Monday, January 08, 2007

American Car Companies: The New Underdogs

What does it mean to buy American? When it comes down to it, almost nothing is purely made in the USA anymore. Take for instance American cars. Most parts and assembly are outsourced to other countries. The only American aspects are the car design and engineering. Even that is rapidly changing.

Ford Airstream: Dear God, did I forget to unplug the toaster?

It was inevitable that Big Three would be destroyed. American car companies have been notoriously mismanaged into irrelevance. General Motors remains on top just because of it's shear size.

Although quality has improved in the last 10 years, the public perception has not. In a side by side comparison, USA cars look outdated and clumsy. Poor gas consumption, yesterdays technology, stingy warranties, and ugly designs.

The good news is that the situation is improving although it will be years until we will know the outcome. All Big Three automakers have generated some excitement with their new designs at this year's International Auto Show in Detroit, but there are still many challenges yet to face.

2008 Ford Five Hundred: Good God is that ugly!

GM's new electric car, Volt is stylish, innovative, and forward thinking. The powertrain is fully electric. The internal-combustion engine is used only to recharge the battery. Using this design, the Volt can get 20-30 miles on the battery alone, and 50 miles per gallon using only gasoline. Combining the battery and gasoline engine, the car can get 150 miles per gallon of gas. Also the car battery can be charged in 6 hours using a standard A/C outlet. So when will this miracle car be available to the public? A long time... 2010 or 2012 assuming that the battery technology catches up. Doh!

GM Volt: Great Car of the future.

There lies the underlying problems to most of Detroit's woes. Ford unveiled many great new designs, but you will probably never see them in a car. Instead Ford has opted to revamp existing designs with new features and minor cosmetic changes. Sigh. The 2008 Focus is pedestrian take on the 2007 Mazda 3. The 2008 Five Hundred makes me think... Wow! You can make an uglier car look even uglier. Will the new Microsoft technology make these cars shine? Shrug. My advice to Ford is to design another low end vehicle that appeals to recent college grads, and dump the fugly Five Hundred.

Ford Focus 2008: Haven't I seen this car yesterday?

GM has many good looking cars in production, but has problems managing manufacturing costs. Chrysler has a great car campaign and few exciting car designs. All three companies would benefit by making a real attempt at improving MPG on all of their vehicles and to invest in engine and powertrain research and design.

The Big Three can no longer rely on brand identity. If they want to win over the American public and remain profitable, they have to crush the competition with attractive reliable designs, low price tag, and high MPG. GM is on track with the Volt. If this car comes with an affordable price tag, it will destroy the competition.

It is bleak times in Detroit, but the situation can improve if the Big Three are forward thinking. GM and Chrysler might be able to pull it off, but I have my doubts about Ford. Traditionally, the company has been too conservative in their decision making and that will not work into today's volatile markets.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

What do you think of the VW PAssat styling? Understated elegance? Refined European lines?

It is nearly identical in appearance to the 500, which you slam.

The 500 is one of the few sedans that seat for tall adults comfortably. I have sons that are 6'5" and 6'6"; they do not fit in most cars. They are comforable in the back seat of my 500.

As far as gas mileage, I average about 26.5 on the road, 24 in town, which I think is pretty decent for a large sedan.

Excuse me, your bias is showing...

1/16/2007 05:41:00 PM  
Blogger Mike K said...

Shrug. Whatever... you say.

I suppose it wouldn't matter if my last 2 cars were Fords. Perhaps I would have bought another one if it wasn't for the fact that none of new models excited me and they were going to be laying off even more people. Some of which I know; Thank you very much.

If I am overly hard on the big 3, it is because I want them to do better. Many people depend on these companies for jobs. I'm pissed because these companies have been mismanaged into the ground.

1/27/2007 11:30:00 AM  

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