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What will it take for consumers to buy American brands??

reddogsreddogs Posts: 353
edited March 21 in Ford
What will it take for customers to come back and buy cars from the BIG 3 again.

For 2005, Ford reported a third quarter loss of $203 million, or 10 cents a share. This includes a pre-tax loss of $1.2 billion for the North American automotive operations.This is after recovering from previous years loses, when Ford lost $5.6 billion. Ford cut costs, closed plants, eliminated marginally profitable models, trimmed its workforce, restructured its finance company.

DaimlerChrysler AG said its domestic vehicle sales fell in November, hurt by lower demand for both Mercedes-Benz and Chrysler Group automobiles.The company's overall volume last month dropped to 178,182 units from 183,112 the year before, a decrease of 6.6 percent.

GM just announced their biggest first-quarter loss since 1992 at $1.1 billion and a report from financial analysts on Friday has outlined a restructuring for the ailing company. The report called for GM to eliminate 20,000 to 30,000 jobs in North America and close 4 plants. It also outlined GM dropping at least one brand and a restructuring.

Ford has been losing sales the last few years but has come back with the hot selling Mustang and the F-150 series truck line.

Chrysler has had some uneven performancer in sale but it has Daimler to lean on and seems to be going in the right direction with its "fresh" designs and Hemi powered trucks but that can change with the price of gas at the pumps.

GM seems to have no clue as to what to do to stop the slide , cutting workers and closing factories as it restructures itself. It has overpriced its cars with poor designs and no real distinctions between the brands.

What advice can we as consumers and car buyers, who see all this very clearly, give to the Big 3 so that they start making more cars we want or change in a way that makes their products better able to compete for our car buying dollars.

We changed from buying GM, Ford and Chrysler to other brands because we found something in the other cars that we liked that they were missing.

What is it the Big 3 need to do in their cars that would make us want to buy them whether it be pricing, design, marketing, dealer presentation, lot layout, anything to make us come back and buy American and feel good about it..
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Comments

  • lemmerlemmer Posts: 2,676
    I don't think any intelligent economist would project your scenario, but it sounds like a good movie.

    I would like to see GM go bankrupt and emerge as a smaller stronger company that concentrates on what they do well. I think part of the appeal of Honda and Toyota is that they don't make anything that plain sucks. If you know nothing about cars, whether you need a minivan or an economy car or something in between, you can show up and fine a great choice.

    GM is so hit or miss. How can the same company that makes a Suburban make a Rendezvous? What is the genetic strand that holds those two SUVs together? One can seemlessly step from a Corolla to a Camry or even a Scion TC to a Highlander. Can the same be said for the baby step from an Aveo to a Cobalt?

    It is like they are throwing darts blindfolded.
  • au94au94 Posts: 171
    Design, price and value for the price are the big hitters for me.

    In the past 12 months I have bought 2 vehicles. Last December, I chose a 4Runner over an Explorer, the only domestic I considered. I found both to be pleasing to MY eye and were priced reasonably competitive. I chose the 4Runner because I liked the look just a little better and felt like I got a better deal. Honestly it was just that "gut feeling" that said get the Toyota over the Ford. I have owned an Explorer before aand had no problems with it. This could have been an influence on my decision..."been there done that."

    In August, we purchased my wife a Volvo S40. We really liked the Caddy CTS, but they have sucessfully priced it out of the near lux market as you can never find the base 2.8 model on dealer lots. While Saab is a GM product, we were scared of the reliability. Those are the only 2 domestics that were considered. We just did not feel like there was an offering form GM, DC or Ford that offered the style and performance of the Volvo.

    To my eye, no Chevy's are appealing. Buick's just not me, I'm 34. Some Pontiac's look ok, then I get a look at that famous GM interior. I like the direction Cadillac is going with their designs, but it does not take long for them to get expensive. Yes, I know they are trying to compete with BMW, Lexus etc.

    DC has some interesting stuff out there, but not intersting enough for me to buy. I like the 300, the Charger, Durango and Dakota, but I'm not sure if I'd still like it a year from now.

    As for Ford, the Fusion looks good on the outside, I've not seen the indside. Still like Ford trucks.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 22,050
    is not so much that the domestic brands even suck, for lack of a better term. It's that even when they're good, there's usually a Japanese or European equivalent that's just a little bit better, and enough to sway the buyer away.

    A good example is the Chevy Malibu. Not a bad car, although a bit homely, and I never could get used to the numb electric steering that just seemed slow to respond. And they even cleaned it up with the '06 restyle to where I can finally bear to look at it. It gets decent fuel economy, is fairly roomy and comfy, and not a bad performer. But a Camry or Accord just seems to improve on the Malibu in just about every respect, and when comparably equipped, really aren't that much more expensive. Then, throw in the quality reputation and the improved resale value that goes with that, and the Malibu becomes a bit of a hard sell.
  • john_324john_324 Posts: 974
    I like the Malibu Maxx version myself. It's quirk-ily cool...if it were available with a manual, I'd consider one if I needed a more utilitarian vehicle.
  • What would it take to buy "American"?
    I assume, not counting the Toyota and Honda cars that have more US content than many domestics?

    Very simple. I would have to see a mid-size luxury car, with a HIGH QUALITY interior, modern powertrain, decent city mileage, and great design and engineering throughout.

    I have a '97 Audi A4, and have yet to see any US car that even comes close. The Ford 500 was a joke, in terms of interior quality. Cheap, hard plastics, noisy engine, lousy road feel, poor ergonomics.
    The Cadillac CTS felt cheap, and unrefined. Again, US manufacturers MUST spend some money on interior quality, noise and vibration damping.

    Yes, I know trucks are popular. I know the majority of "Red Americans" love their Ford F150 Dump/Gravel/Pickup trucks. Domestic manufacturers are truly the "Wal-mart" of the car world. Cheap, reliable, basic transportation.

    For the rest of us, who are willing to pay more for quality at the "Target and Costco" of the car world...we have Mercedes, Lexus, Audi, BMW, Acura/Honda...etc
  • How to fix the problem?
    Pick a "high end" domestic car brand....say, Cadillac.
    Throw out almost the existing GM parts bin, especially the interior parts. Buy an Audi, or VW, and carefully study the interior materials. Note the soft-touch plastics everywhere, the lack of exposed metal, the extensive insulation. Note the well built, dampened switchgear,real metal, or heavy ABS plastic.

    Now look at the exterior. Note the lack of significant gap between body panels. Look at the clean lines.

    Note the modern powertrain. Remove any moronic notions about using live rear axles, pushrod engines, or any junk like that. Independent multilink suspensions and modern OHC engines please. Modestly size ones. Nobody needs a frickin V8 anymore, when a modern V6 can put out 300+ hp.
    A V6 Northstar type engine would do nicely. Of course, make SURE ABS, skid control, airbags everywhere, etc are all standard. AWD would be nice too. Go ahead and BEAT the competition by offering nice factory AV systems. German AV systems suck currently ($1800 Mercedes cellphone anyone?)

    Actually, the Cadillac CTS came pretty close. Just completely redo the interior, make sure all safety features are standard, revamp the quality, and sell it for $35k. Give me a good lease on it...
    Domestic leases SUCK! due to the very low resale value compared to foreign cars.

    Then, I'll be glad to buy one.
  • jlawrence01jlawrence01 Posts: 1,828
    For the rest of us, who are willing to pay more for quality at the "Target and Costco" of the car world...we have Mercedes, Lexus, Audi, BMW, Acura/Honda...etc

    I normally avoid retailers as I generally have everything I need or want. However, about once a year, I head to Walmart, Costco, Sams Club, and Target to see what the buzz is all about.

    Bsically, they all sell the same imported junk. And most of the stuff is pretty much the same. And the people that work in those places look pretty much the same (if you can find an employee somewhere).

    Costco and Target stores look prettier and the people who shop there seem not to mind paying 5-10% more to pay for the wider aisles and the extra overhead.

    But why? I am buying the same Lipitor, the same Hamilton Beach toaster that **might** pop the toast up at the same time, and the same Coca Cola. (I will admit that the endless display of big screen TVs at Costco does give you more of a "wow" factor.)

    Personally, I can't see spending big money on a "driving machine" when most of my driving consists of short drives between lights in town plus five miles on country roads. It is not like you can ever really take a car out in Chicago and really feel much of the difference.

    The brand that you drive fundamentally has more to do with status than anything else. One of my clients just built one of those monster mansions outside of Chicago for about $3M ... a real surprise as I thought he would buy a lakefront condo when he retired. "Why did you build it?" ... "Because I can."
  • carlisimocarlisimo Posts: 1,280
    Fair enough. But the domestics are even more behind in making good city cars!
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 22,050
    if you're worried about something small and nimble then yeah, the domestics are behind because for the most part, they don't make really small cars.

    Jlawrence has a good point, though. When it comes to just point A to point B transportation, there really isn't a whole lot of difference between cars. If you put me behind the wheel of some AMG Benz, it wouldn't get me to work or back home any quicker than my Intrepid because of one little thing. Traffic lights. The great equalizer. Oh sure, I could take off quicker if I was the lead car at the light. Only to get caught by the next red light.

    Heck, in my situation even having a reliable car isn't all that big of a deal. I only work 3 1/2 miles away. If the damn thing breaks down I'll just walk the rest of the way! Heater cuts out? Well, half the time it wouldn't get hot until I pulled into the parking lot at work anyway, so no big deal. Radio quits working? I can deal with the silence for 6 or 7 minutes. Gives me a chance to listen to all the sounds of impending doom the car may be emitting! :P
  • jlawrence01jlawrence01 Posts: 1,828
    Last year, I hired another CPA to do some work from me. The guy drives a Porsche. He said he bought it because "the car is a lot safer than the Lincoln Continental I was driving".

    "How's that?"

    "The ride was so boring that I was afraid that I would fall asleep at the wheel."

    Yeah, right. It was a STATUS purchase.

    Andre - I have a dozen + cars coming off lease in the next year including a few cream puff low mileage. However, since the old beater keeps going and going, I am starting to wonder whether I'll buy another car.
  • carlisimocarlisimo Posts: 1,280
    Uh... I think I'd fall asleep driving a Lincoln Contintal as well. If it was a status purchase though... well, that's another problem American brands have. All of their premium brands have been dragged through the mud, and they're not quite the same after coming out of it.

    If he got the Porsche because it's more fun to drive, that's not good for American brands either.
  • artgartg Posts: 7
    All my cars are American, but the majority around these parts are not. Probably for much the same reason a U.S. Airline would buy Airbus over Boeing--they perceive a high quality product that fits their needs falling within their budget.
    There are so many Subarus and Volvos in this county because buyers perceive them (real or not) as long-lasting and reliable.
    Catch-up in build and material quality takes a while; changing perception takes much longer.
  • au94au94 Posts: 171
    "is not so much that the domestic brands even suck, for lack of a better term. It's that even when they're good, there's usually a Japanese or European equivalent that's just a little bit better, and enough to sway the buyer away."

    Andre--Excellent summation!!
  • reddogsreddogs Posts: 353
    It has all the right things, looks, history, power, sleek design, nice selection of colors yet when I say anything to 'de boss' she holds back.....(I previously had a 1971 MACH I and she had a 1967 red Mustang so we both like Mustangs)....

    After reading this mornings news I can't say I blame her..
    The Wall Street Journal has that Ford may close five plants. The automaker is likely to shut North American facilities that employ about 7,500 workers.

    "Ford Motor Co. is likely to close five plants that employ about 7,500 workers, or about 6 percent of the company's North American work force, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

    Citing two people familiar with Ford's (Research) product plans, the paper said the company was likely to shut assembly plants in St. Louis, Atlanta and St. Paul, Minn., as well as an engine-parts plant in Windsor, Ontario, and a truck-assembly plant in Cuautitlan, Mexico.

    The plans to shut the plants were still being formulated and were subject to change, the Journal added.

    Ford, facing a deepening financial crisis, has promised to unveil a radical restructuring in North America early next year."

    I want that Mustang badly but I also want the company to be around for parts and service, just take a look at the problems at Delphi for GM. It just gives you a knot in your stomach when your getting ready to put down $20,000 or more for a 2 door car that may be restructuring itself into bankruptcy or selling out like Chrysler.......
  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,196
    I believe the domestics excel at building city cars. I'm not talking about tiny nimble little microcars. I'm talking about big, heavy, durable cars that can take the punishment of the harsh urban environment, potholed streets, and insane traffic. My domestics have held up admirably for decades among Philly's tough streets. This is one huge factor that leads me back to domestics year after year. You will see a lot of big GM, Ford, and Chrysler vehicles still plying the streets long after their foreign competition has simply been pounded apart or collapsed into piles of iron oxide after a few NE winters and the oceans of road salt.
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,693
    I am convinced that very fact is why many people in the last decade have bought trucks for their next vehicle instead of buying a new car. It is one reason why I prefer my truck: the road is a lot less able to beat me or my vehicle up when I drive. :sick:

    2013 Civic SI, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (stick)

  • john_324john_324 Posts: 974
    I think these are very good good points.

    I'm of the mind that U.S. car companies could profitably pursue the "Crown Vic" niche...simple, wear-like-iron vehicles that forgo bells and whistles in favor of durability and longevity. I mean I really think your average driver would trade his "On-Star" system for doors that close with a reassuring "thud" like they did in the old days...

    I know plenty of people who want nothing more out of a car than something that will take heeps of abuse and still keep going, like some automotive Terminator.
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,693
    Cars have become rather more fragile over the years in their transition to unibody designs and "just enough" engineering philosophies. And since they have now put most of their former weight back on in their quest to be as tight as a drum for less body flex (something a frame will soak up in a BOF car), and as they have gained multiple subframes to insulate the riders from the road, it seems like they should just forget it and go back to the durable BOF designs of yesteryear.

    Of course, Ford is in the best position to exploit this idea, as it still has the CV/GM Panther platform. But they also have the recently designed, very expensive Five Hundred/S60 platform for their larger cars, which has received much praise, damped only by lack of enthusiasm for the small engine. What to do, what to do?! :-P

    2013 Civic SI, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (stick)

  • merc1merc1 Posts: 6,081
    Yeah but they're only a few Domestic cars like that left and they aren't where the market is. Those past cars you speak of may still be on the road but their condition was terrible. There are still lots of older GM cars around but they are the junkiest things on the road inside and out. True then can take abuse, especially older American cars with live axles and what not, but they're obsolete and the few remaining cars like that from Ford have proven to be death traps in the case of the Crown Vic.

    This is precisely why the domestics are in the shape they're in. They've got to make a Japanese style car in quality and refinement with an American/Euro twist (like styling or fun to drive) to survive IMO. Or go totally American in flavor with some help in engineering like the Chrysler 300, thus making people want to actually drive and proud to own an American car again. They've got to take some chances in design and think outside the usual box, especially GM.

    What is your opinion on the GM canceling their next generation RWD cars to bring the next generation SUVs/Pickups to the market during a time of decline for SUVS?

    M
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 22,050
    with the Panther bodies is their styling. They've actually undergone some significant revisions over the years, but by and large their styling isn't that much different from what it was in 1992.

    Some of the notable improvements along the way include a revised rear suspension for 1998. It didn't go independent, but went to something called a Watts linkage, or something like that. I don't know what that means, but it's supposed to be an improvement over the old coil spring setups of the old days. For 2002 they went to a hydroformed frame that was more rigid than the old one which was just multiple parts welded together. They also went to a rack-and-pinion steering setup.

    So in many ways, the car is pretty modern. It just looks old! It's a shame that Ford didn't find a way to capitalize on this platform and make a few more spinoffs, like what they did with the Fox (Fairmont) platform from the late 70's. That humble Fairmont spawned everything from Mustangs and T-birds on up to mid-sized LTDs and Marquises, and even the Continental sedan and the Mark VII.

    If Ford would go with a fully independent rear suspension for the Panthers, like they did on the RWD T-bird/Cougar from 1989-97, they could then move the gas tank forward and put it under the back seat, where it is on most other cars nowadays. That would take care of the exploding gas tank issue.
  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,196
    ...American car manufacturers no longer make American cars - just poor copies of European and Japanese ones. Why buy a copy when you can get an original?
  • reddogsreddogs Posts: 353
    Wow!, that is a very strong statement, I would put some qualifiers, or define what "poor copies" you are talking about, or at least give some examples as that is a broad paint brush that you are using on the Big 3.

    Ford has come quite a ways and made great progress in its latest models. Take a look at the latest Insurance Institute top 10 safest cars as rated in crash tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

    "The Ford Five Hundred and Mercury Montego, when equipped with optional side airbags, earned a Gold "Top Safety Pick" award for large cars from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The Audi A6 was given the Silver award for large cars.

    The Five Hundred and Montego are corporate "twins," stylistically different versions of the same car.

    Vehicles that received Gold awards earned "good" ratings --the best possible -- for front-, side- and rear-impact protection. Vehicles that were rated good for front- and side-impact protection and "acceptable" for rear-impact protection earned Silver awards."
  • Kudos to Ford for this. :shades:
  • nwngnwng Posts: 664
    cause they came from the s80 platform
  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,196
    ...maybe it's not so true today, but most certainly was in the past. Remember the Chevrolet Celebrity Eurosport? It was a little Euro, a little sporty, but not much of either. How about the Plymouth Acclaim? Nobody was going to confuse it with an Accord. The most cynical example was the Cimmaron. I wouldn't dare call it a Cadillac, though some morons decided to taint the once-great Cadillac name with this piece of trash. No sane or sighted person was going to confuse it with a BMW 3-Series or Mercedes 190.

    Cadillac is now probably the closest domestic make to European sport sedans though the FWD DTS seems to be the odd man out. Buick is trying to match Lexus and seems to be on its way. I'd dare say the LaCrosse is nicer than any CamCord and the Lucerne on par with the Avalon. The Chevrolet Impala destroys both the Camry and Accord in my opinion.

    Ford? Well, the Five Hundred is nice, but it looks like a warmed-over Passat. The Fusion is truly nice and most promising. The Mustang - that is truly an American car and really what I'd want. The Mercury Grand Marquis, Ford Crown Victoria, and Lincoln Town Car are old-school American cars I still find desirable.

    Chrysler - they've really come around with the awesome 300-C and Charger. They've got a lot of work to do with their lesser offerings. The Neon SVT still is not a Civic contender. The Sebring and Stratus are antiquated. The Crossfire is nice, but not marketable. The Viper is the closest competition to a Corvette.
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,693
    the advent and sales success of the 300 should help Chrysler a lot in selling the new Sebring due out next summer. I think. They just better do a number on it: outstanding looks are a prerequisite from this company, and better than average power (which shouldn't be hard to do given the two main domestic competitors are at 200 hp and 0-60 in the 8-9 second range).

    Maybe the Americans should just cancel 4-cylinder engines in their midsizers. With Hyundai coming up fast and the Japanese pretty much dominating that part of the market, it is a waste of time. If the domestics could call the V-6 their base engine, it might skew some business their way. Especially if they could improve the mileage numbers. Sebring could set a precedent in this regard.

    2013 Civic SI, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (stick)

  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 22,050
    the standard V-6 route with the Malibu from 2000-2003. I don't know if it helped much or not. I was thinking though, that when they went to a standard 4-cyl and optional V-6 for the '04 Malibu, it would turn off a lot of buyers.

    I have a feeling that 4-cyl engines will still be around in Malibu-type cars for awhile yet. They help out with EPA and CAFE averages, even if that doesn't always reflect on the real world. The government doesn't care what kind of mileage YOU get out of your car, just so long as the car on the treadmill in the lab-controlled environment gets good ratinsgs!

    I haven't heard much of the upcoming Sebring, but isn't it supposed to be derived from the Mitsu Galant platform? I thought I'd heard that they changed that to the Lancer, but wouldn't that be too small for a Sebring/Stratus type of car?
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,693
    the same thing Ford is doing right now with the Focus platform, stretch it to serve the next car class up in size.

    So there will be the Lancer platform (although I don't know if that is what they will be using for the Caliber? I think it is) and then the stretched Lancer platform for the Sebring/Stratus.

    The little crossover from Mitsu goes on the new platform next year too, doesn't it? And the upcoming car-based Jeep after that?

    This would have been the start of a great formula for platform-sharing and cost-saving, but now that Mitsu has been completely cut loose from DCX, I suppose the sharing in this manner will stop after this one, which was already in the cooker when the split happened.

    2013 Civic SI, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (stick)

  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,693
    I have heard many times here that "Americans shop power and drive torque". If this is indeed true, then the domestics could try making high-torque engines standard to woo back some of the buyers.

    Of course, I am not sure how true it is, given the number of 4-cylinder Accord and Camry buyers there are every year, but it would certainly be a way for the domestics to offer uniquely American cars.

    2013 Civic SI, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (stick)

  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 22,050
    with a 4-cyl Camry or Accord is that they gear them just right, and the transmission works with the engine in such a way that it makes the best of the available hp.

    A couple years ago I drove a Dodge Stratus SXT with the 4-cyl. It's a 2.4 DOHC unit with 150 hp, which on paper at least, seems like it should be close to the 4-cyl in the Camry or Accord. However, that Stratus was just a wretched little car when it came to performance, refinement, etc. It sounded like an old tractor motor, and was horribly slow. The Stratus just felt like a cheap, small car that was stretched out to pass as a bigger car.

    I think the EPA ratings for the 4-cyl Stratus are like 22/30. Pretty lame when you figure the Camry/Accord are more like 24/34. I think the Malibu's up there, too, although I've heard that in the real world the V-6 Malibu gives up so little in fuel economy that you might as well just go with it.

    Even on the Stratus, the 2.7 V-6 doesn't do much worse for economy, EPA-rated at 21/28. What I can't figure out though, is why it was rated 1 mpg better on the highway for the Intrepid, a car that outweighed it by several hundred lb? :confuse:
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