Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Top 5: Most Perplexing Things About US Automobiles

The Treasury department has recently given a line of credit to the “Big 3” automakers (GM, Ford, and Chrysler) to help them survive the economic downturn. Whether they continue to survive long-term is still an open question. Ultimately, it will be consumers who decide. Will consumers prefer Big 3 products, or other companie's products? With that in mind, here are some of the most perplexing things I find about the products of the Big 3.

  1. GMC: GMC makes products that are almost identical to Chevrolet products. Many of the parts are even interchangeable. So, isn’t it superfluous? Why would GM have a division that mostly competes with another one of its divisions?
  2. Heating/AC: Why can a Japanese car company make heating and AC controls that are more intuitive and practical than American car companies? What the heck does “bi-level” mean anyway? And why can’t I have the AC and the lower vent on at the same time in an American automobile?
  3. Car Names: Two words, Fiesta and Probe. Why would anyone want to drive something called a Fiesta or a Probe? I don’t think anyone buys a car because they like the name, but I’ll bet there are plenty who wouldn’t buy a car because of the name. There are so many choices out there, it’s easy to cross one off the list because it has funny name.
  4. Ford Minivans: Why can’t Ford make a decent minivan? If you already make good trucks and SUVs, is it that much of a stretch to come up with a good minivan? Ford used to make the Windstar, which was awful according to any rating organization you look at. Now, it no longer makes a minivan. I guess it’s accepted defeat.
  5. A political scientist can tell what’s wrong, but highly paid auto executives can’t: The US auto companies pay a lot of smart people a lot of money to make good management decisions. So, why do they do so many dumb things? I’m just a political scientist with no auto industry expertise, and yet, many of the problems with US automobiles seem obvious to me. I can only surmise, as an outsider, that there is something wrong with the decision making structure in these bloated, bureaucratic companies. There is a theory in political science that while the public is largely stupid when it comes to political issues, it is collectively quite wise. Maybe in these car companies we are witnessing the opposite—a bunch of smart executives who are collectively quite stupid.
Anything you find perplexing about GM, Ford, or Chrysler products?

1 comment:

Catherine said...

I don't understand the reason for the United States to continue bailing out the big three. Can you shed some light on this? I know that they are a kind of symbolism of American jobs, but how many people would be affected if the government stopped giving them a hand? Why has the United States essentially admitted defeat with textile outsourcing but continued helping automakers so much?