June 8, 2009

An Open Thread for Gearheads

Carroll Andrew Morse

In Sunday's Projo, Froma Harrop suggested that fuel efficiency could be the key to a General Motors resurgence…

The point of this agony is to create a company that makes cars people want….GM lags in creating fuel-efficient vehicles, but that doesn’t mean it can’t catch up. It is preparing to launch the GM Volt, a plug-in hybrid, in 2010.

Blogger Mickey Kaus, on the other hand, (who was writing about cars long before anyone thought that nationalizing the auto industry would actually occur) says that GM's problem is more basic – the issue of reliability…

Toyota has been ascendant for at least three decades, and GM declining, for a simple reason: Toyota built cars that worked ("bulletproof," as they say) at a time when GM built cars that didn't work. That's what was "drawing people to Toyota lots" a generation before the Prius was conceived. Even today, when GM suffers "under the perception that they [are] saddled with cars of inferior quality," you only have to look at the Consumer Reports reliability ratings to see that the reason GM is saddled with this perception is that the perception is accurate….

But only one of the Big Three U.S. car manufacturers has made dramatic progress catching up to Japan on the bulletproof front--and it's not Chrysler or GM. It's the one that hasn't gone broke.

If it's reliability that's the problem, is government-ownership really going to be a factor in fixing it? (No, says Kaus, if the government is going to try to merge its car companies with companies that do worse than them in quality ratings.)

Are there any gearheads out there who'd care to comment on whether they believe it's reliability that's saved Ford (so far), and if anything can be done on this front to save GM and Chrysler?

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

reliability was an issue in early 80's when crummy GM and Chrysler cars converted to front wheel drive for fuel economy. Lot of problems. Has not been true since probably 1995 but nobody seems to be willing to reconsider. 80% of cars in my lot are foreign

Posted by: art at June 8, 2009 12:30 PM

I'm not sure I care any longer what GM is going to produce. As long as Barney Frank is calling the shots, I'm buying anything but a GM vehicle.

Posted by: John at June 8, 2009 12:34 PM

GM / Ford / Chrysler can't produce an equivalent quality vehicle because of the higher costs imposed by the UAW - not just wages and benefits, but featherbedding work rules and legacy costs (pensions and retiree health care).

So they cut corners - cheesy interiors, components that don't last as long (long enough to get through warranty but not the life of the car), etc.

Consumer Reports tells the rest of the story.

It's only going to get worse at GM and Chrysler now that the UAW and government are the owners.

They are going to be the automotive equivalent of Amtrak. Never profitable, and operating as a union jobs program paid for with taxpayer subsidies.

The British already went down this road with British Leyland. It failed.

It would be different if they weren't on the government teat - but now that they are, the best outcome for this country is for GM and Chrysler to fold as soon as possible and so free the taxpayers of this burden. The longer they're around, the longer taxpayer dollars will be going down a rathole.

Posted by: Tom W at June 8, 2009 3:52 PM

The only way to build efficient vehicles consumers "want" is to build more hybrids and phase out conventional vehicles, the demand for plug-in's is unknown. Does the average Joe really want to have to plug in their car? Fuel efficiency has to be transparent to the user. The downsizing of General Motors came too late, too many product lines to support. Fewer, more reliable, well designed and affordable vehicles will win back customers for GM over the years.

Posted by: Pmetro at June 8, 2009 10:39 PM

>Does the average Joe really want to have to plug in their car?

You think that your National Grid bill is high now, just wait until ...

I'm surprised that our greenies here in the General Assembly haven't proposed little windmills on top of each car - kind of like those childrens toys that were on a stick and would spin.

It would generate electricity while the vehicle is in motion, and even when stopped on windy days.

Wow, a perpetual motion machine!

We could change Rhode Island's license plates to "The Blowhard State" ...

Posted by: Tom W at June 9, 2009 11:34 AM

Just look at idiots like Chafee who have two Priuses because he can't fit his family into one.

Some people need large vehicles. Some people need trucks. Even if people want larger vehicles or trucks, it should not be in the purview of the goverment to stop them.

Posted by: George at June 9, 2009 1:21 PM

Those who haven't done so yet should visit http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/. Its a locally run blog that gets a lot of traffic. The commentary is on assessing/reviewing cars and on the car business and car business politics.

Is Ms Harrop right about reliability? For some people, yes. Others value economy, space, style or performance more highly. Its a big marketplace and people are still free to chose as they will.

I don't think it is a coincidence that only Ford of the Detroit3 has a product guy running the operations. Alan Mulally is an aerospace product guy, the chief engineer of the 777 aircraft. He knows how to get large organizations, and a worldwide supply chain, to create complex products. Wagoner (GM) didn't have those bona fides and Nardelli (zombie Chrysler) is best known for running Home Depot into the ground.

ps - reliability hasn't been a huge deal for me. No other explanation for someone who has owned two 70's Fiats and two 90's Alfas......

Posted by: chuckR at June 9, 2009 6:06 PM

>>ps - reliability hasn't been a huge deal for me. No other explanation for someone who has owned two 70's Fiats and two 90's Alfas......

Yes, but reliability isn't everything. There's some indescribable but very real "fun and puts a smile on your face" factor that comes with an Italian car.

Posted by: Tom W at June 9, 2009 6:17 PM
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