QOTD: Do the Evolution?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
qotd do the evolution

Things change. Once upon a time, the greatest concern among Americans was getting home in time to watch that Three’s Company episode where Jack wakes up in bed with Mr. Roper. Now, it’s antibody testing and virus-rocked retirement funds.

Things change in the automotive world, too, and along with it, our perceptions. Preconceptions often become misconceptions as new technology and a focus on quality control (or lack thereof) changes minds en masse via personal experience and word of mouth. Brands and entire countries once known for building the best become the stuff of jokes, and vice versa.

How has your thinking evolved?

Two mindset-shifting eras come to, er, mind. The first being the 1970s and the long, slow decline of Detroit as carbuilder extraordinaire. A flood of affordable, high-MPG, and often reliable imports put the Americans to shame in an era of economic stagnation, rising interest rates, and oil crises. Mercedes-Benz and BMW’s status rose among the increasing number of citizens seeking luxury and refinement of the non-overstuffed variety.

A decade later came the Koreans.

“We’re going to buy you a new car. How does a Hyundai sound?” a conciliatory car wash manager asks Al Bundy in a nearly forgotten episode of Married With Children.

“Like an old lawnmower,” our antihero replies, continuing the hunt for his star-spangled, forever-broken Dodge Dart.

Not anymore does that sentiment hold sway, and no one who’s driven a new Hyundai built in the last decade or more would ever think that the company once built the Pony. The automaker’s Genesis brand tops quality lists. Its products look great both on paper and in the flesh.

Meanwhile, because things always come full circle, there’s a full generation of drivers who, when they think of a new American vehicle, they envision their aunt’s Cutlass Ciera, or their granddad’s limping-home Dynasty. Since getting their license, they’ve only driven a Honda or Toyota and see no reason to change. To them, anything rolling out of Detroit must be a hopelessly outdated, inefficient, badges-falling-off crapmobile.

And then there’s eras where quality seems to take a dive across many continents — such as the 2000s. The only industry to come out of that era of collective complacency looking good was Korea’s.

And who knows — maybe you picked up a new British car that turned out to be the most reliable thing you’ve ever owned.

So tell us, B&B, how has your personal ranking of various automotive ethnic groups changed over the years? Any big movements on the list?

[Image: Murilee Martin/TTAC]

Join the conversation
2 of 39 comments
  • Tankinbeans Tankinbeans on May 03, 2020

    I'm young enough to have never truly been burned by any car, born in 1988. That said when I was younger my family was generally a Ford family and we never had any real issues aside from a Taurus that ate its head gasket. Other than that nothing really happened. My brother, ever the contrarion, has been a GM guy ever since. He drives his Chevrolets to this day and continues having problems, but I digress. I've never been a V8 or bust kind of guy and was always well-served with a 4 cylinder application. In all of the vehicles so equipped, I've felt more than safe during my everyday driving; the exception being a Neon loaded down with rather large passengers. I had a stint driving a Focus ST, but realized it was more capability than I'd ever need and so now I'm back to an NA 4 cylinder CX-5 and it's fine. I used to be a manual evangelist, but it got tiresome to foreclose the idea of a vehicle that was otherwise exactly what I want, but for a manual transmission. That said if Ford releases the Bronco or Bronco Sport with a manual and AWD I might be willing to take a look. As far as styling goes, I used to think the Germans had it going on. Now Mercedes is doing its organic styling and it just doesn't work for me, BMW is off in the wilderness and has been for a long time, but VW/Audi seem to consistently put out attractive vehicles with a few exceptions. Toyotas went from blah to hideous and Honda did the same. Mazda went from awkward to pretty nice (I'm slightly biased considering I think their current language is pretty en pointe) with a few exceptions. The rest are just window dressing, nothing I really notice aside from proportions that are a hot mess.

  • Neil733 Neil733 on May 04, 2020

    "maybe you picked up a new British car that turned out to be the most reliable thing you’ve ever owned." I'm only on my 5th car, keeping each for quite a few years, but my second car, and my first brand new car, was the closest to totally reliable. It was a 1997 Rover 220SDi, a 5-door hatchback with a 2.0 turbodiesel, and its only failure over 5½years and approx 70,000 miles, other than a couple of light bulbs and a puncture, was the tube for the rear screen wash, which cracked one unusually cold (for the south of England) winter where it crossed from body to tailgate when I opened the tailgate. Other than that, all it needed was routine servicing every 12,000 miles.

  • Funky D I despise Google for a whole host of reasons. So why on earth would I willing spend a large amount of $ on a car that will force Google spyware on me.The only connectivity to the world I will put up with is through my phone, which at least gives me the option of turning it off or disconnecting it from the car should I choose to.No CarPlay, no sale.
  • William I think it's important to understand the factors that made GM as big as it once was and would like to be today. Let's roll back to 1965, or even before that. GM was the biggest of the Big Three. It's main competition was Ford and Chrysler, as well as it's own 5 brands competing with themselves. The import competition was all but non existent. Volkswagen was the most popular imported cars at the time. So GM had its successful 5 brands, and very little competition compared to today's market. GM was big, huge in fact. It was diversified into many other lines of business, from trains to information data processing (EDS). Again GM was huge. But being huge didn't make it better. There are many examples of GM not building the best cars they could, it's no surprise that they were building cars to maximize their profits, not to be the best built cars on the road, the closest brand to achieve that status was Cadillac. Anyone who owned a Cadillac knew it could have been a much higher level of quality than it was. It had a higher level of engineering and design features compared to it's competition. But as my Godfather used to say "how good is good?" Being as good as your competitors, isn't being as good as you could be. So, today GM does not hold 50% of the automotive market as it once did, and because of a multitude of reasons it never will again. No matter how much it improves it's quality, market value and dealer network, based on competition alone it can't have a 50% market share again. It has only 3 of its original 5 brands, and there are too many strong competitors taking pieces of the market share. So that says it's playing in a different game, therfore there's a whole new normal to use as a baseline than before. GM has to continue downsizing to fit into today's market. It can still be big, but in a different game and scale. The new normal will never be the same scale it once was as compared to the now "worlds" automotive industry. Just like how the US railroad industry had to reinvent its self to meet the changing transportation industry, and IBM has had to reinvent its self to play in the ever changing Information Technology industry it finds it's self in. IBM was once the industry leader, now it has to scale it's self down to remain in the industry it created. GM is in the same place that the railroads, IBM and other big companies like AT&T and Standard Oil have found themselves in. It seems like being the industry leader is always followed by having to reinvent it's self to just remain viable. It's part of the business cycle. GM, it's time you accept your fate, not dead, but not huge either.
  • Tassos The Euro spec Taurus is the US spec Ford FUSION.Very few buyers care to see it here. FOrd has stopped making the Fusion long agoWake us when you have some interesting news to report.
  • Marvin Im a current owner of a 2012 Golf R 2 Door with 5 grand on the odometer . Fun car to drive ! It's my summer cruiser. 2006 GLI with 33,000 . The R can be money pit if service by the dealership. For both cars I deal with Foreign car specialist , non union shop but they know their stuff !!! From what I gather the newer R's 22,23' too many electronic controls on the screen, plus the 12 is the last of the of the trouble free ones and fun to drive no on screen electronics Maze !
  • VoGhost It's very odd to me to see so many commenters reflexively attack an American company like this. Maybe they will be able to find a job with BYD or Vinfast.