By on November 18, 2011

Both Akio Toyoda and Carlos Ghosn are in the U.S. and what are they doing here? They complain loudly about the high yen.  Akio Toyoda uses an interesting reasoning. It may make Americans wish for an even higher yen. Toyota may shift a “significant” amount of production to the U.S., if the yen stays high, and if demand in Japan will fail to consume Toyota’s vast capacity there. If the majority of Toyota’s output is shipped overseas, then factories will follow.

“If demand in Japan recovers, we will continue and work to maintain production of 3 million units” in Japan, Akio Toyoda said to Bloomberg. “If most of it becomes exports, shifting a significant amount of production to the U.S. may be considered.”

“If the yen continues to stay strong, Toyota will collapse,” Toyoda said at an opening event for a factory in Blue Springs, Mississippi. He reiterated comments he had made recently at a JAMA press conference in Tokyo, where Toyoda said that Japan’s automobile industry may no just hollow out, but “collapse” unless the yen goes back to more palatable levels. Toyoda usually is not prone to grandiose rhetoric, and when he says „collapse“, then he means it.

At the same time, Nissan & Renault co-CEO Carlos Ghosn said yesterday at the sidelines of an event of the Japan Society in New York City: “What’s taking place now is many projects are now basing their manufacturing outside of Japan because they just cannot survive with this 77 yen to the dollar.” Says The Nikkei [sub]:

“Ghosn called the rate of 77 yen per dollar “unbearable” and said many Japanese companies are shifting their operations overseas because they do not see any clear prospects for an end to their predicament. Ghosn criticized the government for lacking effective measures to fight the yen’s record appreciation at “the worst time for the Japanese economy,” citing the March 11 earthquake and severe floods in Thailand.”

Since 2007, the dollar has fallen more than 35 percent against the yen, a currency which some dimwits who had not updated their dog-eared talking points, steadfastly call overpriced and manipulated by the Japanese government.

Listening to Ghosn’s comments, people may remember that he had mentioned building a new entry-premium Infiniti using a Mercedes platform – somewhere. It could be Europe, China, the U.S. or elsewhere (maybe Mexico), but definitely not Japan. Additionally, Financial Times Germany floated rumors of a joint Daimler/Nissan engine plant in the U.S.  Infiniti will buy two diesel and one V6-gasoline engine from Daimler, beginning in 2013, but Daimler’s European capacities are tapped out.

Bottom line: The high yen will most likely not help the Detroit 3 as much as it will create jobs on U.S. soil. And that’s where a high yen comes in handy: A yen that buys 35 percent more in dollars makes such an investment 35 percent cheaper.

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40 Comments on “Nissan And Toyota: Sayonara Japan, We’re Going To America...”


  • avatar
    cmoibenlepro

    I don’t understand why the yen is so strong, even after a decade long depression, and the tsunami.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert Schwartz

      The yen isn’t strong. The dollar is very weak. It is the US that is engaged in currency manipulation. Can you say “Quantitative Easing”?

      • 0 avatar
        aristurtle

        “Currency manipulation”? It’s called “monetary policy”. The whole damn point of using a fiat currency rather than some shiny metal is to allow us to have some degree of control over it. “Manipulation” is just what you call it when someone else is doing it and you want them to stop.

        But then I’ve never agreed with “Jesus, take the wheel!” as a policy in general, and I guess some people do.

      • 0 avatar

        It’s both. The yen was strong before “Qualitative Easing”, QE only made the yen stronger by comparsion.

        Qualitative Easing, what a euphemism! I prefer “inflating the currency to make our dollars worth less”.

        At least if Toyota/Nissan build plants here some people benefit.

    • 0 avatar
      PJ McCombs

      Investors see the yen as a safe haven in times of economic uncertainty. Even post-bubble, Japan is still the world’s 3rd-largest economy, and it looks a lot more stable to many investors than Europe (or, increasingly in the past decade, the US), natural disasters notwithstanding. For export-focused Japan, though, that’s no blessing.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      I don’t understand why the yen is so strong, even after a decade long depression, and the tsunami.

      The short answer is two-fold: Japan runs a considerable trade surplus, which usually has the effect of strengthening a currency, combined with the fact that the US dollar is relatively weak at the moment.

      Japan’s problem is that its policy is focused on trying to operate with a perpetual trade surplus. Given what trade surpluses typically do to exchange rates, that’s an impossible task over the long run.

      But forget the yen for the moment. It sounds as if Toyota and Nissan are laying the groundwork for eventually cutting jobs in the homeland, which probably makes sense for them regardless of the yen. That is a politically difficult position, and it’s easier for them to blame the yen than it would be to just chalk it up as a business decision.

      • 0 avatar
        Trend-Shifter

        pch101 – you described it exactly! +1

        The “theory” being that currency valuations change in the direction necessary to help maintain some form of a free market system that can correct trade imbalances. (supply & demand of currency)

        The Elephant in the room is China. They are distorting the entire world trading system with their exchange rate controls.

        This expands the western debt situation and we turn to China to purchase our debt. They are glad to accomodate us to recycle currency and create an atmosphere that prevents challenges to their currency policies.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    A job is a job. Maybe the name on the building is a foreign one but still pays. The Uber-nationalist types complain about the loss of manufacturing jobs all the time, this should shut them up but doesn’t because it’s a “ferrin” company not an “‘Merican” one.

    • 0 avatar
      VanillaDude

      Your hope that this news would alter the economic necessities of purchasing from American auto manufacturers exposes your inability to understand the issue.

      But I think your real reason for posting was to be insulting towards your fellow citizens with a US Southern accent, stereotying those living in the Southern States as ignorant and simple minded.

      When we consider the economic situation facing the US at this time, it is not wrong to request that we make every attempt to help stimulate the US economy by purchasing from an American automobile company. It would be good for everyone. If that sounds too nationalist for you, then you don’t really understand how something as simple as that can positively impact our economy, or you don’t care about anyone except yourself.

      And you are the one, regardless of your accent, who is simple minded and ignorant.

      • 0 avatar
        richeffect

        Go easy there, Vanilla. I once had a conversation with some “patriotic” co-workers complaining about profits going back to Japan even though my Accord was built by my fellow Americans and her Chevy Aveo was built in Korea. Given this, it’s difficult to choose where to put your money–but we should NOT buy anything simply because it’s American. That’s like a mother giving her drug-addict son more money while begging him to stop. Doing so would only prevent us from becoming better at building better, competitive products. Isn’t that how a “free” economy works?
        My mom raised us by herself working two jobs and only buys American cars but it was so painful to see her get gouged by the Plymouth dealer to replace the Mitsubishi engine twice in her first gen Voyager. I know it hurts, but the domestics will need to continue to care more about me and my family to get my hard earned dollars.
        Is it just me that sees the irony in Japanese manufacturers coming over and building better, more reliable cars with the same American labor as the domestics? My uncle worked for over 20 years at NUMMI so did I not help the local economy by purchasing my Toyota Matrix? Or should I have opted for the Vibe? GM eventually got my tax dollars anyway–the least they can do is let me have a car that won’t break down on my wife on a busy freeway.

  • avatar
    carbiz

    The U.S. is guilty of currency manipulation? (Sorry, I just spit my coffee out.)
    This just in: The Japanese spent $4.5 TRILLION YEN in August to prop up their currency. Didn’t work. So they spent another 10 TRILLION YEN at the end of October. That’s about 128 BILLION DOLLARS. By contrast, they only earmarked about $60 BILLION DOLLARS for earthquake relief.
    Newsflash, Mr. Toyoda: your government of the week takes the yen/dollar ratio very seriously, but a combination of the American budget deficit fiasco that played out on live international TV for the entire world to laugh at, and the trillion dollars it’s going to cost your economy to rebuild from the earthquake and prepare for the next one, has had the double effect of tapping out your taxpayers and scaring investors (a very capricious lot, indeed) away from the U.S. dollar.
    You’re going to have to learn to live with a higher yen. Go ahead, spend all your currency reserves – it will only make things worse. Both Canada and Brazil are coping with the lower U.S. dollar.
    Why don’t you move your factories to Thailand? Or Vietnam? There’s two stable countries for you! Or why not China? LOL

    Thanks, TTAC: you’ve made my day.

    • 0 avatar
      L'avventura

      Well, traditionally the US accusations against Japan of currency manipulation are due to ultra-low interest rates and quantitative easing.

      The US in the last year the US has used 1.25 trillion dollars of QE1, and another $600 billion in QE2 this year. And there are already signs of QE3. Why do you think the dollar has fallen 35% against the yen?

      So by the classic American definition of currency manipulation, the US can be accused of currency manipulation. And the US has been accused to currency manipulation recently; by Germany, China, and even Brazil.

  • avatar
    CamO

    Congratulations USA – You’re now the new Mexico! Stealing jobs from hard working Japanese!

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    Lets stop justifying our foreign auto choices by pretending nothing is really harmed with buying from a foreign manufacturer.

    Thinking that your purchase doesn’t make a difference has been compounded millions of times by millions of Americans into a situation where American automobile companies are on the verge of failure.

    Yeah – you have a lot of reasons why you are not driving an American brand. But this is 2011, not 1969, and we need you to choose an American company’s product again.

    Driving an American brand is not a sacrifice.
    And it is good for your country.
    Ford and GM can’t ask you to do this.
    So I will.
    If you make your next car an American brand you will help the entire global automobile industry give you even better cars in the future. Competing against America gave us great foreign cars and great American cars. Where would we be if this country was out of the business?

    • 0 avatar
      bikegoesbaa

      Lets stop justifying our foreign auto choices by pretending nothing is really harmed with buying from a foreign manufacturer.

      I justify my foreign auto choice by pointing out that the US auto makers don’t sell anything I want to buy.

      If I’m mistaken, please point me towards the domestic-branded <$30K hatch/wagon with a longitudinal crankshaft and a stick shift, and the domestic-branded lightweight RWD stick shift roadster. Oh, and both cars need to be on a platform that's proven itself able to do 200K+ miles without requiring major work.

      As it is, I don't want their products, so I don't buy domestic. I see paying tens of thousands of dollars for a vehicle that doesn't match my needs/wants as being a significant "sacrifice".

      Whether it's 2011 or 1969, if you want my money you need to offer a product I want to buy.

      Buying the vehicle that best meets your needs/wants regardless of origin helps the industry improve.

      Buying something suboptimal because it’s a domestic brand just perpetuates the sort of “build noncompetitive vehicles and expect people to buy them anyway” thinking that wrecked the D3 in the first place.

      • 0 avatar
        No-Quarter-Given

        I have read many posts on this site and now on this topic. My hat is off to VanillaDude for putting forth cogent arguments in favor of supporting domestic industry (any domestic industry) and being unyielding and consistent in doing so each time. Heck the Germans, Chinese, Japanese and Koreans (government, industry and the people) all engage in the precepts espoused by VanillaDude openly, unabashedly so, and out of a sense of economic nationalism, which makes since (actually) when you look at it.

        Your ability (VanillaDude) to maintain your stance is remarkable in light of din of consistent snide and sneering comments on this Board, comprised in large part of (a) patronizing Americans who are disinterested and hypocritical (and at times uncaring or spiteful) toward their fellow Americans or (b) the pure Schadenfreude taken by non-Americans toward set-backs of American industry (catastrophic or minor).

        This selfish and unfounded comment that follows is just more of the same that I would place in category (a): “I justify my foreign auto choice by pointing out that the US auto makers don’t sell anything I want to buy.”

        I don’t speak much (write much), but, having said the above, I will probably be banned for having a contrarian view on this Board and not towing (or kowtowing to) the party-line, but I guess so be it.

        Thank you VanillaDude for your interesting commentaries on this Board. You add to its depth.

      • 0 avatar
        VanillaDude

        You are thinking only about yourself on a significant purchase at a time when your nation’s auto industry is in decline while making excellent cars. You will continue to buy many cars, just as you have bought many cars previously. Just go out of your way next time to buy a car from an American company. We need drivers to buy from an American company over the next five years to help restore our economy. Wanna help?

        It should not be an embarrassment for an American to drive an American car, and doing so is not a sacrifice. It is good for your country, if you care about it.

        My foreign friends, most of whom are Deutsch, are a little surprised at how common it is for American to dis their country’s own cars.

        It is time for this American-car bashing to end. We are putting ourselves out of business.

        How many times in your post did you use the word, “I”?

      • 0 avatar
        bikegoesbaa

        I did not “bash” domestic cars, and I never said I’d be embarrassed to drive one. I’d happily consider one if it matched with what I want. Honestly, all other things being equal I’d be inclined to give a domestic the edge over a foreign make just due to sentimentality.

        Problem is, for me, right now, all other things are not equal.

        Whether their cars are “excellent” or not is immaterial if I don’t like the car. It doesn’t make sense to order a perfectly cooked and presented ribeye if you don’t like steak. A fleet of great pickups, SUVs, sedans, transverse engine hatches, and RWD pony cars doesn’t mean anything to me as a buyer looking for a small roadster or longitudinal engine hatch.

        When I was making a new car purchase decision earlier this year, none of the domestic products fit with what I want even in the basic sense of available powertrains and vehicle architecture. So I bought an import.

        Last time I went to buy a car the situation was the same. So I bought an import. This is not an unreasonable thing to do.

        It would be unreasonable to spend thousands of dollars on a car that doesn’t have features that I see as being critical to my long-term use and enjoyment of a vehicle.

        It’s rational to think primarily of your own happiness and well-being when making major purchase decisions. The domestic automakers clearly aren’t thinking of me – otherwise they’d build the sort of cars I want to buy.

        When relating one’s own thoughts and experiences it’s common to use the pronoun “I” frequently. What’s your point?

      • 0 avatar
        Type57SC

        Focus or Fiesta hatch + Mustang Convertible?

        Try both before buying your next Mazda3 or Miata.

      • 0 avatar
        bikegoesbaa

        Focus and Fiesta are both transverse engine, which for me is a deal-breaker.

        I like Mustangs in and of themselves, but they are not in any way “roadsters” in the classic European sense. Sure they’re quick and topless, but I was after small, light, and extremely nimble.

      • 0 avatar
        bikegoesbaa

        This selfish and unfounded comment that follows is just more of the same that I would place in category (a): “I justify my foreign auto choice by pointing out that the US auto makers don’t sell anything I want to buy.”

        OK, you point me towards the domestic-branded longitudinal-crank stick shift hatch/wagon that I should have bought.

        Either RWD or AWD with a RWD architecture/bias will be fine.

        Go ahead, let me know when you find one.

        Is my comment still unfounded if it’s true? Or is it your assertion that I don’t really know what kind of car I want to buy?

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Suggesting that buying American cars is good for America today is like saying that smoking crack is good for the baby you’re carrying.

      • 0 avatar

        CJ,

        Why the hate for American cars? If products are otherwise equivalent, why not support a local business?

        If I have a choice of buying something at Home Depot or at Durst Lumber, I’ll shop at Durst. Outside of the fact that they have people who actually know about hardware and lumber, Durst is a family owned business that’s active in the community. I might even have a prayer of selling them some embroidered logo apparel and get some of my money back.

        Doing business locally and supporting local businesses is not a bad thing.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Buying American cars subsidizes that UAW. The UAW funds elections of people further from me ideologically than pretty much anyone our soldiers have picked up arms against, and they’re doing more harm to our country than any external enemy could ever dream of. You asked.

      • 0 avatar

        Buying American cars subsidizes that UAW. The UAW funds elections of people further from me ideologically than pretty much anyone our soldiers have picked up arms against, and they’re doing more harm to our country than any external enemy could ever dream of. You asked.

        CJ, I don’t disagree with you much but I think that’s a bit hyperbolic. Yes, the Democratic party has moved to the left in the past 40 years and yes, labor unions make up 13 of the top 20 political donors in the US and those unions give money overwhelmingly to the Dems. Yes, organized labor is stupidly marching with the OWS crowd because most unions today forget Sam Gompers’ statement that the worst thing a company can do to its employees is not turn a profit. Likewise, the private sector unions have made a deal with the devil putting their eggs in the public employee basket.

        Still, putting US organized labor in the same category as enemies of the United States is not only misguided as far as the facts are concerned, it’s also bad politics. I live in the Detroit area. If you want to defeat Obama next year, you’re going to need those Reagan Democrats in Macomb County.

        The UAW fought fiercely against communist infiltration of their union – Walter Reuther was as anti-communist as they come (the Canadian Auto Workers is a much more left wing organization). Do but do you really think that the UAW, in supporting a mainstream US political party, is anywhere close to actual enemies who have waged war on the US?

        Sure, Nancy Pelosi is a self-serving limousine lefty, and Barack Obama has spent his life being mentored by people who have radical opposition to many things American, like Bill Ayers, Frank Davis, Jeremiah Wright, Rashid Khalidi and others, but the majority of UAW members are not hard core lefties. They’re just working folks. You won’t be able to convince the rank and file to vote for your guy or gal if all they hear is you calling them enemies of our country. It’s bad enough that the MSM and Hollywood and the educational establishment endlessly repeat the tropes that Republicans and businesspeople are racist earth rapers. Making hyperbolic statements about people being as bad as external enemies fees into that hysteria.

        I think it’d be more productive to reach out to union members with facts and persuasion rather than to say that they’re akin to enemies of the United States.

        Also, GM, Ford, Chrysler and the companies in their supply chain are not identical to the UAW. I can assure you based on personal conversations that there are plenty of people who are ideologically in tune with you and me, in both management and among the rank and file. I know many UAW members who are not happy with the union.

        Also, I live in the Detroit area and have a small business. I have selfish reason for not wanting the American car companies to be profitable.

        As for buying American cars subsidizing the UAW, while the right to boycott is almost a natural right, in today’s global economy it’s very hard to be consistent. Buying many, perhaps most, consumer goods involves “subsidizing” the Teamsters or Longshoremen unions. There are many non-union businesses that supply the domestic auto industry. Buying just about anything is necessarily going to put money in the pocket of at least some people with whom you have serious political, ideological and religious differences.

        You might say that in the case of a union, there is a business partnership involved. That’s true. But are you going to look at every business relationship a company has before you buy their goods?

        I haven’t liked buying gas at Mobil since they took out full page ads in the middle of the 1973 Yom Kippur war, when Israel was literally fighting for its survival, saying the US should change its foreign policy and move away from supporting Israel. Will I let myself run out of gas if Mobil is the only practical choice? Of course not.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Ronnie,

        You seem like a thoughtful man. I just disagree with you. I’ve dealt with unions, having been a teamster in Virginia and having managed union electricians in New York. Organized labor is a cancer. Public employee unions are a travesty. I can’t think of any more corruptive influences in the country today, and our government has lost its legitimacy as a result. The time for torches and pitchforks has probably already passed. NLRB v Boeing is a good example. How did we let this happen? Sic semper tyrannis indeed.

    • 0 avatar
      PartsUnknown

      VD, your animus is misdirected. Instead of browbeating your fellow B&B’ers with the simplistic “Buy American” meme, how about demanding that the Big 2.5, you know, design and manufacture their cars in the US. Send a letter to GM asking them to build pickups in the US, or design their own Regal, or build the Cruze from 100% US-sourced parts? How about e-mailing Ford and asking them to move Fusion production from Mexico to the States? And maybe buy US-made transmissions for the Mustang instead of ones sourced from China?

      Anyway, this whole “If you don’t buy American, you’re unAmerican” is actually the most unAmerican thing I’ve ever heard. I’d rather have freedom of choice.

      And VD, why not put your money where you’re mouth is and get rid of all your foreign-made clothing, TVs, appliances, children’s toys, garden tools…..etc. You see what I’m saying.

      The Big 2.5 are making much better cars these days. They deserve consideration by consumers based on their merits, not jingoism.

      • 0 avatar
        VanillaDude

        Buy American is simplistic, but it seems to be very hard for some people to open their minds. Buying American is simple and it is a good thing to do.

        It is time for the American-car bashing to end. It was OK to do so when all of us could afford the economic impact of driving around in Japanese cars and Detroit wouldn’t have missed us. But that was 30 years ago, and we have been bled nearly to death over it.

        Our cars are significantly better and are as good as anything else. It is not a sacrifice to drive an American car and it should not be seen as a sign of inferiority to encourage drivers to drive their country’s own cars.

        Driving a foreign car is not unamerican. It is just bad economics at a time when we are all struggling economically. An entire generation has written off their country’s own products and those of us writing about it are being attacked for reminding foreign car drivers how their choice is hurting all of us.

        Make your next car an American brand. Come home.

      • 0 avatar
        200k-min

        On a macro-economic perspective multi-national car companies are almost the perfect definition of how free market capatilism should work. Disregarding gov’t bailouts (cough, cough, GM & Chrysler, et.al.) a car be it from Japan, USA or Germany are designed & built by people all in a similar economic class with similar wages, etc. So what you buy truly is the free economy at work where a company succeeds or fails on the merits of their product.

        On the other side you have 3000+ Wal-Mart stores across the USA filled with goods make in China and SE Asian that were produced by people paid near slave labor wages where there are literally no laws regarding labor conditions or environmental protection.

        If one truly cares about US Manufacturing their choice of vehicle to drive is hardly the issue. The issue is everything else that fills their house.

      • 0 avatar
        VanillaDude

        So you are comparing a car to any household good?

        We don’t take out five year bank loans to publically appear in sweat pants emblazoned with the name of a foreign manufacturer on them.

        We don’t wear those sweat pants every day until they are needing to be replaced.

        Your neighbors and friends don’t know you by your sweat pants.

        There isn’t an entire economy built around servicing your sweat pants.

        What you want to do is make yourself feel like driving around in a foreign car in 2011 isn’t a horrible thing to do to everyone depending upon your contribution to our country’s economy.

        In 1969, it wasn’t. But today – yeah – it kind of is.

      • 0 avatar
        PartsUnknown

        VD – yes, actually, I am comparing cars to household goods. Are you saying that only auto manufacturing jobs are important? That those employed in all other industries – textile, chemical, consumer goods, whatever – are unimportant to the US economy and not worth saving, thereby freeing you to buy Chinese made socks and DVD players made in Japan? Your argument has more holes than Dutch porn.

        And, for the record, I do wear my sweatpants until they need replacing. Much to my wife’s chagrin.

        One last thing – I own an American car. A Ford Taurus X, built in Chicago from 75% domestic content. As American as can be. The difference between you and me is that I want the freedom to buy whatever I want without the phony flag-waving. If you want to live in a closed society, move to China. They sell Buicks there.

      • 0 avatar
        kvndoom

        I’d just be happy if he got rid of all his foreign-made electronics. Then he couldn’t get on the internet again. Ever.

    • 0 avatar

      vANILA Dude:

      You make a great point.The whole “green” movement has sold itself to society on this point. They tell us: Every little single action, small as it may be counts (as if). I never really agreed with this. Why should I do the sacrifice and take the bus. No, I’ll wait until our policy makers do that, then I may think about it.

      So the idea that buying American will help America, if you believe the greens, then you have to believe this, too. I think the only difference between the two is that it is chic and cool to repeat mindlessly te green mantra, while “buy America” is seen as low-brow and uncool. SIGH!

      On a side note, I’ve seen a rise in the number of foreign cars here in Brazil being driven with little stickers of Brazilian flags. I just can’t wrap my mind around the thinking of somebody who does thatt. No, the Brazilian car industry does not provide you with a local BMW-type car. Or that Chinese car that is helping companies justify firings at local plants (GM, looking at you). You buy a foreign car than stick the flag on it. Yep, that explains nothing. Crazy.

      • 0 avatar
        VanillaDude

        I am not surprised that you get it because from your perspective you better appreciate the importance of supporting your country’s economy.

        Americans have gotten fat and happy. We’ve forgotten how we got where we are today. We have had no qualms watching the industries that made us strong during the 20th Century, leave in the 21st.

        Americans have gotten to a point where its all about them and no longer understand the ties that bind them to their neighbors. We all have our own golden goose and as long as those golden eggs keep coming in, we think we’re king of the world.

        Cars are important. If Americans bought from themselves more often, America would be a stronger nation. If they just focused on buying American products for a few years, the positive impact would be enormous and would help tremendously.

        Americans need to stop bashing themselves and recognize that while excessive nationalism isn’t great, neither is self-castration.

    • 0 avatar
      aristurtle

      I understand the sentiment. Really, I do. But the attitude is ultimately self-defeating. The “buy domestic” movement was, at its heart, the very reason why American cars became uncompetitive. It’s harder to see this now, because as you correctly point out, “buy domestic no matter what” is no longer a prominent feature of the American auto market.

      When a car company can rely on an emotional “buy domestic” urge among its buyers, it can afford to make cars that aren’t as competitive on attributes like build quality, performance, efficiency, or the like. The “buy domestic” crowd’s sales held up the Detroit automakers as their cars were, in terms of build quality, technology, or any other real metric, increasingly not as good as imports. This did tremendous damage to the American automakers when they then tried to export these cars! Obviously, nobody outside the country will have a “buy American because it’s good for your country!” emotional connection to a brand when they’re buying a car. In the export market, American automakers need to compete on the actual product. But when they have a large base of people back home who will buy “because it’s American, dammit!” they can sit on their hands. At the end of WWII, everyone bought American, because every other country’s industry was devastated from the war. Slowly, through the sixties and seventies and early eighties, American cars became a bad joke overseas. You could convince an American to buy a Chevy Cavalier over a Toyota Corolla because “it’s American”, but that wasn’t going to work for a Japanese customer, and, perversely, the “it’s American” sales convinced GM that the Cavalier was probably good enough.

      Again, the “buy American!” purchasing trend started to die out eventually and now American manufacturers are back to competing on the actual product, which is actually starting to be pretty competitive. But do you wonder why Ford Europe kept putting out increasingly better versions of the Focus while Ford US got halfassed refreshes until, like, last year? “Buy an American Focus, not that Japanese Civic” works in the States, but in the UK that line isn’t going to get you anywhere.

      It’s even starker if you start to look at motorcycles, where the attitude is still really strong. Clear until the 60s, Harley-Davidson was a do-everything bike maker; the American equivalent of Honda. They had fast bikes, they had cheap bikes, they had expensive bikes, they had off-road bikes, they had all sorts of bikes. What happened? Well, they jumped the shark somewhere in the mid-seventies (just after the XRTT) and started to retreat into the “core market” of hardcore “buy American only” customers. Today, Honda sells everything from scooters to GP bikes all over the world, and Harley sells gaudy, incompetent cruisers to an increasingly aging demographic, essentially exclusively in the United States. Harley’s average customer age goes up 10 years every 10 years; when they die out, the company is going to go broke. They’re so far gone they can’t pull back out if they tried: look what happened with Buell.

      It’s counter-intuitive, but as Americans we need to demand that our automakers produce cars that are competitive with the rest of the world, and not forgive them for producing something sub-par just because we’re all on the same team. In the long run, it’s better for them.

      • 0 avatar
        Mikemannn

        I think one issue is that the ‘big three’ have moved operations offshore. Example: the purchase of my Mustang funded assembly line workers in Michigan and Ohio, but also assembly lines and foundries in China..

        If you keep taking jobs from Americans, who’s gonna be left to buy the “American” car?

        I love the idea of supporting locals, and do it when I can, but just because you slap a bowtie on a Daewoo doesn’t make it American; most of my money is going to Korea.
        A Civic built in Ohio with parts made in North America, driven to the factories by American truck drivers and delivered by truck to local dealers seems like a better idea of ‘buying local’ to me.

    • 0 avatar
      bikegoesbaa

      Also:

      Thinking that your purchase doesn’t make a difference has been compounded millions of times by millions of Americans into a situation where American automobile companies are on the verge of failure.

      First, they’re not “on the verge of failure”. 2/3 failed.

      Also, why do you think millions and millions of Americans decided over and over again to buy an foreign-branded car? Is it possible that there was some advantage they gained by doing so?

      I think you are ignoring the possibility that they were aware that their purchase “would make a difference” and opted to pursue their own best interests anyway. That is, they weren’t ignorant or uninformed; they just made a different decision than you would with the same set of facts.

      At what disparity of quality/features/price/whatever would you find it acceptable to buy a foreign car? Does that point even exist for you, or would you stick with the domestics regardless of the actual merits of their products?

  • avatar
    steeringwithmyknees

    The number one thing Americans need to do is unite and stop letting the powers that be pit us against each other and make us buy into these pre-packaged ideological dichotomies. No shades of grey or painting with a fine brush allowed or considered legitimate. Go blue team! Red team sucks! If you want guns, you also have to be pro-death penalty and anti abortion. Screw that nonsense.

    Anything aside from feeling a brotherhood for your brothers is secondary — even major purchasing decisions you make.

    While it may be nominally better for me to buy an American car, it’s not that black and white. I think if you are choosing between a foreign car and an American one and the foreign car pollutes less and uses less gas, it could be a better overall proposition for the health of our country. Further, it’s helping no one if you can’t afford to make your car run because it’s not well-put together or high quality. I am not saying that any American car is going to be a POS, but you do need to research the exact models you are considering.

    Of course things like where it is assembled and where the parts are sourced from also matter and this will depend on the individual model–as we all know, there is a chance that a foreign car could be more ‘merkin than the one from D 2.5.

    In the meantime, to me one of the most “American” things you can do is vote with your money.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    It would be nice if some of those of you who comment here would figure out that a company’s contribution to the American economy is not tied strictly to the ZIP code of its headquarters.

    It would be really convenient if life was that simple, I know. But it isn’t.

  • avatar
    richeffect

    Go easy there, Vanilla. I once had a conversation with some “patriotic” co-workers complaining about profits going back to Japan even though my Accord was built by my fellow Americans and her Chevy Aveo was built in Korea. Given this, it’s difficult to choose where to put your money–but we should NOT buy anything simply because it’s American. That’s like a mother giving her drug-addict son more money while begging him to stop. Doing so would only prevent us from becoming better at building better, competitive products. Isn’t that how a “free” economy works?
    My mom raised us by herself working two jobs and only buys American cars but it was so painful to see her get gouged by the Plymouth dealer to replace the Mitsubishi engine twice in her first gen Voyager. I know it hurts, but the domestics will need to continue to care more about me and my family to get my hard earned dollars.


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