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Thread: Marital counseling for GM and Ford?

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Marital counseling for GM and Ford?


    How do you recover trust once lost?

    The dilemma's as real for American car companies as it is for estranged couples in divorce court as a result of some extramarital hanky-panky.

    American cars have improved dramatically over the past few years; the "quality control gap" is not nearly as wide as it once was. As machines, American-brand cars are sometimes actually better-built than their equivalent Japanese competitors. (The GM 3800 series V-6, for example, is both endlessly durable and simple and cheap to maintain. Conversely, Honda's recently let loose with some iffy transmissions that tend to fail early and often -- and Toyota had a major recall over a sludge problem with one of its big-selling engines.)

    The days of genuinely awful cars with egregious build quality and serious design defects are long gone.

    However, the perception lingers. And that can be just as devastating as the actuality of a Fiero with Chevette running gear.

    It's hard to get buyers to give GM or Ford or Chrysler another go at their business after having been burned in the past -- even if the "burning" took place 20 years ago. People have long memories for stuff like that. Anyone who bought a mid-1980s Oldsmobile diesel (or a Dodge with "lean burn combustion") has that debacle seared into their consciousness like a five-year stay in the Hanoi Hilton.

    In the meanwhile, a great many of these former GM/Ford/Chrysler loyalists went over to Toyota or Honda -- where they enjoyed good service, good value, etc. The cars generally worked; the dealer was friendly and competent. In contrast to their experience with the domestics, it was akin to an oasis in the desert.

    Why would they risk going back? Would you give a "second chance" to an accountant who screwed up your return? A doctor who operated on the wrong leg -- even if he had gone back to medical school and been lauded for his abilities by the AMA? Why should the consequences of poor customer service, etc. be any different when the business at issue is an automaker? Just a reality check.

    And then there's the secondary fallout.

    Even if the cars themselves are very good these days, the fact that GM, Ford and Chrysler have that ongoing perception problem with buyers means domestic-brand vehicles tend to lose value (depreciate) faster than the imports with "good names" -- based on the legacy of the latter being "better built," etc. If domestic brand "x" is worth 30 percent less than otherwise equivalent import brand "y" after five years, do you think that fact will tend to discourage buyers from considering brand "x" -- even if "x" is more or less just as solid a car? Of course it will. Who willingly tosses several thousand dollars (or more) in re-sale/trade-in/residual (lease) value out the window? It's a no-brainer.

    One may want very much to purchase an American-brand car -- whether for reasons of style or simply out of a sense of loyalty. But when you run the numbers and find that it's going to involve a big sacrifice, financially -- it's a lot harder to make the commitment.

    These are the stark realities -- the karmic ghosts of yesteryear that continue to hobble the recovery of America's automakers. There's no getting around them -- at least, not easily or quickly.

    Just as it took 20-plus years of spotty quality control, shoddy cars and indifferent service to alienate a buying public that once overwhelmingly bought American brand cars, so it will probably take 20-plus years of building vehicles that are consistently the equal of (if not superior to) the mainline Japanese competition in every way that "value" can be measured -- from what you get up front, to what it's worth ten years down the road. Anything less won't cut it. Any major missteps along the way could be fatal.

    We're talking a long-haul commitment here; perhaps even a generational shift. It may take that long for the burned buyers of the '70s and '80s to leave the marketplace -- and for a new cohort that has no memory of the bad old days to take their place.

    Recapturing trust is arguably a lot tougher than simply building better cars. And that may ultimately be the epitaph on the tombstone of the U.S. automobile industry.

    END

  2. #2
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    Re: Marital counseling for GM and Ford?

    Thought provoking and, yes, those karmic ghosts continue to haunt me - I haven't bought 'American' in nearly 30 years and may never again.

    I'm not so sure that the US car makers are evil or complacent, rather they were caught up in what amounts to a tragedy in the literary sense: doomed to some fate they could only play out and not change. In the 50s US cars were the best in the world (and more or less of equally good or bad quality intersese), at least for North American use; Brit cars fell apart faster than you basic Harley, and the Japanese were still building plants in the rubble from WWII and had no car building tradition to begin with. Europe had to build plants but being Europeans, they more or less stuck with past design and tradition.

    The grief began in the late 60s when emissions controls were slowly implemented, the US with its huge base could do no more than adapt while the Japanese were in a position to develop from scratch. That is, they could begin with a clean sheet of paper while the US makers were reduced to editing a script partly set in stone (or cast iron). The European car makers probably had to stick to tradition.

    In any case, it's all history, the only thing which never changes is lousy dealer service.







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    Re: Marital counseling for GM and Ford?

    Regardless of employment oveheads, GM and Ford are not so good at smaller-run production, as far as I can see...


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    Re: Marital counseling for GM and Ford?

    Quote Originally Posted by robmcg
    Regardless of employment oveheads, GM and Ford are not so good at smaller-run production, as far as I can see...

    Too many legacy costs, too many managers, too many union officers.

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    Re: Marital counseling for GM and Ford?

    Quote Originally Posted by jdm
    Too many legacy costs, too many managers, too many union officers.
    Nope, well partly. The error is applying the principles of mass production to individualized products. That is, trying to aplply economies of scale to a market where buyers don't always want the same thing. With what appear to be sales systems rooted in 1950s Lodge-members' private handshakes and 'bulk deals' and damn the individual buyer...

  6. #6
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Marital counseling for GM and Ford?

    Thanks!

    And your point re the emissions stuff is spot on. Though the domestics have only themselves to blame for the dozens of genuinely crappy/not-ready-for-prime-time cars they built from about th emid-70s through the early '90s...

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    Re: Marital counseling for GM and Ford?

    Quote Originally Posted by robmcg

    Nope, well partly. The error is applying the principles of mass production to individualized products. That is, trying to aplply economies of scale to a market where buyers don't always want the same thing. With what appear to be sales systems rooted in 1950s Lodge-members' private handshakes and 'bulk deals' and damn the individual buyer...
    What I have never understood is the 'why' of the factory selections of accessories on cars sent to dealers. A lot of it is simply shoved off on dealers who are expected to make some poor fool want it. My own biggest gripe in that regard is the sun roof

    With US manufacturers it's possible to order the accessories one wants but there is a several week wait. And, a better deal might be possible by taking from stock.

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    Re: Marital counseling for GM and Ford?

    >>My own biggest gripe in that regard is the sun roof<<

    One of my good friends has a Lexus LS 430 with a Sun Roof--- A few weeks back, he set his glass of Iced Tea on it at the flying field and then proceeded to hit the lock button on his keyfob--- the car did what it is supposed to-- went into cool park mode--- opened the sun roof and dumped his large glass of tea into the car-- And you gripe about them---

  9. #9
    mrblanche
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    Re: Marital counseling for GM and Ford?

    Quote Originally Posted by jdm

    What I have never understood is the 'why' of the factory selections of accessories on cars sent to dealers. A lot of it is simply shoved off on dealers who are expected to make some poor fool want it. My own biggest gripe in that regard is the sun roof
    Here's an oddity. I've always heard that the manufacturer hates to ship base cars, and that has always looked likely. But the dealer where I bought my Cobalt, had over 15 cars that were base, either with a stick or an automatic. I looked at the closest dealer to me, and he had none, although he had 20 Cobalts in stock.

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    Re: Marital counseling for GM and Ford?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Rose
    set his glass of Iced Tea on it at the flying field and then proceeded to hit the lock button on his keyfob--- the car did what it is supposed to-- went into cool park mode--- opened the sun roof and dumped his large glass of tea into the car--
    LOL! Makes my day!

    British experiences with German BMW and Mercedes cars' sat nav systems are that if followed properly, they drive into the Channel.


  11. #11
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    Re: Marital counseling for GM and Ford?

    >>LOL! Makes my day!<<

    Damn sure didn't make his, but it sure got a big laugh out of a lot of spectators!

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    Re: Marital counseling for GM and Ford?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Rose
    >>My own biggest gripe in that regard is the sun roof<<

    One of my good friends has a Lexus LS 430 with a Sun Roof--- A few weeks back, he set his glass of Iced Tea on it at the flying field and then proceeded to hit the lock button on his keyfob--- the car did what it is supposed to-- went into cool park mode--- opened the sun roof and dumped his large glass of tea into the car-- And you gripe about them---
    Serves him right for owning such a complex car.

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    Re: Marital counseling for GM and Ford?

    Quote Originally Posted by mrblanche
    Quote Originally Posted by jdm

    What I have never understood is the 'why' of the factory selections of accessories on cars sent to dealers. A lot of it is simply shoved off on dealers who are expected to make some poor fool want it. My own biggest gripe in that regard is the sun roof
    Here's an oddity. I've always heard that the manufacturer hates to ship base cars, and that has always looked likely. But the dealer where I bought my Cobalt, had over 15 cars that were base, either with a stick or an automatic. I looked at the closest dealer to me, and he had none, although he had 20 Cobalts in stock.
    Maybe the guy you bought from did fleet sales?

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    Re: Marital counseling for GM and Ford?

    >>Serves him right for owning such a complex car. <<

    He's close to 200K on the speedo and headed for the new LS460--- I'm sure he'll find some new tricks to do to the new one



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    Re: Marital counseling for GM and Ford?

    Quote Originally Posted by robmcg


    British experiences with German BMW and Mercedes cars' sat nav systems are that if followed properly, they drive into the Channel.

    They wanna go home! ;D
    Rex
    On the Sunshine Coast, in the Sunshine State Queensland (QLD), Australia

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    Re: Marital counseling for GM and Ford?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Rose
    >>Serves him right for owning such a complex car. <<

    He's close to 200K on the speedo and headed for the new LS460--- I'm sure he'll find some new tricks to do to the new one
    Is he a good pilot? That will make up for almost any transgression.

  17. #17
    D_E_Davis
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    Re: Marital counseling for GM and Ford?

    Quote Originally Posted by jdm
    What I have never understood is the 'why' of the factory selections of accessories on cars sent to dealers. A lot of it is simply shoved off on dealers who are expected to make some poor fool want it. My own biggest gripe in that regard is the sun roof

    With US manufacturers it's possible to order the accessories one wants but there is a several week wait. And, a better deal might be possible by taking from stock.
    Each year with the start of production for the new model year, the initial production is the "dealer must-buys" equipped with the options mix that the marketing folks read in their tea leaves. As the year progresses each dealer now orders the options mix that sells in his town, but he is still saddled with those "must-buys" to get rid of someway. Most years that's not a problem, but every once in awhile...

    In 65, since my company's contract provided AFEX access, I ordered a new Mustang that way. What an experience! Every little item was priced by itself, and there were no packages where to get the option you want you must take one you don't really want.


  18. #18
    D_E_Davis
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    Re: Marital counseling for GM and Ford?

    Quote Originally Posted by jdm
    Maybe the guy you bought from did fleet sales?
    But that doesn't figure either. In 25 years of operating a fleet vehicle not one was a "base" model.


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    Re: Marital counseling for GM and Ford?

    >>Is he a good pilot? That will make up for almost any transgression.<<

    He holds and uses a CFI ticket. I have flown with him and for a civilian trained pilot he's OK--- I scared the crap out of him when he was taking photos of our new model flying field. He was looking through his camera viewfinder and I grabbed the wheel and put the 172 into a wing low crab so he could get a better view--- I guess they don't do that kind of flying anymore.
    He's very cautious and it reflects in the way he attempts to train new model flyers. We are both club instructors and after he does the basics with the student, I give them a real dose of aerobatics and non-standard landing approaches. He does primary and I do advanced.
    His 200K Lexus looks like new! Inside & out!

  20. #20
    mrblanche
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    Re: Marital counseling for GM and Ford?

    Quote Originally Posted by jdm
    Maybe the guy you bought from did fleet sales?
    Don't think so. I specifically asked about it after my experience at the other dealership, and he said that they just found that people trying to buy economy cars wanted the least options possible. Keep in mind the Cobalt comes standard with A/C and power steering.

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