Decline of US Automakers

US Automakers Need To Design Cars That People Want

With the current economic crisis under way automakers are losing business left and right as can be seen via their constantly dropping sales figures. Households in a money crunch situation, or via financial fear, are not purchasing or trading up their automobiles like they were years ago. This is good for mechanics but bad for automakers as a whole. Despite the drops across the board, US automakers were constantly losing market share prior to the current financial crisis and it may be continuing. Why?

Within the United States you have a wide range of automakers to choose from. You can go Red, White and Blue by selecting a US manufacturer or you can select one of the many import manufacturers that are selling their wares in the US. While purchasing foreign products by some are considered blasphemy, as the UAW and other Unions try to stress as being UnAmerican, this is simply not the case when you consider a large portion of the major 3 foreign automakers build their cars in the US. Even with all the finger pointing happening by the Unions and others if you look at cars sold by US manufacturers there is a chance that even they are actually built in Canada or Mexico and may or may not use engines built by foreign car manufacturers. Even with their products built in the US a large majority of the parts are sourced from overseas. In the end, it comes out as a wash on most fronts.
The problem I, and others, see with US automakers is lack of substance and style. Most American cars are bland or do not have the fit and finish of their foreign counterparts. They are also somewhat lacking in persona and feel for enthusiasts. From the domestic side, you have Ford with their retro-styled Mustang and they had the GT40 from a performance perspective and the rest is relatively bland. GM has the Corvette and has tried to go up-scale with the G8 from a performance perspective (with the G8 still somewhat having the same old clad-sided look of old) while trying to reintroduce the Camaro with a retro look. Chrysler has the Viper, Charger and Challenger, with the latter being another retro-style creations. The rest of the lineups are relatively bland, uninspiring and primarily front wheel drive. Obviously, there are exceptions.

From a foreign standpoint I do have some puzzlement as to the established leaders. Toyota is #1 yet their vehicles are all plain-Jane, uninspiring and they do not have a valid sports car on the market. Lexus, the Toyota up-scale brand, is somewhat better. Honda is somewhat similar to Toyota other than the Acura division has been a bit more aggressive on the RWD performance sedan side of the equation, yet Honda/Acura does not currently offer a performace sports coupe either. Other manufacturers are coming out with new vehicles that have style and substance and are constantly improving upon themselves. Mitsubishi has the newer-styled Eclipse and the AWD turbo EVO, Hyundai is bringing out the RWD Genisis coupe with styling that is a mixture of a number of automotive manufacturers and then you have Nissan which is trying to hit it out of the park on multiple levels. While Toyota and Honda generally have bland styling they make up for that with longevity and low maintenance costs.

Where US manufacturers are doing hail-mary passes with retro-styled vehicles, Nissan is a prime example of a manufacturer that is trying to offer substance from all fronts. The Nissan lineup consists of FWD performance coupes and sedans, RWD coupes and convertibles like the 350z and soon to be released 370z. We must not forget the GT-R which is a major player in the supercar class with a sports car price. Their up-scale Infiniti brand is has poised a mixture of performance and economy across most platforms. The M Sport Sedan comes with a V8 or V6 option in a RWD platform (and even the V6 is performance oriented), the G-series is being upgraded to a newer 3.7L performance motor across the board with a coupe, sedan and convertible being offered for 2009 and all being RWD with a AWD option for all. They even have option with their FX Sport Utility of V6 or V8 or you can simply look at their performance V6 optioned EX35. Lots of options, lots of performance and extensive style.

Am I a Nissan/Infiniti bigot at this time? I would say "yes". Toyota and Honda have the frugal-minded firmly within their clutches and Nissan is starting to take out the rest of the field while also throwing their hat into the same economy-minded market that has historically been dominated by the other two major import manufacturers. US automakers really need to get on the ball and build inspiring vehicles instead of latching onto the retro-style design that was popular in the late 90's to early 2000's. While I would not mind playing with some of the V8 products being offered I see owning one long-term as something that is not very appealing. While I am heavily into the "substance and style" of my favored Nissan products I am surly not locked into their products from a consumer perspective as I have owned products by Ford, Chevrolet and Oldsmobile in the past. Maybe in the future US Automakers will begin inspiring me with their products, we can only hope.

Article By: Matthew Moody