Wednesday, February 18, 2009

American Auto Industry Bailouts

I've loved cars as long as I can remember. I remember just looking out the front window of our living room and watching cars drive by for hours and not getting bored. I could identify quite a few cars just by the shape of headlights or taillights. I had hundreds of Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars that I played with constantly before moving into building model cars and tearing them apart and modifying them. I had a subscription to Hot Rod magazine when I was about 10 or 11 years old. Like I said, I've always been into cars.

I used to drool over tons of American cars including '69 Camaros, '70s Chryslers, 1990's Chevy/GMC trucks like the 454SS as well as the amazing Buick Grand National.

The problem is that the American car manufacturers haven't built anything that I am interested in now that I'm of car buying age and I have to factor in things like reliability, cost, everyday usability and stuff like that into the mix.

Sure, I'd still love to drive a Hugger Orange '69 Camaro or a B5 Blue '70 Hemi Challenger but, realistically, I will never own one and it's not really relevant to the state that the Big Three are in right now, anyway. I know that there is a new Camaro coming out and the new Dodge Challenger has been out for awhile and that they're trying to capture buyers like me with these cars. However, with the American car manufacturer's history of not having the best reliability out there, I'd be more inclined to spend my money on a Subaru Legacy GT, a Nissan Maxima or a Lexus IS. I love the styling of the new Challenger and how much it looks like one the cars I loved so much when I was younger. I'm not going to lie and say that I wouldn't drive the hell out of a new Dodge Challenger SRT8 but I can't say that I'd ever go buy one.

I think that many people feel the same way as I do. I think in many circles you're looked down upon if you drive a Malibu instead of an Accord/Camry or a Cadillac instead of a Lexus/Infiniti/BMW/Mercedes-Benz. The American car companies have lost their appeal and status and it almost seems like they might never be able to get that back.

It seems to me that just asking the government to keep pouring money into them so that they can build a ton of different "badge engineered" versions of the same crappy cars. They actually need to cut out the waste and just build reliable platforms that people actually want to be seen in and want to drive. They need to focus on the fit and finish and reliability that they've been lacking for years.

I don't think bailouts will do anything aside from delaying the inevitable. While all three manufacturers seemed to focus too much on their truck lines, GM had years to realize that people were shifting away from buying their mid sized cars in favor of the imports like the Camry and Accord. Chrysler had to realize that they were on the receiving end of a lot of hatred for building horrid cars like the Neon and Stratus. Ford is trying their hardest to make cars that are appealing but I think they're still being dragged down from their ongoing Found On Road Dead reputation.

I must take this opportunity to admit, though, that while Ford has always been my least favorite out of the Big Three they have been the only one out of the group that has been able to impress me lately with the cars like the 2010 Taurus SHO and Fusion Sport! They seem to be "getting it" a little bit more in recent history than the other two...

The Big Three have been so focused on immediate profits that they lost sight of the big picture and now it seems like it may be too late for a turnaround. While I really do hope that they're able to restructure, cut a bunch of waste, stop making different versions of the same car with different badges/brands and focus on making cars that people actually want to drive... it's not looking good.

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