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Thread: U.S. auto industry bailout: the cars are worse than the cost

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    Default U.S. auto industry bailout: the cars are worse than the cost

    U.S. auto industry bailout: cars are worse than the cost

    by Jane Burns (iTulip)

    Unhappy about the taxpayer money devoted to bailing out auto companies? A close look at the actual cars will not improve your mood.

    Editor's note: Intrepid iTulip reporter Jane Burns tries out a few new Made in USA cars that our taxpayer money is aimed at preserving. We can only wonder if there are not dozens of skilled, entrepreneurial managers within the Big 2.5 who if not buried three layers deep in Detroit legacy bureaucracy and dysfunctional culture might produce cars that lead the world again. Car companies that are too big to fail are too big to be creative, and busting them up into a few, smaller and more focused businesses may be their only road salvation. - Eric Janszen

    President Barack Obama says that if General Motors and Chrysler want another bowl of taxpayer dollar bail-out soup, they must improve their financial plans. But there’s nothing from the White House about Detroit building vehicles that anyone would actually want to buy and drive.

    Earlier this year, when I was visiting my parents, my 83-year-old father announced that his next car would be American. (He’s only going to need another if he wrecks his very low-mileage Camry--which he just might if he continues to try enforcing the posted speed limit in Florida’s fast lanes.

    “Yeah, me too,” I replied, thinking both of American workers and the ruinous cost of parts for my elderly foreign job.

    I used to work at a place where you couldn’t park your car in the garage if it was foreign. (Not my problem, as I wasn’t entitled to a space. But it was for some new managers who unwittingly arrived owning non-American cars.)

    One evening, I saw a top guy, the one who personally policed the garage (a guy I liked, by the way), roaring off into rush-hour traffic at the wheel of a late model Lincoln or Cadillac, something like that. “Easy for you to say American-only,” I thought. “You’ve got the salary to buy top-of-the-line.”

    However, after sitting in the driver’s seat of a brand-new, top-of-the-line Cadillac—the black convertible with the peanut butter leather interior, the sedan GM would undoubtedly pay to watch Angelina Jolie maneuver in her next picture—I now realize that cost is not my main barrier to buying one. It’s a desire to survive a car crash as something other than a crispy critter.

    I got into the driver’s seat of that Caddie, as well as that of many other American cars now in production, when the Auto Show came to D.C. in February.

    I’m such a car guy (gal?) that I’d been thinking of spending a day in new car showrooms, to see what’s going on. Of course, then I’d be leading on the desperate salespersons—“You’ve GOT to buy a new Ford,” one had recently informed me on the telephone. So I jumped when the Auto Show arrived.

    Arriving at what had been billed as a media reception, I found many men in suits. They appeared to know each other (lobbyists, congressional staff members?) and to have assembled to pay homage to Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.)—the longest-serving member of Congress, Chairman Emeritus of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Detroit’s greatest defender in Washington. I sat with them to hear him speak.

    From the back, I could barely make out the congressman, although his words did have the cadence of a speech prepared by a not particularly interested intern. However, I did clearly hear Rep. Dingell confide that over the course of his long career, he had had many opportunities to better himself elsewhere, but chosen to stay in Congress to serve the American people.

    Thank you, Rep. Dingell!

    Then on it was on to the cars, after first filling up at delightful table of appetizers. Entranced by the food, as well as live music, I almost forgot what I’d come for. But then, German beer (yes!) in hand, I proceeded to sit in as American production cars as I could in 45 minutes.

    Curiously, I seemed to be virtually the only person actually opening any car doors. Ford, GM, Chrysler, from car to car I went, setting down my beer at each one. First I tried the Ford Mustang, my fantasy car. No good. In and out. In and out. Slam, slam, slam. I couldn’t wait to escape each one.

    To summarize, these cars were designed for very big, very tall persons, and everyone else could rot in hell. My sight-lines for the mirrors, even after adjustment, were awful. And the cars’ raised butts made me despair when I looked over my shoulder and, even then, the rear view was obstructed.

    In many vehicles, it felt like my butt was dragging on the ground, with my feet slightly higher—a faux sports-car feel. That’s nice, maybe, when you’re the only one on the road on a sunshiny day. But in an emergency, when you need immediate control of the car, you need to grab the wheel at 10 and 2—and trying to sit up straight to do that left me feeling queasily off-kilter.

    The only vehicle that came close to being acceptable—although it’s larger than I prefer—was GM’s Chevy Impala. (No wonder it’s the best, I thought cynically, it’s a police car.)

    Finally, time running out, I arrived at the Cadillacs. There it was—the gorgeous black convertible, top down. Visions of Pacific Coast Highway came to me.

    There was a problem, however. I couldn’t figure out how to open the driver’s-side door. I literally could not find the handle until I finally snagged the attention of a young man from Cadillac who seemed to think that the only reporter at the entire reception who was interested in sitting in the cars—a pewter-haired female in jeans and boots—was a bit odd.

    Okay, I was in. Pretty, sexy, but seat too low, etc. Let me out. But I couldn’t get out. Just as I hadn’t been able to find my way in, I couldn’t find my way out. I ran my hand along the side panel. Where was the handle? Let me out!

    Although I supposed I could have jumped out, I do try to behave in public, so again I waited for the young man from Cadillac, deep in avid conversation with someone. Told the problem, he leaned in and showed me the handle’s outline. But to make the handle pop out so that I could grip it, first he had to push a little plastic button set inside it.

    “By any chance, is that button connected to a computer?” I asked. Why, yes, the fellow from Cadillac replied with a smile. And that’s when I finally understood this vehicle’s particular virtue—it’s a car and a coffin.

    Riding Metro home, I fantasized chieftains from the Big Three automakers sitting around a table and agreeing to put the same similarly dangerous vehicles on their assembly lines. And, in this fantasy, these same folks were all on the take—from an array of “industries” including ambulance, hospital, surgical, nursing, insurance, pharmaceutical, medical supply and mortuary.

    Otherwise, I couldn’t understand why these vehicles were being made.

    Please, President Obama. As long as you’re sending Detroit back to the drawing board, don’t let it sink another taxpayer penny into these death traps now in production. Not if you want me to buy American.

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    Last edited by FRED; 03-31-09 at 07:41 PM.
    Ed.

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    Default Re: U.S. auto industry bailout: the cars are worse than the cost

    Quote Originally Posted by FRED View Post

    To summarize, these cars were designed for very big, very tall persons, and everyone else could rot in hell.
    Sweet, perfect for me.

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    metalman is offline iTulip Select Premium Member, Chief Cynic
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    Default Re: U.S. auto industry bailout: the cars are worse than the cost

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay View Post
    Sweet, perfect for me.
    many american cars are as good as japanese. the shame is that there are not a half dozen american cars that are better than any other nations' cars. we've lost our competitive lust.

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    Default Re: U.S. auto industry bailout: the cars are worse than the cost

    Its a bit more complex than that, GM is a Bank that gives away cars when you buy a loan off them. If the BIG 3 can get off that mindset which WILL happen soon, than things will look better.

    As for the chap in story, might i as him to look at the Chevy Cruz.

    BTW GM will be an ACE buy once the "Bank" side of things have been left with the American Tax payer.

    Mike

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    Default Re: U.S. auto industry bailout: the cars are worse than the cost

    Quote Originally Posted by FRED View Post
    “By any chance, is that button connected to a computer?” I asked. Why, yes, the fellow from Cadillac replied with a smile. And that’s when I finally understood this vehicle’s particular virtue—it’s a car and a coffin.
    couple of related tidbits:

    Many cities require (New York and Toronto used to, don't know about current practice) taxicab drivers to have, within easy reach, a seat belt cutting tool.

    Apparently. every time he got into a new car he was unfamiliar with, Moshe Feldenkrais would ask how to get out of it in case of emergency.

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    Default Re: U.S. auto industry bailout: the cars are worse than the cost

    You're kidding right? Some woman can't figure out how to open the car door and suddenly the car is a POS death trap? This kind of drivel is considered journalism these days I guess.:rolleyes:

    Fred, if posting this kind of mindless fluff article is an attempt to run off us deadbeat non-subscribers, you're a genius! "OK, OK, I"ll subscribe!".
    Last edited by flintlock; 03-31-09 at 08:27 PM.

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    Default Re: U.S. auto industry bailout: the cars are worse than the cost

    Great photo.

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    Default Re: U.S. auto industry bailout: the cars are worse than the cost

    Quote Originally Posted by flintlock View Post
    You're kidding right? Some woman can't figure out how to open the car door and suddenly the car is a POS death trap? This kind of drivel is considered journalism these days I guess.:rolleyes:

    Fred, if posting this kind of mindless fluff article is an attempt to run off us deadbeat non-subscribers, you're a genius! "OK, OK, I"ll subscribe!".
    I'm a subscriber. And I think I want my $30 back. They're phoning it in.

    iTulip's auto "expert" can't find a door handle and judges cars by how the seating position is in cars where they've deactivated the power seat and mirror adjustments. And even if they hadn't, is she trying to say the seats in a freaking Mustang are too big? What is she, a dwarf? Or a moron?

    If I get my $30 back I'll bet you every penny of it she can't tell the difference in the oil dipstck and the auto transmission one.

    I have driven Japanese and German autos lately, but this sort of junk journalism is libelous to the brands and shows a lack of respect for the readers.

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    Default Re: U.S. auto industry bailout: the cars are worse than the cost

    As someone in the middle of the auto industry for 15 years now, I can't see what the point of that post was. I've owned Audi, BMW, Honda, Porsche, Mazda, Nissan, Volkswagon and GM. Yes, there's some I prefer (my 911) my wife loved her Cadillac SRX. GM's problems are many but making unsafe cars is not one of them.

    There's nothing more ridiculous than seeing a Smart car driving down Grand River Ave in Michigan.
    Scott

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    Default Re: U.S. auto industry bailout: the cars are worse than the cost

    I'm no writer, but am a subscriber and second (or is it sixth?) the notion that Jane's last two articles haven't even come close to being worth the price of admission and that is being kind.

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    Default Re: U.S. auto industry bailout: the cars are worse than the cost

    You mean you had to pay to get her last two articles? I trust there's more to being a member than that.
    Scott

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    Default Re: U.S. auto industry bailout: the cars are worse than the cost

    Scott, I can't tell what is or isn't in the subscriber-only section anymore. Thought this was, but I see that you're not a subscriber.

    The analysis and etc. delivered by EJ and the Freds is worth much more to me than the price of admission, but Jane has been off the mark lately.

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    Default Re: U.S. auto industry bailout: the cars are worse than the cost

    Quote Originally Posted by Bruno T View Post
    iTulip's auto "expert" can't find a door handle and judges cars by how the seating position is
    Not being able to find the handle was in the paragraph before the coffin quote

    Her safety concern was that the button that activates/ejects the handle goes through the car's computer.

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    Default Re: U.S. auto industry bailout: the cars are worse than the cost

    Wow,

    i despise GM, but this article was complete drivel, I want my 2 minutes of my life back.:rolleyes:

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    Default Re: U.S. auto industry bailout: the cars are worse than the cost

    Commentary from EJ & Fred.....awesome.

    Jane Burns.....ehhhh...to be honest, not so good in this instance.


    I'm not trying to be overly harsh.......but as a subscriber as well as having a pretty deep understanding of manufacturing and the global motor vehicle industry...this brings absolutely nothing to the table....it feels like a poor attempt at a piss-take...

    Not up to the usual iTulip high standard...just trying to give some honest feedback.....

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    Default Re: U.S. auto industry bailout: the cars are worse than the cost

    Quote Originally Posted by Scott4139 View Post
    ...GM's problems are many but making unsafe cars is not one of them...
    I agree. I don't see anything that suggests that US made cars are any less safe than their imported counterparts. The US government keeps quite elaborate highway statistics. Is there anything in that data that supports that conclusion in this post? iTulip is a site that dependably develops and defends its positions with meticulous research and solid data based conclusions. Why not this time?

    What the US auto industry is guilty of is trying too hard to emulate some of their foreign competition. They make far too many utterly boring, bland and immediately forgettable automobiles, just like their Japanese competition. Cadillac has at least made an attempt to produce some edgy cars that can actually be distinguished from so many domestic and imported rolling jelly-beans cluttering our highways.

    My wife used to have a Toyota Camry. A fine car in terms of reliability and economy of operation. In fact it was so "perfect" that it was totally predictable...no quirks, no faults, no surprises, no imperfections, absolutely no "personality" whatsoever. I made the mistake of telling my wife at one point during that episode that if she was as perfect as her car our marriage would be in trouble.

    In the late '60s and early 1970s, when the Japanese auto manufacturers were first starting to make serious inroads into the North American market, their products were decidedly imperfect...and a hell of a lot more fun to own and drive. The Nissan [Datsun] 2000 roadster, 510 and 240Z, and the first generation Toyota Celica ST were wonderful cars to tinker with to squeeze more performance...I still remember outrunning a BMW 2002 tii, that belonged to the stuffed-shirt boyfriend of the girl-next-door, in the Celica, which I'd equipped with twin sidedraft Webers and fussed with carefully to get them balanced**. I giggled like a toker when he insisted on a rematch...

    [**Although carbs have now given way to fuel injection, I still have the Uni-Sync in my tool box]
    Last edited by GRG55; 04-01-09 at 12:09 AM.

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    Default Re: U.S. auto industry bailout: the cars are worse than the cost

    Quote Originally Posted by Spartacus View Post
    Not being able to find the handle was in the paragraph before the coffin quote

    Her safety concern was that the button that activates/ejects the handle goes through the car's computer.
    The real problem is that she took one potential problem on one model of one GM division and painted America's entire product line as crap. She's prejudiced. She's prejudged GM by what she's heard, nothing more. That kind of "car expert" is what has unfairly given American car manufacturers a bad rap. Unfortunately, most people's expertise about automobiles stops at the fancy nameplate or "rich corinthian leather". I swear you could take a Yugo, dress it up in leather, power gadgets, and put a shiny "L" on the hood and 75% of people would swear it was the greatest vehicle in the world. They swear by the reliability of cars they lease and turn in two years later. Geez. There's just so much misinformation out there.

    For the record, I've owned them all. Chevy, Ford, Dodge, Jeep, Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Isuzu, VW, and Porsche, so I have no particular bias here. ( Though I do love my big honking American made truck)

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    Default Re: U.S. auto industry bailout: the cars are worse than the cost

    Quote Originally Posted by FRED View Post
    Please, President Obama. As long as you’re sending Detroit back to the drawing board, don’t let it sink another taxpayer penny into these death traps now in production. Not if you want me to buy American.
    Idiotic article. If you think better designed cars or better roads are a solution you're still fighting a battle that has been over for 40 years. Cars are a relic. Cities designed to require cars will not survive. LA is a dustbin. Obama is trying to save the 20th Century when he should be building the 21st.

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    Default Re: U.S. auto industry bailout: the cars are worse than the cost

    Quote Originally Posted by santafe2 View Post
    Obama is trying to save the 20th Century when he should be building the 21st.
    Spot on.


    Too many cash cows and inertia I feel. He (and others) should be pulling the industry in the right direction instead of the industry pulling him.

    Or, he should do nothing and let GM go bankrupt and break up into smaller firms.

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    Default Re: U.S. auto industry bailout: the cars are worse than the cost

    Quote Originally Posted by santafe2 View Post
    Idiotic article. If you think better designed cars or better roads are a solution you're still fighting a battle that has been over for 40 years. Cars are a relic. Cities designed to require cars will not survive. LA is a dustbin. Obama is trying to save the 20th Century when he should be building the 21st.
    He shouldn't be building anything, that's our job.

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