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Almost every automaker has assumed that Americans (all) want big, softly suspended boats. Ford and Volkswagen built special versions of their '80s world cars for the American market, which predictably didn’t sell. The first '70s Toyotas we received were sloppy and underpowered; Toyota did not begin to achieve market dominance until it set up its cars more like Honda did.
Okay, the number of SUVs on the road is testament to Americans’ (many) love for big. So Detroit builds them big. Japan builds them big, but sets them up to handle well. And Japan gobbles big bites out of the SUV/pickup market.p>When will they ever learn? br> — David Thompson /p>
As a third generation auto worker, born and raised in Detroit, I agreed with many of the points raised in this article, but felt the emphasis was somewhat wrong. I’ve worked for GM, Ford and Chrysler and my assembly line job at Chrysler’s Mound Road engine plant during the '60s made me a true believer — namely that American cars were junk for too long and that’s exactly why they lost their market. The guy working next to me on the line was a heroin addict who shot up in the john during break; the union protected his job and Chrysler’s customers dealt with the results of his labors.
Quality control was usually a wink and a nod; my supervisor often passed faulty parts on down the line for final assembly. You didn’t need a degree in English lit to perform 8 hours of mindless labor on the assembly line, but many of the workers were functionally illiterate and incapable of understanding basic business or manufacturing concepts, let alone Japanese manufacturing techniques. Some workers actively sabotaged the cars; mindless anger and resentment were widespread among the workers and encouraged by the union. Detroit iron had a reputation for terrible quality; the dictum that you never buy a car assembled on Monday or Friday was no joke.
Try to imagine the wonderful customer loyalty the Big 3 squandered by producing low quality product. Once upon a time in Detroit, some families not only bought American, multiple generations of families were loyal to one particular brand; you found only Plymouths or Chevrolets in the parking lots when you attended family reunions. Grandfathers, fathers and sons would buy Fords exclusively and had only good-natured contempt for Chevy owners. The rare owners of Japanese cars were considered alien life forms. Moms, daughters and sisters had cars provided and maintained by those same men loyal to one brand.
When I moved to the West Coast in the early '80s, I found Americans who cared about cars also, German cars and Japanese cars. Their loyalty to Detroit was gone or had never really existed. They appreciated quality and would pay ridiculous dealer maintenance costs, but could also brag that their Mercedes had passed 200,000 miles and was still going strong. Cars don’t rust out here and I was amazed to find many 15-year-old cars still faithfully providing daily commuter service, but they weren’t cars made in Detroit.
Detroit now has much improved quality in the areas that count, although the cost accountants still retain too much influence on the designs. I like my Chevy pickup truck; it’s well made in the engine and drive train, but I’m amazed at the prevalence of cheap, plastic parts and actually broke off an interior handle with a moderate squeeze — I imagine Governor Schwarzenegger could literally destroy a Detroit made car if he didn’t carefully control his still considerable strength.p>Today, Detroit is much like San Francisco. Gone is the former customer loyalty and Japanese or German makes are the cars of choice. Will GM ever win back its dominant market share? Why would anyone willingly give up their well-made Japanese car to take a second chance on Detroit iron? I can remember when Detroiters laughed about the tiny, junky, tinny and ugly Japanese cars. Who’s laughing now? br> — Patrick Skurka
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
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It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
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