QOTD #56: Have US car companies finally caught up?

Road&Track-11-2012Sitting in the waiting area reading a 2012 edition of Road & Track, the article that caught my attention was “A World of Difference: Detroit finally ‘gets’ the driver’s car—what happened?” Most car afficianados know that despite their patriotism, European and Japanese manufacturers have been making better cars for a long time. But is this still the case?

A decade ago, we’d have said this was never going to happen; domestic cars might excel at Interstate cruising, but most were a disappointment when the pavement got snaky. We’d shrug and say it was cultural—Detroit didn’t get it. … But Detroit is paying attention. … When did these people put on specs and notice that cars sell based on how they drive?”

The author of the article, Kevin Wilson, lists a number of flops such as the 1981 Cadillac Cimarron, 1985 Merkur XR4Ti, and 1994 Oldsmobile Aurora*. He does list some highlights like the 1986 Dodge Omni GLHS and 1993 Ford Probe GT, but not many good drivers were available unless you include the Corvette and Viper.

Obviously, the article is dated. But consider what Detroit has been putting out recently. Remember the 2009 Cadillac CTS-V, 2013 Ford Focus ST, and 2012 Buick Regal GTS? These are serious contenders which have received good reviews across the board. Now all of us can’t afford to buy new performance models such as these. But it is good to know that US cars are being recognized once again.

The big question for me is whether the new American offerings will draw me back into the fold. While I am glad for the American resurgence, it will take a while before I gladly replace the Jag with an American car. Part of that is my budget but part of it is the reputation earned by poor quality US products since the 1970’s.

Ask most people you know to name a reliable car and Toyota and Honda top the list. Ask them to name a driver’s car and Europe wins again with the BMW 3-series. Here is my point. Reputation is something that is quickly earned but hard to lose. If you build poor quality cars, people will remember that for a long time. You know the saying, “your reputation precedes you.” If US manufacturers want to win back a bigger share of the market, this is a good start. But it will take some time to rebuild their tarnished reputation.

*I actually liked the looks of the Olds Aurora—especially the second edition. Perhaps its inclusion on this list is not warranted as ” the stylish and content-rich sedan did go a long way towards upping the perceived quality of American automakers” (Hemmings)

1 Comment

  1. Another thought about the Olds Aurora’s reliability. The Northstar V8 had head gasket problems. Here is what one person added to the Hemmings article:

    “Northstars are great motors but you really have to be careful when you buy one of the older ones. 2000 till late 04 had longer headbolts which made them a little sturdier than pre’s which would stretch the bolts and cause the problem. Late 04′s and newer used courser threads and the problem seems to be solved. I have a 2000 with 85K on it that is starting to show signs of trouble. Over $3k to fix… . “

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