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I’ll never learn - change the station, quick!

May 24, 2005

(Imagined scene:  child in car asks; “Mommy, why is that bald man in the car next to us yelling at his radio?”)

You’d think I’d learn by now.  When a story comes on the radio about how American companies can’t compete with foreign companies for some reason, change the station now!!!  Continuing to listen will only raise my blood pressure, and that I cannot afford.  That’s what happened this morning as NPR’s Jim Zarroli reported in GM Struggles to achieve financial turnaround.

It seems that in the wake of higher gas prices, SUV sales are down and foreign manufacturers are eating GM’s lunch.  GM is responding by a sales gimmick where you go into a dealership, press the OnStar button, and have a one-in-a-thousand chance of winning a car.  The idea is that it will pack the showrooms with buyers who are so feckless they don’t have any idea what kind of car they want.

GM (and Ford) are engaging in other incentive strategies, too, along with union negotiations, brand consolidation, brand image reinforcement, and so forth.  Everything except trying to build better cars.

I heard a GM company exec say (and this is as near a quote as I can make); “To compete with higher-quality imports, GM will have to lower prices.”

US makers deny vociferously that foreign companies make better cars, but they caught that executive off-guard.  Just to pick one example, my Chevvy and my son’s Toyota both have a little over 100,000 miles on them.  The Chevvy has been falling apart for the last 60,000 miles and lots of things on it don’t work.  The Toyota is in fine shape and everything works – just like our old Nissan which we sold at 165,000 miles (to a friend of ours who fixed the oil leak and is quite happy with it.)  I pay attention to old cars and this is hardly a unique comparison.

Earth to General Motors: If I buy something so expensive I’d have to borrow money for it, I don’t want it to start turning to crap before I finish paying for it.  American car companies should buy fleets of ten-year-old cars, all different brands foreign and domestic, and make their executives drive a different one to work every day. 

Categories: business
  1. Craig Day (Lordklegg)
    May 25, 2005 at 18:24 | #1

    DOF your last paragraph should be e-mailed to the CEO of every north american car manufacturer.

  2. Nomen Nescio
    May 25, 2005 at 20:08 | #2

    FWIW, the chevy prizm (which is mostly just a rebranded geo prizm) seems of decent quality. whatever team’s building those seems to have picked up enough clues from the prizm’s Toyota Corolla heritage to have fixed the worst of the glitches. in my personal experience, anyway.

  3. May 25, 2005 at 20:18 | #3

    Prizm’s were (and may still be) manufactured in Kahl-i-fornia by “New United Motors Manufacturing Inc” (NUMMI), a “joint venture” between GM and Toyota in a plant that is run by Toyota.  They’re very good cars – they should be, since under the superficial differences they are a Toyota Corolla, one of the most reliable cars ever made.  Why can’t GM make a car like that without Toyota holding the wrench for them?

  4. WeeDram
    May 26, 2005 at 20:24 | #4

    I drove a Prism vs a Sentra, both ‘97s, and decided on the Sentra.  The Sentra had more power and acceleration.  I sold the Sentra a year ago; it was still in good order after normal maintenance.  Prisms I see on the road of the same vintage don’t seem to have held up as well, but that’s totally anecdotal observation.  Now I have a CR-V.  Have no doubt how long it will last, how reliable it will be.

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