Death With Dignity: Detroit's Sudden Impact

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

In the Dirty Harry movie Sudden Impact, Jennifer Spencer (Sandra Locke) confronts one of the gang members who raped her sister and left her for dead. Even though the cornered perp is looking at the business end of a gun held by a woman who has already killed every other conspirator (shooting them once in the genitals, once in the heart), the gang leader taunts her executioner. "So how's your slut sister?"

Hate rapists. Love the ‘tude. Here's a felon who sees Death's blade scything towards her and mocks its master. Compare that attitude with The Big 2.8 of late. These beleaguered automakers are busy advertising their po-faced passenger cars as highway high mileage champs and Camcordima-crushers. Puh-lease.

While I'm sure there are plenty of readers ready to pronounce Detroit's passenger cars superior to their transplanted competition, what IS the point? That train has left the station. The Big 2.8 would have to crank out a decade's worth of mechanically bulletproof, class-leading cars to regain the mid-size momentum from well-satisfied Toyondissans.

News flash: Detroit doesn't have a decade. As Ford's Presidente de las Américas Mark Fields recently admitted "Time is not our friend."

Gentlemen, it's true: you're screwed. Your margins are in pickups and SUV's, the trucks ain't movin' in big numbers no mo', you ain't got the time to change focus (so to speak) and you're selling three-quarter-assed transplant wanna-be's based on price. On top of all that, you're busy rushing more milquetoast motors to market.

Hey, it's the ‘70's all over again! Gas prices spiked and Detroit didn't have anything genuinely competitive to offer, save market share. Gas prices have risen again and Detroit STILL doesn't have anything competitive to offer. And their passenger car market share is history.

Back in the day, Detroit destroyed their vehicles by trying to compete on the imports' terms, sticking diesels into piss-ant little Cadillacs for Christ's sake. And now they're doing it again.

Yep, they're building a whole range of slow, bland, watered-down versions of their once all-conquering SUVs. If ever a vehicle lacked edge, the Edge is it. And what's a honking great Buick somethingorother doing with a weedy V6 under the hood? Trying to be a bigger Honda Pilot? Fuhgeddaboutit.

More generally, why is Detroit trying to be Toyota? OK, The Big 2.8's gas-guzzlers aren't selling. That really blows. But here's an idea: go out and sell them!

The current generation Ford Explorer is safe, cheap, comfortable, smooth, powerful, versatile and handles like a dream. So when was the last time you saw an ad for a Ford Explorer that didn't scream CASH BACK! DEALER INCENTIVES! ZERO PERCENT APR! LEASE A NEW FORD EXPLORER FOR $199 A MONTH!

C'mon guys, you're staring down the barrel of bankruptcy (at best). Stop selling cars like Ginsu knives! Just look death straight in the eye and tell it to F-off. All I'm seeing is market-reactive, mileage-related come-ons. How about some ads telling people to forget fuel efficiency and buy big?

"Excuse me sir, you don't seriously think a few more mpg's is going to save the planet do you? Life is short! Do you want to spend it DOWN THERE, eye-to-eye with all those passenger car people? Speaking of which, have you ever wondered what happens when an old school SUV hits one of those new school compacts? Of COURSE you have.

"Yes, I know: gas is expensive. What if I can show you how to save enough money on the purchase of your SUV to pay for that gas? You LOVE your SUV. You give that up and the next thing you know you'll be eating soybean burgers and drinking white wine spritzers. We build some GREAT SUV's. Do yourself a favor. Do US a favor. Buy one."

Meanwhile and in any case, the fact that the Chrysler 300 was a hit seems to have escaped Detroit's import-addled attention. Hello? Can Toyota, Honda, Nissan, KIA, etc. build a big, bad, trad American sedan for the masses? I wouldn't recommend waiting to find out.

Or, for that matter, trying to sell [non-fleet] American motorists more lily-livered Euro-styled front wheel-drive mileagemobiles. Go wake up your design teams and show us what real ‘Merican metal is all about. What? You killed the Cadillac 16 and Buick Velite in favor of green machines? When did hara-kiri hit Detroit?

Will a more ballsy strategy work? Hell no. The Big 2.8 have too many dealers, brands and overheads; their continued survival demands all blockbusters, all the time. That just ain't gonna happen. But what the Hell. When you're moments away from the big sleep, it's better to go out like the Dirty Harry villain, showing a little class. OK then, style.

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

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  • Airglow Airglow on Jul 05, 2007

    fallout11: July 3rd, 2007 at 9:15 am No shortages and rationing…..yet. It’s coming, you better believe it. $4/gallon national average by next summer (side note, I correctly predicted $3+/gal for this summer). Google “Peak Oil” for why. Here’s what I can’t for the life of me figure out - Why are the big 2.8 still marketing clunky pushrod engines? What decade is it? And if real ‘Mukans wanted European designs, they’d go buy one, not some half-baked Euro transplant / badge engineered / “inspired” piece of metal. On the Ford Edge… I have yet to see one on the road here. Period. Even the crappy and fugly Nitro is selling better. Not sure why. The Edge was the best selling mid-sized cross dresser SUV in June.

  • Martin Albright Martin Albright on Jul 05, 2007

    Re: 10 year warranties A warranty is only as good as the company that gives the warranty. If people get the impression that GM or any other domestic manufacturer is headed for Ch. 11, then the warranty won't be worth the paper its printed on because there is no guarantee that the warranty won't be nullified or curtailed by the bankruptcy court. Second, ask some current or recent GM, Ford and Chrysler buyers how their legitimate warranty claims were treated. Having a 10 year warranty that my dealer won't honor isn't any better than having a 3 year warranty he won't honor.

  • Daniel J Until we get a significant charging infrastructure and change times get under 10 minutes, yes
  • Mike I own 2 gm 6.2 vehicles. They are great. I do buy alot of gas. However, I would not want the same vehicles if they were v6's. Jusy my opinion. I believe that manufacturers need to offer engine options for the customer. The market will speak on what the consumer wants.For example, I dont see the issue with offering a silverado with 4cyl , 6 cyl, 5.3 v8, 6.2 v8, diesel options. The manufacturer will charge accordingly.
  • Mike What percentage of people who buy plug in hybrids stop charging them daily after a few months? Also, what portion of the phev sales are due to the fact that the incentives made them a cheaper lease than the gas only model? (Im thinking of the wrangler 4xe). I wish there was a way to dig into the numbers deeper.
  • CEastwood If it wasn't for the senior property tax freeze in NJ I might complain about this raising my property taxes since most of that tax goes to the schools . I'm not totally against EVs , but since I don't drive huge miles and like to maintain my own vehicles they are not practical especially since I keep a new vehicle long term and nobody has of yet run into the cost of replacing the battery on an EV .
  • Aquaticko Problem with PHEV is that, like EVs, they still require a behavioral change over ICE/HEV cars to be worth their expense and abate emissions (whichever is your goal). Studies in the past have shown that a lot of PHEV drivers don't regularly plug-in, meaning they're just less-efficient HEVs.I'm left to wonder how big a battery a regular HEV could have without needing to be a PHEV.
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