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Thread: Does "Buy American" make sense today?

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Does "Buy American" make sense today?


    "Buy American" sounds great -- but the problem is, there isn't much to buy anymore that's truly American.

    You buy a Ford hybrid -- but its hybrid systems are Toyota-sourced. That General Motors small SUV you have your eyes on? Well, take a look under the hood. It may say Saturn -- but the engine may have been built by Honda (GM buys engines for the Saturn Vue and other vehicles from Honda -- as well as Honda-built transmissions). Chrysler is now DaimlerChrysler -- a wholly-owned subsidiary of a foreign industrial conglomerate (Daimler AG). Chrysler-badged cars like the popular 300-series sedan and Crossfire coupe are basically custom-bodied knock-offs of Mercedes-Benz designed vehicles like the E-Class sedan and SLK roadster. For some time (and pre-Daimler) several Chrysler vehicles used Mitsubishi-built engines -- or were, in fact, Mitsubishis with slightly different exterior styling and a "Dodge" badge glued to the fender. Remember the Stealth R/T? The Daytona?

    The cruel fact of the matter is that many of today's cars (or their major components) are assembled in different countries before being sold under the nameplate of their home country -- and this goes for the "import" as well as the "domestics." GM and Ford have plants in Mexico; Nissan, Honda and Hyundai have plants in the United States. There are "American" cars that are built entirely in Mexico -- and "Japanese" cars that are built entirely in the United States.

    So: Which of these is the "foreign" car?

    But when you buy an American car, the profits stay in America -- or so the argument goes. In fact, the profits can (and do) go overseas or across the border, to finance (for example) new plants in other countries -- and by definition, jobs for foreign workers at the expense of American workers. Contrariwise, if you buy a Nissan built in Tennessee by an American worker you have helped to support an American worker .

    Right?

    This is the reality of the global free market -- and of the multinational conglomerate. There is no such thing anymore as an "American" car company -- or, for that matter, a "Japanese" one. Money is fungible; which means, it shifts and moves about as easily as dry leaves on a windy October afternoon. Your dollar might be split in myriad ways -- a portion going to pay for your new car's Brazilian-sourced transmission, its German electronics or maybe its Japanese engine. Even if you carefully research and confine your buying expedition to only those cars with an "American" nameplate that are built entirely in U.S. plants, you will still be purchasing some degree of foreign content -- and the profit earned from the sale will go to support the company's operations, including those across-the-border plants and the purchasing of foreign-built parts and components.

    It's like trying to unstir coffee you've already put the creamer in. Or buying the Blow-Pop just to get the little nugget of candy in the middle. You still have to buy the whole lollipop.

    Economic nationalism is great -- in theory. But there has to be reciprocity on the part of the home-brand companies -- and policies and laws to protect them from the ravages of "competition" from low-wage foreign enterprises -- and the lure of increasing their own bottom line by "outsourcing" jobs and facilities to low-wage, low-cost foreign countries. Why should an American consumer support the exportation of U.S. jobs to Mexico (or China) by purchasing a "Ford" or "GM" car assembled in Mexico or China? Particularly when he could buy a Honda assembled in Ohio that helps to maintain an American worker's livelihood?

    Free trade works both ways. If it makes "economic sense" for a U.S. automaker to close an "expensive, outdated" facility in Michigan (and toss several thousand American workers out of their jobs) and then open up a lower-cost facility South of the Border, then surely it's equally sensible (and justified) for an American car buyer to select the best car he can get for his money -- no matter where it happens to be built or what the brand name happens to be.


  2. #2
    TC
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    Re: Does "Buy American" make sense today?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric
    Free trade works both ways. If it makes "economic sense" for a U.S. automaker to close an "expensive, outdated" facility in Michigan (and toss several thousand American workers out of their jobs) and then open up a lower-cost facility South of the Border, then surely it's equally sensible (and justified) for an American car buyer to select the best car he can get for his money -- no matter where it happens to be built or what the brand name happens to be.
    It's a sad thing to say but US car designers have only ever been able to design land cruisers, trucks and muscle cars.
    They have shown no ability to adapt to the fuel crisis that started in the 70s.

  3. #3
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Does "Buy American" make sense today?

    Quote Originally Posted by TC
    Quote Originally Posted by Eric
    Free trade works both ways. If it makes "economic sense" for a U.S. automaker to close an "expensive, outdated" facility in Michigan (and toss several thousand American workers out of their jobs) and then open up a lower-cost facility South of the Border, then surely it's equally sensible (and justified) for an American car buyer to select the best car he can get for his money -- no matter where it happens to be built or what the brand name happens to be.
    It's a sad thing to say but US car designers have only ever been able to design land cruisers, trucks and muscle cars.
    They have shown no ability to adapt to the fuel crisis that started in the 70s.
    There was a report the other night on the subject of Toyota surpassing GM as the world's largest (in terms of sales) automaker that mentioned the fleet average MPG of Toyota products is on the order of 5 mpg higher than GM's fleet average.

    But the real killer in my opinion is that until quite recently, GM simply didn't have a compact car that was close to benchmark cars like the Corolla and Civic. The Cavalier was a crude, obsolescent thing years before it was finally replaced by the (much better) Cobalt.

    Ford, too, suffered from the same inability to produce first-class small cars. And they dropped the ball on the Taurus - which had been a huge success. And that was inexcusable. Image Toyota or Honda just letting the Camry or Accord vegetate into irrelevance.

    Someone's head should be on a platter.

  4. #4
    mrblanche
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    Re: Does "Buy American" make sense today?

    In my opinion, Ford should have continued development of the Taurus into more of a Camry-style car, as Chevy should have done with the Lumina, which was a pretty doggone good car and much under-appreciated.

    They could have. They should have. But instead, they opted for new models with new made-up names and no brand loyalty. Who cares if the Fusion or the Cobalt are great cars? In 5 years, they'll be replaced with something else, maybe the Reactor and the Plutonium.

    But Toyota is sailing on dangerous waters, too, with the continual size creep in their cars.

  5. #5
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Does "Buy American" make sense today?

    Quote Originally Posted by mrblanche
    In my opinion, Ford should have continued development of the Taurus into more of a Camry-style car, as Chevy should have done with the Lumina, which was a pretty doggone good car and much under-appreciated.

    They could have. They should have. But instead, they opted for new models with new made-up names and no brand loyalty. Who cars if the Fusion or the Cobalt are great cars? In 5 years, they'll be replaced with something else, maybe the Reactor and the Plutonium.

    But Toyota is sailing on dangerous waters, too, with the continual size creep in their cars.
    Excellent point; GM and Ford have a real problem with follow-through... developing and improving a car instead of letting it stagnate, then dropping it entirely and trying to start all over.

  6. #6
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    Re: Does "Buy American" make sense today?

    Economic nationalism is great. Not in theory, but in practice. It served this country from the 1700's to the 1930s. The problem is, it ihasn't been praciced in more than 40 years. It has taken us a while to get where we are at now. Economic nationalism only works if it has the force of law through tariffs and subsidies. I am in favor of protectionism. The current system is broken and you have to be blind not to see that. I won't listen to anyone dribble on about how great some foreign made car is .. unless its a luxury brand.. The only real role of "gummint" is to provide for the general welfare. If everyone bought american, if our trade was protected to some degree, and the like, we wouldn't need governemnt assistance. Further If Americans shifted $20.00 per month to buying American made goods, 5 million jobs would be created according to a study group.

    Economic natinoalism, without the force of law, does work on an individual level when you can afford it and if the products are available, otherwise, you're correct. In a free traitor economy, it is hard for many to practice it, unless you have a spine, which most of the sheeple of means do not.


  7. #7
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Re: Does "Buy American" make sense today?

    Most Japanese makes appear to upgrade their product lines in four-year cycles. There are some exceptions, but for the most part it appears that every four years, most of them get a complete make-over, and every eight years they get a new platform. I think this is one of the keys to their success, their product line is always fresh. GM and Ford can't act fast enough to bring a new product to market in that kind of time frame.

  8. #8
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Does "Buy American" make sense today?

    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel
    Most Japanese makes appear to upgrade their product lines in four-year cycles. There are some exceptions, but for the most part it appears that every four years, most of them get a complete make-over, and every eight years they get a new platform. I think this is one of the keys to their success, their product line is always fresh. GM and Ford can't act fast enough to bring a new product to market in that kind of time frame.
    Yes, absolutely. Also, the Japanese are pretty good about product continuity/brand identity. GM and Ford will launch a car - with great hype - then drop it. Or let it stagnate. Even though the current Civic is an entirely different car than the original, the name has huge "equity" among consumers. Cobalt doesn't. Neither does Focus. Taurus did - but Ford just let it go. Same with once-great names like Cutlass, etc.

    Sad.

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