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.