The End of Detroit

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Not too long ago, Detroit-made vehicles manufactured in the U.S. were the most popular and bestselling cars. That is no longer the case, and Maynard, a reporter for the New York Times, explains how the automobile
industry is now led by such companies as Toyota and Honda. She explains the various reasons for the diminished power of domestic car makers including the introduction of new, more appealing models and light trucks. Maynard writes, "With the exception of Toyota and its expansive lineup, none of the import companies has designs on meeting Detroit head-on in every segment where it competes.... They can be successful by fixing their targets and taking away markets, one by one." She cites BMW and Hyundai as two companies who know their markets very well and have solid brand images. Based on Maynard's interviews with executives and employees of many car companies, foreign and domestic, she shows how the foreign companies were repeatedly more innovative and strategic in their efforts to win over American consumers. Toyota, for example, built car plants in the U.S. and trained local employees, including Spanish-speaking workers, who would later be able to work in Toyota plants in Mexico, South America and elsewhere. The reporting is solid, but the writing is occasionally dull. Still, this is an intriguing if somewhat gloomy view of the American car business. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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I've been reading The End of Detroit by Micheline Maynard over the last few days, so I'm really not surprised to see this bad news.
The Big3 don't really know how to pay attention to customer desires. They are still chasing after the "Gotta Have It! Car" Will-O'-the-Wisp, thinking that will save them.
That method did save Nissan with the Xterra, but Nissan followed up on it with a pretty hot Maxima 2001-2, and then an excellent Altima after that. They put good quality cars out with excellent engines, and they refuse to allow any shoddiness that might cause even one customer to be disappointed. The Big3 don't really think that way, it seems. They think "good enough" is "good enough", and it isn't.
It was good enough to have a nice looking car when drivers weren't that sophisticated. It was good enough to have impressive straight-line power when the roads were used little enough to allow drag racing, and when gas prices weren't so inhibitive.
But the Big3 haven't really noticed that it is possible to fall in love with a car for other reasons, and then learn to love its looks. That happened with me with my old Volvo 240 DL, and it happened again with my '95 Honda Civic 4-door w/ stick-shift.
Of the Big3, Ford has the Freestyle, the F-150, the Focus, and perhaps the Five Hundred to catch people's attention. The Focus has decent handling and gets decent mileage for a decent price...it very nearly competes with some Japanese cars....except on the quality/reliability part. Chrysler has the 300C, the Crossfire, and the PT Cruiser to excite people and draw them in. But GM? The Malibu Maxx seems to have fallen flat, much less the original Malibu. People on the inside swear it has European handling, good power, decent fuel economy...but there isn't much buzz among the non-GM employees. The Silverado sells well, but they pretty much seem to be a step behind Ford in almost every category. The Cobalt should replace the Cavalier whose name they ruined...but it doesn't seem to be garnering much excitement at large.
GM is just the best example of the problems the Big3 all face: an inability to understand what people want, an inability to make a completely reliable car line, an apparent inability to look beyond immediate profits...
I think the internet has hurt the Big3, too, because they can no longer depend on someone walking on the lot and being able to convince him to buy that day. Rather, consumers these days research, try things out, and aren't so vulnerable to the hard sell these days. And the Big3 just don't make a good enough product any more.
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The real problem is people are cheapasses, they buy foreign cars and shop at walmart, thus they end up hurting their own country.
And you can talk about how many toyotas etc are built in america now, but its only so they don't get whacked with importation tarriffs. If the USA played dirty like every other country in the world, ie not allowing foreign controlling interest in domestic companies, we might be a little better off.

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Dear Paraducks,
OK, so I've been a cheapass since 1974? Before 1974, our family never had a car (mostly General Motors) last over 100,000. Since 1974, the only vehicles we didn't keep well past the 100,000 mile mark were either wrecked or another GM product.
You're just like the same a$$jacks that have always derided me for buying 'furren' cars. Same old limp dick arguments. America can build a car as good as Toyota, they still aren't. I'm voting with my dollars against bloated 1930's style automotive manufacturing that doesn't last. Yes, I shop at Wal-mart, too. I worked there for over a decade.
Get a clue. We do not strengthen the nation by encouraging wasteful stupid processes to continue. Such as the NEA, that's why our schools are such a mess. GM would love to have a sweetheart deal like the NEA has. Then people wonder why more kids are going to private schools and home schools. If GM had the deal the NEA had, we'd still be driving 1954-style Chevrolets with cast iron 6 engines and radios with tubes in them. Not that it wasn't good in its day but both time and technology have advanced since then. America was once the leader in innovation and invention. Now we're having our lunch eaten by the Japanese and now by the Koreans, and probably next the Chinese.
I work in a hobby that's full proof of that. In 1964, Amateur radio gear was built in America by Collins, National and Hallicrafters. Some upstart company called Trio-Kenwood was just starting to be heard on the Left Coast. Basically now the only US manufacturers left are little companies like Ten-Tec, Alnico and MFJ. Yaesu, Kenwood and ICOM dominate the market.
Quit parroting moveon.org. (Or is that J***off.org, it looks the same to me.)
Charles of Schaumburg
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n5hsr wrote:

That's the way I feel, too. Some of my friends think that "buy American" helps America, and indeed, like tariffs, it might, in the short term. However in the long term, that behavior will weaken our country because it allows them to get-away-with being uncompetitive.
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You are a little off based with your "cheapasses" comment. The USA is not playing dirty, they know the more consumers spend, the more profits they make. Everyone, buyers and corporations alike, look for quality at a lower price which leaves the consumer/corporation with more disposable income. More disposable income will permit the consumer/corporation to spend more, which helps our economy. Virtually all of the large US companies have foreign interest, especially with the weak dollar which attracts foreign investment. As a result, the consumer is better off, the US company profits increase, and the US based division of the foreign company is making money. The US was the only economy after WWII, now the rest of the world has caught up with us, a situation we have to learn to live with.
Detroit still makes good vehicles and consumers will continue to buy Detroit made vehicles, but the Big-3 has to cut costs in order to lower the purchase prices to be competitive. The Big-3 made employee pricing for consumers in the summer of 2005 and had record sales. Big-3 labor costs are killing the Big-3's ability to compete with the foreign automakers. Unfortunately, the UAW refuses to compromise on contract provisions that permit entitlements rather than worker earned benefits. It is no wonder the UAW is screaming when local newspapers printed and article the other day about Ford's plans to invest up to $9 billion in Mexico.
Despite your claim about Detroit-made vehicles, I bought a new 1976 Monte Carlo, in 1976, that was manufactured in Ontario. My parents bought a mid 70's full size Ford also built in Canada. So, Detroit has not been building 100% US built vehicles in a long time, American built as in North American built is a more correct term.
All consumers want is good quality at a fair price which is exactly what the foreign makers are doing better than Detroit can produce at the moment. If the UAW would help out, Detroit production will increase, but that is not likely to happen anytime soon. What will happen, the UAW leadership will not compromise and will end up screwing the membership after the Big-3 are forced to use foreign labor in order to be competitive.

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some time in the "NA" car production, both for Big-3 vehicles and foreign brands.
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NAFTA and CAFTA apply to all trade, not just automotive and thanx for the insight.
wrote:

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what is going on as you.
First the "foreign" cars aren't cheap, many are more expensive than their US manufacturer equivalent. A great equivalent example is the Ford Fusion vs the Mazda 6. Go see, I did.
As for those Toyotas built in NAFDA (local is not just the USA pal), they have almost as much local content as the Big3, plus their local content is increasing while GM's is decreasing rapidly.
I suggest you get some facts before you spout off.
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I am not spouting off, but really, NAFDA? My facts, and everyone else's facts say the agreement is NAFTA, North American Free Trade Agreement.
I am not digging at you, but I take your point about the Mazda 6 being more expensive than the Ford Fusion, but are they competive models? Considering the strength of the Yen to the Dollar, Mazda is making huge profits compared to Ford on the same competitive model. Ford would be able to make more profits if their labor costs were less than Mazda, especially considering Ford is partnered with Mazda in the Flat Rock Michigan assembly plant (about 15 miles from here).
I suspect and will appreciate your research, but no automobiles sold in the US are manufactured with 100% US made components, hasn't been in many years. Custom cars excepted.
If the foreign cars are not cheap, why are so many being sold in the US? Again, I will appreciate your research.
wrote:

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wrote:

They are capable of charging more as base price because of the percieved value. The average customer percieves that they are going to get more for their money, so they are willing to pay more.
Case in point: Geo Prizm 1993 vs Toyota Corolla 1993 built in Fresno. Both built on the same line, the Toyota cost about $1000 more new. Why? How many Geo Prizms from 1993 era do you still see on the road? How many AE10x Corollas(93-95) are still on the road?
Charles of Schaumburg.
Driving one of those AE109E's with 222,000 miles on it.
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wrote:

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wrote:

Or that he has the last of that model on the road? I could count on 1 hand the number of Japanese cars over 20 years old that I have ever seen. They last 10 years and then proceed to self destruct.
BTW, since someone started the crosspost of this to the Pontiac newsgroup, my 93 GA is also still on the road, ready to take me where I need to go.
One of my brothers in law who is rich enough to buy any car he wants went thru American cars, Japanese cars, German cars and now drives a Volvo. I wouldn't be caught dead driving one, but he and my sister have determined they were the best cars in the world.
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Have you seen how those things are built?
You can almost go head-to-head with a bus and come out fine. Those things are built so even if the car gets destroyed, the occupants *WILL BE* safe.
:)
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El Bandito wrote:

light and hit my wife's old Ford Tempo a few years back and the tempo drove away after being spun around a couple times and the Volvo was taken on a flatbed and the drivers door fell off.
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Eugene Nine wrote:

You should think a minute about what you just wrote, in the context of "energy absorption".
And please quit with the follow-ups.
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General Motors Corp., losing sales to fuel-efficient cars from Toyota Motor Corp., is developing a hybrid-electric vehicle
http://quote.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid 000006&sid.YH1WLpQgo&refer=home
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Just goes to show how uneducated is the American buyer. Many buyer have the misconception that imports are more fuel efficient. GM actually has more vehicle for sale that get over 30 MPG than does Toyota or Honda. ;)
mike hunt

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wrote:

No, my car that cost $1000 more to start with is still on the road. . . . I don't see too many of the same era Geo Prizms. I bought mine used.
Charles of Schaumburg
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n5hsr wrote:

My Chevy Nova which I bought new in July '87 and which was built at that same plant in Fremont (not Fresno) is also still doing fine - and I still see quite a few others of the same vintage.
Not sure why you think the Corolla and Geo Prizm have any difference in quality. They were built by the same workers on the same assembly line using the same parts except for slightly different sheet metal. All the reliability surveys I've seen, such as those in CU and other magazines, showed the Prizm/Nova and the Corolla to have esentially equal records - which is just what I'd expect since they're essentially the same car.
Just bought our daughter a car that came off that same assembly line - an '06 Pontiac Vibe (twin of the Toyota Matrix). After almost 9000 miles the assembly quality appears to be excellent - despite having been assembled bright and early on a Monday morning.
We recently took a tour of that NUMMI assembly plant in Fremont. One thing that was emphasized was the difference in work attitude between when this was a strictly GM facility (1962 - 1982) and under NUMMI (1984 - present). Absenteeism on a Monday morning (i.e. when our new Vibe was mde) was almost 50% under GM and it showed in the quality of the cars. Now absenteeism is under 5% and that change is matched by similar changes in worker attitudes. And the difference is not a union vs. non-union one. The current workers are members of UAW Local 2244.
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Now Renault is going to pick up the pieces at GM and take over the bankrupt operations
It wil be interesting to watch how they will divide it up and how they handle the union contracts
The most difficult part is to handle the enormous debt and possibly best to sell off everything and then change the name to Renault-GM of the new owner and leave the problems behind
It will be more organised bankruptcy
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