Vile Gossip: Detroit is Already Making Cars that People Want

#Ford, #Ford
2009 Chevrolet Corvette Zr1

I'll be damned if I'm going to waste precious space trying to explain to anyone who doesn't get it, why we think America's precious Detroit-based manufacturing assets deserve a hand in the form of loans from the government. Why we think that Congress is full of self-righteous poseurs with double standards, hidden agendas, and heavily subsidized foreign automakers building cars in their (Southern, nonunion) home states.

Why we are outraged at the $800 billion dumped on top of the $700 billion bailout-not loans-handed to the banking and finance industries, with no strings attached and no apparent effect on loosening credit or helping battered homeowners.

Instead, understand this: No matter what the fools on the Hill think, Detroit is already making cars that people want. Maybe not fast enough. Maybe too many clunkers are still lurking on showroom floors. But there are at least three that we celebrate in this issue. Along with seven other vehicles, they comprise our 2009 Automobile Magazine All-Stars, the ten best cars for sale in America today.

Although we are pulling this issue together on the very day that Congress begins to reconsider the more detailed business plans submitted by General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler for use of the requested $34 billion in loans, don't think we had to hustle to find some American iron to prop up.

Our All-Stars drive took place in early October, and the only thing on our collective mind that week was to identify the ten cars that we'd park in our dream garage. Being well-adjusted people, we knew that filling the fantasy fleet with supercars would make us look like ten-year-olds. As automotive journalists, we get to drive whatever we want, so it takes a bit of discipline to apply our enthusiasm across the entire spectrum of cars, crossovers, trucks, and minivans to put together an All-Star team that serves enthusiasts across the financial spectrum, and on a number of levels.

No matter what lawmakers and the media elite think you should drive, you might actually need a people mover. Last year, we gave the nod to the Mazda CX-9, still a fantastic choice. But Ford's whimsically elegant and refined Flex won this year, the product of the deep talent pool at Ford design and an engineering team led by European-finished Derrick Kuzak. The Flex has a chic interior and feels solidly screwed together. We say this with no caveat about waiting for the Flex to shake off its first-year cooties. There appear to be none.

Are you surprised that we find a car from the Blue Oval so praiseworthy? We aren't. There have been twenty Ford All-Stars since 1990, and we're not counting the Ford-owned Mazdas, Jaguars, Aston Martins, Volvos, and Land Rovers that have made the cut over the years. Multiple-year winners include the Probe, Contour, Focus, and Taurus.

GM has given us twenty-two All-Stars over the years, including two for 2009. This is the second year in a row that Chevy is the only manufacturer winning two of the ten trophies. That America's own star-spangled sports car-the Corvette-is a perennial winner might be no surprise to enthusiasts. This will be its eighth All-Star trophy, including one from 2006, the toughest year of our competition, when we decided to go all stingy and hand out only six All-Stars. The Corvette Z06 was also named Automobile of the Year in 2001. But even we were shocked by how much we liked the Chevy Malibu when it was redesigned last year. New-car shoppers agreed, making it scarce in showrooms despite its lack of rebates and incentives. "More enjoyable to drive than the Camry, better looking than the Accord," and with two powertrains (one a hybrid) that deliver 30-plus mpg on the highway, we say on page 50.

Chrysler did not make this year's list, but among the domestics, it has won the most Automobile of the Year awards (three), and its groundbreaking minivan has taken five of Chrysler's ten All-Stars.

We are convinced that Congress will do the right thing this week, following the lead of every major carmaking country in the world with support for its domestic industry. In the meantime, take a closer look at what Detroit has to offer. You may not be lined up to buy a new car today, but the independent Center for Automotive Research is shining its laser pointer on 2012-a mere three years away-as the year new-car sales will once again be booming. It will be a world of hybrids, clean diesels, and fuel-cell cars-and we expect Detroit to be in the thick of it all.

Enough is enough, It’s time for GM to get their act together … it seems simple to me. Think about this … 10 years from now, the dust is cleared and everyone is making 50 mpg cars so what’s left? Quality is pretty much a given now. The Asian made cars will still be well, ugly! (Example: the GT-R that is so ugly, its uooogly! Or the Mazda 3 that looks like it was penned by one of the cartoonist from the Cars movie!) The European cars will still be Unitarian and bland. Style will make a comeback and no one does that better than we do! So here is my three-part strategy to turn things around at GM. Four if I include hiring Chip Foose!The Prius is ugly but people are buying them because … you know it’s a hybrid. It’s an ego thing, It’s a look at me, I’m green thing! So you can’t slap a hybrid sticker on a an existing car (Malibu Hybrid) and expect it to out sell a Toyota. … now I would have to fire most of their numb nut middle managers that stand in the way of recovery but after that what I would do … is build style again on what we have. The Cadillac Converj would be on the street … yesterday or at least before the Volt!I would bring back iconic nameplates branded as GM vehicles … and allow them to be sold at any GM dealership (Chevy, Buick, GMC … what ever is left?) That would allow us to bring back iconic cars like the Cutlass, or Lemans!I would take the Camaro platform and using a derivative of the Hybrid that is used in the SUV’s and make a “Hybrid only” Firebird convertible that’s quick and gets 30 mpg! And if I had to kick some ass … it would be on the street by November. I would stretch the wheelbase a bit and on that platform, style a convertible Lemans with “67” styling cues MY GTO would be a 400 hp hybrid option and by 2012 a Hybrid Chevelle SS convertible with white leather interior.Then using that same Hybrid platform I would build a hardtop cutlass with “70” styling cues and a 442 option … The Buick GS would live again! I would use the Malibu hybrid platform and make a 4 seat hard top convertible Catalina, with some “66” styling cues … again kicking some ass it would be on the street by March. And follow that up with a Riviera and Eldorado with “67” styling cues by 2012! I would have a Hybrid Toronado coupe with 66 styling cues by 2013 …I’m sorry I must have dozed off … I’m deaming! There is no one left at GM with any balls!
It will be a tragic mistake for the economy and the future of the American auto industry if GM files. It is already clear that the Chrysler filing is having an effect on the economy. Every economist was wrong on unemployment claims which were higher because of the auto industry layoffs after the C filing. No need to punish GM for its past sins--that's just punishing ourselves. GM is making better cars and the eVolt is the next generation vehicle using an electric drive train although the Aptera takes it further. We need a company of the size and scale of GM to truly have an impact on the independence from foreign oil, the CO2 emissions and the role of the US in the global auto industry. Check out if you really want to understand this.
as far as I'm concerned, Automobile mag could name every single so called "all stars" a detroit product. they could twist it however they wanted because it's their publication. but in the end, it doesn't really matter what they say, the truth is, 2 of the big 3 are heading towards the bk process because they made junks and media like this magazine supported those junks.
i think America is getting beat by the foreging auto makers.
Aww, come on Ms Jennings!!! Detroit makes very few useful cars! GM and Chrysler are where they are for a series of GOOD REASONS! Wall street money managers (Cerberus) shouldn't own car companies (Chrysler) and GM has been making dumb decisions for decades. While talking to a GM rep at the NY Auto show about the Volt he told me a bunch of promo material-type of facts. When pressed about why GM should have been doing this for over ten years, well, it's another story. I'm sorry but GM is getting what it deserves. GM could have had a Prius or Insight years ago. The EV1 was proof that they love to kill a great idea. Killing Saturn and Pontiac saves some money, sure, but it cost GM $1 billion to kill Oldsmobile. Why not build A WHOLE LINE OF CARS that people want, not just a handful? My grandfather worked at GM (Lordstown, Ohio) and I loved riding in the Oldsmobiles my whole family had as a kid but there is a reason I own an old BMW convertible and my fantastic Honda Civic. Would I own a modern GM car? Doubtful at best... Sure, I'd have a Corvette. Pre-1982, of course. Oh, and on the subject of the Countour? Sure, a great rental car. Check out the Ford Mondeo of the UK. So much better and it was on the same platform!!!
In the mid 80's the heads of the Big Three got together and went to President Reagan for some help. They asked him if he would do something about the unlevel playing field the Foreign Car Companies were enjoying at American expense. The FCC's were being given free land and tax incentives to build primarily in Southern states. The FCC's then hired people at slightly less than Union wages and gave them slightly less benefits so as to keep them from feeling the need to unionize. And, the FCC's were enjoying a situation where they had no legacy costs, no retirees. So, the FCC's were in a position where they could take the same money that the Big Three were having to put into retiree benefits back into their cars instead and send a little something back home to Japan, or wherever. To help rebuild their roads and bridges and such. An unlevel playing field that tilts away from America.President Reagan said he would do nothing to help Detroit. That he believed in Free Markets. Even if it meant free to sabotage ours. Such are the politics of ideologues. Don't confront them with realities their constituencies are confronting, they have ideas to protect.We, Americans, have now all but given up nearly all of our National Industries to other countries. Our Electronics Industry. Our Steel Industry. Our Textile Industry. Our Shoe Industry. Our Appliance Industry. Our golf clubs aren't even made here anymore. Etc. Recently even a local Casket manufacturer closed shop and moved to Mexico. I can't even be buried in an American coffin. And now Americans are calling for giving our Automotive Industry up for dead as well. What are we thinking? Are we thinking? Or is our thinking so narrow that it only considers our own immediate and vested interests? Maybe America is dead. Fortunately Mexico will be more than glad to sell us caskets. That way they can sneak their drugs in and have their casket too. I may not have a job but at least I can get high and die on Grandma's Social Security check... God Bless America.Butcho
Of the 11 million vehicles made in the US last year, only 3 million were cars, the rest were trucks. That 3 million includes US-assembled "foreign" brands. This, alone, explains the decline of US automaker market share- they have all but abandoned the small, economical car market and still remain fixated on building trucks.I have no sympathy for the lament that they "only built what consumers wanted." If you buy into that- consumers vote with their dollars, and consumers also want drugs, hookers, and cheap bootleg booze. Supplying them may satisfy consumer demand, but it isn't necessarily responsible.
Hey Jean - Seeing Rick, following Bob leaving GM gives me pause to ponder, what's next? Can GM make the VOLT platform meet the requirements of both the average consumer and the automotive enthusiast? Who will lead this beleaguered giant in this effort? Honda just cloned the Prius, with less efficiency. Toyota responds with a lower cost, entry level Prius. Tesla debuts its S sedan, and is courting Daimler Benz to take it to market. GM promises a Volt in the same time frame as the rest of the pack, at Tesla price points. This is not a competitive position for GM. I think there is a market vacuum, smack in the middle of the automotive industry. GM needs to address the enthusiast, and get the garage /geeks to help them build great electro propulsion vehicles to address both ends of the re-imagined personal transportation marketplace. Volt variants could compete on all fronts: 12s on the drag strip, challenging performance on the NASCAR circuit, as well as the Indy and Le Mans endurance venues. They could also sponsor Bonneville competitors in new categories. The enthusiast marketplace is a huge opportunity for GM, but the new folks in charge have to embrace it with a campaign to build awareness through existing channels with financial and marketing support. If GM can't pull this off internally, I recommend they form an alliance with Tesla, and/or other aggressive innovators to beat their competitors with attention getting products before they fade into the history.
okhobieman take a look at the Business Week link as to what the competion's attitude is .....I wonder if Detroit has considered "real" cost savings in its daily activities...
Ms. Jennings comment about not wasting valuable space is ridiculous. Obviously there's a difference of opinion here and the inference that anyone who doesn't "get it" must be some kind of idiot is not helpful or remotely close to good journalism. Ms. Jennings after all is supposedly a writer. Perhaps expressing her opinion in a thoughtful way might be more helpful and less antagonistic. That being said, as others have pointed out, 3 cars out of 10 ain't great and so sayeth members of the American Public (idiots?) who have been voting with their dollars and their feet, walking out of American dealerships and into European and Japanese (and Korean). Perhaps it's Ms. Jennings who doesn't get it?
For More support of how government can aid the auto industry Please read below:STEPHEN MOORESome years ago when I worked at the libertarian Cato Institute, we used to label any new hire who had not yet read "Atlas Shrugged" a "virgin." Being conversant in Ayn Rand's classic novel about the economic carnage caused by big government run amok was practically a job requirement. If only "Atlas" were required reading for every member of Congress and political appointee in the Obama administration. I'm confident that we'd get out of the current financial mess a lot faster. Getty ImagesThe art for a 1999 postage stamp.Many of us who know Rand's work have noticed that with each passing week, and with each successive bailout plan and economic-stimulus scheme out of Washington, our current politicians are committing the very acts of economic lunacy that "Atlas Shrugged" parodied in 1957, when this 1,000-page novel was first published and became an instant hit.Rand, who had come to America from Soviet Russia with striking insights into totalitarianism and the destructiveness of socialism, was already a celebrity. The left, naturally, hated her. But as recently as 1991, a survey by the Library of Congress and the Book of the Month Club found that readers rated "Atlas" as the second-most influential book in their lives, behind only the Bible.For the uninitiated, the moral of the story is simply this: Politicians invariably respond to crises -- that in most cases they themselves created -- by spawning new government programs, laws and regulations. These, in turn, generate more havoc and poverty, which inspires the politicians to create more programs . . . and the downward spiral repeats itself until the productive sectors of the economy collapse under the collective weight of taxes and other burdens imposed in the name of fairness, equality and do-goodism.In the book, these relentless wealth redistributionists and their programs are disparaged as "the looters and their laws." Every new act of government futility and stupidity carries with it a benevolent-sounding title. These include the "Anti-Greed Act" to redistribute income (sounds like Charlie Rangel's promises soak-the-rich tax bill) and the "Equalization of Opportunity Act" to prevent people from starting more than one business (to give other people a chance). My personal favorite, the "Anti Dog-Eat-Dog Act," aims to restrict cut-throat competition between firms and thus slow the wave of business bankruptcies. Why didn't Hank Paulson think of that?These acts and edicts sound farcical, yes, but no more so than the actual events in Washington, circa 2008. We already have been served up the $700 billion "Emergency Economic Stabilization Act" and the "Auto Industry Financing and Restructuring Act." Now that Barack Obama is in town, he will soon sign into law with great urgency the "American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan." This latest Hail Mary pass will increase the federal budget (which has already expanded by $1.5 trillion in eight years under George Bush) by an additional $1 trillion -- in roughly his first 100 days in office.The current economic strategy is right out of "Atlas Shrugged": The more incompetent you are in business, the more handouts the politicians will bestow on you. That's the justification for the $2 trillion of subsidies doled out already to keep afloat distressed insurance companies, banks, Wall Street investment houses, and auto companies -- while standing next in line for their share of the booty are real-estate developers, the steel industry, chemical companies, airlines, ethanol producers, construction firms and even catfish farmers. With each successive bailout to "calm the markets," another trillion of national wealth is subsequently lost. Yet, as "Atlas" grimly foretold, we now treat the incompetent who wreck their companies as victims, while those resourceful business owners who manage to make a profit are portrayed as recipients of illegitimate "windfalls."When Rand was writing in the 1950s, one of the pillars of American industrial might was the railroads. In her novel the railroad owner, Dagny Taggart, an enterprising industrialist, has a FedEx-like vision for expansion and first-rate service by rail. But she is continuously badgered, cajoled, taxed, ruled and regulated -- always in the public interest -- into bankruptcy. Sound far-fetched? On the day I sat down to write this ode to "Atlas," a Wall Street Journal headline blared: "Rail Shippers Ask Congress to Regulate Freight Prices."In one chapter of the book, an entrepreneur invents a new miracle metal -- stronger but lighter than steel. The government immediately appropriates the invention in "the public good." The politicians demand that the metal inventor come to Washington and sign over ownership of his invention or lose everything.The scene is eerily similar to an event late last year when six bank presidents were summoned by Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson to Washington, and then shuttled into a conference room and told, in effect, that they could not leave until they collectively signed a document handing over percentages of their future profits to the government. The Treasury folks insisted that this shakedown, too, was all in "the public interest."Ultimately, "Atlas Shrugged" is a celebration of the entrepreneur, the risk taker and the cultivator of wealth through human intellect. Critics dismissed the novel as simple-minded, and even some of Rand's political admirers complained that she lacked compassion. Yet one pertinent warning resounds throughout the book: When profits and wealth and creativity are denigrated in society, they start to disappear -- leaving everyone the poorer.One memorable moment in "Atlas" occurs near the very end, when the economy has been rendered comatose by all the great economic minds in Washington. Finally, and out of desperation, the politicians come to the heroic businessman John Galt (who has resisted their assault on capitalism) and beg him to help them get the economy back on track. The discussion sounds much like what would happen today:Galt: "You want me to be Economic Dictator?"Mr. Thompson: "Yes!""And you'll obey any order I give?""Implicitly!""Then start by abolishing all income taxes.""Oh no!" screamed Mr. Thompson, leaping to his feet. "We couldn't do that . . . How would we pay government employees?""Fire your government employees.""Oh, no!"Abolishing the income tax. Now that really would be a genuine economic stimulus. But Mr. Obama and the Democrats in Washington want to do the opposite: to raise the income tax "for purposes of fairness" as Barack Obama puts it.David Kelley, the president of the Atlas Society, which is dedicated to promoting Rand's ideas, explains that "the older the book gets, the more timely its message." He tells me that there are plans to make "Atlas Shrugged" into a major motion picture -- it is the only classic novel of recent decades that was never made into a movie. "We don't need to make a movie out of the book," Mr. Kelley jokes. "We are living it right now."Mr. Moore is senior economics writer for The Wall Street Journal editorial page.
As further follow up .... of what is being thought ... in the USA, please see the below email expressing other's feelings:Subject: Fw: GM supplier answers GM President Troy Clarke's "plea" / Great responseChecked this out on Snopes and it's true. This is one of the greatest responses to the requests for bailout money I have seen thus far. As a supplier for the Big 3 this man received a letter from the President of GM North America requesting support for the bail out program. His response is classic, and has to make you proud of a local guy who tells it like it is. Dear Employees & Suppliers, Congress and the current Administration will soon determine whether to provide immediate support to the domestic auto industry to help it through one of the most difficult economic times in our nation's history. Your elected officials must hear from all of us now on why this support is critical to our continuing the progress we began prior to the global financial crisis...................... As an employee or supplier, you have a lot at stake and continue to be one of our most effective and passionate voices. I know GM can count on you to have your voice heard. Thank you for your urgent action and ongoing support. Troy Clarke President General Motors North America Response from: Gregory Knox, Pres. Knox Machinery Company Franklin , Ohio Gentlemen: In response to your request to contact legislators and ask for a bailout for the Big Three automakers please consider the following, and please pass my thoughts on to Troy Clark, President of General Motors North America. Politicians and Management of the Big 3 are both infected with the same entitlement mentality that has spread like cancerous germs in UAW halls for the last countless decades, and whose plague is now sweeping this nation, awaiting our new "messiah", Pres-elect Obama, to wave his magic wand and make all our problems go away, while at the same time allowing our once great nation to keep "living the dream"… Believe me folks, The dream is over! This dream where we can ignore the consumer for years while management myopically focuses on its personal rewards packages at the same time that our factories have been filled with the worlds most overpaid, arrogant, ignorant and laziest entitlement minded "laborers" without paying the price for these atrocities… this dream where you still think the masses will line up to buy our products for ever and ever. Don't even think about telling me I'm wrong. Don't accuse me of not knowing of what I speak. I have called on Ford, GM, Chrysler, TRW, Delphi, Kelsey Hayes, American Axle and countless other automotive OEM's throughout the Midwest during the past 30 years and what I've seen over those years in these union shops can only be described as disgusting. Troy Clarke, President of General Motors North America, states: "There is widespread sentiment throughout this country, and our government, and especially via the news media, that the current crisis is completely the result of bad management which it certainly is not." You're right Mr. Clarke, it's not JUST management…how about the electricians who walk around the plants like lords in feudal times, making people wait on them for countless hours while they drag ass… so they can come in on the weekend and make double and triple time… for a job they easily could have done within their normal 40 hour work week. How about the line workers who threaten newbies with all kinds of scare tactics… for putting out too many parts on a shift… and for being too productive (We certainly must not expose those lazy bums who have been getting overpaid for decades for their horrific underproduction, must we?!?) Do you folks really not know about this stuff?!? How about this great sentiment abridged from Mr. Clarke's sad plea: "over the last few years… we have closed the quality and efficiency gaps with our competitors." What the hell has Detroit been doing for the last 40 years?!? Did we really JUST wake up to the gaps in quality and efficiency between us and them? The K car vs. the Accord? The Pinto vs. the Civic?!? Do I need to go on? What a joke! We are living through the inevitable outcome of the actions of the United States auto industry for decades. It's time to pay for your sins, Detroit . I attended an economic summit last week where brilliant economist, Alan Beaulieu, from the Institute of Trend Research , surprised the crowd when he said he would not have given the banks a penny of "bailout money". "Yes, he said, this would cause short term problems," but despite what people like politicians and corporate magnates would have us believe, the sun would in fact rise the next day… and the following very important thing would happen… where there had been greedy and sloppy banks, new efficient ones would pop up… that is how a free market system works… it does work… if we would only let it work! But for some nondescript reason we are now deciding that the rest of the world is right and that capitalism doesn't work - that we need the government to step in and "save us"… Save us my ass, Hell - we're nationalizing… and unfortunately too many of our once fine nation's citizens don't even have a clue that this is what is really happening… But, they sure can tell you the stats on their favorite sports teams…yeah - THAT'S really important, isn't it… Does it ever occur to ANYONE that the "competition" has been producing vehicles, EXTREMELY PROFITABLY, for decades in this country?... How can that be??? Let's see… Fuel efficient… Listening to customers… Investing in the proper tooling and automation for the long haul… Not being too complacent or arrogant to listen to Dr. W. Edwards Deming four decades ago when he taught that by adopting appropriate principles of management, organizations could increase quality and simultaneously reduce costs. Ever increased productivity through quality and intelligent planning… Treating vendors like strategic partners, rather than like "the enemy"… Efficient front and back offices… Non-union environment… Again, I could go on and on, but I really wouldn't be telling anyone anything they really don't already know down deep in their hearts. I have six children, so I am not unfamiliar with the concept of wanting someone to bail you out of a mess that you have gotten yourself into - my children do this on a weekly, if not daily basis, as I did when I was their age. I do for them what my parents did for me (one of their greatest gifts, by the way) - I make them stand on their own two feet and accept the consequences of their actions and work through it. Radical concept, huh… Am I there for them in the wings? Of course - but only until such time as they need to be fully on their own as adults. I don't want to oversimplify a complex situation, but there certainly are unmistakable parallels here between the proper role of parenting and government. Detroit and the United States need to pay for their sins. Bad news people - it's coming whether we like it or not. The newly elected Messiah really doesn't have a magic wand big enough to "make it all go away." I laughed as I heard Obama "reeling it back in" almost immediately after the final vote count was tallied… "we really might not do it in a year… or in four… "Where the Hell was that kind of talk when he was RUNNING for office. Stop trying to put off the inevitable folks… That house in Florida really isn't worth $750,000… People who jump across a border really don't deserve free health care benefits… That job driving that forklift for the Big 3 really isn't worth $85,000 a year… We really shouldn't allow Wal-Mart to stock their shelves with products acquired from a country that unfairly manipulates their currency and has the most atrocious human rights infractions on the face of the globe… That couple whose combined income is less than $50,000 really shouldn't be living in that $485,000 home… Let the market correct itself folks - it will. Yes it will be painful, but it's gonna' be painful either way, and the bright side of my proposal is that on the other side of it all, is a nation that appreciates what it has… and doesn't live beyond its means… and gets back to basics… and redevelops the patriotic work ethic that made it the greatest nation in the history of the world… and probably turns back to God. Sorry - don't cut my head off, I'm just the messenger sharing with you the "bad news". I hope you take it to heart. Gregory J. Knox, President Knox Machinery, Inc. Franklin , Ohio 45005
JEAN!I just heard your comments on 60 minutes this Sunday Morning and you motivated me to search the net to tell you a couple of comments!!!Your statement that Detroit is supplying cars which we want is wrong.Government mandated policies do not work (remember the 70's as you look old enough to do so).Leadership is non existant in Detroit, whether it be in city government, automobile industry, or magazine blog writers .....Look at the greed and short term financial capital policies which Detroit has followed ..... Did you get $M bonus this year and ride in a hybrid when counseled on your lack of leadership?God! Wake up!!! There is no leadership in the eyes of the public in Detroit and we need to scrap a couple of car makers to let the true leadership rise to the top and start over.As it is, our new president will not be able to do it without YOUR lack of arrogance along with new leadership in the form of CEO's amd CFO's in Detroit....Support the change to green, lead for a change and pray your 201K will not turn into a 101K due to the level of greed and lack of leadership in the auto industry.GET A CLUE or GET OUT!936-223-6201Frank M JamiesonOnalaska, TX 77360
It is disturbing to me that no one is addressing the real problem with the domestic auto industry. It is not the vehicles that are being built, the domestic makers are building cars on par with the japanese product. It is not a lack of hybrid vehicle or electric cars, Americans do not want these vehicles. GM and Toyota sold almost exactly the same number of vehicles last year. Toyota turned a nice profit, while GM took a bath. Why if sales are the same, prices are competitive, why the disparity in results? A little research can shed some light on this. The average wage for a GM worker is $29hr, Toyota $26hr. Benefit costs excluding pension: GM $14hr, Toyota $12hr . Fairly competitive, but when pension costs are figured in: GM $16hr, Toyota $3hr. This is the result of paying 95% of their wage until they die. GM is paying more people who are not working than they have working for them. It does not take a Harvard grad or Hoover Institute economist to figure out this type of burden is not sustainable. This is a lesson the Japanese learned with their recession, and one we should have learned from the New Deal, which actually deepened the Great Depression instead of relieving it. Socialist policies NEVER work. Paying people not to work is an unsustainable idea and has always failed. Let the automaker file chapter 11 reorganize, negotiate a supportable deal with the unions, and if they fail so be it someone else will fill their shoes.
tbaroch, thanks for your reply. ditto prattworks. tb, you blasted my comments as if I've formulated an "us vs. them" mentality, even taking a shot at me for the success of the Big Three vs. "...Japanese and German homeboys from down south." The fact of the matter is, and I know you'll have great difficulty believing this, I had absolutely nothing to do with Mercedes, Honda, and Hyundai building assembly plants in Alabama. Furthermore, I think I'm correct in that Toyota and Honda actually have assembly plants in states such as Ohio and Indiana (not exactly below the Mason-Dixon line). Sorry to burst your Yankee bubble. And they employ AMERICANS!However, besides your shot in the dark on the above you really, really, really missed the all-important point that prattworks did pick up on-the fact that a government loan/bailout/postponement of the inevitable is what Jean and Joe were defending. And, like prattworks, I am opposed to that. And, as I pointed out, Sen. Shelby was against the Wall Street bailout also so Joe did not treat the issue in fairness. Geez, I feel like a middle school teacher having to tell you this a second time, tb.Prattworks is right. A structured bankruptcy will force GM and Chrysler to do the right thing-reorganize and operate efficiently. (Besides, Jean took a shot at "southern, nonunion") manufacturers, just as you have. And, what, pray tell, has the union done to help GM and Chrysler? Before you answer that one remember, THEY are the ones asking for money from you, me, every taxpayer.I told you what vehicle brands I drive to make a point-I don't favor American or "foreign" just a value for my dollar. I did not claim to be an industry expert just by what cars are in my driveway and you are so misguided to have even made the accusation that I'm not an expert. As a matter of fact, when the federal government helped Chrysler in the 1980's I went and bought a new Chrysler Fifth Avenue. Once again, because I deemed it a good value. Hey, maybe I AM an "expert" because it was one fine car.Regarding your high regard for the US manufacturers let me say a thing or two. One, a plant in Ohio or Indiana or Alabama that employs AMERICAN citizens is more of an asset to our country than a plant in Mexico or Canada that employs citizens of those countries. I know this is the second time I've made this point but since you seem to have a penchant for attacking me personally why don't you try that one on, tb? BTW, for years Ford had a plant in Atlanta that built the Taurus and guess what, it employed-tada-Americans! In the SOUTH no less! Of course, Ford killed the Taurus and closed the plant. Now, was that your fault or mine?Prattworks, thanks for your excellent reply. You understand the big picture. Tb on the other hand seems to be playing music while the Titanic slowly goes down for good.Tbaroch, I do understand the interworking of suppliers and assembly plants-I used to work at Delphi, a plant that supplied electronics for Cadillacs. And, not one Cadillac has ever been assembled in Alabama. Your atack on me and Senator Shelby for not understanding this is, well, so wrong.I want GM, Ford, and Chrysler to succeed. If we every have a World War III the U.S.A. we'll need them, to be sure. But, I want them to succeed on their own hard work not by being enabled with my tax money. Don't you get that, tb, or are you just so fixated on your future Pelosi-mobile that you can't think straight? And, for my sake and prattworks' what the heck is a Pelosi-mobile anyway? And who will build it?Tbaroch, to help you with the math, 50% of my vehicles are American, 25% Japanese, and 25% German. Not what I'd really call, to use your accusation, "...profound hatred of the Big Three...."Lastly, tb, have you ever heard the story of Edward Demmings addressing the annual meeting of the Big Four (3+American Motors) in 1950 and was laughed out of the room? How he was called to Japan to help them build cars? How he is still, years after his death, considered the father of quality improvement in Japan? And you want to say how the Big Three are, "...starting to garner a good deal of praise...." If you didn't display such arrogance I'd actually feel sorry for you.
I have to take some exception to what tbaroch has written.He makes several assumptions that have little basis in fact.1. People who disagree with him are naive, lack true enthusiasm for cars, and must not be 'industry experts'.2. People opposed to the bailout hate the Big 3 and want to see Detroit 'burn'3. Detroit represents the 'good guys'.I don't think I have to justify myself as a 'car enthusiast' or 'industry expert'. I'm not going down that rabbit hole. And I certainly understand the interconnectedness of automotive suppliers, the laws of supply and demand, and the importance of a strong manufacturing base. And I'm not sure what a 'Pelosi-mobile' is like, but I'll keep an open mind until I get the chance to drive one.That being said, I think that bailing out Detroit is a bad idea not because I don't think they deserve it, but because it's not going to work. There are too many fundamental problems with their business model, product mix and legacy costs. And, again, pointing to a very few models in a sea of mediocrity isn't going to change my or anyones opinion. I've heard enough about how great the Chevy Malibu is, and how amazing the Volt is going to be...someday. Way too little, way too late.I've also heard more times than I can bear that US automakers were simply 'building what Americans wanted' - as if they had nothing to do with shaping demand and marketing an image of safety and rugged independence into their SUVs. Then picking the low-hanging, high-margin fruit and ceding the small car market to whoever wanted it.This sort of hubris and short-sightedness should come as no surprise to anyone who has observed Detroit dragging their heels on every front for close to a century. They are the masters of what can't be done. They have argued and lobbied for decades that they can't make their cars more efficient or safer, and have skirted every CAFE and safety standard loophole to their advantage - and to the disadvantage of consumers, the environment, and public safety.I don't want to see Detroit burn, but would rather see them go through a controlled bankruptcy process so they can emerge leaner, meaner, smarter, and able to compete in the global market. I'd love to see them lead the way in innovating cool, fast, fun, safe, efficient cars that people will line up to buy. As an American, I would love for us to reinvent the car business with a model for the long-term future.It seems there are many people that think that maintaining the status quo is the best way forward. And that American automotive enthusiasm is an 'us vs. them' proposition, where we are pitted against the environment, efficiency, mass transit, gas taxes, safety, and imports. I don't think that's the case. Having lived and traveled around the country and around the world, American ingenuity and problem-solving skills are truly unmatched around the world. We need to remember that as we move forward. We simply need the will to do it.
I am quite shocked by the extreme naivete expressed in the preceding replies, especially given the fact that these posts are supposed to come from car enthusiasts--a term which according to many of these posts unfortunately now implies an uncanny desire to actually want to be riding around in a bunch of Pelosi-mobiles. It's also important to point out that owning a car--much less "a Mercedes, a Chevy, a Dodge, and a Toyota"--does not automatically qualify you as an expert on the auto industry. That is an absurd statement to say Joe, Jean, and the rest of Automobile Magazine are giving undue praise to American OEM's because of their strong ties to their "homeboys" in Detroit. Are the IIHS, JD Power, Consumer Reports, Car and Driver, and the rest of the respectable third party testers and automotive press also in bed with their Detroit "homeboys"?--I would tend to think not. Contrary to the beliefs of this in-vogue, profound hatred of the Big Three, there just might be a reason why Detroit products are starting to garner a good deal of praise and awards throughout the industry's press--they are building safe, reliable, desirable cars. Just look at Detroit's recent domination of the IIHS crash test picks and JD Power quality awards--they even beat out y'alls Japanese and German OEM "homeboys" from down south! If y'all really want Detroit to burn, go ahead and hope for that--but good luck building any other cars in the rest of the United States. Unfortunately for Sen. Shelby and the rest of those unaware of how the auto industry actually works, it happens to be quite interconnected between the OEM's (foreign and domestic) and the supply base--so if Detroit goes down, so goes the supply base, who also happen to supply all of the foreign manufacturers assembling cars in the US. Good luck building your M-Classes, Tundras, Civics, and Camrys when the supply base goes under too. That sounds like a great idea to improve the US economy, right?Detroit is continually lambasted for building a bunch of gas-guzzling, heavy trucks and SUVs--but guess what? . . . that's what they were and still are good at! The US public bought them in droves, and Detroit made money on them--it's called a business. They would've been outright fools to be building anything else given the margins they had on those products (even the Japanese OEM's have waived the white flag after attempting to steal the truck market from Detroit). Now, where you should be critical of Detroit is with their lack of foresight and/or urgency to take that revenue put it towards placing more fuel efficient cars on the market. It's hard to believe they didn't see this shift in consumer demand coming, and because of that, GM and Chrysler will be reduced to building a bunch of Pelosi-mobiles after having sold their souls to The Man.But of course, who cares about Detroit--we still have all the geniuses in Silicon Valley to pick up the slack! I would like someone to name one company from there that's actually doing well. It's worth noting the irony in the fact that all the computer geeks down there had to resort to hiring people from Detroit because the car business was too tough for them to navigate on their own. They're finally starting to see the writing on the wall that the auto industry is one of the toughest industries out there--and being one of the most government-regulated ones in the country doesn't make it any easier. Contrary to the vast public opinion, we aren't a bunch of out-of-touch, dim-witted criminals building shoddy, technology-deficient, unwanted cars while jet-setting around the country in our Gulfstreams. If you want to count us as failures already, just take a look at the almighty Asian and European OEM's and you will see that they too have now been brought to their knees by this vicious global recession. Also, I think it's important that we as a country need to take a step back and ask ourselves--What happened to rooting for the good guys?Great article Jean, keep up the good work!
"Three of our ten 2009 All-Stars were built by Detroit carmakers. Let's say that a different way: Nearly a third of the ten best cars for sale in America today come from Detroit." Congratulations on your use of math. Let's say it a different way: If I made 30/100 on a math exam I'd flunk.Of course you didn't have to waste precious space talking about why Detroit deserves a hand in the form of loans from the government; every other writer took the time to address said issue, including Joe Dematio who specifically castigated Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL). If Mr. Dematio were to be totally fair he would have noted that Senator Shelby also voted AGAINST the Wall Street bailout as well. And, just because Congress did vote against the loans to the Big Three, how does Mr. Dematio KNOW that "...Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) and his esteemed but ill-informed colleagues on the Hill..." don't know about the Chevy Malibu?In the interest of transparency, I live in Alabama, own a Mercedes, a Chevy, a Dodge, and a Toyota. Equally, it should be noted that Automobile Magazine has strong ties to it's "homeboys" in Detroit, who also, in transparency, must admit to assembling cars in Canada and Mexico for sale in the U.S.A. and neither Canada nor Mexico pledge allegiance to the United States of America. I, for one, am tired of the age-old "buy America" tirade when even Michael Moore can't get the Big Three to build all of their cars in the greatest country on this planet!
I do appreciate Jean Jennings' enthusiasm, while I disagree with her thesis that Detroit is making the cars people want. If market share and sales volume are any determinant, this simply isn't the case. Pointing to a few decent, if not exceptional, offerings by Detroit is just the sort of enabling that has allowed them to continue their now universally recognized bad behavior.The future of transport is not going to be determined by Detroit, like it or not. There are dozens of upstart companies and established auto manufacturers that have a vision of the future to which Detroit has proven myopic. It's smaller, lighter, cleaner, quieter, cheaper, and better built. It can also be faster, better-handling, more engaging, and create more excitement than the current auto industry has seen in decades. But it's a bottom-up insurgency this time. And I can't wait.Pointing out the attributes of the Ford Flex (EPA 22mpg highway) and the Mazda CX-9 (EPA 21mpg highway) is not really helping to move the ball forward. These cars represent the history of automobile. They are dinosaurs. Dead. The sooner US consumers and the Federal Government wake up to the fact that our entire automotive fleet is obsolete, the better off we'll be. The mix of electrics, hybrids, clean diesel, biodiesel, renewable fuels, and ultra-efficient powerplants is going to be remarkable. But the first step to that future is acceptance - and accept we must that Detroit is not where the action is or will be. Purporting much to the contrary is simply vile gossip.
I believe family life and business share much of the same DNA. If you reward bad behavior, you will get more bad behavior. As Americans, we reward Congress with our votes, and we get bad behavior. We reward Wall Street by sending them our retirement money every year, and we get bad behavior. We reward automakers by buying their cars, and guess what? We get bad behavior. Now if your underage kid goes out and gets hammered, wrecks his car, and crawls home; do you reward him/her with a new car? Point made...
That's right kengrubb. The Big 3 might produce some cars that some people would buy ... but that doesn't mean most of quality cars.
We cannot remain a world class industrial power without world class industrial products. If we produce mediocre industrial products, then we'll remain a mediocre industrial power.
We cannot remain an industrial power without some industrial power! The foreign "assembly plants" moved in because the dollar was so puny... and they can easily move out again if/when the dollar regains its strength... which would leave us nothing if we dump the domestics in the meantime.
The Detroit carmakers skirt the edge of the CAFE standards while the Japanese carmakers beat those standards by a considerable margin.Japanese hybrids average in the 40s (mpg) while US hybrids are in the mid to high 20s. Not even Detroit hybrids are competing.Sales are down overall in the market, but sales from the US makers are down the lowest. Translation? The US makers are NOT meeting consumer demand.The Volt, Chrysler EV and PHEV Ford Escape are promising, but still several years away. If the macho car crowd continues to dominate what comes outta Detroit, then this truly is the end of the Detroit carmaker. Perhaps Silicon Valley and Tesla will emerge to fill the void.Gas prices might be down, but I suspect in this economy any consumer looking to buy something new is either waiting for something with a much better MPG rating to arrive in showrooms (like me) or is going to buy that which delivers the best MPG possible. No one is going to bite off any big financial commitments if they can avoid it for a few years, and if they do they are going to be looking long term.Having seen the elephant of $4 a gallon gas, and even $5 a gallon, long gone methinks is Americans love affair with the notion of cheap gas forever. I suspect folks won't soon forget.The Big Three had their chance under Partnership for Next Generation of Vehicles in the 1990s, and they blew it big time. Toyota build the Prius, and GM delivered the Hummer.Several leaders in GM have publicly stated killing the EV1 was a boneheaded decision. Instead of a 2011 Chevy Volt they coulda had a 2001 Chevy Volt.Lest the purists whip out their knives and threaten to fillet me for espousing fur-in cars, I own 2 Saturns--an SW2 and a Relay. If I had to replace the SW2 today, I'd get an Escape Hybrid (that's a Ford, btw). If I had to replace the Relay today, I'd try to get another Escape Hybrid. If both Saturns keep running, I'll wait for a PHEV Ford Escape, Phoenix SUT, or Chrysler EV (the REEV minivan) to replace them.Detroit can survive, if and only if, they raise their game. While I believe the taxpayer could probably fund them long enough for them to become solvent, I'm less enthused the fundamental changes will happen to keep them solvent--financially and technologically.
The American domestic automakers do not understand the competitive philosophy of America. We like to win. We like to win anything that is measurable. Because we like to win, we like to be in bed with winners and buy cars that appear to be winners. Right now, the car-based mileage winners are the Prius, Camry hybrid, and Civic hybrid. Obviously Americans love being seen driving these cars, because the drivers appear to get-it and appear as winners, themselves. They are obviously willing to spend their money buy these cars with advanced propulsion systems. Domestic automakers are losers right now, and the American people don't want to buy the loser cars. We see the trepedation in the auto mags and blogs ALL the time. We see stop-start systems on the horizon, along with the Volt; and electro-morphing metals that may increase drag efficiency. EVERYTHING'S on the horizon by our domestic automakers. Foreign automakers have driven off the horizon, toward us, daring us to buy their cars, and we're taking them up on their challenge. By using this blogger's same logic, I guess I should agree that Leonardo DiCaprio is a good actor, because he's won a few industry awards. Blech.
Wake up people! We cannot remain an industrial power without some industrial power! The foreign "assembly plants" moved in because the dollar was so puny... and they can easily move out again if/when the dollar regains its strength... which would leave us nothing if we dump the domestics in the meantime.Our domestics grew up in an era when social safety nets were the responsibility of the large companies, not the government. Their cost structures got out of hand -not entirerly their fault- so the foreigners had a huge leg up and they exploited it well.If you buy foreign because you like their vehicles, that is well and good. But if you hate domestics because they have resisted betraying their social covenents thus slowing down their restructuring efforts, then you're a short-sighted, self-righteous fool!
JimScar, how is this automobile crisis the fault of Congress and not the US automakers? Congress has been conciliatory to the automakers for decades, letting them slide on gas mileage requirements and air quality requirements. They fought the government, both state and local, on these things for years and acted only when it was shoved down their throats.The US auto industry is broken. GM owns too many duplicative brands, offering too many duplicative products, most of which are poorly built and designed. Only some of the newer cars appeal to consumers, and some from Europe might actually be brought over to this side of the Atlantic. But by then, it might be too late. Ford should have brought their Euro cars to the States three years ago, not three years from now (another example of how far removed US automakers' execs are from reality and do not make cars that people want). By then, Ford will be gone.I agree completely with flumignan.
I have to disagree with flumignan and agree with Jean. The Big Three are building cars people want. Malibu, Aura, Focus, Contour, Flex, Caravan/T&C, 300/Magnum, Vue, Outlook, G8, et al. Take the 300/Magnum for example. With the Hemi engine, cylinder shut off technology lets you get 25mpg on the highway. And the cars are comfortable, roomy, classy, and fun to drive. Show me another full-size with that kind of mileage and horsepower, in the same price range. Personally, if and when I can get credit, I'll be shopping for a new Chrysler T&C. Hopefully they'll bring the EV to market quickly as the minivan is a perfect application of hybrid and/or diesel technology.Granted, Detroit has lagged behind on hybrid and diesel offerings, but Americans weren't buying them. Sure, the Prius was commanding premiums when gas climbed beyond $2.50/gal, but that was an extremely limited production vehicle. Even mighty Honda canceled their hybrid Insight and Civic for a time due to lack of interest.I agree also about the lack of parallels between the cash thrown to the financial industry. I'd like to see the voting record on the auto bailout and compare it to a list of states with factories of foreign car manufacturers.It's not the US auto industry that's broken. It's the self-regulated US Congress that's broken. It is high time we held these charlatans and carpet-baggers to a higher and independent standard. Until we start holding them accountable and stop letting them self-regulate, our economy will always be tied to their political positions and their personal wallets.
I'm reminded of the old saying, "Even a stopped clock tells the right time twice a day." There are enough models in the portfolios of the Detroit Three to have won at least some award somewhere at some time.Jean, you're dwelling on the past thirty years, bringing up the 80's minivan as evidence of innovation, looking back at 2001's muscle car, the Corvette, known more for fanboy lust than sales numbers, the awkwardly named Probe (a Mazda) the Contour (Ford of Europe's Mondeo). Automobile Magazine editors are serving up the old philosophy "We are building the cars people want" when the executives at the RenCen and Glass House should have been saying, "We'll make people want our cars."This magazine devotes itself cars and the automobile industry, but for real information, I read the Detroit Free Press, the NY Times, the Wall St Journal and the Economist for a sense of what's really happening out there. Meanwhile, the magazine for "car enthusiasts" still ducked their heads in the asphalt, refusing to acknowledge what's going on here.Perhaps the April edition of Automobile Magazine will we see a sensible evaluation of where GM, Ford and Chrysler have put themselves in. About the time the money runs out and their plans have come short, payment for thirty years of bad decisions.

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