Bail Out Some Company that At Least Tried

12 Nov

Honda builds almost all of its domestically sold vehicles in Canada and the US.

Toyota builds almost all of its domestically sold vehicles in Canada and the US.

They are innovative, have good mileage, have sometimes-cool, sometimes-bland design, and sport class-leading interiors that have high perceived quality. They have been doing this for at least a decade.

What’s Detroit’s excuse, exactly? The big competitor to the Accord and Camry is the Malibu? The pre-Fusion Contour? (The Fusion is better, but still light-years away from being a Camry or Accord, interior design & feature-wise). For waaaay too long, Detroit practically ignored passenger car R&D and design in favor of bigger and thirstier trucks and SUVs. Until very, very recently, GM’s Saturn sold cars with such shitty design, inside and out, that they could easily be substituted for Ipecac.

And they deserve a bailout?

12 Responses to “Bail Out Some Company that At Least Tried”

  1. Adam K. November 12, 2008 at 7:16 am #

    I love my Fusion.

    It got Consumer Reports top spot last year for reliability.

    I think Ford has been making great cars for two years, but everyone’s so jaded that no one even looks anymore.

  2. peter scott November 12, 2008 at 7:52 am #

    I don’t think people look anymore because its gonna take at least 8 years after they start making good cars to see if they last as long as honda and toyota anyway…

  3. Buffalopundit November 12, 2008 at 8:53 am #

    Adam – the Fusion is a good car, but getting a top ranking in Consumer Reports for reliability is just a first step. There’s nothing whatsoever that’s innovative about it. You have a choice of an inline 4, but you can’t get the SEL with a manual tranny, and the 6-speed available automatic has no tiptronic shifting, and the V6 gets a crappy 18/26 MPG. Where’s the diesel? Where’s the hybrid? Why does the dash look like something from a mid-90s rental fleet vehicle? Compare the interior quality and dash design from the Accord or Camry to that of the Fusion. The Japanese innovate, while Detroit is, at best, about 2 model changes behind.

    I compare Ford USA to Ford Europe and ask why they can’t do here what they do there, but even domestically Ford operates Volvo and Mazda. The Mazda6 is as good, if not better, than the Accord and Camry, and you’re telling me the Fusion can’t be as good, if not better, than its Japanese cousin? Volvo innovates in safety and design, and you’re telling me Ford can’t take a hint from its Swedish subsidiary?

    Mazda sells the 3, and Volvo sells the S40, both of which are built on the global C1 platform that is shared with the Euro Focus. Our Focus domestically, however, is built on a C170 platform from the 1990s. It’s 2008, and Ford’s small car is still based on 1999 technology. Sticking LEDs in the footwells and cupholders isn’t innovation – it’s window-dressing to try and get young people to look at a Focus over a Scion.

    The only hybrids you can get from Ford are in the Escape and its badge-engineered twin, the Mariner.

    I’m not saying Ford shouldn’t be commended on improving its quality – it should. But it’s praising Ford for something it should already be doing. Even the Mustang, which is absolutely stunning on the outside, doesn’t have independent rear suspension, and also suffers from shitty interior materials. Ford’s awesome sports car can’t be had with a 6-speed manual? In a V6?

    Now that everyone’s been spooked by high gas prices, there’s a glaring need for more 4-cylinder turbos and supercharged engines, and there’s a glaring need for more diesels and hybrids across the model range.

    Yet for some reason, every American automaker is behind the curve on all of these things. That’s inexcusable, and reminiscent of the late 70s and early 80s when the CVCC and Civic were revolutionizing the industry while Detroit was still stuck making land yachts and some of the shittiest diesel engines ever to foul our air.

  4. Buffalopundit November 12, 2008 at 9:24 am #

    Read McArdle’s piece. Are not Ford & Opel/Vauxhall workers unionized? Do they not have legacy costs there? The one big difference is that in the UK, Belgium, Germany, Czech Republic, and other sites of manufacturing plants in Europe, health care and pension costs are not predominately borne by the corporate entity.

    Not to say that the unions or the dealer networks are blameless in this fiasco, but I think McArdle is glossing over management’s bad choices.

    It was more profitable to build a Silverado or Tahoe than it was to build a Cobalt, but there was no push from anyone in Detroit to have a contingency plan in place if, for instance, the cost of a barrel of oil rose to $140. Toyota took a big loss on every 1st-gen Prius it built, but it proved that the technology was commercially viable, and that car and that company are synonymous with hybrid synergy drive innovation. The Silverado hybrid is synonymous for having a 3-prong electrical outlet in the back for contractors to use.

    As in every other facet of contemporary life, businesses and labor unions are going to have to make some earth-shatteringly tough decisions. Detroit, unfortunately, is woefully behind every curve available.

    For instance, if Detroit had introduced a C1-based Focus with a clean-burning turbodiesel engine, which got a 40 – 50 MPG rating and cost about the same as, say, a VW GTI, people would have looked at it very seriously, and I’m sure Ford could have made a profit on it because of that demand. No 0% 72 month financing, no $3,000 cash back incentive would have been needed to artifically inflate demand.

    It could have, but didn’t. Now they’re fucked. They should do what other fucked companies do, and that’s declare bankruptcy and restructure the whole operation. Not come to beleagured taxpayers who are already funding two wars and a bailout of the banking system for some sugar.

  5. Adam K. November 12, 2008 at 11:58 am #

    Yes the dash is a little dated – not mid 90s, but a little dated. Detroit still seems to think that they need to save the good stuff for Lincolns and Cadillacs. But $150 in chrome stickers and the like from ebay takes care of that, and since i got my Fusion SE for under 20K, 1.9 apr, the $150 in stickers still makes it $8000 less than the comparable Camry at 5.9% APR. I average 23/31 with a 4-cylinder and it has the Mazda6 engine tuning meaning it MOVES when you hit the gas; actually better than my dad’s 6-cyl Camry.

    I agree on the need for hybrid cars, that was a major oversight. I wonder if Toyota refuses to license it out for cars. I remember reading that Nissan developed their own hybrid system and when they went to patent it they found out it was exactly the same as Toyota’s, leaving them 10 steps back, I wonder if Ford/GM have similar problems.

    I assume that bankrupt voids my warranty.

  6. Adam K. November 12, 2008 at 6:28 pm #

    Heh.

    The Ford Fusion Hybrid will be officially unveiled this Sunday as the pace car for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Ford 500 as part of Ford Championship weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway

    http://www.fordracing.com/news/detail/?article=35728

    This article, in the EPA section, seems to imply that hybrid versions of Fusion, Taurus and Focus are due in 2009. Thank God.

  7. Adam K. November 12, 2008 at 6:33 pm #

    And if you look carefully For has given it the Mercury Milan headlights and a more aggressive grill with 3 fat chrome bars instead of 5 small ones split 3-2.

  8. truthiness November 13, 2008 at 11:46 am #

    Do your research man! I feel really bad how uninformed you are. I guess ignorance is bliss with you when it comes to the auto industry.

    Detroit’s auto makers have to deal with the UAW with every single factory. Toyota, Honda, and Nissan do not. The only Japanese automaker that has to deal with the UAW is Mitsubishi and look how well they’re doing. The Detroit automakers have to pay billions upon billions of dollars to pay for retiree benefits and health care, while Toyota and Honda don’t.

    Have you seen the new Malibu? Have you been in one? It’s been continuously praised by all the major auto critics and GM can’t build enough of them. Again.. do your research.

    Yes GM, Ford, and Chrysler built SUVs. That’s what was in demand.
    And guess who else made huge SUVs? Toyota, Honda, and Nissan.
    The NEW Toyota Tundra is the biggest non-heavy duty pick-up truck on the market and it gets horrendous mileage and has had a bit of quality issues.

    Go to Toyota.com right now. Half of the company’s lineup is SUVs. And when Chevy gets rid of the Trailblazer in favor of the more fuel-efficient Traverse in the next couple of months, Toyota will have more SUVs.

    One more thing… you bought into the Toyota/Honda marketing deception.

    They assemble cars in the US. Not build them..and even with Toyota and Honda building in the US, GM has more factories, employs more people, and pays for more health care for in the US then all of them combined. Same with Ford, and Chrysler.

    IGNORANCE IS BLISS.

  9. Buffalopundit November 13, 2008 at 2:41 pm #

    Detroit’s auto makers have to deal with the UAW with every single factory. Toyota, Honda, and Nissan do not. The only Japanese automaker that has to deal with the UAW is Mitsubishi and look how well they’re doing. The Detroit automakers have to pay billions upon billions of dollars to pay for retiree benefits and health care, while Toyota and Honda don’t.

    Are you saying that European automakers, including GM’s Opel and Ford Europe don’t have to contend with very powerful unions – ones even more powerful, arguably, than the UAW?

    Have you seen the new Malibu? Have you been in one? It’s been continuously praised by all the major auto critics and GM can’t build enough of them. Again.. do your research.

    I have seen the new Malibu. It is a good advance as compared with the last couple of Malibus. And as good as the interior is for Detroit, it pales in comparison to what other automakers are doing, and it’s at best adequate. Compare it to the interior of a Camry, Accord, or Passat and in my subjective opinion, it loses.

    The best interior in a domestic car right now is the Pontiac G8. And it’s made in Australia. Although the interior of the Astra (made in Belgium) and the Saturn Vue and Outlook (domestic) are quite nice. Better by far than the Malibu. The Caddy CTS’ interior is up to snuff, too.

    Yes GM, Ford, and Chrysler built SUVs. That’s what was in demand.

    And guess who else made huge SUVs? Toyota, Honda, and Nissan.

    The NEW Toyota Tundra is the biggest non-heavy duty pick-up truck on the market and it gets horrendous mileage and has had a bit of quality issues.

    Go to Toyota.com right now. Half of the company’s lineup is SUVs. And when Chevy gets rid of the Trailblazer in favor of the more fuel-efficient Traverse in the next couple of months, Toyota will have more SUVs.

    Toyota is, however, now the second-largest seller of vehicles in America. While Toyota does sell SUVs and pickups, it also led the industry in the development of hybrid technology, and also sells a nicely redesigned and very efficient Yaris. So, while Toyota did sell the trucks that people clamored for, it also covered the fuel-efficient end of the spectrum, which is good planning. Chevy had the Cobalt, Saturn sold the Ion, and Ford sells a 10 year-old Focus. None of them were particularly innovative, and they were sold almost as an afterthought rather than an example of good model-range strategy.

    One more thing… you bought into the Toyota/Honda marketing deception.

    They assemble cars in the US. Not build them..and even with Toyota and Honda building in the US, GM has more factories, employs more people, and pays for more health care for in the US then all of them combined. Same with Ford, and Chrysler.

    They don’t build them, but Toyota and Honda build them. Gotcha. Not only that, but the Civic and Accord are, for the most part, unique to the North American market, (I have seen that US-spec Accords are sold in some Asian markets like Thailand), and are designed & built here. Same with the Pilot, the Highlander, the Tundra, and the Ridgeline.

    IGNORANCE IS BLISS.

    Evidently.

  10. mike November 13, 2008 at 3:11 pm #

    A car for the western new york “joe the plumbers” is just a means of transportation for getting our ass’s to work on time. We don’t need moon roof’s, sirrus, or curb feelers. We need a car that starts, safe and gets us around in winter. Suburu fits this model of the perfect western ny car, except for fat guy’s its kind of hard to get in or out.

  11. truthiness November 17, 2008 at 1:38 am #

    Buffalo Pundit:

    Are you saying that European automakers, including GM’s Opel and Ford Europe don’t have to contend with very powerful unions – ones even more powerful, arguably, than the UAW?

    No, but show me one country in Europe that doesn’t have some form of socialized health care that picks up the burden from these companies. Last time I checked, the level of care in the US health system is determined by individual disposable income or health care coverage through an individual’s employer.

    They don’t build them, but Toyota and Honda build them. Gotcha. Not only that, but the Civic and Accord are, for the most part, unique to the North American market, (I have seen that US-spec Accords are sold in some Asian markets like Thailand), and are designed & built here. Same with the Pilot, the Highlander, the Tundra, and the Ridgeline.

    The Civic is the same in Japan as it is here with some minor alterations to the styling. The Accord is also not unique to the US. In Japan, it’s known as the Inspire. Like the Civic, it too has some styling alterations.

    Read what I said over again. I said, even if they do build them here, they are no where close to being up to the level of production seen by the Detroit three.

    —-

    Your opinion on the Malibu interior is yours and I believe you when you say you don’t think it’s up to snuff when it comes to the imports…. but most of the automotive journalists at Motor Trend, Car and Driver, and Automobile (some of the GM’s toughest critics) who have reviewed it say otherwise. In fact, you say the Camry has a better interior.. when it’s actually considered by many at these same magazines as not as good as Toyota’s in the past.

    Oh.. and Toyota may appear to be ahead in the game for Hybrids.. but the domestics (especially GM) have been producing hybrid buses for for years now. Something none of the Japanese automakers can claim in the US.

    We can keep going.. but the fact remains that if the government lets GM, Ford, and Chrysler go belly up, you can expect the recession to become far worse then you could have imagined. Within a year of the collapse, 3 million jobs will be lost and the rest of the manufacturing industry will be in shambles.
    Millions of retirees and their spouses still getting health care from these companies will have no where to go but the government, putting a monumental burden on Medicare and Social Security. Do you really want that to happen just so you can say: “Man, we really stuck it to those a**hole Detroit automakers”. I honestly don’t think you do.

    Regardless of what anyone thinks about the big three, we should all hope the government steps in and saves them because the US economy and every working citizen depends on it.

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