lagers, ales and other such potables, I find your comments both malignant and erroneous..

    It is imperative that we remind ourselves that stereotypes are hurtful and do a disservice to us all. The very purpose of Mr. Farago’s editorial was to eliminate such bilious commentary from the TTAC forums.

    Besides, you wouldn’t want us to open up a big ol’ can o’ whoop-ass on y’all now.

  • avatar
    CSJohnston

    On the subject of where cars are made.

    Yes, we should be looking at companies as global entities now but we should also look at them as where their head offices and thus, key decisions are made.

    When you factor in items like design, engineering, purchasing, finance and operations (the “high-grade” elements of an automotive company), where do these elements reside?

  • avatar
    Giltibo

    Doesn’t it seem strange that most of the top vehicles sold here when it comes to domestic content (Canada / USA) are Japanese-branded?

    On another point: I have owned 9 cars in the last 22 years, 7 “domestic”, 2 “Imports – 1 made in Japan, 1 in Canada”. I drove an average 25 000 miles a year. If I compare these cars at the same mileage, the “imports” have aged much better than the “domestic”. Most could have been considered “Reliable”, but the domestics I’ve owned have become “old” much earlier in their lives. For example, car #7 – a 1995 Buick Regal cost me and GM – under “goodwill” warranty clauses – over 9 000$ between 60 000 and 100 000 miles. It needed (Including the repairs cited before): 2 transmission rebuilds, 1 replacement, 4 alternators, 3 heater cores, 2 crankshaft position sensors, 2 ECU’s, 2 sets of disc brakes calipers, HVAC controls and a fuel pump – All that in 130 000 miles. It started almost every morning for those years, I likes the car… Until my wife bought a 2001 Civic which has been, since, BORINGLY reliable (Like my 2003 CR-V): these cars have needed no other repairs then the regular maintenance – lube, oil, filters, tires, brake pads, etc, and both drive and feel like new, no squeaks of rattles, no unscheduled visits to the dealership. (How’s that for reliability?, the ’01 has 85 000 miles, the ’03, 60 000)

    As much as I’d like to laud the “domestics” (GM, FoMoCo and DCX), I have to say that they still have a lot of road to cover to reach the goal of surpassing the Toyotas and Hondas of this world…

  • avatar
    qfrog

    CSJohnston,

    I’m sorry to offend your pure and unadultered automotive sensibilities. Truthfully I believe I’m not the only individual that is affected by such predispositions to brands based on observations of brand culture. To some a vehicle is nothing more than a transportation appliance purchased on factual information such as fuel consumption and warranty coverage period. Others purchase cars based on perception and taste as a statement of their personal values. Many take some from column A and mix vigorously with a sampling from column B to subsequently arrive at purchasing destination X.

    Perhaps I’m simply an automotive biggot… regardless I’d still like to see some appealing domestic cars. I actually like what I see from Holden, damn shame is that GM has to pontiac them up before selling em here. I’d actually consider buying a Holden Commodore if I liked how it drove, because I sure do like how it looks.

    I don’t think my relatives in rural Missouri would give an Australian brand a chance… I don’t think that side of my family would even give Fosters Beer a try. But call a Monaro a GTO and you’ve got something saleable in places where the driveway is a half mile long unlit dirt road. Speaking of which Its been a while since I’ve been out to visit the Grandparents farm.

  • avatar
    naif

    Thank you R.F.

  • avatar
    taxman100

    I’ve owned mostly domestics, but have had a Mazda Miata and my wife has a 2000 Corolla. I have to be honest – none of them have been trouble-free, and I have not really noticed much difference between them.

    My wife’s 2000 Corolla has 101,000 miles on it, and it sounds like any other car I’ve had when it reached that mileage – more NVH, declining gas mileage, etc. Even this vaunted Toyota needed the engine rebuilt (under warranty) at 59,000 miles, and since then, 2 throttle position sensors, Ox sensors, etc. Currently the tape player eats tapes, and the middle light in the gauges is burnt out, and no easy way to replace it. True, the car is still reliable to drive, but it’s nothing special compared to my domestics I’ve owned.

    For reliability, my best cars have been my Mercury Grand Marquis – I’d take one of them over a Toyota any day – but I’m not in the majority on that.

    My rule of thumb is stay away from front wheel drive on a domestic, and you’ll be much happier.

  • avatar
    xargs99

    I have always been impressed by Honda engineering. That said, the domestics have had some great cars and MILES of innovation- seemingly until about 1973.

    My family bought their first japanese car in 1980, the 2nd gen Civic. That car cost sticker plus, and there was a waiting list. Why? rediculous reliability. 212k miles later it finally needed its complicated CVCC carburetor rebuilt, and my mother sold it, to be replaced by a 1985 Civic wagon. 192k miles (and a lot of body damage by my stunt driving brother) later it got replaced by a 1993 Civic. 300k later, IT was replaced by a 2006 Civic. These cars have been boringly reliable, frugal, and reasonably fun to drive.

    My family’s first new car was a 1978 Ford Bronco (OJ style) that spent the first 6 months of its life in the dealer’s service bays, and was never a sure thing through its short life. When we sold it at 80k miles it had aged beyond its years.

    I would like to stand up for the 3800 V6. The Series II was a VERY developed design, and dumb FWD intake manifold sealing aside, it makes plenty of power. I have some bias towards it though, I have an F-car 3800 with a Holden intake manifold and a Ford Super Coupe supercharger on it, making 280 hp with 7psi of boost.

  • avatar
    qfrog

    taxman,

    I think the automotive world is too complex to live by a simple rule of thumb.

    At one point in time the Focus was considered a decent and current car, I think it even made the C&D top ten. Two people have just posted good comments on the contour/mondeo of course neither of those are wholly domestic cars but rather domesticated european models. Both Focus & Controu are front wheel drive “domestic” products. The tragedy is that neither has been succeded by an improved replacement model.

    Your Grand Marquis as I understand is an ancient platform which is one of the last wholly American cars made. Ford has had deccades to perfect that model.

    I don’t think it is fair to avoid domestic cars by their driveline configuration… judge each car by it’s merits and short comings individually.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    BuzzDog,

    I really do not remember at what point in the lease the Jeep was at. We were able to sell it for $19,000, so we basically took an $8,000 hit on the truck. Which, all things considered, who cares? My Mother was (obviously) a wreck back then and 8 grand was a small price to pay to get her mind off “that fucking Jeep!”

    But my point is, how ever much money they Chrysler made off my family at that point in time, they lost way more down the road. My mother, who is now a very wealthy woman, buys cars in cash when she feels like it, and she will never, ever buy another Chrysler product — including Mercedes.

    The sad irony is how much my father loved his Jeeps. He actually took them off pavement!

  • avatar

    For those who do fight over the domestic vs import issue I wonder if the location where they live in the US is a factor in which side of the spectrum they choose.

  • avatar
    wsn

    Regarding Transylvanian’s post :
    I just could not get a better term for this – after paper plates, plastic forks, clothing items that fade out faster than they go out of style is this the next step in consumer madness, just buying the “best deal” where the most important parameter is how cheap the car is ? We keep talking about quality issues, but really when somebody buys a Hyundai are they really talking about quality or just about best quality for the buck (achieved by reducing the number of bucks) ?

    What is quality, if you do not set a price standard? Is BMW 330 a quality car? It’s certainly cheap and crappy compared to a Porsche Panamera. But most consumers don’t (and should not) spend their dollars that way, right?

    In the same way, you can not say Chinese products are of low quality. They certainly are among the best the same money can buy. Try to find a $5/hour quality worker in the states. That same amount can get you a well-educated and self-disciplined Chinese worker.

    There are plenty of offerings in today’s market. $20,000 can get you a Camry. If you think that is of low quality because Toyota bought the cheap parts, try a $35,000 ES350.

    Bottom line is: you get what you paid for; if you can pay more, there are many choices out there.

  • avatar
    nino

    Did I miss something? I thought we were all having a good time.

    Ditto.

    I really didn’t feel there was anything personal to any of the previous comments made….well. that comment about Miata drivers maybe.

  • avatar
    nino

    I have no problem with “domestic” vs “import” (if such a thing really exists), I have a problem with the way GM (and to a lesser extent, Ford) conducts its business.

    In my opinion, GM has a few pretty good engines in the 3.6, DOHC V6, the 2.8 DOHC turbo V6 (in the SAAB and upcoming Alfa Romeo), and the 4.2 DOHC straight 6 in the Trailblazer et al. Yet, the scarcity of these engines in their product lines puzzles me. Just broadening the availability of these engines would go a long way to making GM cars more appealing. But, are they doing it? No. Why not?

    The same goes for the availability of a modern, 6 speed auto transmission. Was it really that long ago that GM made the BEST transmissions in the WORLD? Every luxury car maker in the world sourced their auto trans from GM. What has happened since?

    The FIAT debacle was a result of GM’s need for a small Diesel engine to put into their European cars. Some exec thought it more important to boost the stock price and pay out bonuses rather than invest $250 million (or thereabouts) to develop a small modern Diesel. $4.5 billion dollars later….

    GM’s new cars like the Solstice/Sky, big SUVs, etc, seem like a cake that is only 75% baked. I find it odd that a car like the SolstSky has NO TRUNK with the top down considering that these cars represent a lifestyle weekend get-a-way type of vehicle! And the big SUVs don’t represent a big enough improvement considering their huge development cost. I modestly say that many of us would have figured out a better way to develop these and other vehicles GM makes. Someone mentioned here that it takes a long time to develop new models, that a company has to PREDICT what customers will want in the future. Well, customers have always wanted good, reliable, cars that are fun to drive, don’t eat you out of house and home, and offer an outstanding value. Does GM need 30 years of lead time to figure this one out?

    In my immediate family, we own anywhere from 19 to 23 cars at any one time. I’m also lucky in that I get to sample many cars (although, not as in-depth as those that review cars here). I know what I see. I want GM and Ford to make world class cars. More importantly, I want them to change the way they do business. I believe that the GM (and Ford) Deathwatches are a small help in bringing that about. Because, until they do, you can forget about GM and Ford making world class cars in this country ever again.

  • avatar
    nino

    And a one more thing;

    I enjoy this website partly because of the opinions of those that comment here. As long as the comments aren’t of a personal nature, I don’t see anything wrong with going after another’s OPINION.

    Let’s not make this a feel-good site where no criticism or dissent is allowed.

  • avatar
    New2LA

    Nino, the fact that GM refuses to put their “High Feature” engines (2.8 and 3.6) in more of their lineup is exactly the point. It is well know that they won’t do it because their beancounters complain that these engines are too expensive to build and think their clientele are all too old or too stupid to notice the difference when they slip in a 1980’s era 3.9L V6 in their place.

    [That’s not a flame of anybody who buys a GM car with the 3.9 (or other) engines by the way – its a flame of current GM management that doesn’t even realize how many of us hate what they do to their cars.]

    The I6 won’t fit in most of GM’s passenger cars, especially the ones that have their engines fitted in an east-west config.

  • avatar
    nino

    —The I6 won’t fit in most of GM’s passenger cars, especially the ones that have their engines fitted in an east-west config. —

    And isn’t THAT a stupid way to design cars (and trucks) that can’t take advantage of one of your best engines?

    That 4.2 engine would be great to have in my work van, or pick-up truck, or a CTS-like sports sedan.

    290HP and all that torque and SMOOOOOOTHNESS to boot?

    One of my dream rides is a last gen Camaro with the 4.2 engine and a six speed manual.

  • avatar
    nino

    Much talk has been about GM and all its brands and how hard it is to make them different. What if you took the Buick Lucerne and make it different from its Caddy clone by offering the 3.6 engine as the standard engine and developing a turbo version of that engine as the upmarket option? Not only would it make the Lucerne different than the Caddy by not offering the “NorthStar” engine (keeping it a Caddy exclusive), but the turbo engine would harken back to the days of the Regal Grand National.

    I don’t know, these things seem like no-brainers to me.

  • avatar
    MoparLarry

    Well desprite the name, I’ve owned and/or driven cars of all makes and national origins. Why this debate, given the 89 past posts, many which pointed out that the lines are blurred due to mulit national parts sourcing, rebadging aand other automotive name games? Well most of us woulkd like to see the “home team” (ie: the big 2.5) make a hit every once and a while. It can be hard to do that when they build a car that is a horrorshow from bumper to tail light.
    Anyone remember the “old” VW rabbit. I had one and so did my girlfriend. A ball to drive. However the car held true to a rule a friend told me…you pay for the Rabbit twice…once to buy it and again to fix it and keep it on the road.
    The car I plunked my money down for brand spanking new was a 95 Plymouth Neon Sport coupe. 5 speed four wheel disc brakes, modifed SOHC motor. It was a great car that I wrung 178K out of the hard way.
    Yes it suffered from the infamous disappearing Neon head gasket, but that was at 143K.
    But here is my pet peeve. Ma Mopar had a great little car with the Neon, which with refinement, could have been world class. But it took them until 99 to fix the head gasket problem. There were other issues with the car that, had DCX made the annual engineering refinements which have been standard among many of the Japanese and other Asian brands, they woulkd have had a condenter, maybe even a Civic beater.
    The car was a great performer and I embrassed some very expensive machinery with Neon I
    Neon II was a 1999 Expresso, passed down by my dad when he quit driving. It was a DOHC with an automatic. This automatic is a horsepower sponge, it is not designed for that motor in the slightest. Again, Chrysler missed the boat. Change a few gear ratios already!
    Here is the issue as i see it. Domestic -Big 2.5 manufacturers allow the accounts to over rule the engineers. No mater how crappy a design is, it will stay in place until that tooling is depreciated. I just don’t see that in the Japanese brands (at least Honda and Toyota, currently).
    And don’t get me started on my friends who bought an 05 Focus that was so bad, Ford bought it back from him under the NY state lemon law.
    As a consumer, I don’t give a damn if your tooling is paid off, build a decent car and if you don’t get it right the first time don’t wait until the tools and dies are depreciated to do so.

    Until the big 2.5 start letting engineering instead of economics, they will always be behind the sales and satisfaction 8 ball

  • avatar
    nino

    Detroit is full of examples on where they pull the plug on cars rather than refine them in order to succeed in the marketplace. It’s the automotive version of cut-and-run.

  • avatar

    Couldn’t agree more with that last statement, nino.

    Similarly, compare the rate at which Detroit makes toss model names with that of Toyota and Honda.

    The only time I can think of that Honda tossed model names was about the stupidest decision that company ever made. I’m thinking of when the Integra became the RSX and the Legend became the RL. The latter might never recover from the decision to go alphanumeric. What makes it all the more traffic was that these were strong model names with excellent images.

    Detroit, on the other hand, let’s a product get so old that it gets a bad rep, then kills off the name because it has a bad rep.

  • avatar
    Rastus

    This is not meant to start a flame war…but I do say this in the name of the “truth”.

    The individuals who support the domestic automakers are doubly hosed. On one hand, you have the Democrats who want handouts, social programs, and amnesty for all the 12 million illegal immigrants in the US.

    On the other hand you have the Republicans. They “say” they support tougher immigration control and present a tough facade. But here’s the clincher for all you “conservative” (ie Republican) types working the line: The Republicans say one thing (re. their stance on immigration)…but in reality they WANT the flood of immigrants in the US. Don’t for one minute think otherwise. Why? Becaues they make more money off the immigrants then they make off YOU! They are undermining your ability to make a livable wage….and yet YOU VOTE FOR THEM out of you “conservative” nature.

    Which one am I? It doesn’t matter. If I were an autoworker (which I’m not), I would make damn sure my kids (if I had any) were educated and had enough sense not to piss a life away on a line somewhere, expecting things to “always be there for me”.

    12 million immigrants are starving and will do most anything for your job. And mind you, those are only the ones here in the United States.

    Wrap your flag around That one!

  • avatar
    nino

    No offense Rastus, but I’d really rather not have the political talk over here.

    I can argue both politics and cars, but my mindset when I come here is only about cars.

    Thanks.

  • avatar
    nino

    With GM’s track record of killing off new models, does anyone expect the SolstSky to be around more than 4 or 5 years?

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    Robert, thank you for bringing us all back on point. It’s about the cars.

  • avatar
    Rastus

    I’m with you nino…you’d see that if you read my first post.

    The only reason I made the second post is because it hits upon the very nerve which brings about the “import vs. domestic” arguments we see all the time.

    I’m serious…why are we always arguing about domestics vs. foreign? People feel threatened is why…jobs and financial security are on the line…thus the bickering.

    Me? Best product ALWAYS wins my heart…plain and simple ;)

    So now I gave away my political leanings. It’s ok.

    From one conservative to another: Don’t be someone’s doormat…rise above and build us a BETTER PRODUCT!!!!

    3rd-rate cars are a result of a 3rd-rate mentality.

  • avatar
    nino

    —I’m with you nino…you’d see that if you read my first post.—

    I did, but I thought the second post was just more blatant.

    Never the less, I agree that building a better product is the key.

    I personally feel that it is the way the Detroit companies do business that turn off people more than where the cars are built.

  • avatar
    carguy

    So called foreign brands will most likely save the domestics. During their expansion and acquisition years they purchased companies such as Volvo, Opel and Mazda, which are now donating their car technology back to their corporate parent and saving them from their years of car neglct and SUV addiction. If it wasn’t for Volvo and Mazda there would be no Fusion, MKZ, Milan, 500 or Freestyle. And even GM owes no small debt to Opel and it’s Eplsilon platform development.

    This whole argument is pointless – there is no such thing as a domestic car anymore. When the car with the most domestic content is a Honda minivan even the slowest of domestic fan boys must surely wake up and smell the 21st century.

  • avatar
    CSJohnston

    Hi qfrog,

    No sweat, no offense taken, I was having a little fun as there is diversity even amongst rednecks!

    I do think that the domestics are starting to shake the cobwebs out on new cars. Why it has taken them five years to do this is beyond me. It all boils down to the right components being there.

    I think the Fusion is a credible step in the right direction and before everyone says that it is simply a Mazda 6 reskin, there were several significant changes to the platform before it became a Ford and the powertrains are all Ford.

    The Five Hundred is an engine and a comfy seat away from being a very credible large car (it was a very nice companion during our family vacation). Yes, the styling is boring but you could say that about virtually every Toyota that rolls off the line too.

    However, can someone please explain to me why Mazda can sell a euro-Focus derived Mazda 3 in North America (and presumably make money on it) while Ford hangs with the 90’s era Focus citing that making the euro-Focus in NA would be cost-prohibitive.

    As for the General, good things have been said about the Epsilon platform and several of their engines. They will have six-speed auto transmissions across the model range soon enough. I like the G6 styling (the interior not so much but I noticed that they at least offer colours other than black or grey unlike so many other manufacturers).

    The mystifying thing is that GM has all the right bits and pieces to make very credible and desirable pieces but they can’t cut through the cumbersome mass of management to make it happen. It’s nothing new but you still have to wonder why someone at the top isn’t making it all happen faster.

    I’m done my domestic apologising for the day. I have another thought to fire out there, for the most part, no manufacturer is making very many things that “light my fire” these days. Is the entire industry evolving to building soulless conveyances for the masses?

  • avatar
    dhathewa

    The thing that bothers me about the import vs domestic confrontation (it’s not a debate) are the racial overtones. Nobody seems to be terribly upset about people thinking German cars are superior. Heck, many boosters of the domestic product are OK with Chrysler being owned by Germans – to them it’s still a domestic brand.

  • avatar
    kovachian

    My old man donated 27 years of his life as a supervisor in several Delco Remy plants. He was going to retire after 30 years but noooo, he was forced to take an early retirement. All the best benefits GM had to offer were almost within his grasp and before he could blink, they were gone. Some benefits are still in place of course, but they’re nowhere close to what he truly deserved. Is that the thanks he gets for all he did for that company? GM is already dead to me; they can go belly up for all I care.

    Oh but he did get this nifty gold & silver plated checkers set. How thoughtful. :-/

    I work as an Audi technician and as far as I’m concerned, there’s no better company to work for imho. New models with fresh styling have shot sales past all time record levels and the future is looking pretty bright from where I stand. Our cars are assembled with a level of build quality that Detroit isn’t even capable of (as to be expected for our “premium” prices!). Plus I’m graciously spared from all that beaurocratic horse s*** so prevalent in the UAW and management; rewards are based on quality of work and customer service whereas seniority is second rate, to be called upon only AFTER the other factors are considered first. Can you imagine what homemade domestic-branded cars would be like if the corporate/labor mishmash operated the same way? We can only dream.

  • avatar
    PandaBear

    I wasn’t born in this country, grew up in this country, nor received most social service in this country until recently, so I guess you can say I do not have the baggage most Americans have when deciding whether to buy a “domestic” or “import”.

    In a way, I do want to buy the American brands because I do think they are great values for the dollar if you know how to take care of cars, and they do have good ideas that deserve the sales. Take my dad’s Taurus, for example, it has good gas milage and good torque, just the right amount of power for daily commute, just the right amount of space, just the right amount of accessories, just the right amount of reliability (not perfect, but no show stopper, and only been to the shop 4 times in the last 5 years), and finally, just the right price (almost as cheap as a Corolla).

    The problem with American cars, IMO, is not reliability (look at Mitsu Eclipse vs. Chevy Cavalier, people want to buy Eclipse even though it is a POS in the reliability dept, and it is basically a Neon), but style and design decision. The big 2.5 need to stop building cars for rental company with rental car budget, rental car looks, and rental car quality. You are selling to people that buy and keep a car for 10 years with $25k budget, not to people need to get a “mid size with 16.5 sq ft cargo” and 1 year warranty with the lowest bidding price. They also need to move the design studio from the middle of nowhere, so their designer will actually check out what people like and what people drive at big city with fashion and design cue, and come out with cool products. Take a look at Neon vs. Eclipse, they are the same damn car, but Eclipse is so much cooler and sell better than Neon because teen want them, got that?

    Move the hq out of detroit and in to NYC or LA, and let the management and designer see the world and make their decisions like they should have.

  • avatar
    gearhead455

    Looks like you guys miss me here.

    As far as “bashing import cars” I have never, I actually like a lot of them. It’s just another example of your twisted perception. I have never made one blanket statement that stated “all imports are crap” or “I once owned a 1975 Chrysler Valiant and it was junk so every car made by Chrysler is junk forever”.

    I own an import and have owned several and I really never really have seen what makes an import so infallible and a domestic so much a “POS”. It’s all a bunch of mass produced machinery and all of it all will break in some form, it’s guaranteed. I have worked as a Tech at an import dealer and a domestic dealer… we really have never had a shortage of work on either end I live in an area that has a low percentage of import cars.

  • avatar
    Mike

    I’ll throw in my opinion, I guess.
    I’m split. I don’t favor import or domestic. I favor who makes a car I want.

    I’m in college and own a Saturn SC2, and I would consider owning another GM product. My Saturn borders on being fun to drive and starts every time I turn the key. But there is a problem. GM doesn’t make anything I want. I only bought a Saturn because its all I could afford at the time. Neither does Ford. DCX does. Mitsubishi does. Toyota does. Nissan does. Mazda does (even though it is technically FordMoCo). All reliability aside, GM and Ford don’t make anything that I look at and say “I want that car.” Of course there is the ‘Vette or Sky, but those aren’t realistic choices for me. It depends on the maker in this dept.

    If you want to speak reliability, I use my dad’s experience because he’s owned the most cars of anyone I know. He’s owned a Pathfinder (232K, no problems), a Pontiac Sunbird (110K, blown engine), a 240SX SE (106K, no problems), a Mazda RX-3 (?K, rotary too much trouble), an Eclipse Spyder (159K, no problems), an Eclipse GT (78K, no problems), a Lancer Ralliart (38K, driver’s seat ripped a little), a Camaro IROC-Z (98K, electrical problems), a ’66 Mustang (66K, too much to fix up), a 300ZX Turbo (118K, computer for the electronic dash too expensive to replace), a Blazer 4X4 (122K, sucked up gas), a Plymouth Voyager (140K, no problems), a GMC Sierra (Company truck, no problems), a VW Corrado (135K, fuel delivery problems), a Bonneville SSE (116K, transmission went out), and Cavalier Z24 (12K, transmission went out).
    I have had a ’91 Lumina Euro and the only thing good about it was the engine (that profusely leaked oil), a ’98 Neon that needed a new radiator a month after purchase, and now my ’00 Saturn.

    So based on the experiences that I’ve seen him have and that i’ve had so far, the imports win this one. Maybe they do more R&D before they build their cars. Maybe they’re more efficient, maybe they build with better material, maybe they’re managed better. Who knows the exact reason.

    My opinion in a nutshell is: I will look at domestics and imports, but its more likely that I’ll buy an import.

  • avatar
    jerry weber

    to the new CEO at ford: Dan, since you used the original 1985 ford taurus success story as your model to rebuild boeing’s production, I hope you now follow the success down the toilet and find out this very natty problem. Even when one of the big three has a success, they find a way to trash it, it just doesn’t go the distance ala taurus, olds cutlass, lincoln towncar etc. I can only think of corvette, and the pickup trucks until this year as models the American mfgs. were able to keep running with year in and out. And of course corvette at 30,000 units a year is not in the league with a popular vehicle like camry, civic, etc. Isn’t it ironic it is the end of the high pickup truck sales this year that put all three of the American manufacturers in the toilet. They were one band parades, all three of them.

  • avatar
    usa1

    When every article on GM and Ford is preceeded by “Death Watch”, how can you honestly expect any sane person to think you are objective? Yes they have problems, but come on. Where are the Mitshubishi, Suzuki, VW, Mercedes, etc. Death Watch series?

    The complete and utter stereo-typing of anyone trying to defend GM or Ford in your article above is another clear sign you are not objective. Let’s lump all the people that don’t agree with you in the “import hater / domestic apologist” category. Makes it easier for you.

    I love the line about how, “if a TTAC write say “X”, it’s truth.” Let’s be honest and call it their opinion.

  • avatar
    luiz.stockler

    I love this Country, but there is definitely something brutally wrong with non-metric auto fabrication around here.

    My first car, a VW Fox did not suck. Its replacemnet, a Ford Escort sucked. The hands-me-down Cavalier that followed: It sucked. Its replacement, a VW Quantum, did no suck. Its replacement, a GM pickup did not suck(!) but partially – I am convinced – because it was a 60’s technology tour-de-force with an 250cid inline-6 and and no accessories whatsoever, not even a 5th gear. Its replacement, the Latin America built VW Gol (not Golf) that followed, did not suck. But its replacement, a Mercury Mistake, sucked. Its replacement, a VW Golf 2.0slow did not suck. The Golf’s replacement, an E46 does not suck.

    Land-of-the-rising-sun 4Runner that wife drives does not suck. ML320 prior to that, oh boy, I don’t even want to go there… HOWEVER everything that sucked on that car was fit & finish related and could be traced directly to suppliers…. Nafta suppliers for that matter. Bummer is, a lot of that car was fit & finish. The Bronco II prior to that fell apart. The Corolla prior to that did not suck. The list goes on.

    I also ride a bike. Its a Universal Japanese Motorcycle. It does not suck. My co-worker, sitting right next to me, rides an American made bike that starts with B and it sucks (he’s shaking his head laughing as I type this – we are riding back home together tonight).

    My own experience tells me it’s all crap. I am now too old and scarred for life. Life’s too short to be spent fixing things that should not break and looking at plastic parts that do not fit while waiting for the green light.

    Now, before I purchase a car, I spend a considerable amount of time studying where the POS I am about to buy was designed, who manufactured its friggin’ engine and transmission, who are the main suppliers and where the whole thing was put together. So far the formula has worked. Coincidentally, my family now has cars that left producton lines either in Japan or Germany. The stuff that I’ve owned that was built in Brazil, Mexico or Alabama (good Lord, that ML) has all been substandard.


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