I felt compelled to write this article as I have spent much of my professional career as a factory representative for foreign and domestic car & truck manufacturers, and for many very pertinent reasons, I have recently drastically changed my opinion on buying new cars during the devastating period that our country has gone through in the last 18 - 36 months. It seems ALL car & truck manufacturers, both foreign & domestic are feeling the affects of the horrendous downturn in the US economy, but if things don't turn around for the US auto industry we won't have the option of buying American sooner rather than later!! Let me explain the history behind the problems, and the reason I believe it is in every American's best interest at this time to seriously consider buying American the next time they're buying a new car!!
In the late 70's, 80's and most of the 90's, buying a foreign car was the best way to get a dependable vehicle, maintain vehicle resale value, and get the best fuel economy. I felt at that time, buying a foreign car (Japanese preferably, as I working for them) was not only a smart choice, it was the financially prudent choice. Apparently I wasn't alone, as the foreign car industry in the US grew exponentially during that period!! General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler Corp. were too busy keeping their stockholders happy to concentrate on making quality cars and trucks that got good fuel economy, would hold up to the rigours of deteriorating road conditions, and would hold their market value beyond the first few years. To put it mildly they were building junk, and using the public as their test bed. If there's any doubt in your mind, try and remember the Oldsmobile diesel fiasco, or the Cadillac 8-6-4 engines. How about the Chevy Citation, Ford Festiva or Chrysler Cordoba. The problems all started with the oil embargo in 1974, and got progressively worst as the US government kept forcing new and unreasonable demands on the manufacturers in the areas of emissions and fuel economy without allowing sufficient time for them to test the products and perfect them before bringing them to market.
Fortunately, market demand progressively switched to vans, SUV's, and pick-up trucks of all sizes and shapes as we headed into the late 90's and into 2000's and US manufacturers were able to hold their own in this marketplace, quality began to improve and performance and ecomomy became less of a problem as the US manufacturers finally were able to use computer technology to improve their products. All was getting better, that is until the price of oil spiked to over $4.00 a gallon at the very same time the US economy decided to go in the tank!! That again brought to the surface the underlining problems that had hampered the US manufacturers for the last 30 plus years. Due to the amazing strength of the auto industry labor unions, the manufacturers have been strapped with an increasing large pension debt that rapidly became a severe underlying cost on every vehicle built and produced in the US. These retirees have put an increasing debt load on the manufacturers that only bankrupcy has been able to eliminate !!
It is estimated that for each productive employee's wages at the Big 3, 80% had to be added for previous retirees. In comparison, due to assistance from their governments, and their many social welfare programs, the cost to foreign manufacturers is less than 25% for previous retirees. The foreign government actually subsidize their auto industry to give them an unfair advantage against our US manufacturers!!! The other thing that has led to some of the disparity between the US and foreign manufacturers is the lack of anti-trust laws in the foreign countries. When someone, like Toyota, comes up with a better product, they're allowed to share that technology with other manufacturers without fear that their government will sue or fine them for collusion with their competition!! That helps bring down costs and makes it easier to take an advantage against their US counterparts. US manufacturers are just now finding a way to combat that problem and are now sharing technology by using world sourcing for many of their components.
Now that I've told you some of the reasons why all the problems occured, let me try and tell you why I think things have now changed, and why I now feel that it's imperative we all seriously consider buying an American built vehicle once again. First, the American dollar has reached an all time low against foreign currencies. That means foreign manufacturers are being forced to cheapen their products to stay competitive. At the same time, US companies have been able to use technology to their advantage, and can afford to offer a bigger bang for the buck than in years past. I'm sure you've heard ads from Ford, saying that they have become equal to or better than Toyota and Honda in total quality. That's not just a pipe dream anymore!! They've done a fantastic job building fewer cars, but cars that are dependable, fuel efficient, comfortable, and affordable.
Let me elaborate on that, I went shopping for an economical car early in 2008, looking at all the small cars from all the manufacturers. My main concern was fuel economy, but I was also limited on what I could spend. I read all the online reviews, and to my surprise the best reviews were for the new for 2008, Ford Focus. Yes, it came up better than a Toyota Corolla, or a Honda Civic and light years ahead of all the other lesser foreign makes!! I didn't think I could afford one until I heard that Ford was giving a $2500 rebate if customers agreed to use Ford Motor Credit to finance their purchase. Well, not only did I end up buying one of the best cars I've ever owned, it also turned out to be the least expensive car of all the vehicles I looked at by a lot!! My Focus delivers 30 miles a gallon consistently, is a virtual pocket rocket, and is as comfortable as cars twice it's size!! I'd buy another one tomorrow if for any reason I needed to buy a car again!! Many people must have agreed with me, as Focus was the # 2 volume car purchased in the Cash for Clunkers program! The other domestic manufacturers are also building new and extremely innovative products with the help of computer aided design, and if the new pony cars from the Big 3 are any indication of what's coming, BRING IT ON!!
Even before I bought my Focus, my daughter needed a dependable car for college, though I really couldn't afford to buy her one at the time. I talked to my great Dad, and he told me he would help get her a dependable car so she would be safe driving back and forth to college. I asked her which cars she liked, and she said a Chevy Cobalt, or a Hyandai Tiberon. I visited a local Hyandai dealer, and a local Chevy dealer and found the Cobalt to be very comparable to the Tiberon in most areas except price. It was $4000 cheaper!! I also found out that an old high school friend owned a local Chevy dealership, and when I went to see him, his son worked a deal on a leftover 2007 I just couldn't refuse!! My daughter has used that car for many long and arduous trips and except for our bad road system (flat tire) it has been virtually trouble free. Since that time quite a few of my friends have also purchased Cobalts, and are very pleased with them.
I'm not one who normally would try and influence anyone to my point of view, but you just have to look at the high unemployment rate in our country, the tremendous affect our auto industry has on our economic health, and the painful but tremendous strides made by the american car manufacturers in the last few years to realize that if we don't at least give them a legitimate chance to once again provide our transportation needs, then our country as we know it will probably never be the same. I look at the products being offered by our US auto industry, and I'm seeing some very exciting and innovative products coming to market. From the new Ford Taurus, which is as pretty and innovative a sedan as has come out in many years, to the Chevy Volt which is expected to be in production soon, the new Camaro, Mustang & Challenger pony cars, and all the small economical vehicles as well as the flex fuel & electric vehicles in the works, we need to give them another look. I have, and I like what I see, try it you might like it too!!!!