The Automotive Landscape MAG

April 24, 2009
By Ryan Schmid BRONZE, Auburn, New York
Ryan Schmid BRONZE, Auburn, New York
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

In this time of a withering economy and reduced spending, people are more critical than ever about who gets their money when they buy a car. Smart shoppers take it all into consideration: price, quality, reliability, brand reputation, service, depreciation. However, many buyers take none of this into consideration and just buy an American car.

In my experience, foreign cars far exceed the overall quality and driving experience of domestics. Yet, I will admit that many American car companies have been improving. The Chevrolet Malibu, for instance, is miles better than its predecessor, but it’s still light years behind a Honda Accord or Hyundai Sonata. After I test drove a new Malibu and countless other American cars, I wondered if the ­people from GM or Chrysler had ever even sat in an Accord. The general consensus about American car interiors is that they are flimsy, shoddily built, and unattractive, both to the eye and ergonomically.

When you look at the entire car market, you can see reliability as a major difference between the imports and the domestics. Year after year, without fail, American cars rank at the bottom for overall reliability and quality, while companies like Honda, Toyota, and Subaru rank at the top. It’s their commitment to quality that makes these companies so successful.

We call them domestic or American cars, but how American are they? On closer inspection, many American cars aren’t built here. They’re made in Canada, Mexico, Japan, and even China. How can we support the American economy by buying a Chevy built in Mexico? We can’t.

Meanwhile, foreign companies Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Suzuki, Mercedes-Benz, Subaru, and Hyundai have factories in the U.S., bringing new jobs. Hyundai, a Korean company, makes the major­ity of its cars right here. A relative newcomer (in the American market since the 1980s), Hyundai had the reputation for making inexpensive but poorly built and unreliable cars. However, this stereotype no longer applies. New Hyundais are as good as Toyotas, and certainly better than any Chrysler or Chevy.

Obviously, I am a big supporter of Hyundai and recommend these cars to everyone. I believe that the key to the company’s success is that it is never satisfied with the current car models and is always finding ways to improve. Each generation of Hyundai is better than the last, and I don’t see this trend ending anytime soon. I still wholeheartedly like and recommend cars from Honda, Subaru, Volkswagen, and many others. But it’s Hyundai that impresses me again and again.

What we need is reform in the car industry. If domestic companies have any hope of surviving, they need to ­rethink their strategies and production processes. With the recent infusion of bailout money from the U.S. taxpayers, domestic ­automakers have few excuses left.

GM is improving, but it has a long way to go. Cars like the Cadillac CTS and Pontiac G8 are certainly a step in the right direction. However, the G8 is simply a repackaged Holden Monaro, an Australian car. What we need is real improvement from the American automakers to secure their future. Only time will tell how they end up, but they’d better be careful.

I have to give credit where credit is due. The American company that has made the most improvements and builds the best cars of the Big Three is Ford. Its most recent models are actually quite good and can be seen as worthy competitors in the market. The new Lincoln MKS is a very nice car. Ford as a whole still has a way to go, however. What Ford needs to do is globalize its product line, because while its cars in America are good, its cars in Europe and other international markets are excellent. If Ford can phase in its European lineup here in America (which it is beginning to do with the Fiesta in 2010), its future will be more secure.

The current car market is seeing drastic changes, like the rest of the business world, due to fluctuating gas prices and a falling economy. Toyota has already surpassed General Motors as the top automaker in the world in sales. If American car companies have any hope to succeed, they need to change now or they will be nothing but dust in the rearview mirror of the imports.

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This article has 1 comment.

Grayson2600 said...
on Jun. 8 2009 at 4:27 pm
Where does ford fit into this?

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