I’m sure you’ve heard the oft repeated phrase, “American auto companies aren’t making vehicles Americans want to drive.” In the same breath, they’ll cite the fact that Toyota is selling more cars now than GM. They also cite the better quality of foreign autos, and a number of other factors.
However, what they’re really saying is that Americans want smaller, more fuel-efficient cars. This is in some part true. However, this has more to do with the media’s hatred of the SUV.
American driving patterns and habits vary slightly from those of the rest of the world. For an industrialized nation, our fuel prices are fairly low. If you do a quick check of what they pay in places like Denmark, England, and France you’ll think that paying $4.00 a gallon for gasoline is a real steal.
But lets face it: the real reason why media types hate the SUV isn’t really fuel efficiency. No, it’s because they burn more “fossil fuels” and “pollute.” This is also predicated on the notion that we have Global Warming based partly on vehicle emissions. This winter, probably one of THE coldest on record, should dispel the notion of man-made Global Warming in the mind of any rational person. Plus, it doesn’t help that the IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) had to admit that global temperatures either plateaued or dropped over the last ten-or-so years. But to nut-job environmentalists, that matters little. And the journalists, because they are usually idiots, typically listen to nut-job environmentalists.
There is also a matter of equity. Most journalists are good little socialist adders. Subconsciously, they hate the fact that some people have more wealth than others, and it’s just downright unfair that they should be driving bigger (and safer) vehicles than those little foreign little death-boxes we’re quickly becoming accustomed to these days. In their minds, EVERYONE should be driving those foreign little death-boxes out of fairness.
So the push is on to kill the SUV, and make us all drive foreign little death-boxes.
Some people will cite quality issues – this is total bunk. The overall quality of American-made vehicles is far better than it ever was. In fact, recently, Ford products were rated as high as Toyota in overall quality. I can cite any number of studies that show the quality performance of the vehicles produced by American auto companies as being close to, or on the same level as those developed by Japanese automakers. But, the one fact that sinks the quality issue as an excuse for a flagging American auto industry isn’t the comparison to Japanese automakers, but to European automakers. The overall quality of cars made by European automakers is dismal when compared to that of the Americans. I’ve seen the studies. I’ve heard the stories. By contrast to the Japanese, European makes are utter crap. Yet, you never hear the major media harp about this in their reporting. That’s because it won’t help them kill the big, bad, American-made SUV.
Now, understand this: I own a foreign little death-box. I purchased it as a used vehicle because, at the time, I couldn’t find an American car that gave me the gas mileage I wanted, and the performance I demanded. I generally drive long distances to work, so I wanted something with 30 miles per gallon or better. So, I purchased a four-door foreign little death-box. I can’t say I’m displeased with it.
However, I don’t delude myself into thinking that it’s nothing more than a foreign little death-box. I own a large full-size Ford Econoline that we use primarily to transport kids. It is much safer than a foreign little death-box because it has more metal in it, and as long as I don’t try to take corners at 60 mph, it’s as good as an armored car for our purposes. I’m willing to risk my life driving the foreign little death-box to and from work, but not the lives of my wife and kids (well, on occasion, I’ll drive the wife and kids around in the foreign little death-box for ease of parking).
In Michigan, we get this stuff called “snow”. We get this, off and on, for a good portion of the year. To remove this “snow” they have things called “plows”. A lot of people in Michigan have things called “houses” attached to leveled areas called “driveways”, which motor vehicles utilize to get to the road. “Snow” doesn’t discriminate between road, driveway, or my property so it tends to distribute itself pretty evenly on all three.
And we don’t just get a dusting of “snow” like they might get once every decade in Atlanta. No, we often get something like 6 inches at a time. In Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, “snow”-fall is often recorded in feet. In fact, this is the case in many states north of the Mason-Dixon line. Places like Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, New York, Pennsylvania, and Maine all get lots, and lots of “snow”.
For a time – mainly in the 1990s, American SUVs were selling like hotcakes. Fuel prices were relatively low, and people didn’t want foreign little death-boxes when they can buy a car that can roll over these tiny vehicles like an unwitting turtle crossing the road on a remote highway. This changed, however, when recent price-spikes for gasoline drove people to fuel-efficient foreign little death-boxes. They ran to the foreign little death-boxes because they had solid reputations for making good quality little death-boxes; quality that exceeded that of domestic automakers.
This perception of better quality will probably take a long time to change. Such is life.
In reality, because sales for Toyota and Honda are WAY down – the major manufacturers of foreign little death-boxes – it seems that maybe they’re also not selling the cars Americans want to buy? Then again, I digress.
Since fuel-inefficient SUVs were a profitable thing to sell, the rapid decline of SUV and Truck sales really impacted the domestic automakers. Fine. Understood. This is a business reality. The natural reaction is to dump those vehicles and start churning out domestic little death-boxes, and try and compete with the foreigners.
But there is still that little thing called “snow”, and it kinda causes a lot of problems. Now, I don’t know if the idiot journalists that live in New York City (where they take the subway or a cab from place to place) or Los Angeles (where they rarely get snow) realize that another world exists outside of those two geographic locales. Sometimes they write like New York or LA is the center of the Universe. But in reality there IS a world outside of these two cities.
A good portion of that world gets lots and lots of “snow”.
And, because they are much lower to the ground, foreign and domestic little death-boxes get more easily stuck in snow. Because they are lighter, they’re more prone to go out of control on streets that are poorly plowed and unsalted. Generally, they don’t put 4-wheel drive on foreign or domestic little death-boxes (mainly because the additional weight kills the fuel efficiency). So driving one in snowy conditions sorta sucks.
I was reminded of this just recently. About a week ago, my foreign little death-box got stuck trying to get out of my own driveway. My driveway was plowed, but the road plow piled more of that “snow” where it met the road. Sometimes you can push through this “snow” pile, sometimes you don’t. It all depends on just how much “snow” the plow puts there. I ended up having my foreign little death-box being hung-up on a “snow” pile such that the front wheels barely touched the ground. We tried a number of things, but the final result was about an hour’s worth of digging around and underneath the car before we got it off the compacted “snow”.
Then there was that storm just a few weeks earlier when, by some miracle, I managed to get my foreign little death-box out of my driveway, and into the road. That took about 15 minutes to do. It then took me another 15 minutes to dig a path so I could get my foreign little death-box back into the driveway, and out of the road after giving up any attempts to go to the office.
Gosh. I’m sure glad I didn’t need to actually get any work done.
However, in both instances, those evil, unfair trucks and SUVs were on the road, transporting their drivers safely to work.
I hope this puts to rest the whole notion that domestic automakers are producing cars that Americans don’t want to buy.