Saturday, May 02, 2009
GM and Chrysler Stumble and Bumble
1972 Buick Riviera
Contrasting, Buick could take Oldsmobile's slogan "This isn't your father's Oldsmobile" and turn it into "This is your grandfather's Buick." Since the 1971-73 Riviera or the 1960 Electra, Buick produced bland, forgettable cars. Yet, Buick survived Oldsmobile which at the time manufactured the Intrigue and Alero, two beautiful cars. Despite Buick's sales being sluggish at best.
There’s an often-repeated statistic: U.S. Buick dealers sell just four cars per dealer per month. It’s true, but c’mon; that was last year’s totals. In March, Buick sales slipped to three cars per dealer. Thanks to TTAC’s Frank Williams, I’ve had a chance to examine the exact dealer and sales stats for the Beyond Precision people. Having deconstructed the data, I can declare that this seemingly absurd three cars a month number, while strictly true, isn’t the whole story. The “whole story” is much worse.Chrysler dropped the Plymouth line a few years back. Not such a biggie although had an emotional attachment to the Plymouth name since my family had several when I was a kid. My Dad drove a car like the one in Stephen King's Christine.
During the 1960s, Dodge and Plymouth created some classic muscle cars, the Dodge Challenger/Plymouth Barracuda and Dodge Charger in particular. Like the other American manufacturers, their cars fell into the lower reaches of mediocrity.
Unless you're older than 45 or 50 years, few remember just how bad the cars GM, Chrysler and Ford created during the 1970s and into the 1980s. Chrysler K Cars and GM X platform stood out as examples of poor design and low quality. The Chevy Vega and its variations set new standards in low reliability. The Plymouth Horizon/Dodge Omni earned a failing grade from Consumer Reports. My mother owned two of these and loved them but I found them unnerving to drive due to the steering that "wouldn't necessarily re-center itself automatically."
My observations of American made cars in the 1970s and 80s convinced me to be more than cautious in buying American cars. I've had a few - Ford Tempo, Ford Aerostar, Dodge Neon - and always been disappointed. I've had a Toyota Tercel and Camry, just bought a Tundra truck, plus had a Nissan pick up and always been pleased. Before the summer is over my Camry will surpass 300,000 miles with the only repair being a new turn signal/windshield wiper unit for the steering column plus the usual replacement of a timing belt/water pump every 100,000 miles.
Memories make many of us who are now in the "older" generation reluctant to buy American cars period. Test driving makes younger people reluctant. My 20 year old son just bought a Honda Civic with its legendary quality. He works part-time as a valet at a high priced department store while attending college and drives many expensive cars and cars of every make every week. He says the Hondas compare favorably to virtually everything including cars costing 4-5 times as much.
Now GM faces a future without Pontiac and with the humdrum Buick line. Chevy makes some nice looking cars but quality still lacks. Many I talk to are reluctant to buy cars from unions who helped drive the car companies into the ground while reaping benefits and pay well above the national average. Chrysler looks forward to a partnership with Fiat, a company that left the U.S. years ago because it couldn't compete. Combine that with the demands of a federal government that knows nothing about car manufacturing and neither path looks bright.
I wish them luck but they'll have to produce better vehicles with more leg room to earn my business.
Can't imagine why they even needed Buick... Course Chevy should also be put out to pasture, but they have too much riding on that...
I think after we pump trillions of $$$ into all of this we are going to realize it would have been better just to let the companys go... we are throwing good money after bad.
D, you are describing, to my mind, the entirety of the "Bailout", and what our government does, time after time. Governments, at all levels, just don't seem to understand that throwing money at a problem, isn't always the best fix.
Sorry for the off topic.
My wife and I drive a 2003 ford escape. Best little SUV, in my opinion. If we're looking at cars from the 60's 70's, give me a 66 mustang, any day of the week. AWESOME car.
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