Thursday, January 15, 2009

Detroit and a lack of vision.

As I write this, the cable TV show Car Crazy is on in the background and listening to them talk about how much they like the look of old cars got my attention. One of the people being interviewed made an interesting statement - “It doesn’t matter if your a ‘car guy’ or not, almost everyone who sees a well restored old car goes Wow!”.

And it started me thinking, back in the day cars were very different between manufactures. Fords looked different from Chevy or Chrysler. Within manufacturer’s product lines, cars looked different. Chevy looked different from Pontiac, Fords from Mercury and so on.

Look at the cars the people love/hate and they each have a distinctive character. The Smart car fits a particular owner. Nobody (at least nobody in their right mind) buys one to drive from Phoenix to LA! They buy one to run around town, where small size, maneuverability and low gas milage are much more important.

I’ve been complaining for years that Detroit is not building interesting cars that “just folks” can afford. Yes the Chrysler Crossfire and the Chevrolet Corvette are cool, but out of the price range for most of us. The 57 Chevy or Ford looked cool and were affordable for most people. You could also seat 6 adults in the thing.

Most of the econo-boxes look the same except for minor details. They also only seat two in the front, and two kids in the back or two very cramped adults. You can’t convince me that Detroit, if they’re as smart as they claim, can’t build a six seater with individuality that meets the safety, emission, and gas regulations for the same price as the stuff they’re putting out now.

Yes, they may have to settle for one or two percent less profit. Right now the choice seems to be between slightly lower profit and being out of business!

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