QOTD: Do We Deserve an American Small Car?
If you’re a believer in the idea of authentically American small cars, then you’ve had a rough couple of years. The last compact or subcompact to be engineered ground-up by an American corporation was probably the ’95 Dodge/Plymouth Neon, although some kind of argument might be possible for the Chevrolet Cobalt. In 2017, the Big Three have been reduced to selling locally assembled versions of a German car, a Korean car, and an Italian car. We’re basically where Brazil was in 1990.
Things are going to get worse. GM might discontinue some small cars altogether. Ford is going to build the Focus in China. FCA probably has no plans to bring a Dart successor here. This is the end, beautiful friend. Do you care?
For the record, even if you don’t care, I certainly do. The future of the automobile might be high, mighty, and blob-shaped in the short run, but eventually things have to slimmer down, so to speak. You might argue that we’ll go electric before that happens, but that doesn’t mean the skills required to design and package a small car won’t be of use.
One way to make America great again would be to Manhattan Project a spellbinding small car and sell it globally at a price designed to embarrass the international competition. It’s not going to happen, but a man can dream.
What about you? Do you dream of a top-notch American car? Or should we shut down the factories for everything smaller than the Escalade EXT?
[Image: Wikimedia Commons ( CC BY-SA 3.0)]
My first car was a '71 Pinto I bought in '83 for $400. It was a rust free CO car unlike most WI cars of the time that had holes in them after 5 years. Although it had certain Ford of Europe influences (drivetrain) it was all American metal, robust simple and fun. My next car; a German built '80 Fiesta S, which was also fun but light years ahead in terms of room, efficiency and drivability. My future wife bought a new '84 Escort L (for Lisa...) and while this shared much with the FOE Escort in terms of design and engineering, it was built for a price. And there in lies the rub; US based small cars are built with lower expectations and sold on price. My oldest son recently purchased a Focus RS (not a car bought on price) This German built small car has noticeably better plastic and vinyl than a US/Mexican built Foci. Americans do offer good small cars. The first gen Neon is by most accounts an excellent small car, and you can't kill a 2 gen Cavilier "cockroach". I believe that the next gen Foci, euro engineered and built in China will have that same level of build you see in the current German RS since it won't be finalized here. BTW, Mexican built US sold VW GTI's are inferior to German built R's in terms of fit and finish. Why are BMW over engineered and expensive? Iit's in their DNA and people pay. American car companies still have a lot to overcome, based on some bad decisions and some unfair perceptions. l keep my eyes open for clean '71-'73 Pinto's.
Everyone I know who had a Saturn liked their car. The problem was it competed with Chevrolet and Pontiac, and within GM, Saturn was hated by all. GM probably should have kept the Saturn brand to sell in China, but the Chinese love Buicks because the Last Emperor bought one in 1912. In China, Buick has royal pedigree.
Since we've given Ford, GM et al 40 years to come up with a comparable Corolla and they haven't been able to do it, I say let it go. Let them focus (haha) on what they do best and leave the small cars to the experts elsewhere.
It's the age old problem: small cars cost as much to build, as big ones. A big car is expected to sell for big bucks, so it has a good ROI. A small car is expected - however brilliantly set-up, however good quality interior, however brilliant engines it has - to sell for a smaller amount of money. So it needs to be a real barn-burner, big volume product to earn some cold hard cash. Which one of the 3 struggling manufacturers is going to put up the money to develop one? My bet is in the region of number that cause a ?DIVISION BY ZERO error in the vintage computers that were made the last time the Big3 tried something like that.