27 October 2008


The doom of the American car company

Via Brian Chin, the Wall Street Journal's "How Detroit Drove Into a Ditch" is a succinct history of why General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler are fumbling towards bankruptcy while the 16 U.S.-based vehicle factories run by foreign firms like Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz, and Volkswagen are profitable and prosperous:

...to thrive, instead of just survive, Detroit will have to use the brains of its workers instead of just their bodies, and the [United Auto Workers] will have to allow it. Two weeks ago some automation equipment broke down at the Honda factory in Marysville, Ohio, but employees rushed to the scene and devised a temporary solution. There were no negotiations with shop stewards, no parsing of job descriptions. Instead of losing an entire shift of production, Honda lost just 150 cars.

I don't think many people of my generation favour American brands when considering a new car. For me, GMs, Fords, and Chryslers are far from the top of the list: generally, when I sit in a new car built by one of those companies, something about it often feels cheap, which isn't the case with their Asian or European competitors' vehicles. Our Ford Focus has been a decent station wagon over the past seven years, but our Toyota Echo, which was much cheaper, has needed far fewer repairs.

Seeing one or more of the Detroit Three collapse would be sad, but personally I'd have no reason to miss them.

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That quote points how unions have come to mess the economy.

Can you what would have happened had they followed protocol?

Unions are killing the industry just as much as lack of foresight
To emphasize your point about reliability of your cars: the new car we bought, and which you refer to in your "Ford Focus" link ("coincidentally, my parents decided to buy a new car yesterday, too..."), has proven to be very reliable. It's a 2002 Nissan Altima. We've had to pay for no repairs, other than regular maintenance items. It's still "like new".
Well,you know that anyway, you've been riding in it a number of times yourself.

It's a great point, Derek. I think it largely depends on where the car is made, and possibly the social / cultural make-up of the workers. A VW Rabbit from Mexico is different quality-wise from a German VW Golf, but they're the same design. Though some designs from Detroit are just plain bad!

Not that we get much US iron here in Australia - mostly Chryslers, and they've been hit with an ugly-stick!

Steve Taylor
Melbourne, Australia
I used to buy General Motors cars, out of (misplaced) loyalty I guess; with every GM car I had the air conditioning failed at 30,000 miles. Also there were numerous other problems, some causing considerable inconvenience. Now I have a Toyota RAV4. At 93,000 miles the only things I've had to do are the front brakes once, and four new tires. Oh, and I replaced the battery once.