Which was worst? US or British car industry at its lowest point?

Which was worst? US or British car industry at its lowest point?


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Cobol74

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UK Car industry nadir was 1970s but many of the management decisions which finally killed it I see being made by one or other of the big three now. I really hope I am wrong.

Cerberus will make the tough cost saving decisions, will they make the correct long haul decisions - the jury is out on that one.
 

zeoniks

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Right now, I think the US car industry is at it's absolute low point because of the absolute crap they have been churning out ever since the early 1990s. Fortunately enough, they caught their mistake soon enough to recover from it. and luckily a lot of the companies still have the financial resources to pull their head out of their ass. We're not dead and we probably won't die. We just made a mistake and realized very late that we made a mistake.

I can't say too much for the Brits though.... Although the cars you do make are absolutely fantastic (Jags, Astons, TVRs) I get the feeling that each car manufacturer is makes a car that's targeted to a very specific market market, not to mention the fact that the cars cost much more than their competition.
 

LeMans GTR

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I reckon the uk car industry is worse purely because at the time every single car they were producing were crap, but the US car industry is churning out some interesting cars right now for example the Shelby Mustang and the Saturn Sky.
 

Deanodriver

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The thing is, that even at the UK industry's lowest point (the 70's), they still had cars like the Mini and the Range Rover, which had their good points.

Most of the mid-late 70's US cars at the same time were a shadow of their former selves (any of the muscle cars that weren't killed off, Mustang, for example), or total crap (any American luxury car from that era). The oil crisis and emissions rules hurt the US cars really badly.

The thing is, when did the US industry hit rock bottom? Was it a few years ago, was it in the 90's sometime, or was it in the mid-late 70's? The UK industry seems to hit its low in the 70's, and the Aussie one hit its low in the mid 80's, but you could argue that the US industry has sold a lot of crap for a long time, and it's now starting to really bite them in the arse.

Heaps of us non-Americans love the US cars from the 50's and 60's, but not so much the more modern stuff. Is it because the competition at the time was rubbish? Is it because the old cars hark back to a more appealing era? Is it because the later cars are much worse?
 
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Spectre

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Is it because the later cars are much worse?

They really are much worse. The 70's were when Detroit *really* started taking their customers for granted and played the "where you gonna go" game with them.

Most people here in the US will agree that the worst time for the Big Three, in terms of the product they were putting out, was the late 60s through the 70s all the way into the early part of the 80s. Detroit spewed out cars that were poorly thought out, poorly built, and met no discernable market need. And when you had the temerity to bring back your defective vehicle and complain, the dealers and corporate sneered at you and said "Hey, that's how they are. Whatcha gonna do, go buy one of them Toy-ohtah tin cans? Mebbe one of them Daht-soon piles of s***?"

A certain percentage of Americans, like Britons, then did go purchase those Toyotas and Datsuns and liked what they discovered. Unfortunately, just like the Brits, most Americans enabled the continued bad behavior of their car companies by continuing to blindly buy American simply because it was American. (There *was* initially a social stigma here in the US if you bought a foreign car.) The continued cash flow from, well, idiots that were willing to buy whatever garbage Detroit churned out continued to encourage them to make even more crap cars. They never descended to the level of crap churned out by BL, but they kept on churning out the same old garbage with Madison Avenue marketing makeovers (can explain this later).

Meanwhile, more and more Americans slowly realized just how badly they were being taken by the Big Three. For Chrysler, this culminated with the Dodge Aspen and Plymouth Volare. Bad design, bad construction, bad reliability - and they actually expected to sell a lot of them based on prior models' sales. Instead, they hardly sold any. These cars ushered Chrysler to the brink of bankruptcy instead.

What had happened was that enough people were finally fed up with being sold a bill of goods that they'd sworn off domestics entirely. This is when Toyota, Honda, Nissan and the rest started becoming a force in the US market. Detroit spent the rest of the 80s trying to catch up once they'd seen their sales numbers drop. They didn't truly catch up until around 95 or so.

Detroit spent from 1969 to 1995 pissing all over their customers. They used to rely on customer loyalty to sell cars - "My dad owned Dodges, his dad owned Dodges, by god I'm going to own a Dodge." Well, now there are *two* generations of people in the US who have never owned a domestic in their life. And no longer even consider the domestics at all - because when they have, they get horrific experiences with the dealers (most of whom still seem to think it's 1973) and Detroit corporate customer service (likewise).

Case in point - the GTO aka Holden Monaro. A good, world class car, right? I was going to buy one for cash when they came out. I wanted a black GTO with a black leather interior and a manual transmission. It was going to be my first new domestic car ever, and the first new domestic car in my family in over 10 years. No Pontiac dealer in a 250 mile radius would order one for me, and they *all* tried to sell me cars in other colors with automatics even after I'd told them what I was looking for. Every experience was bad, and when I called GM to complain they basically told me, "Tough. You want a GTO, you have to deal with our dealers - because we won't help you."

So I gave up and bought a pre-owned Jaguar XKR.

While the domestic product is now there, or close to getting there, the service is not. Guess how likely I am to buy a GM car now?
 

Spectre

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^ You just described Rover at certain points in its history. What is really amazing is that Ford and GM over here does not do a bad job really. They compete really well.

It amazes us over here as well. How can GM/Ford make such good cars for other markets and yet give us such crap here at home?

Of course, the answer is clear. GM and Ford gave us crap here because we let them get away with it - and even encouraged it by buying their cars while they were pissing all over us.

Now, to be sure, the American crap never was quite as bad as the Brit crap. We never had any engineering faults on par with the TR8's rear axle debacle. Your typical American car from, say, 1974 would start and run just fine (well, as well as a smog-control-choked-carbureted-V8 could) in any weather; it would usually get you to and from wherever you wished to go. The powertrains were usually pretty solid, so long as you performed the usual tuneups every 15,000 miles or so. The problem was that anything else bolted to the car could and would go wrong. The radios would fail, the *manual* windows would die, the airconditioning would just stop for no apparent reason, that sort of thing. And it would be the same things over and over through the car's lifespan.

Finally, the thing would just start totally falling apart after 100K. Up to that point, it would stay together pretty well - but the car was specifically engineered to fall apart after that. They called it the latest extension of "planned obsolescence;" since the typical American only kept his car for 5 years (the length of the loan), why not build the car in such a way that encouraged him to buy another one at the end of that term? Preferably by having the car fall apart at the end of it? This, of course, would add to the bottom line both in terms of new car sales and parts sales, so why not, thought the Big Three.

Naturally, this sort of thing is not an exact science. Some cars would fall apart faster than others, because of owners' driving habits or production variances. And, of course, everyone "knew" that you could expect your water pump to start to fail about every 40,000 miles, along with your fuel pump. And your carburetor would need an overhaul about every three years. The car would keep going for quite a while, but it would steadily get worse and worse.

Japan won themselves converts here by many methods; but the most important one was their production of cars whose regular maintenance list was "change belts, fluids and filters and lubricate chassis" and that was it. Also, producing cars that would outlast the bank loan indefinitely (because not everyone could afford to purchase another one that soon after making that final payment - or wanted to have another note to pay off) also contributed.

BL, on the other hand, produced cars that fell apart while still in the warranty period, which American cars just didn't do.
 

TC

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It amazes us over here as well. How can GM/Ford make such good cars for other markets and yet give us such crap here at home?

Of course, the answer is clear. GM and Ford gave us crap here because we let them get away with it - and even encouraged it by buying their cars while they were pissing all over us.

GM is getting better though. We're getting more and more Holden based cars. And most of the Chevrolets sold in Europe are rebadged Deawoo's. Cars like the new Corvette Z06 are only really sold in America and have to be imported to be sold outside of the US. We're also getting some of GM's European cars by way of Saturns becoming mostly rebadged Vauxhalls. And the new Solstice/Sky is pretty good as well.
 

jetsetter

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was the late 60s through the 70s

There was nothing wrong with the late 60s. Things only started to get bad in 73.
 

Deanodriver

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They really are much worse. The 70's were when Detroit *really* started taking their customers for granted and played the "where you gonna go" game with them.

So what you're basically saying is that the arrogance of the Big Three, combined with poor quality products, have led to what we have today?
 

thedguy

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So what you're basically saying is that the arrogance of the Big Three, combined with poor quality products, have led to what we have today?

That combined with superior products from the Japanese. Spectre pretty much nailed everything about American cars :bow: .

My family has had a mix of Japanese and American, and the Japanese cars ran great (86 cressida, 95 Honda accord, toyota pickups) and every American car we had needed a new fuel pump. The Dodge product we had (made post '90) needed transmissions, or constant emissions equipment repairs. Even with all those problems, the only time we'd ever been left stranded was when my dads pinto ran out of fuel (gas gauge didn't work). I've been in 2 BMW's now that have left me stranded.

The one thing I think he did get wrong was with the Japanese cars, everyone I've owned that didn't use a timing belt, can be tortured. Where Euro cars can't take any slack in maintenance, American cars are pretty willing to put up with delayed oil changes, or valve adjustments.

The Japanese cars... there is a running joke that an R series engine in the toyota's (anything from the 18R upto the 22r, so anything front engined RWD and pre-95) don't need oil changes except every 30k miles, you might get around to looking at your coolant level somewhere around 150k (actually add some more around 250k), and cruise down the highway at 70 in 4th with the engine screaming at 5k rpm. The only real problem japanese cars ever had up to recent history is rust.

edit: Spectre: I get the feeling you have a bit of pent up frustration towards the Big 3.
 
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Cobol74

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Who ever is in-charge should kick some arse big time IMHO or you will see an American Rover - no really you will. From what TomCat says GM are on the up - let us hope so (European GM cars are developed by Opel in Germany BTW - Vauxhall is a marketing shell) . You know why I want NA to do well - I look at those georgeous cars produced by the big three in the 50s through the mid 60s and just pant at the shear flare of the design. THey are wonderful and I know than they could never have been designed any where else. That is what US automakers can sell - not cheap stuff as their USP.
 

TC

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From what TomCat says GM are on the up - let us hope so (European GM cars are developed by Opel in Germany BTW - Vauxhall is a marketing shell) .

Yeah, I knew something like that was the case. But from what I hear, all the new Saturns will be literally Vauxall's with Saturn badges.
We already got the Saturn Aura.

http://img379.imageshack.**/img379/5788/06052007saturnaura01445ek2.jpg
 

thedguy

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You know why I want NA to do well - I look at those georgeous cars produced by the big three in the 50s through the mid 60s and just pant at the shear flare of the design. THey are wonderful and I know than they could never have been designed any where else. That is what US automakers can sell - not cheap stuff as their USP.

This is why I think there is hope for the Big 3. They did such beautiful cars back then, and I know we still have the designers and engineers to do it again. The more I read about the LS v8 engines from GM the more I confirm that there is hope at GM.
 

TC

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Oh I see, the Vauxhall specified version. OPEL engineer under neath tho'. OPEL Good company BTW.
Well, the Saturn Aura did received the... uhmmm... North American Car of the Year award. :glare:

Good job Germany.
 

British_Rover

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There was nothing wrong with the late 60s. Things only started to get bad in 73.

A car appraiser buddy of mine likes to say that the automotive dark ages started around CY 1973 and, for the domestics at least lasted until, around 1995. You had a few bright spots for the domestics between those two years...

1. Buick GNX
2. GMC Syclone/Typhoon
3. 4th Gen Camaro/Firebird
4. Original Taurus and SHO
5. Original Viper

But that is it and most of those were niche vehicles that you couldn't make big consistent profits or volume off of.

The Japaneses were hitting singles and doubles starting as early as the late 70s. Detroit was three and out for every inning at the same time.

By the Mid 80s the Japanese were crushing the ball and by the late 80s almost everything they made was a home run. The only problem they still had was rust and even that was more of a regional thing as it wasn't a problem in the west. That is one of the reasons California is now almost solidly import. In the east the Japanese cars carried a reputation as rust buckets for quite a while. Even now one of the first things a die hard domestic fan will say is that at least his car won't rust away after a couple of hard winters. :blink:

The Germans were hit and miss during this time as well but did consistently better then the domestics. It wasn't till Lexus came on the scene with the LS that Mercedes realized they might be in serious trouble.
 

jetsetter

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That is one of the reasons California is now almost solidly import.

Trust me, it ain't.
 

Spectre

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There was nothing wrong with the late 60s. Things only started to get bad in 73.

Let me drop a few names here:
60-69 Corvair and GM's staunch refusal to redesign the rear suspension until they were forced to.
71-77 Chevrolet Vega
70-79 Ford Maverick

Those were all designed in the late 60s, and the Corvair and Maverick were being built in 1969.

That combined with superior products from the Japanese. Spectre pretty much nailed everything about American cars :bow: .

The one thing I think he did get wrong was with the Japanese cars, everyone I've owned that didn't use a timing belt, can be tortured. Where Euro cars can't take any slack in maintenance, American cars are pretty willing to put up with delayed oil changes, or valve adjustments.

edit: Spectre: I get the feeling you have a bit of pent up frustration towards the Big 3.

Thanks.

I didn't mention the invincibility of the Japanese vehicles that were sold here because that wasn't what got people into them in the 1970s. That aspect only became known in popular culture in the 1980s, long after the tide was sweeping towards the Japanese marques, and away from the Big Three.

The frustration is in knowing that they can do better, have done better in the past, and pretty much flat refuse to do what is necessary to survive now. Well, that and the fact that every time I have to deal with them on a customer service/relations issue, they try to screw me and rip me off. That's just wrong.

So what you're basically saying is that the arrogance of the Big Three, combined with poor quality products, have led to what we have today?

Yes - plus as was mentioned elsewhere, the Japanese showed up with realistic alternatives - and Detroit didn't realize it.


Trust me, it ain't.

You would be in error.

California became solidly import in 1990. The last year the domestics had more than 50% marketshare in CA was 1989. In 1990, CA was 56% import and it's been climbing ever since.

Source: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C0CE7DB153BF93AA15756C0A966958260

Well, the Saturn Aura did received the... uhmmm... North American Car of the Year award. :glare:

Good job Germany.

The Aura isn't selling. They took the show car interior that everyone oohed and aahed over, and then had the beancounters reproduce it as cheaply as possible. All that stitching in the interior? Yeah, it's fake, molded in - shades of the 70s again. The materials feel like crap and the thing rattles. They got the looks right, the feel wrong.

They may have learned. Supposedly the 08 Malibu will actually have a real interior - both to the eye and to the touch.

I'm going to post a letter a friend of mine sent to AutoExtremist about a month ago. This is coming from someone who bought a C5 new off the floor at the time and owns an 03 Mustang Cobra (with the IRS).

merp said:
As much as I'd like to agree with your perception of the Saturn Aura and as much as GM desperately needs a hit, I just can't take seriously a vehicle whose interior designers decided to resurrect what's got to be one of the worst GM missteps ever, molded-in stitching.

It's everywhere in the new cars. On the armrests. On the door paneling. On the dashboard, can you believe it! I can't, and anyone who remembers the terrible GM interiors of the early 80s certainly doesn't want to return to that place. I know I don't, and any aspect of GM interior styling that harkens to the Dark Days makes my stomach turn. It's much improved, and I was almost fooled. In fact, at first glance I did think it was real stitching, and got excited, thinking "could it be that GM finally figured it out?" Of course, the answer is no, and I was surprisingly quite let down when I saw that, because I just knew that there was no hope for quality in that vehicle.

This is the perception gap that GM completely and utterly fails to grasp. Lutz seems to get it, saying they need to put a $50K-class interior into the $35K-class cars. Well, if it weren't for the fact that everybody else's $35K-class interior is GM's "$50K-class interior," GM wouldn't be in the situation they are now. At this point, they can't afford to look the least bit cheap, no matter what, and the molded stitching is cheap. Sure it'll last, but in my mind (and in the minds of lots of others) it speaks to a culture of faking quality rather than making quality.

The interior must be three things. It must not feel cheap, any of the parts the driver can touch. Anything he can see has to look nice, and anything that can only be seen and not generally felt can be cheap so long as it looks good and doesn't squeak or rattle. And anything that can't be seen or felt, who cares? But GM won't learn this lesson. The new cars are an improvement, but all that's happened is that GM's caught up to where the competition was five years ago. It's disgusting, especially when a five hundred dollar improvement to the interior would work wonders for perceived quality, that things should continue the way they are.
 
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thedguy

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Let me drop a few names here:
60-69 Corvair and GM's staunch refusal to redesign the rear suspension until they
GM had actually fixed the Corvair by the time any kind of big bitch had been made about it. And the NHTSA has vindicated the car of any wrong doing (doesn't mean they were paid off). We've talked about it before and lets not get into it again, I just want to state the side I've heard from the Corvair guys.

Don't forget the "Mustang II" what a bad idea that thing was. Or the "Cosworth Vega." Here's an idea, lets take a poorly designed engine, get cosworth to stick a twin cam head on it, destroke it (smoothed it out a bit at least), get 20hp out of the heap of shit and put it on sale for only $400 less than the Corvette.

Oh and for those that don't know the normal Vega actually had an Aluminum block (alusil bores rather than Iron liners)similar to Porsche's and older BMW v8's) and AN IRON CYLINDER HEAD. Yes, an IRON cylinder head on an ALUMINUM/ALUMINIUM Block people!

Well, the Saturn Aura did received the... uhmmm... North American Car of the Year award. :glare:

Good job Germany.

Actually it only shares a platform. The car is hugely different. Common mistake though.

Trust me, it ain't.

The only American cars that sell in California are "classics." Everyone I talk to jokes how they can spit out a 3rd story window and hit a BMW, or a Toyota.
 
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