By on January 1, 2007

detroit_skyline.jpgEverything either grows or dies. As The Big Two Point Five face the New Year, they’d do well to remember this. All the talk about “market share stabilization,” “matching production to demand,” and “right-sizing” is merely an attempt to obscure the simple fact that they’re dying. I know: that’s a pretty depressing sentiment for automakers still staggering about with an SUV-sized hangover. But death is a normal part of life; a precursor to rebirth. As 2006 dies, 2007 beckons. Here’s a guide to what Detroit faces– must face– in the year ahead.

This is the year that Toyota will supplant Ford as America’s Number Two automaker and replace General Motors as the world’s Number One. These two milestones will provide incontrovertible proof that The Big Two Point Five’s day is over (at least for now). The damage flowing from that increasingly obvious fact will be both subtle and, ultimately, devastating. For one thing, the best and brightest have a natural aversion to working on a sinking ship. BMW, Mercedes, Honda, Toyota and Hyundai will continue to cherry pick the industry’s top management, designers, engineers, production experts and marketers. The little discussed Detroit brain drain will exact a heavy toll.

Secondly, as Mr. Neundorf has written, the rearranging of America’s automotive pantheon will end the average consumer’s ignorance of Detroit’s distress. The media buzzards have been circling The Big Two Point Five for some time, refraining from swooping down because of their collective ignorance, [misplaced] respect and simple disinterest. Once Toyota punts Ford, GM and Chrysler down the sales ladder, the 2.5’s anguish will become carrion feeder catnip. How did the foreigners kick America’s ass again? What does it mean for our country’s industrial base? Although reporters will focus on turnarounds and comebacks– at least initially– the cumulative effect will corrode consumer confidence.

This is also the year that Detroit must finally shuck the union straightjacket– and won’t. Analysts who predict that the United Auto Workers’ (UAW) will come to the negotiating table with “a new sense of realism” (or some such set of code words indicating a supposed readiness to take a hit for the team) will be proven wrong. Once again, there will be some kind of media-friendly slight-of-hand. Last year, GM’s workers “gave up” a $1 an hour wage hike– which actually went straight to their health care compensation. They also “gave back” health care benefits in exchange for a not-as-well-publicized $3b health care VEBA. This is the new template for Detroit labor relations.

By topping-up their coffers, GM and Ford have virtually guaranteed a continuation of union intransigence. In fact, management happy talk about incipient turnarounds makes it highly unlikely that they’ll do the only thing they can do to wrest control of their companies back from the UAW: face down a UAW strike. Wagoner (GM) and Mulally (Ford) have a long history of playing ball with the unions. They’re less likely to exercise the nuclear option against the UAW than the US is against the UAE. Chrysler’s German owners are also strike-aversive; what with the need to keep the company solvent enough to sell. So it’ll be [less and less] business as usual.

In ’07, The Big Two Point Five will all feel the cash burn. If the economy slows down or gas prices go way up, it’ll be a fully-fledged conflagration. Meanwhile and in any case, the biggest threat to their existence is the same one that’s been nibbling away at them for the last three decades: new and/or improved products. We’ve already written about the new Toyota Tundra’s impact on The Big Two Point Five’s mission critical pickup truck margins. The transplants are also set to launch new or improved cars, crossovers and hybrids, and refreshes aplenty. The gap between the Big 2.5’s products and those of their competitors’ is not likely to narrow significantly this year.

Once again, the only real hope for The Big Two Point Five is cataclysmic change. Given their deep pockets, I don’t think Ford or Chrysler will file in ‘07, but there is a chance that circumstances (and their own ongoing incompetence) will force GM to face the inevitable. It could come from any number of different angles: a supplier “run on the bank,” a severe economic downturn, a tipping point-style loss of market share, a UAW strike, SEC criminal charges leading to chaos, a combination of these factors or something unexpected. If GM goes down, the ripple effect on suppliers will drag Ford under, and then Chrysler.  

For The Big Two Point Five, ’07 will be a year much like the last, typified by denial, obfuscation and compromise. TTAC will be here chronicling the story. Rest assured we do so knowing that Americans produce some of the world’s best automobiles. One way or another, sooner or later, The Big Two Point Five will have to recreate themselves, to rise, Phoenix-like, from the ashes.  

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110 Comments on “Put your Hands Up for Detroit...”


  • avatar
    JJ

    Ah…another Dutch DJ/Producer that “makes it big”.

    Rest assured we do so knowing that America already produces some of the world’s best automobiles.

    Yes, the X5 (for an SUV, I think it’s the best) for one and no doubt some Toyodas that we’ll never see in these regions.

    I have to say though, when talking about the actual building of cars things ain’t much different in Europe. Of course, BMW, Mercedes and Porsche can’t afford to shift their production to a 2nd world country because, probably technically injustly, but true, it would ruin their brand value. They have to stay in Germany (or at least another country perceived as 1st world), which is one of the reasons their cars are relatively expensive, even if they are benchmark cars.

    Our own national (Dutch) car manufacturing company is already gone all but bust (they made the previous S40 for a while, and some Smarts/Mitsubishi models). Costs were to high and couldn’t be sustained with above average quality. Workers couldn’t (wouldn’t?) give in. About half of them are out of their jobs now and the others will probably soon follow.

    GM, Ford, Fiat and PSA (Peugeot Citroen) all shifted production to first Spain and certain parts of Belgium and later the former Soviet countries.

    I guess my point is that labour intensive production such as making cars (in spite of all the robots) might just not be sustainable in developed countries (at least for the moment) that are subject to high labour costs UNLESS they either deliver supreme quality or at least good enough quality so that people are willing to buy a car made in their own country even though it’s more expensive.

  • avatar
    fozone

    Farago hits on an important but rarely mentioned point — Brain Drain. It is real, and has been happening for years at the big 2.5. I attended Michigan’s most prestigious university (go blue…) — the one that’s supposed to be the feeder for the engineering and management ranks at automotive firms in motown.

    To a person, I cannot think of a top-flight engineering or business student that really wanted to work at GM, Ford, or Chrysler. None. Zero.

    Anyone of any intelligence that did decide to stick around and work there did it strictly for familial/regional issues (ie, they had family in the area and didn’t want to leave Detroit.)

    Bad weather, bad morale, lack of innovation, and (finally) a lack of job security — it is not surprising at all that the domestics haven’t been able to compete for at least the last 20 years.

  • avatar
    philbailey

    Rest assured we do so knowing that America already produces some of the world’s best automobiles.

    Which ones would they be then?

  • avatar
    Bill Wade

    ——————————————————————————-
    Rest assured we do so knowing that America already produces some of the world’s best automobiles.

    Which ones would they be then?
    ——————————————————————————-
    For the money, maybe the Corvette.

    I can’t think of anything else.

  • avatar
    mikey

    In 2007 negotiations the UAW can, and will swallow huge consessions.It is simply a matter of survival.
    There will NOT be a work stopage in 2007.
    Once the new contract is signed [and it won’t be easy]
    the tables will turn to the enept and bloated incompetant
    management.
    GM will survive 2007, if management can’t or won’t make drastic changes in every aspect of the operation,I don’t hold a lotta of hope for 2008

  • avatar
    Luther

    This is also the year that Detroit must finally shuck the union straightjacket– and won’t.

    Of course not. The UAW will extract as much as they can and then when the next round of down-sizing comes, take the $140K ransom…Err… Buy-out money and go keg-on in Muskegon.

    (Hows everyone today? Pounding headache? I hope Im not alone… Happy New Year!)

  • avatar
    Rastus

    That was a trick statement designed to see if you are still inebriated from last night and/or to see if you are still mentally alert.

    The “best” American made cars would include: Accord, Altima, Sonata, and Camry.

    Hands down and flat on the table, they are the best American built cars, bar none.

    If you wish to include the Corvette, with its hard-top designed to eject like a fighter-canopy, go right ahead. It’s your $70K, not mine.

    Happy New Year from Boise ID!

  • avatar
    Jim916

    The big 2.5 need to die and reinvent themselves.
    Is there any other way to rid themselves of the chains that hold them from becoming a business that produces world class products at a competitive price and one that people want to work for?
    The big 2.5 could rebirth with the best products (yes, there are a few!) and people as they rise from the ashes. Hopefully to never again make the mistakes of the past.

  • avatar
    finger

    The “best” American made cars would include:
    Corvette- probably best in the world value
    Full size SUV’s and pick ups- nobody does them better

  • avatar
    mikey

    Yes phil bailey America or should I say North America does indeed build some of the best cars /trucks in the world.
    Chevy Impala
    Mustangs
    All Ford, Chev Dodge pickups there is not an import that comes close.
    Caddy CTS best bargain out there
    Grand Marquis/Crown Vic
    Yukon
    Expedition
    Chrysler 300
    Saturn Sky

    The list could go on and on But you get the point
    RF is right we do make the the best autos in the world
    If the big 2.5 could get thier act together, we could be once again the biggest and the best.
    The big 2.5 are hurtin but are not dead YET!

  • avatar

    Excellent piece of writing, Robert – as always. I enjoyed reading this, sad as it was.

    One point where I might want to offer a qualification – it is not the “foreigners who kicked Americas ass” – it is ourselves. For two reasons:

    1) As buyers. We have let our standards slide. Instead of striving for the latest and most enabling technology, as we did for the 40s, 50s, 60s, and to a degree the 70s, we now settle for the lowest common denominator. Market differentiation is appearance (big shiney grill) or a simple low-end grunt of torque satisfication. When the question used to be “whats the best we can accomplish”, now the question is “whats the quick satisfaction”.

    You might say that computer technology is the best product of this country… but take a look at our own math and science skills in schools. How can we keep it up? The emphasis on math and science is drying up compared to what it was in the 40s and 50s. The students from those eras put us on the moon, led us from prop planes to supersonic jets, opened up opportunity to all, broke the yoke of the churches, and started the sexual revolution (NOTE: all PAST history).
    – Where are today’s recipients of that progress? Arguing about the “right” to wear gang colors to school. And being taught mumbo-jumbo creationism instead of actual science.
    – Take a look at our business-hostile and ill-informed Government that relentlessly pursues the most competitive and successful computer software company in the world, to the benefit of increasingly foreign low-common-denominator “communal” software that doesn’t make the same financial contribution to our tax base and increasingly leaves America out of the competitive realm in many ways.

    2) As workers. The Japanese brought to the table truly modern production methods and especially an intellectual environment where workers found that they could efficiently drive to the goals of the company. This is the biggest difference between the old Big Three and their successors. It’s not the size of the company that is the problem. For the workers, its the lack of an enabling and flexible environment that provides them the ability to accomplish something. The return to the workers, besides financial, is job satisfaction and personal growth. You don’t see that in the Big Three, nor in the old Bethlehem Steel, the old railroads, even ye olde IBM – where hardware and software dominance has given way to service jobs (oh, excuse me, “consulting”) with high inherent personnel costs and low margins of return (its a wonder they aren’t unionized).

    Remember that the fastest growth in Toyota, Honda, and Nissan occured when they put design workers in the Americas, adapting (at first, and later uniquely designing) product for the much tougher conditions in the United States. It was our intellectual capitol that did it: our own workers (most of whom left the Big Three because of job frustration from the environments there) gave them the means to grow in this country (the same thing is happening now in China, with local workers). There are any number of famous Executives who left the big Three and found the perfect environment to accomplish inside these Japanese companies. Same for many middle-workers, and some assembly line workers (free of the union yoke for a change, they found the opportunity to attempt a change).

    So what happens next with the big 2.5? Perhaps this is like a martial arts film, where our hero has to take a major fall before he can rise back up and win (but with a very different perspective on the world). Or maybe this is like Rocky Balboa: one last fight to a draw before permanent retirement. A symbolic handing-over of the world title with an acknowledgment to past glories, but also teaching one last valuable lesson in humility to the champ. No matter, the champ is still the champ, better off for the lesson, and Rocky has gone on to oblivion.

  • avatar
    Luther

    Is there any other way to rid themselves of the chains that hold them from becoming a business that produces world class products at a competitive price and one that people want to work for?

    Yes. Repeal of the 1935 Wagner Act.

    Once Toyota punts Ford, GM and Chrysler down the sales ladder

    Ford, GM, Chrysler slipped and fell off the ladder (Humpty-Dumpty was pushed)

  • avatar
    Jim916

    American made means engineered and built by US based companies that keep jobs and profits here.

  • avatar
    Steven T.

    The brain drain deserves much more attention. If Detroit needs fresh ideas, are they getting them — literally? Does the Not So Big 2.5 actually hire newly minted grads anymore, or has corporate downsizing made that largely impossible? Can engineers and designers who actually want to work for an American automaker find work these days?

    By the same token, when layoffs hit how do younger professionals fare versus those with more seniority? Have downsizing efforts been more effective at pruning the deadwood or protecting it?

  • avatar
    wstansfi

    Best cars mades in America… maybe try the Honda Accord?

  • avatar
    Luther

    The students from those eras put us on the moon

    You make me want to move to Dubai jwfisher.

    We (collectively as Americans) went from dirt paths to putting a man on the moon inside of 70 years. (With freaking slide-rules and Relay Logic no less!) Today we celebrate the achievements of Hollywood and the Ipods. Maybe 2.5 should go back to slide-rules or the people that still know how to use them.

    Coincidently, this “mediocrity” started about the time the Fed Gumint took over Public Education in the 70s.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    The domestic automakers real legacy cost is the deep and abiding ill-will toward them held by their customer base. There is broad consensus GM, Ford and Chrysler are incapable of producing relevant, quality products and deserve punishment for decades of maltreating customers. I doubt the Big-2.5 can erase these perceptions for a generation or more.

  • avatar
    finger

    Coincidently, this “mediocrity” started about the time the Fed Gumint took over Public Education in the 70s.

    AMEN!

  • avatar
    ronin

    “he domestic automakers real legacy cost is the deep and abiding ill-will toward them held by their customer base.”

    What he said. It’s hard to pawn off self-destructing rust buckets and models necessitating lifting the engine before changing plugs, through the 70s and early 80s , and expect people to love you.

    I hope they really made good profits during those 15 years, because they lost a generation or two of Americans, and maybe most Americans forever. Their own product was the greatest marketing ploy Japan never even needed to present.

  • avatar
    willbodine

    I kind of feel like it’s 1953, and I am an admirer of Hudsons, Packards, Nashes, quality cars all. Probably few people back then could have forseen a day when these independents would be no more. Robert, you are correct, the 2.5 (as currently configured) are history, by 2010 at the latest.

  • avatar
    oboylepr

    There are those that believe that RW is holding the good Ship General Motors on a direct collision course with sharp rocks on purpose! When what is of value is salvaged and with however from the crew survives a new ship will be re-built, leaner, faster and more menouverable. It will very likely set sail for China right away. Sad to say, this may be the only hope for GM. The thing is, he cannot look like he is doing it and if that is his game, he is doing a great job. ‘Buickman’ may well be right, GM management know exactly what they are doing, and may well signal for ‘all engines full ahead’ just before the end. What a sorry state of affairs.

  • avatar
    mikey

    The Honda Accord like many of the transplants are assembled
    in North America,most of the components are built in Japan
    Ask your Honda dealer where profits go.Betcha its Japan.

  • avatar
    finger

    Ask your Honda dealer where profits go

    Back to the land of the rising sun…

  • avatar
    V65Magnafan

    I don’t mean this to be a political comment. Actually, I’ve been wondering about American brain drain for many years.

    Not to criticize the American defence industry, but is it possible that the most creative engineers in the US–those who could be designing autos, mass transit, consumer goods, work in the defence industries?

    If this is the case, then the US has been “losing” the best potential auto engineers for decades.

    While the American “allies” in Western Europe and Asia depend on the US defensive envelope for protection, their consumer industries scoop up the most talented engineers to bombard the Americans on the consumer goods front.

    Any truth to this?

  • avatar

    And where do the [now largely theoretical] profits from The Big Two Point Five’s overseas operations go?

    You can’t have it both ways: America first protectionism and free[ish] trade.

    Yes, Detroit still accounts for the lion’s share of the jobs in the US automotive industry. But they do not account for ALL the jobs, or the income generated in the US by automotive manufacturers.

    While it’s a shame that the “home team” is struggling, we should applaud the transplants for moving here. We should welcome their US success as a success of American workers and the American economy.

    If nothing else, it shows that we still no how to mass produce world-class product.

  • avatar

    Maybe this is off subject, but I just have to mention that in the Feb 07 issue of Car and Driver, Toyota Camry finished 4th out of 5 cars in part because some trim pieces inside the car came off, it’s not the first time I hear about finish problems in Toyota cars.
    Is this the beginning of a slide?
    I wonder how long it takes for buyers to notice that problem and go elsewhere, is it a good sign for Ford or GM?

  • avatar
    rohman

    Gardiner Westbound
    The domestic automakers real legacy cost is the deep and abiding ill-will toward them held by their customer base.

    My father was diagnosed with cancer shortly after buying a new Ford Windstar. This POS was falling apart while my mother was running my father from clinic to clinic for his treatments. Transmission and head gasket problems that Ford and the dealer at first refused to acknowledge and then when they did, they could not fix properly. My father died of his cancer and my mother’s suffering was exacerbated by the problems they had with thier van. If a company could die and burn in hell, I would wish it upon Ford.

  • avatar
    taxman100

    One other thing that happened when the state and federal governments took over local education – they started teaching the self-loathing, blame America mentality that infects many Americans today.

    Hence the comments about how a car like a Honda is considered dramatically better than a Chevy or a Ford.

  • avatar
    Rday

    My Toyota has been trouble free for almost 80K. If there is a problem Toyota generally jumps to fix it. THis cannot generally be said of the domestic companies. I think that Toyota is very astute and can see what Detroit did to cause its’ problem. I don’t see Toyota making the same mistakes as Detroit.
    Back to topic. I see more and more Americans not even giving the 2.5 a serious look anymore. My family and almost all of my friends drive Japanese products. I don’t think they hate Detroit. They just don’t see Detroit as a viable supplier anymore. With Toyota taking over the top spot and the rest of the imports taking more market share, only the diehards will be Detroit loyalists. And I don’t think that is a majority of Americans.
    Detroit is headed for a giant train reck. IMO the UAW will not give up anything materially in this years negotiations. This will only accelerate the end. Too bad, many people will get hurt in this. The confrontation and mistrust that exists in the US has/will cause the ultimate failure of any turnaround plan to really work. .

  • avatar
    oboylepr

    he Honda Accord like many of the transplants are assembled
    in North America,most of the components are built in Japan
    Ask your Honda dealer where profits go.Betcha its Japan.

    Ford, DCX and GM have been building cars overseas for local markets for years (a lot longer than Asian & European transplants have been manufacturing in The U.S. and Canada). Ordinary Europeans, Asians, Africans, South Americans and Australians have been buying their cars. Where do you think all the profits were (are) going? When you take a shot at the ‘Imported’ car manufacturers in the U.S. as a defense of the ‘domestic’ industry, it is worth bearing in mind that all multi-national enterprises take home their profits to their home countries. In this GM and Toyota are no different. GM’s recent investments (and success) in The PROC was not done for the benefit of The Chinese People but to stuff GM’s own coffers plain and simple and in many respects, to offset to some degree the home operation’s losses!

  • avatar

    And the UAW will look to other types of workers to organize. Maybe illegal immigrants?

  • avatar
    jthorner

    Personally I think Ford is in deeper trouble right now than GM is. The F150 is under attack from both a refreshed GMT900 and from Toyota. Ford has all of the problems GM has and an even more depressing product and brand portfolio. The Fusion has already seen it’s best sales days. The Edge is not going to be huge … and there really aren’t any other Ford vehicles worth talking about. The big secured credit facility Ford recently lined up is a ticking time bomb. Once they start missing payments on that sucker the pieces of meat will begin being torn from the bone. The entire so called Premier Auto Group is ripe for the recyling bin. Maybe Hyundai will buy Volvo to give itself an instant upmarket brand ?????

    Ford Motor Company has been a badly managed enterprise most of it’s existence. The dominance of and competition amoungst family members has been Ford’s weakness since the days when Henry the First turned his company into the worlds largest disfunctional family. It is truely amazing how much success that company has known over the years in spite of it’s absurd internal culture.

  • avatar
    Steven T.

    “One other thing that happened when the state and federal governments took over local education – they started teaching the self-loathing, blame America mentality that infects many Americans today.” — Taxman100

    Wow. I just love this quote — it is so rich with irony.

  • avatar
    fahrvergnugen11

    jwfisher:
    Take a look at our business-hostile and ill-informed Government that relentlessly pursues the most competitive and successful computer software company in the world, to the benefit of increasingly foreign low-common-denominator “communal” software that doesn’t make the same financial contribution to our tax base and increasingly leaves America out of the competitive realm in many ways.

    News bulletin – the BACKBONE of the internet was built on the so-called “communal” software you so despise.

    As a software engineer of 25+ years in the profession, I’ve been using this “communal” software long before the www was on anybody’s radar….

    Try doing some research….

  • avatar
    JJ

    Ford, DCX and GM have been building cars overseas for local markets for years (a lot longer than Asian & European transplants have been manufacturing in The U.S. and Canada). Ordinary Europeans, Asians, Africans, South Americans and Australians have been buying their cars. Where do you think all the profits were (are) going?

    Exactly.

    Also, don’t think ALL the profit goes back home. A lot of it is used to finance new investments which are made in other countries but the homeland and of which (most of the time) people in those particular countries benefit from.

    Moreover, the car industry is probably a bad example, but in spite of all the globalization both the USA and Europe (if you’d consider it as 1, which, luckily, it still isn’t) are still hugely economically self-sufficient (like in autarchy, I guess?)

    Finally, like some have mentioned above, the fact that GM, DCX and FoMoCo can’t compete anymore (at this point) isn’t the fault of their competitors…

  • avatar
    tincanman99

    Wah, wah, wah! Oh poor babies they cant compete in the global marketplace. This despite them shoving the global marketplace up everyone’s you know what for years. Well the chicken has come home to roost – globalization is here and they dont like it. Well to freakin bad.

    They have only had what – 30 YEARS to catch up to the Japanese. What did they do instead?

    Of course they took the easy approach and plowed money into SUVs where they could make an easy buck. Old technology, lots of marketing and they made LOTS of money. Now that gas is higher and the Japanese are systematically invading everything they are dead meat.

    We keep hearing that the UAW has a stranglehold on the companies. I find it very amusing. So I guess everyone in this country does not remember the good old days when there were NO UNIONS. That was a such a great time, eh? It was great if you were RICH. Thats all. Because they could exploit you to their hearts content. I guess thats what everyone wants, right? Think I am kidding? Go do some reading about the pre-union days.

    As I recall the UAW does not design the cars, nor do they engineer them, nor do they set strategy at the executive level. If you want to lay the blame of these company’s problems where they should be – its on the EXECUTIVES. Only we never hear about that. Instead they parachute out on golden parachutes and than go on to other companies causing the same damage they did in the previous jobs.

    When all the dust settles the union will be gone, the worker bee’s will no longer have jobs the the executives will be RICH. Even richer than they are now. What most of you dont realize is that executive companesation is not tied to the company’s performance like widely touted. They stock goes up they make money, the stock goes down they make money.

    Why dont you call go to the SECs web sit and pull the reports. You can examine their compensation in detail. I guarantee these CEO’s are not sitting up late at night worrying about the fate of these companies.

  • avatar
    finger

    Why are there so many “contributors” that are hell bent on the demise of the American car companies? I mean pure hatred. It’s scary. I have to agree that some of this thought process was cultivated by ultra liberal teachings.

  • avatar
    Steven T.

    “Ford Motor Company has been a badly managed enterprise most of it’s existence.” — jthorner

    Agreed. But compared to what? Chrysler, which arguably has had more frequent and damaging boom-bust cycles?

    Family controlled businesses CAN be less dysfunctional than those more directly beholden to Wall Street. I suspect that the type of ownership may matter less than the quality of its leadership. More often than not, a key sign of capable leadership has been the ability to transcend whatever conventional wisdom dominates Detroit at a given time.

    Consider, for example, PAG. Historically Ford has had a much better cost structure than GM because it did not saddle itself with too many brands. But then came the go-go days of merger fever, where one’s corporate manhood was measured in the number of deals one could pull off.

    Merger fever was ultimately grounded in GM envy — the assumption that the biggest and most profitable automakers will have the largest portfolio of brands.

    Frankly, it has never taken a rocket scientist to recognize that a large portfolio of brands would not be cost-effective (particularly for second- and third-tier automakers). Yet Ford’s management was so completely consumed by GM envy that it went on an enormously expensive buying spree (both in terms of actual and opportunity costs).

    I don’t mean to minimize the role of the family in championing the purchase of Jaguar, Land Rover, Volvo and Aston Martin. My point is that Ford executives and board members are by and large so inbred into Detroit culture that to have questioned merger fever would have been unfashionably iconoclastic. (re: bad for one’s career.)

    If Ford hadn’t gone on a buying spree it would be in a much better position today than GM. Family control could have acted as a buffer against succumbing to Detroit group think. That it did not was a huge — and perhaps fatal — failure of leadership.

  • avatar
    miked

    Ask your Honda dealer where profits go

    Back to the land of the rising sun…

    no, they go to the shareholders. of which you could be one.

  • avatar
    Rday

    Why are there so many “contributors” that are hell bent on the demise of the American car companies? I mean pure hatred. It’s scary. I have to agree that some of this thought process was cultivated by ultra liberal teachings.
    I suspect there are millions of Americans out there that are completely alienated by the way the domestics have threated them over the years. This resentment is now playing out and Detroit is feeling the ‘pain’. Too bad, Detroit didn’t think of these customers years ago. Instead the Japanese have come in and treated the customers with respect and built the kind of loyalty that doesn’t go away overnight.
    I don’t see how Detroit can survive with the current management in charge and the denial that they still have about what they have done to their customer base. IMO it will take a complete revolution to get things turned around.

  • avatar
    HawaiiJim

    As many of you know, pictures of what may be the 2008 Malibu sedan are starting to appear. They look pretty good. But hey, Chevy, how about a redesign of the bowtie emblem? Sure, it has a long and honored history, but it’s kind of chintzy looking. Unlike the respectably lettered and modest-hued Ford blue oval, the brassy/goldish Chevy bowtie, with its awkward angles, sticks out like a sore thumb and detracts from the rest of the vehicle. And the use of “gold” coloring bespeaks a level of luxury and prestige that even GM would not claim for the Chevy. Even on Lexi, gold emblems are a bit ostentatious. On the Chevy, it’s a complete mismatch.

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    Why are there so many “contributors” that are hell bent on the demise of the American car companies? I mean pure hatred. It’s scary. I have to agree that some of this thought process was cultivated by ultra liberal teachings.

    Must be us not-so-old farts educated in those horrid public schools. They are teaching Nietzsche again: “What does not kill me, makes me stronger.” Or was that too much of Conan the Barbarian?

    So, was I supposed to buy the 2k6 top TWAT GM CSV instead of an Indiana-assembled Toyota Sienna? Yeah, right.

  • avatar
    Rastus

    “Hatred” is such a strong word to use. Just know one thing: the emotion you label “hatred” doesn’t well up from nothing!

    Yes, indeed, GM, Ford, and I’ll even toss in the “point 5” (the “Chrysler” part of DCX)…they have exactly what ole Saddam had coming.

    This time next year, will one of the year-end headlines be “General Motors: DEAD!!”?

    And much like Saddam, there will be those people who actually rejoice(!!) and take pleasure(!!) in seeing GM swinging on a rope!!

  • avatar
    skor

    jthorner mentioned Ford’s “absurd internal culture”, I’d go farther than that, and call it poisonous. The faces may change at the US auto companies, but their problems are systemic. Hard working people, with innovative ideas, are forced out, or not even considered, while the current gang of incompetent criminals select another generation of incompetent criminals to fill their shoes.

    Here is the reason why I’ll never buy a Ford product.

    I learned to drive in 1981. My parents bought me a ’77 T-Bird from my uncle. My uncle was the type of customer that the American car companies loved, he bought a new car every 3-4 years for cash and traded in his low mileage car. Instead of trading said T-Bird, he let my father have it for the same money the dealer offered for it.

    The T-Bird looked almost new, and had only about 35K miles on the clock. I was a very happy sixteen year old when my uncle dropped off the car.

    For the first couple of weeks, all was well with my first car. One day my father pointed out to me that one of the tires was low on air. He told me to stop at the corner gas station and put in some air, which I promptly did. A few days later my father wanted to know why I hadn’t put air in the tire like he asked me. I told him that I most certainly did air-up the tire. Dad stated that the tire probably had a slow leak, and he instructed me to take the wheel off, and drive it down to the service station in his car, and drop it off with instructions to the mechanic to have it patched. This is where the fun started.

    I cracked loose the lug nuts, and jacked up the car, just like dear old dad had taught me. After I got the wheel in the air, I finished removing the lug nuts, and then………….. nothing happened. The wheel would not come off. I went inside and reported this development to dad. He asked me if I removed all the lug nuts. I answered in the affirmative. Dad came out and tried to get the wheel off. No luck. We held a piece of 2X4 against the backside of the wheel and whacked it with a mallet. Nothing. We placed the lug nuts loosely on the wheel and let it drop down off the jack hoping the weight of the car would break the wheel free. Nope.

    At this point Dad and I took the car to the corner service station and told the mechanic that we couldn’t get the wheel off. The mechanic told us that we had to take the lug nuts off first. Right, we did that. The mechanic informed us that he encountered this problem with this model car before, and it would cost $300-$400 to get the wheel off! This was in 1981 dollars no less. At this point, my father’s eyes turned to little slits, which meant that his BS radar had just gone off the scale. When asked why it cost so much, the mechanic told us that he couldn’t get the wheel off without destroying it, and a bunch other parts in the process. My father said nothing, we put some more air in the tire, and drove home.

    At this point my father instructed me to call the local Ford dealer and inquire about the difficult wheel. This is how the conversation transpired:

    Service Writer: “Service department.”

    Me: “Yes, I’m having some trouble with my car.”

    SW: “What model, and what kind of problem?”

    Me: ” 77 T-Bird. I can’t get the front passenger side wheel off the car.”

    SW: “You can’t get the wheel off? That’s because you have to take the lug nuts off first.”

    At this point, the service writer and someone in the background start to laugh hysterically. After they stopped laughing, I resumed with the conversation.

    ME: “Yes, I know that. The wheel still wouldn’t come off”

    SW: “Bring the car down, we can probably get it off.”

    Me: “What will it cost?”

    SW: “I don’t know until we see the car.”

    Me: “You can’t give me ballpark figure?”

    SW: “It could cost a few dollars, or a few hundred. I don’t know, until we look at the car.”

    Me: “Thanks.”

    I report this to my father, and he tells me to call Ford’s customer service office and see what they have to say about this.

    Ford Customer Service: “Ford customer service. What is the year, make, model, and mileage of the car you are inquiring about?”

    Me: “77, Ford, T-Bird, 36K miles.”

    FCS: “Your car is out of warranty, sir.”

    The manner in which he said “sir” he really meant “asshole”.

    Me: “Don’t you want to know what is wrong with the car?”

    FCS: “What is wrong with the car, sir(asshole).”

    Me: “I can’t remove the front, passenger side wheel.”

    FCS: “You have to take the lug nuts off the wheel first, sir(asshole).”

    Me: “Yes, I know that. The wheel won’t come off.”

    FCS: “Take the car to the dealer, sir(asshole).”

    Me: “Do you know what the dealer will charge for that?”

    FCS: “We don’t set the dealer’s prices, sir(asshole), they will probably charge some nominal fee.”

    Me: “The nominal fee is several hundred dollars.”

    FCS: “We have no control over that, sir(asshole).”

    Me: “You don’t think it is strange that a wheel can’t be removed from a 4 year old car, and that I should have to pay hundreds of dollars to have it removed so I can have the tire serviced?”

    FCS: “We don’t know the condition of the car, sir(asshole). The wheel could be damaged.”

    Me: “The wheel is not damaged.”

    FCS: “Are you an expert, sir(asshole)? You can also take the car to an independent service station.”

    Me: “The local service station wants $400.”

    FCS: “We have no control over that. In any case, your car is out of warranty, SIR(ASSHOLE).

    Click. The SOB hung up on me.

    I tell this to my parents. My mother suggests that I go to the library and find the address for the DOT and see if there is any recall info on the car. (Remember how easy it was to get info before the internet?) The librarian was very helpful, unlike the people at Ford, and she promptly found the appropriate address concerning such matters. I wrote a letter to the DOT, and a couple of weeks later I received a reply. (During this entire time, I had to air-up the tire twice a day)

    The DOT sent me a letter stating that they were aware of the stuck wheel problem with these cars, and that their investigation concluded that since it was not a safety problem, no recall was ordered. They also sent me the entire investigation report on micro fiche.

    The report was fascinating, to say the least. The 77 T-Bird was offered with a number of wheel options — steel wheels with hubcaps, aluminum alloy wheels and “alloy styled wheels”. My car had the “alloy styled wheels”. The “alloy style” wheels were stamped steel wheels that had a plastic facing glued to the steel to make them look like aluminum wheels. The heat from the brake would melt the glue and it would ooze between the wheel and hub. The wheels on my car were glued on! The DOT report went on to state that Ford’s solution to the problem was to burn the wheels off with a torch!! This “solution” destroyed the wheel, tire, brakes, and hub.

    My father and I agreed that burning the wheels off was not a good option. We thought about it for a while, and my father measured the slots in the wheel and sent me to the local tool rental place to inquire about their biggest gear puller. The tool rental man brought out the gear puller and I measured the jaws — they would make it through the slots, just. The tool man asked about my project, I told him I was pulling the wheel off a 77 T-Bird. He though I said 57. I corrected him as to the actual model year. He asked me if the car was wrecked. I told him it was not. He told me that I needed to take the lug nuts off first. I just shot him a look. He said he wouldn’t be responsible for any damages to the car and I would have to pay for the tool if I broke it. I reassured him that he had nothing to worry about.

    When I got home, Dad and I jacked up the car, took off the center cap and managed to pry off the hub grease cap. We pushed the jaws of the gear puller through the wheel slots, and centered the jack screw on the spindle. After taking up the slack, we applied torque with a breaker bar. It only took about a quarter turn and there was a loud pop and the gear puller went slack. The wheel was off. We went around the car and found another stuck wheel, that one was also successfully yanked off with the industrial strength gear puller. After the leaky tire was repaired — I refused to tell the local garage mechanic how we got the wheel off — we scraped the glue off the hubs and wheels and applied a thin coat of grease to same.

    A year later, I was in college, and circumstances forced me to sell the T-Bird. I have never considered a Ford product after that, and never will. If Fomoco goes belly up, I say good riddance.

  • avatar
    cheezeweggie

    In the 80’s and 90’s I stood by the American car industry and like so many of us, I was screwed by poor quality and poor dealer/warranty support. There are still people that wave the flag in front of my face and I just don’t care anymore. I buy what’s best for my money and if the profits go to France (Nissan), so be it. At least they dont ignore my needs.

  • avatar
    rashakor

    One of the biggest problems in a blog is always those shallow readers/rapid posters that misinterpret most messages from other people;
    The negative feelings most people may have against gM or Ford are not anti-americanism. Most of the time it is just a reflection of the resentment toward the corporate world.
    The big 2.5 are fine examples of the worst possible aspect of the bloated arrogant corporate ethos.
    If some people actually recognize in that avatar the soul of the USA you should probably stop and think why is that…
    Capitalism has it great benefits but unbridled it is souless “survival-of-the fittest” system.

  • avatar
    oboylepr

    The negative feelings most people may have against gM or Ford are not anti-americanism. Most of the time it is just a reflection of the resentment toward the corporate world.
    The big 2.5 are fine examples of the worst possible aspect of the bloated arrogant corporate ethos.

    Well said!

  • avatar
    webebob

    weep not for GM, weep for their dealer network. I swear it hasn’t changed one iota since the first dealers wrote the book, “how to fleece a sucker” back in the early 1900’s.

    it took me all day in the dealership to buy a corvette in 2005. When I went back in (via email) to the (same) dealer to buy an 07, the first email exchange was the dealer’s internet manager bragging he sold all his vettes on ebay, with a quote over msrp. two weeks later he changes that to sell some Z06’s at msrp, but doesn’t notify me personally, only a general broadcast email to which I was subscribed. Then I went in for a ballpark estimate of trade-in advising a 6500- mile garaged vette sold and serviced by them, and he replies advising he couldn’t possibly give me a ballpark trade-in value by email. brand loyalty and dealer loyalty? phooey, I’ll buy from Kerbeck next time (if) I buy a vette.

    But I contrast this experience with buying both a Porsche 997 and Toyota FJ Cruiser through their respective dealers internet sales. pro forma invoices were provided asap, no addl dealer markup games, just very quick and professional transactions from dealers selling cars at the top of their respective games, vs the blue suede shoe salesmen I always have to wash my hands after dealing with slithering around GM dealerships.

  • avatar

    Its NOT anti-American, and it’s not anti-corporate resentment.
    It IS a statement that WE CAN DO BETTER! And not to settle for half-ass crap anymore!

  • avatar
    Johnson

    On the topic of the brain-drain, it is indeed very real, and a very important topic. But of course the media rarely mentions this, and auto execs rarely talk about it as well. For instance, over the past 2 years, GM has quietly let go over 500 engineers.

    It’s definitely ironic; GM has too many workers (including engineers), too many costs, and a bloated, inefficient corporate culture and structure. Toyota meanwhile doesn’t have enough engineers. Toyota at it’s current pace is hiring about 2000 new engineers per year.

    This is a very real fact. The best and brightest engineers, designers, and managers from all over the world, what companies do you think they want to work for? GM, Chrysler, or Ford? Of course not. All of them want to work for Mercedes, BMW, Toyota, Honda, and to a lesser extent, Hyundai.

    Toyota is the very symbol of success in the auto industry currently. This attracts a lot of talent.

    And speaking of profits, last time I checked, Ford and GM ARE NOT making any profits. So, the profits would go to the States, but they currently don’t exist. Also, who do you think pays of all GM’s Chinese workers, and where do you think the funding comes from all of GM’s China ventures? Some of you should really stop being so ignorant.

    And last time I checked, GM, Ford, and Chrysler are ALL closing down plants in North America, and laying off thousands of workers. How do you think those workers feel? I will tell you, not very happy. Meanwhile, the import makers are building new plants and North America, and hiring thousands of new workers.

    Who currently are pumping billions and billions of dollars into the North American economy? Is it American automakers? Nope. Most of their limited capital is going to overseas ventures. They are merely spending the bare minimum to upgrade some of their North American plants to accomodate retooling for new and redesigned models. The imports are the ones reinvigorating North America’s auto industry and pumping billions of dollars into the economy.

    And one more thing; I am shocked as to how naive, egotistic, and how much disregard some of you have. All you care about is America, America, America. Here is a newsflash: there is more to the world than only America. There are other countries that exist outside of America. Canada for instance.

    Do none of you care which automakers are providing jobs and investing money outside of North America? Doesn’t seem like it. But you must face the facts, that in countries outside of North America, the imports too spend more and invest more in new workers and new factories than American automakers do. Many of you may not like it, and that is the truth.

    Lastly, I’m in Canada, and Toyota and Honda over the past 20 years have done much more for workers and the economy than American automakers ever did. Both Toyota and Honda built new factories in the past 20 years, and in 2008, Toyota’s new Ontario factory goes online, and with this one new factory, Toyota is pumping over 1 Billion dollars into Ontario’s economy.

  • avatar
    Terry Parkhurst

    Thank you "Skor" for that incredible story about the 1977 Ford Thunderbird's (sometimes) glued-on wheels. It's the kind of thing that makes TTAC the place where true auto enthusiasts get their information. I heard a similar story – without the specifics – from the former advertising manager of the Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce. In 1993, when I drove the first generation of the redesigned Dodge Ram and reviewed it for that paper, I told him, "You know, you run down the domestics; but some of them are pretty good – and they're getting better." He replied with a story of two GM cars he'd owned in the 1980s – a Chevrolet Citation was one of them, as I recall – and how both had left him stranded, at various times. Then, he bought a Honda, and after that, a Toyota. "I don't care what you say," he continued. "I will never buy another American car." So the big 2.5 lost educated buyers, such as him. And in the meantime, a generation came of age, who heard such stories from their parents, and have never owned an American-designed and engineered automobile; nor do they even think of shopping for one. When these buyers sell one Japanese designed and engineered car – which admittedly might be built in the States – they go buy another. If they go elsewhere, it is usually to a European marque. Cars such as the latest Chevrolet Corvette (Colin Powell bought one when he retired from government service in 2005) and the Pontiac Solstice are getting attention. But I fear it is akin to what happened with Mazda, before their current generation of cars and crossover vehicles. About 8 years ago, some research group asked a study group if they knew what the Miata was and most people knew that. However, when asked who made the Miata, they didn't know that one. As editor Farago wrote, the clock is ticking and we can only hope someone is trying to turn the wheel before the Titanic hits that iceberg (so to speak).

  • avatar
    jthorner

    I am not cheering about the demise of the 2.5. In fact, I’m very sad about it. However, I am also one of the millions of people who have watched this story unfold and who have put out hard cash into the bottomless pit which American branded automotive ownership often becomes. Our most recent GM vehicle was a 2002 Oldsmobile Silhoette, which was a good enough van at first … but once three years had gone by things were breaking on it all the time. $1,000 a/c repair bills, leaking intake manifold gasket $1500, ka ching, failed shock absorbers, mysterious fuel system leak, and more rattles than I wanted to count. Got rid of the POS in 2006 and took an absolute killing on the “resale” value. Nothing depreciates like a US car/van bought new.

    Now our daily driver fleet includes a 2003 Honda and a 2006 Acura. The Honda had a couple of problems, and Honda took care of them with no hassle and no cost to us, including one electrical problem which showed up 18,000 miles after the end of the warranty. It turns out that the electrical problem was a flaw Honda had a TSB out on and they offered to fix it at no cost because it shouldn’t have happened. The US brand have never learned this little marketing secret of taking care of your problems instead of looking for ways to throw the monkey on the customer’s back. I’m in my mid-40s now and will probably replace one of our two family cars every four years or so. GM could have earned my loyalty, but instead they made me into a Honda customer.

    I have no love for the companies which have shown such callous disregard and contempt for their paying customers for decades.

  • avatar
    geeber

    Johnson: But you must face the facts, that in countries outside of North America, the imports too spend more and invest more in new workers and new factories than American automakers do. Many of you may not like it, and that is the truth.

    We must also face the fact that because the foreign subsidiaries of GM and Ford in Europe, South America and Australia have been established for decades, they don’t need new workers or new factories. If anything, they probably have too many of those.

    Unless your definition of “import” is limited to Asian marques (or you are just trying to bash the American companies while ignoring the serious problems of many European ones), your statement about the investment and spending by foreign marques compared to GM and Ford is not meaningful.

    Companies expanding into new markets are ALWAYS going to spend and invest more in new workers than established companies that have served the market for many decades (which GM and Ford have done in several markets around the globe).

    Johnson: Lastly, I’m in Canada, and Toyota and Honda over the past 20 years have done much more for workers and the economy than American automakers ever did. Both Toyota and Honda built new factories in the past 20 years, and in 2008, Toyota’s new Ontario factory goes online, and with this one new factory, Toyota is pumping over 1 Billion dollars into Ontario’s economy.

    I don’t doubt that Toyota and Honda are expanding in Canada, while GM and Ford may be shrinking, but I can’t agree that they have done “more for the economy than American auto makers ever did,” considering how long GM and Ford have had a production and distribution presence in Canada.

    The last time I checked, the CAW was up in arms over any attempt by GM and Ford to close factories in Canada, so the union must believe that those companies are making a big contribution to the Canadian economy.

  • avatar
    Bill Wade

    ——————————————————————————
    Terry Parkhurst:
    As editor Farago wrote, the clock is ticking and we can only hope someone is trying to turn the wheel before the Titanic hits that iceberg (so to speak).
    ——————————————————————————
    They already hit the iceberg. Now it’s a matter of can the pumps keep up?

  • avatar
    keepaustinweird

    I know I’m not the first person to say this on this thread, but it really upsets me when the well-deserved and carefully considered blowback against the 2.5 is somehow interpreted as anti-american.

    I think as a country we are past it at this point, but it reminds me of those who said that to be against the war in Iraq was to be against the troops.

    In both cases, nothing could be further from the truth!

    I can only speak for myself, but I see striking – and appaling – similarities in both the halls of the 2.5 and Washington, DC.

    To put a button on it, I see massive failures in leadership and accountability that will have a far-reaching and negative impact on America. And all this when anyone who really looks themselves in the mirror knows that we are capable of doing so, so much better.

    America is an incredible country with some of the most innovative, resourceful and hard working people on the planet. These are people who can go toe-to-toe with anyone at any time and win under the right set of circumstances.

    It’s a shame that they are under the thumb of incompetent, greedy, unnacountable trust funders who wouldn’t know leadership qualities if they were run over by a Chrysler Apen full of them.

    It’s a global playing field, and basically a zero sum game. That’s the way it is. Given the kind of talent and drive that exists in America, it is unfathomable – and intolerable – that the “leaders” of the 2.5 have been left in-place to re-arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic.

  • avatar
    PandaBear

    Ask your Honda dealer where profits go

    Back to the land of the rising sun…

    I don’t want any profits from me to go to anyone else but me, domestic or import. I want them to give them all back to me, the buyer.

    That sounds unrealistic, so I guess I will settle for the company or country who made the bet and take the risk to build what I wanted, a quality car, to take that, and do whatever they want with it.

  • avatar
    Matthew Potena

    “mikey:
    In 2007 negotiations the UAW can, and will swallow huge consessions.It is simply a matter of survival.”

    I will believe that when I see it. More likely, the UAW will call on the new Democratic majority in Congress for some sort of “assistance for the working man”.

  • avatar
    PandaBear

    The domestic do have a chance to fight back. Japanese is not perfect at everything they do, they have weaknesses – too slow in developing technologies.

    At least in the computer industry, Japanese have been lack behind in all the latest cutting edge development – DRAM (Korean dominate), Harddrives (US dominate, even the Japanese HD are developed here in the US), CPU (US dominate), Wireless (Europe dominate cell phone, US dominate WiFi), Networking (US dominate), LCD (Korean dominate), motherboard (Taiwan dominate), the list keep going and going.

    Japanese is good at mass production and efficiency. They can’t design new technology fast enough in any design intensive businesses. Look at most software other than games, Japanese got almost none of that market, and look at games, they got their domestic market and the best game designers (Id, Blizzard, etc) on the latest technologies are still in the US.

    Japanese cars are not the latest technologies, they are just the best in manufacturing efficiency and volume cost reduction.

    I have worked on Parallel, plug in hybrid in 96/97; it is not a new technology. Toyota did not invent hybrid, they just master the manufacturing efficiency of it.

  • avatar
    86er

    Implicit in much of this discussion is the suggestion that if you have problems with your *domestic* vehicle, you should just go out and make your next purchase an *import*.

    Not only is this analysis insufferably simplistic in light of the global nature of today’s automotive sector with shared global platforms, it also presupposes that the *import* dealers will have something ready and waiting to replace one’s existing vehicle with identical capabilities and utility.

    Tell that to the next person with, say, an F-250 that’s a lemon in need of running to an *import* dealer to solve his woes.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    The Honda Accord like many of the transplants are assembled in North America,most of the components are built in Japan

    I own 2 Accords, a 2002 LX-V6 and a 2003 LX-V6. The content sticker on the 2002 said that it was 95% domestic. The sticker on the 2003 said 65%. I don’t know what the dealers think, but the dealer where I bought the 2002 is located about a half mile from a Japanese named parts supplier’s plant.

  • avatar

    With such high inventories, wouldn’t a strike actually be to Detroit’s advantage?

  • avatar
    John Williams

    Johnson:

    And one more thing; I am shocked as to how naive, egotistic, and how much disregard some of you have. All you care about is America, America, America. Here is a newsflash: there is more to the world than only America. There are other countries that exist outside of America. Canada for instance.

    The one thing I can’t stand is a foreigner losing his marbles over what he perceives to be American ignorance of the world around us. Stop the incessant whinging and consider the comments from an American perspective.

  • avatar

    The way to get a stuck wheel off is to loosen the lugnuts/bolts a few turns, then go drive the car. The first turn should do it.
    Another reason this country is so Fd is we are not metric which means lack of engineering and math and science degrees(and tonnes of dumass lawyers, bureaucrats, regulators, MBAs, lazy teachers/administrators/parents running around)
    Then of course there is a huge lack of light/medium-duty diesels and turbochargers and hybrid tek. The whole E85 and H2 hoax.

  • avatar
    jurisb

    american car industry should have a rebirth like a phoenix from ashes? can you name a single manufacturing industry that usa would have recovered from? none. so went electronics, so did watch and robot industry. whenever it deals with high fidelity mechanisms, usa unfortunately fails. french still have thomson, germans loewe, japanese- galore companies. americans don`t. the problem is lack of quality in engineering that starts from kindergarden. what can you expect from kids that are tought democracy ,painting, and computer games. while most of them dream of becomming rappers or some other non- sweat related workers, none of them dream driving a heavy machinery industry, let`s say. so goes the natural science education in schools, that is replaced by obesity awareness education. if detroit wants to survive they must pull off their gloves and get hands down to the drawing board, and start creating cars, not rebadging or platform sharing, or korean – renaming- daewoos- school opening. guys, start doing tangible business. or you will sink together with boeing, dana or any other close- to- fossils – product -starved companies. you can rebadge and sell opels ,but you will never get respect from japanese, unless you achieve something yourself- fair game . good luck!

  • avatar
    Dr. No

    The brain drain can be plugged if the 2.5 PAYS more to hire the design and engineering talent. Pay them whatever it takes to compensate them for the risk of working for a company on life support. People forget that it’s not ALL ABOUT the union-cost-disadvantage of the 2.5 brands, it’s the lack of desirability. The Chrysler 300c is no pantheon on technology, nor is it a breakthrough on reliability: it is STYLE MAN!

    The sad fact is that the 2.5 can’t manufacture a fart after a baked bean dinner. So, the 2.5 must change or die, and the start of any rebirth has to come from those most responsible for THE PRODUCT: designers and engineers.

    Oh, and I like Fred’s procedure for “freeing wheelie.”

  • avatar
    jazbo123

    jurisb:
    January 2nd, 2007 at 10:54 am
    american car industry should have a rebirth like a phoenix from ashes? can you name a single manufacturing industry that usa would have recovered from? none. so went electronics, so did watch and robot industry. whenever it deals with high fidelity mechanisms, usa unfortunately fails. french still have thomson, germans loewe, japanese- galore companies. americans don`t.

    the problem is lack of quality in engineering that starts from kindergarden. what can you expect from kids that are tought democracy ,painting, and computer games. while most of them dream of becomming rappers or some other non- sweat related workers, none of them dream driving a heavy machinery industry, let`s say. so goes the natural science education in schools, that is replaced by obesity awareness education.

    Right on jurisb! We are educating our kids to be experts in pop-culture and feelings; Experts on what Rosie said to Donald. Becuase of this, in the US we can’t buy enough good engineers and scientists at any price.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    86er had this to say… “Tell that to the next person with, say, an F-250 that’s a lemon in need of running to an *import* dealer to solve his woes.”

    Sometimes – often, in fact – when one has a lemon and is determined to swear of Ford – or the big 2.5 altogether – a reassessment of needs occurs. If Ford sold someone an F-250 that was a great truck, that someone is very likely to come back and buy another F-250. However, if that someone can no lnoger stomach Ford and find that the competition does not offer quite the same truck, they may well decide a smaller truck will do just fine. Just to get away from Ford.

    The only way to avoid that is to provide a satisfying owership experience. “Engineering” a vehicle in such a way that a tire change (gee, who would ever want to change a tire?) will cost $400 and expecting the customer to bear that expense is not delivering a satisfying ownership experience.

    In fact, I was really apalled by the “Stuck Wheel T-Bird” story. If Ford had figured out early enough what was going wrong (the DoT report suggests they well knew what was going on) and had simply asked owners to bring the cars in early and had tried pulling each wheel, they might have been able to free the wheels before they were stuck on for good, saving more than a few owners significant expense. But, why bother? They’d already made the sale and couldn’t care less after that.

    My own worst encounter with Ford was similar. Near the end of a fruitless conversation about the transmissions my Ford was eating about twice a year, I asked the Customer Service Rep, “Don’t you care if I ever buy another Ford again?”

    “No, sir, I’m not in Sales.”

    If they don’t care if I buy a Ford, why should I?

    The Detroit Fan Club can also get their heads around the idea that 90% of us who are not interetested in buying a Ford, GM or Chrysler product are simply not interested AT THIS TIME. We’ve switched and that’s too damned bad for Detroit but most of us are reasonably open to switching back WHEN DETROIT GIVES US A REASON TO SWITCH BACK.

    Not-as-good fuel economy? That won’t bring me back. Not-as-nice interiors? That won’t bring me back. 1950’s tech under the hood? Not working for me. For those of us going up-market, who’s got a car that parks itself? Who’s got adaptive cruise control?

    For those of us who value reliability (although I really like my little car, it’s still fundamentally a transportation appliance and I expect it to start in the morning and carry me to work every damned day and to spend almost no time in the shop), the quickie JDPower “initial” and “3-year” studies are of no interest whatever.

    We’ll come back when a 5-year old Detroiter is judged to be as reliable as a 5-year old Toy-onda.

    We’ll come back when we hear how well the Detroit dealerships treat customers with problems. I’m looking for stories that go, “yeah, the thus-and-so failed and, when it did, it entirely ruined the this-or-that but the service guy at Friendly Motors got on the phone with Detroit and together they made it right.” The only stories I know that sound like that involve Toy-ondas. The guy the next cube over had an Odyssey transmission that was slipping a little replaced at 97K miles for free with a loaner the day they did the work.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Several people recently took shots at the education system and/or the Federal Government’s role in it.

    Get a grip. Your school district is run by your local school board. Don’t like the way your school is run? Run for School Board. I hope you enjoy a thankless experience, because that’s what you’ll get.

    Our experience here in the white-bread, well-heeled suburbs is that, within the past 10 years, referenda to build sports facilities passed twice, by 75% to 25% while referenda to build enough classrooms to HOUSE EXISTING STUDENTS, never mind the growth rate of this suburb, failed twice before squeaking by at 52% to 48%.

    Kids routinely come to school unprepared and unready. Their parents don’t feed them breakfast, are pissed off when school has a day off because it means they’ll have to pay for day care (cuts into the budget for the McMansion, the SUV and the ski vacation), won’t come pick up a sick kid because they have a meeting, will drive them all over town to sports but won’t reserve time for the kids to do homework.

    And while your little angel may actually not be suffering this sort of neglect and mis-match of priorities, he still has to share a classroom with 30 other kids, some of which will be distruptive due to just these issues.

  • avatar
    finger

    It seems that the main perceived problem with the domestics is the dealership experience. I believe it is the trickle down effect. The car companies are always at odds with the unions. Hence, the union worker doesn’t trust the manufacturer and works in a state of discontent. The dealer body does not trust the manufacturer either and is skeptical and less than enthusiastic toward them. It is only natural that all this ill will needs a release. And unfortunately, the paying customer in many instances has experienced that release.

  • avatar
    86er

    @ Kixstart

    While I’m sure you didn’t intend to lump me in with the Detroit Fan Club, I am certainly not keen to start a pissing match of this sort. Each manufacturer has enough warts that these polarized debates (and what isn’t these days?) get on the nerves.

    After all, any informed observer knows that the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

  • avatar
    jazbo123

    Kixstart:

    I do not blame the government for educational deficiencies; That’s too damn easy and not intellectually honest.

    There is no doubt that the problem starts at home. As parents, we have become far too absorbed in shallow displays of wealth, instant gratification, and giving kids the “easy life”.

    Raising successful kids is contrary to all three.

  • avatar
    Johnson

    We must also face the fact that because the foreign subsidiaries of GM and Ford in Europe, South America and Australia have been established for decades, they don’t need new workers or new factories. If anything, they probably have too many of those.

    Unless your definition of “import” is limited to Asian marques (or you are just trying to bash the American companies while ignoring the serious problems of many European ones), your statement about the investment and spending by foreign marques compared to GM and Ford is not meaningful.

    Companies expanding into new markets are ALWAYS going to spend and invest more in new workers than established companies that have served the market for many decades (which GM and Ford have done in several markets around the globe).

    Assumptions are tempting, but you would be wise not to make them. Assumptions make one look like a fool. I was not bashing American automakers, I was (and have been for a long time) bashing the bloated, inefficient, and ignorant corporate culture and structure that many American companies still operate under, including GM. There are companies like GE, Boeing, and Intel that aside from being American companies, all operate under beautiful corporate structures and have great corporate cultures. Not surprising, all of these companies also operate under the ideals of lean manufacturing.

    I don’t doubt that Toyota and Honda are expanding in Canada, while GM and Ford may be shrinking, but I can’t agree that they have done “more for the economy than American auto makers ever did,” considering how long GM and Ford have had a production and distribution presence in Canada.

    The last time I checked, the CAW was up in arms over any attempt by GM and Ford to close factories in Canada, so the union must believe that those companies are making a big contribution to the Canadian economy.

    Re-read what I said. They have done more over the past 20 years. Do you truly wish to argue this point? Not only over the past 20 years, but they continue to do more *now*, in the present, as well as in the short-term future.

    Yes, the CAW was up in arms, but that didn’t stop Chrysler, Ford, and GM from closing plants, did it?

    Because of it’s current financial situation, GM would much rather build new factories in China and pay cheap wages, rather than invest in new North American plants.

    The one thing I can’t stand is a foreigner losing his marbles over what he perceives to be American ignorance of the world around us. Stop the incessant whinging and consider the comments from an American perspective.

    Foreigner? I live in Canada, and am acutely in touch with problems going on in America. If I was living in America, would you have a different reaction to my comments? Living in America, I still would have said the same statement. American ignorance is not the subject of discussion here.

    The topic of discussion is the ignorant and deeply flawed corporate culture and structure that currently GM, Ford, and Chrysler all operate under. But it seems that some of you are insulted by ‘shocking’ truth of the matter.

    I have worked on Parallel, plug in hybrid in 96/97; it is not a new technology. Toyota did not invent hybrid, they just master the manufacturing efficiency of it.

    Of course it’s not a new technology. Toyota indeed did not invent the concept of a hybrid system, but Toyota certainly pioneered and made a hybrid system practical and suitable for production cars. Toyota started working on it’s hybrid system in the early 90s, and Toyota’s subsidiary Hino had in 1989, a hybrid system in production commercial trucks.

    The brain drain can be plugged if the 2.5 PAYS more to hire the design and engineering talent. Pay them whatever it takes to compensate them for the risk of working for a company on life support.

    The ‘Big 2.5’ simply cannot afford to pay more for engineering and design talent. If a bidding war starts for designers and engineers, it’s almost a certainty that companies such as Toyota and Honda, with their deep pockets will win out. Not only that, but Toyota and Honda have something that is hard to buy with money: desirability. Engineers and designers today mostly want to work for successful companies like Toyota and Honda, not GM or Ford.

  • avatar
    ash78

    I’m not averse to buying a domestic down the road. In fact, I have seen the “dealership experience” completely fail at Toyota with my mom, requiring endless followups (and eventual, reluctant high-level name-dropping by my old man) in order to resolve a problem created by a crappy dealer–brake lockup due to using power steering fluid to top off the master cylinder. Genius.

    I have owned two VWs in a row, which is arguably the WORST dealer experience in all of Automotistan. But I’ve in turn learned a lot of DIY and have a good indy mechanic, so I would buy again–used, of course. I consider a VW warranty to be a liability in many ways. But the cars are great if you can ignore the little annoyances.

    So I don’t want a great dealership, I want a great PRODUCT. I’m probably in the minority, but having to schedule appointments, loaners, and whenever my car is at the shop, I’m constantly on edge. I can’t imagine that changing anytime soon.

  • avatar
    tincanman99

    Speaking as a former software engineer that used to work in this country’s preeminent research facility I can tell you for a fact that engineering in general is looked down upon by the suits in this country.

    I do not tell my children to become an engineer. Why you ask? Because they have no future. American companies only care about one thing – how cheap can you work. If you notice more and more companies are offshoring all their engineering work out of the country to China or India.

    Why? WAGES – why hire people here at 60-100K when I can get Chinese engineers for 6K per year with no bennies. You do the math.

    This is the same reason they are building plants in China. Its all about wages. That is why the factories are closing.

    But companies here want their cake and eat it too – they want to sell you products at 1st world prices and have it made at 3rd world prices. There is not to much made in this country anymore. We really do not have any industrial capacity. Heck even the parts for airplanes are being made in China now.

    Here is the reality – companies only care about the bottom line. How much money they can make right now. That is why American companies have no staying power. They look for the next year, the Germans and Japanese are looking out toward a decade.

    One thing – once you buy foreign you are never coming back. Ever. I had a Ford Mustang in the 80s and it was the biggest hunk o’ junk on the planet. Bought my first small foreign car and it was a godsend. Reliable and it ran all the time. Guess what kids? I have not owned an American car since than.

    As for the dealers. These people might as well be selling mattresses. Lowest form of life on the planet. They want to hustle you and rip you off any way they can. If I could buy a car without having to interact with them I would.

    Its to bad, you can go into a showroom, walk up to a computer, click off your options. Put down a deposit, finance the rest and ELIMINATE the human interaction with these people. What value do they add to the buying process? NOTHING.

    This past summer I was shopping for a Porsche (getting a head start on that mid life crisis) and the Porsche dealer did not pretend nor play games. You are buying a Porsche. They discounted somewhat and that was the end of the story. You want the car, here it is. No pressure, no BS.

    Compare this to the typical car buying experience most of us have to contend with.

    PS. No I did not buy the Porsche as its just not practical but its still calling my name.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    PandaBear,
    If you want the profits from carmaking to go to you, then simply buy stock. I buy Hondas and own ‘HMC’.

    I’m not sure you want the profits from the domestic 2.5, as these tend to be negative.

  • avatar
    ash78

    One thing GM does really well, and that’s home mortgages. GMAC is a top-notch operation, I’ve been really happy with them. My 1986 home is still going strong, but that whole “financing for 30 years” thing is kind of a scam.

    Best part: The house seats 10-12 comfortably and only uses $200 worth of gas a month (winter) and $20 (summer).

  • avatar
    Ar-Pharazon

    Speaking of financial irregularities, corporate culture, and the tendency to distain anything American . . . please explain this:

    Toyota hit with back taxes over failure to declare ¥6 billion in income
    Asahi Shimbun 01/02/07

    ——————————————————————————–

    Toyota Motor Corp. has been ordered to pay about 2 billion yen in back taxes and penalties after it was found to have failed to declare taxable income, sources said.

    The Nagoya Regional Taxation Bureau found that the nation’s leading carmaker did not report 6 billion yen during three fiscal years through March 2004.

    The tax authority did not make any official announcement about the issue.

    However, sources said Toyota sold vehicle parts and components at below-market rates to two overseas subsidiaries, reducing Toyota’s taxable incomes by about 2 billion yen.

    The money was used to finance sales promotion costs at the subsidiaries and help improve earnings results, the sources said.

    The tax authority concluded that the discount exports were effectively financial subsidies extended to the subsidiaries, the sources said.

    The remaining 4 billion yen included about 500 million yen in padded expenditure for vehicle-related advertisements and an unknown amount of tax-deductible costs booked improperly.

    Toyota exported parts of its Camry mid-size sedans to an Australian subsidiary, selling the parts at well below the market price.

    The Australian subsidiary booked the savings as part of its income for the Camry model, which totaled about 5 billion yen in four fiscal years through March 2004.

    The subsidiary allocated part of the reserved money to offer incentives to a sales agent in the Middle East, which purchased assembled Camry sedans from the subsidiary.

    Such incentives for vehicles assembled and sold by the Australian subsidiary should be paid by the subsidiary.

    According to sources, the tax authority determined that the parent company exported the parts at lower prices to cover the payment of incentives.

    If Toyota had paid the sales incentives directly to the Middle Eastern sales agent, the carmaker would not have been able to deduct the payment from its taxable income.

    The company found a loophole by selling the parts at a discount, according the sources.

    Toyota pulled off a similar arrangement with a Brazilian subsidiary, according to sources.

    It exported parts for its Corolla compact model at a considerable discount, again shrinking the parent company’s taxable income, the sources said.

    The tax authority has unearthed an internal document, which called for financial support for the Brazilian subsidiary, whose performance was in the doldrums.

    The arrangements with the Australian and Brazilian subsidiaries added up to around 2 billion yen in undeclared income in the three fiscal years to March 2004, the tax authority concluded.

    Takeshi Suzuki, Toyota’s senior managing director in charge of financial affairs, admitted that the tax authority had contacted the carmaker about the irregularities.

    “I thought that we properly dealt with the issue, but I don’t remember well about details,” Suzuki told The Asahi Shimbun.

    Toyota posted consolidated net profit of 1.372 trillion yen on group sales of 21.037 trillion yen in fiscal 2005. Both figures were record highs for the company.

    It is almost certain that Toyota will surpass the global leader General Motors Corp. in 2007 in unit production and sales on a consolidated basis.

  • avatar
    geeber

    Johnson: Assumptions are tempting, but you would be wise not to make them. Assumptions make one look like a fool.

    Yes, like assuming that Toyota’s growth over the past decade in the U.S. has not been fueled largely by an increase in truck and SUV sales.

    Remember who made that one and was proven incorrect?

    Get that subscription to Car & Driver yet?

    Johnson: I was not bashing American automakers, I was (and have been for a long time) bashing the bloated, inefficient, and ignorant corporate culture and structure that many American companies still operate under, including GM. There are companies like GE, Boeing, and Intel that aside from being American companies, all operate under beautiful corporate structures and have great corporate cultures. Not surprising, all of these companies also operate under the ideals of lean manufacturing.

    Instead of focusing on just one phrase of my post, let’s go back to your original post to get a clearer understanding of your argument:

    But you must face the facts, that in countries outside of North America, the imports too spend more and invest more in new workers and new factories than American automakers do. Many of you may not like it, and that is the truth.

    And my counterpoint still stands – GM and Ford are not investing as much today, because they have ALREADY invested in overseas operations, and have no need to do so in 2007.

    The Asians are building operations from scratch in many areas, so of course they will invest more than GM and Ford do right now.

    Johnson: Re-read what I said. They have done more over the past 20 years. Do you truly wish to argue this point? Not only over the past 20 years, but they continue to do more *now*, in the present, as well as in the short-term future.

    I read it correctly the first time. Here is what you originally posted, for your convenience:

    Lastly, I’m in Canada, and Toyota and Honda over the past 20 years have done much more for workers and the economy than American automakers ever did. (emphasis added) Both Toyota and Honda built new factories in the past 20 years, and in 2008, Toyota’s new Ontario factory goes online, and with this one new factory, Toyota is pumping over 1 Billion dollars into Ontario’s economy.

    Saying that Toyota and Honda have invested more in Canada, and are doing more for the local economy, than the domestics EVER DID, means that we can go back more than the past 20 years to examine exactly what impact and benefit that GM and Ford have had on the Canadian economy.

  • avatar
    skor

    Ar-Pharazon,

    I’m not an old man, I’m 42. This happened to me when I was sixteen, it was my first car ownership experience. My parents are still both alive and well, this isn’t ancient history.

    You missed the entire point of my story. It wasn’t the fact that the wheels were glued-on that turned me against Fomoco. Even as a teenager I understood that crap happens. My parents taught me to give people a second chance when they make mistakes. What turned me against Fomoco was the attitude I got from Ford and their dealers. The “f*** you” attitude is what I will never forget, or forgive.

    Yes, all the people who were involved with Ford’s glued-on wheel “better idea” have probably long since retired or died. Speaking to people who own current vintage Fords, it is obvious to me that the current corporate culture is just as bad, or worse, than it was in the 1970s.

    This was not just one experience either. My father and uncles were “Ford Men”. Just like the guy across the street was a “GM Guy”. I also remember very well the 1979 Ford Granada that my father purchased new. The car came with a 250 cube straight six and a single barrel carb. From the day my father brought that car home, to the day the junk man hauled it off, it never ran properly. You would think a straight six would be relatively smooth. In reality, my Rupp mini bike was smother than that Granada, and accelerated faster. The last Ford my father purchased was a 1986 Tempo. Need I say more? That’s when he stopped being a “Ford Man”.

    THE thousand injuries of Fomoco I had borne as I best could, but when they ventured upon insult I vowed revenge.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Ar-P,

    Bzzt. Wrong. There are certainly some here who felt so badly mistreated by Ford, GM, whatever, that they never will buy another Ford, GM, whatever, again. If they’d been similarly miserably treated by Toyota, would you be telling them to give Toyota another chance? Would you be expecting them to give Toyota another chance? Fat chance.

    Many of us are still flexible. I loathed my Ford experience, yet they now have the product for me (hybrid Escape) and I’m willing to consider Ford again (but my wife is absolutely NOT willing to consider Ford again). Those who think like me will buy the Fusion or Edge (wife permitting) when someone else owns one for a few years and tells us what a great vehicle it was.

    It’s a fact of life that you don’t win back a customer as easily as you pissed him away. It’s a marketing lesson as old as the Bible: “As ye sow, so shall ye reap.” Ford and GM failed to take notice of this lesson.

    But reliability and historical treatment aside, see the next article on TTAC and tell me, why on Earth would I WANT a 300hp FRONT-Wheel-Drive car? Heck, I don’t need TTAC to tell me 300hp and FWD isn’t going to be the road machine of my dreams; it’s obviously a non-starter.

    I don’t need a car from a company that thinks the solution to every automotive problem is to jam a V8 under the hood.

  • avatar
    finger

    Ar-Pharazon-

    Well said. Kudos.

    PS- What’s a Granada?

  • avatar

    For those of you who want the American consumer to give Detroit a "second chance" (usually a third, fourth, fifth), I refer you to an earlier Death Watch on the subject: General Motors Death Watch 17: Forgive and Forget? And before you get into a debate about the GM warranty introduced after this piece was written, remember: GM's coverage is NOT bumper-to-bumper.

  • avatar
    ash78

    RF

    That was a great one. As a corrolary, I’m probably in that demographic that car manufacturers really want to win the heart of (late 20s, married, both work, disposably income). However, you know what? Many of my high school peers in the mid-90s drove new-at-the-time ’94-’95 Cavaliers. That’s all the convincing I really needed, to this day. It goes right back to the need for a pervasive quality mentality at all levels. Even my 2.0 VW Golf had some serious pizzazz and driving dynamics next to those things, despite lackluster power and questionable hecho-en-Mexico build quality.

    That’s the main reason GM won’t get a “first chance” with me any time soon. My wife drives a Saturn L200, bought before marriage (and without consulting me), which has been terrifically reliable for 5 years–though far from something that would ever get me into a dealership. She’s “happy with it.” What does she want next? A Passat wagon.

  • avatar
    finger

    “My wife drives a Saturn L200, bought before marriage (and without consulting me), which has been terrifically reliable for 5 years–though far from something that would ever get me into a dealership. She’s “happy with it.” What does she want next? A Passat wagon.”

    Let me get this straight. Your (her) Saturn has been “terrifically reliable” for 5 years. And your wife is pleased with the car. Yet you base your next buying decision on a negative high school car experience 12 years ago?

  • avatar
    ash78

    finger,
    The point is that it’s not a car to lust after in any way. It’s just the most basic form of transportation. Crap interior, mediocre economy for a 4-banger. It’s very much in line with my experience with those Cavaliers, but the above is her independent assessment that she would not want another one. I can’t disagree, knowing that in a 2-car family, you never know which person will be driving which car down the line.

    The fiscally practical side of me will hang onto it until the problems start, though.

  • avatar
    finger

    Ash,

    I would not consider a Saturn L a car to “lust” after either. In fact, I would not expect a car that I lust after to anyway be associated with superior economy. Also, i would do a little research in checking VW reliability and warranty.

  • avatar
    Ar-Pharazon

    Boy, now the rest of the people who read this article will just have to wonder exactly what I said . . . seen by the lucky few as either wrong, or ‘well said’. Our host felt it was a ‘flame’, though, so now it’s deleted . . . a mystery to me, as I can’t remember that I said anything remotely intended as a flame. I guess anything remotely negative about anything is a flame if you don’t agree with it.

  • avatar

    Ar-Pharazon knows full well why I deleted his post. TTAC always sends an explanatory email to the author when a comment is edited or deleted. In this case, the comment was deleted because of the following statement: "Because most posters here are not seeking the truth, but only a place to vent their bias." This comment is in direct violation of our stated policy. We do not allow any comments that flame TTAC, its authors or fellow commentators. Ar-Pharazon has been served notice that any further remarks of this nature will result in an immediate and irreversible ban on his participation in this website. And that includes any comment on this post. Again, still, I invite anyone who wishes to discuss any apsect of our editorial policy to email me at [email protected] UPDATE: As Ar-Pharazon has ignored my instructions on this matter, he has been permanently banned from posting on this site. 

  • avatar

    Entire car but one part: designed and tested in Germany.
    Grill only – designed here in the US of A.

    Yup, this is a valid example.

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    I found this comment from Rohman interesting:

    My father was diagnosed with cancer shortly after buying a new Ford Windstar. This POS was falling apart while my mother was running my father from clinic to clinic for his treatments. Transmission and head gasket problems that Ford and the dealer at first refused to acknowledge and then when they did, they could not fix properly. My father died of his cancer and my mother’s suffering was exacerbated by the problems they had with (their) van. If a company could die and burn in hell, I would wish it upon Ford.

    For everybody who says that it’s un-American to be angry with an American company, I say that’s silly. And I urge you to re-read the whole paragraph and especially the boldfaced text that I quoted above.

    When a person believes that another person, or even an ENTIRE COMPANY, is responsible for a loved-one’s needless suffering and maybe even a pointless, early demise due to the extra stress, I can assure you that the resulting anger will be deep-seated and visceral. And maybe even eternal.

    We do hold grudges. Sometimes deservedly so! I’m sure Rohman is not the only one with such experiences. This should be a “Business-101” lesson.

    My own experiences with GM were similar. A broken, leaky heater core on the way to a friend’s funeral. A malfunctioning computer on a very necessary “get out of town” trip after another death in the family, and the two months that it took to finally get it fixed.

    Countless times I was late for work because I had to have one or another of my GM cars towed, and/or had to wait for it for more than the day that I was told the service department would need to keep it.

    Dealership service departments that have to be CONSTANTLY checked up on, to make sure they were actually STARTING the work on my car by midday, that they actually performed the service, and to make sure that they put everything back together correctly.

    And countless times I would still get the car back and something CRITICAL had been incorrectly done, improperly assembled, replaced with the wrong part, or not done, assembled, or replaced at all!

    The list goes on and on and on. It just took me longer than some others to swear off my poisonous automotive relationship. I suspect that some in my family still haven’t forgiven me for not “buying American.” But I don’t care, because at least I am alive to tell my story.

    Yes, I believe that The General would have eventually killed me, and maybe one of my family members, if given enough time and tries.

    So while I don’t wish any company to “burn in Hell” as Rohman does, I can certainly understand his fire and anger. And yes, I am holding my own grudge against GM.

    By the way, that’s a pretty picture of the downtown Detroit skyline.

    Hmmm, but not pretty enough for me to want to go back there, either to live or to visit. You can’t fool me, I know better. Plus, it’s January in that city! Brrrr!

  • avatar
    CliffG

    Ar Phar:
    The problem is not the 30 year old problem that led many to flee domestic automobiles, it is the fact that the two major brands that many fled to, Honda and Toyota, have not given them reasons to lreturn to the 2.5. My parent’s last domestic was a ’79 Buick, an absolute POS, and after a number of Honda’s, Buick stands absolutely no chance of getting their business back. This is the sheer wall that the 2.5 face, not merely the junk they produced for so many years, but the fact that the others haven’t disappointed them.

    Finger: The new Malibu better be twice as good as the last one, because the last one wasn’t a good buy at $17.5k.

  • avatar
    finger

    Yes, I believe that The General would have eventually killed me, and maybe one of my family members, if given enough time and tries.

    Now, I don’t intend to insult anyone at all. But, you have got to be kidding. Right?

    Finger: The new Malibu better be twice as good as the last one, because the last one wasn’t a good buy at $17.5k.

    I guess we will have to wait and see. And hopefully make an unbiased decision.

    And why do you say the current Malibu is not good at $17,500?

  • avatar
    Pch101

    As someone with both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business, I have to say that my education would have been impossible without the use of the case study method, which involves examining the problems and mistakes of a variety of companies, determining why and how those occurred, and assessing whether management made the right decisions in addressing those issues.

    Never during that education was I advised that studying the mistakes of American companies was somehow unpatriotic or treasonous. Generally, the big-picture lesson was that some companies do a better job than others, and that it is wise to emulate the good ones and avoid repeating the errors of the bad ones.

    It is no more unpatriotic to criticize General Motors or Ford than it is to complain about a bad meal in a US restaurant or a rude clerk in a US hotel. As informed consumers, it’s our right to decide where to spend or not spend our money, and we have every reason to spend it wisely.

    The greatest favor that the Big 3 automakers could give themselves would be to take these criticisms to heart, accept them with grace, and act on the lessons that they provide. The feedback is useful, and listening to what a would-be consumer is telling you, free of charge, sure beats paying a consultant $400 per hour to hear the same thing.

    Back in the late fifties, a small Japanese company called Toyota that had had some success in its home market began selling cars in the US. They sold very few of these cars to Americans — fewer than 1,000 units — and realized that something was amiss. So they temporarily withdrew from the market, and by studying US marketing and sales techniques, and consumer tastes, were able to develop a new car that they believed would appeal to American buyers.

    That was the sort of reinvention that Detroit requires today — stepping back, taking a hard look at what they’ve done wrong and fixing it, and then hoping that they can earn back the trust that they have lost. Success is not a right, it must be earned, and if 30+ years of earning bad reputations have finally caught up with them, then so be it, they must learn from their mistakes and correct them. Blaming the consumer is a strategy that is guaranteed to fail.

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    I’ve got an extended family under the spell of Toyota. The Big 2.5 have little-to-no chance of getting us back thanks to too many bad experiences, and minimal headache from the big T.

    Interestingly, one half of the family couldn’t bear the thought of buying Japanese as they were on the run from them during World War II. The other half was under occupation the whole time and actually has a favorable view of the Japanese. In the end, quality won out over decades of animosity.

  • avatar
    finger

    “The other half was under occupation the whole time and actually has a favorable view of the Japanese. In the end, quality won out over decades of animosity. ”

    Very true. Information that should be noted. Who knows? 20 years from now I may be driving a car or truck built by the Taliban. I can see their ad campaign now- we declare jihad against Toyota!

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    finger:

    “Very true. Information that should be noted. Who knows? 20 years from now I may be driving a car or truck built by the Taliban. I can see their ad campaign now- we declare jihad against Toyota!”

    We’ll see about that. There are a few other things that will have to change first. Y’know, on second thought, I think I’ll just leave that sleeping dog lie.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    ZoomZoom wrote, “We do hold grudges. Sometimes deservedly so! I’m sure Rohman is not the only one with such experiences. This should be a “Business-101″ lesson.”

    That’s the hell of it. It is covered in Business-101.

  • avatar
    HawaiiJim

    My impression is that while some folks may have sworn off Detroit due to bad experiences, many others simply found the early versions of the Japanese cars more fun to tool around in and, as time went on, more consumer oriented in terms of desirable features. Personally, I had no real problems with the American cars I drove (usually borrowed from family or friends) when in high school, college, grad school, and later– for example Olds, Pontiac, Plymouth. But somewhere along the line I drove a VW Beetle, which probably set me up to get interested in smaller cars. The switch to the Asian products may also have been linked to the culture of the late 60s and early 70s, which was marked, historians would probably agree, by an unusually sharp disconnect between many of the younger generation and their parents. Those intergenerational rifts subsided, but not before heightening young folks’ desire to choose cars that trumpeted a break from parental traditions.

  • avatar
    airglow

    Tincanman99 wrote:

    Wah, wah, wah! Oh poor babies they cant compete in the global marketplace. This despite them shoving the global marketplace up everyone’s you know what for years. Well the chicken has come home to roost – globalization is here and they dont like it. Well to freakin bad.

    They have only had what – 30 YEARS to catch up to the Japanese. What did they do instead?

    How many non-Japanese brand autos are sold in Japan? Answer, almost zero. Japan has the most closed home market of any western country, by far! It is obvious to anyone with a brain in their head that the trading relationship between Japan and the US is one of the most unfair, one-sided exchanges in the world. It’s very hard not to get you rear-end kicked when the game is rigged.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    How many non-Japanese brand autos are sold in Japan? Answer, almost zero. Japan has the most closed home market of any western country, by far!

    Japan has no tariffs on car imports. What it does have is a cutthroat market in which even its own car companies don’t turn a profit. (Last I checked, only Toyota turned a profit on its Japanese-market sales, and I doubt that this situation has changed.)

    We need to be honest: if the Big 3 can’t produce cars that we want, why would we believe them to be any more competent in serving a market such as Japan? Japan has small roads, high fuel prices, a lack of parking, and high taxes on engines over 600cc’s, which give the US automakers little chance to compete with their larger, bulkier, gas burning behemoths. Japan is also a right-hand drive market, and the American habit of shipping LHD cars to countries where this puts the steering gear on the wrong side of the car is not going to fly in Japan.

    The only foreign players who do well in Japan are those such as BMW, that have strong premium brand appeal there, just as they do with us. You can’t blame the Japanese for rejecting products that simply don’t work for them and have no appeal to their tastes.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    ZoomZoom: concerning Rohman

    one person swearing off a brand, however irrationally, would not bring it down. If alot of people do, for whatever reason, it will fail.

    People always have problems with various brands, perhaps the problem with the domestics is that they have had lots more time to screw up than the more recent import brands.

    But it does seem that the domestics have lost their collective mojo.

  • avatar
    ghughes

    There is no normal industrial cycle for Japan’s auto industry – they have and continue to be subsidized to the hilt by their own taxpayers(yes also the germans). US automakers cannot survive a steeply-unlevel playing field, wide-open US market, heavily subsidized competition, protected competitor home-markets, union work rules and retarded management, but I’ve been saying this for 25 years. It is only now becoming apparent.

  • avatar
    ghughes

    I meant that the germans subsidize their own makers, there. Not that they sub. japans makers- just preempting some wiseass comment.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Ghughes,
    What are you talking about? Japanese automakers, with the possible exception of Toyota, LOSE money in their domestic market. Toyota earns ~60% of income in the US and Honda earns ~70% in the US.

    Also, what odo you mean by no normal industrial cycle in Japan? You mean losing market share for 30 years to imports is normal?

    You honestly don’t think automakers in the US receive subsidies?

  • avatar
    Pch101

    You honestly don’t think automakers in the US receive subsidies?

    The tariff assessed by the US on imported trucks is 25%. The tariff assessed by the Japanese is zero.

    We had several years of “voluntary” quotas that favored the Big 2.5. We had the clampdown on “grey market” imports that was engineered to kill off the importation of used German cars. We had the bailout of Chrysler. We had the Supreme Court rule that the power of eminent domain could be used to take land away from homeowners in Flint in order to make way for a GM plant.

    So yes, the Big 2.5 are certainly no strangers to corporate affirmative action. We shouldn’t kid ourselves about the volume of handouts given to Detroit.

  • avatar
    Dr. No

    Guess what? I’ve got a feva. Any the only prescription is…..MORE COWBELL!!!

    Actually, the real prescription is not about tariffs, subsidies, or corporate patriotism. It’s the PRODUCT! Competition among brands is keener than I can remember. If the product ain’t there, financial support in the form of incentives, rebates, and bankruptcy will only mask the symptoms of a dying patient.

    To the Big 2.5: Give me a positive visceral reaction to what you put on 4 wheels, and I’m a customer. I’m waiting…..

  • avatar
    jurisb

    america is going to be dependent on japan and china, . for their national debt now stands at mindblowing 8.7 trillion dollars. and it is so big because america is unable to make cars that people want, thus provoking influx of imports that create this debt. plus governmental borrowings. does america realize that her prosperity is built on japanese money? how do they now fight against imports/ you can`t put trade barriers to your creditors. YOU MUST MAKE BETTER CARS. stress is on make. and better. and you as well. Juris B latvia.

  • avatar
    finger

    Juris-
    Tu nedross.

  • avatar
    finger

    From Automotive News…

    Ford CEO Alan Mulally and U.S. sales chief Cisco Codina told dealers and journalists Wednesday, Jan. 3, that the Fusion beat the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry in a consumer research event. Car and Driver magazine’s business unit conducted the event in mid-December, a source said.

    Ford plans to tout the Fusion’s win over the Camry and Accord in the ad campaign. The automaker will provide details to journalists and dealers today.

  • avatar
    lansen

    I really have to see a shrink about my masochistic tendency to sub to lists like this.

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