Imports Vs. Domestics: The Debate Stops Here

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
imports vs domestics the debate stops here

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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2 of 108 comments
  • Usa1 Usa1 on Sep 07, 2006

    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.

  • CRacK hEaD aLLeY CRacK hEaD aLLeY on Sep 07, 2006

    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.

  • Tassos BTW I thought this silly thing was always called the "Wienermobile".
  • Tassos I have a first cousin with same first and last name as my own, 17 years my junior even tho he is the son of my father's older brother, who has a summer home in the same country I do, and has bought a local A3 5-door hatch kinds thing, quite old by now.Last year he told me the thing broke down and he had to do major major repairs, replace the whole engine and other stuff, and had to rent a car for two weeks in a touristy location, and amazingly he paid more for the rental ( Euro1,500, or $1,650-$1,700) than for all the repairs, which of course were not done at the dealer (I doubt there was a dealer there anyway)
  • Tassos VW's EV program losses have already been horrific, and with (guess, Caveman!) the Berlin-Brandenburg Gigafactory growing by leaps and bounds, the future was already quite grim for VW and the VW Group.THis shutdown will not be so temporary.The German Government may have to reach in its deep pockets, no matter how much it hates to spend $, and bail it out."too big to fail"?
  • Billccm I had a 1980 TC3 Horizon and that car was as reliable as the sun. Underappreciated for sure.
  • Inside Looking Out I did not notice, did they mention climate change? How they are going to fight climate change, racism and gender discrimination. I mean collective Big 3.