I work with an older guy, who I would guess is around 68 years old. He sits in the cube next to me and I talk with him on a regular basis about whatever — just shooting the breeze (yes, that is an old saying; my friends call me “gramps” on a regular basis because of my old sayings and general old(ish) actions.)
Recently we were talking about car shopping, which is a topic that, of course, strikes my interest. You see, he’s in the market for a new car. His current ride is a 2001 Cadillac, nearing 200,000 miles. He deemed it was time for new wheels.
After visiting a bunch of dealers, he told me that he hated car shopping, that there were too many options, too many choices; it was hard to keep it all straight. Makes, models, paint, options, trim, interior color and then which dealer. Not to mention the pressure from his wife.
My mother has always said the same thing. She hates it because she can’t ever make up her mind and hates spending money. I can relate to the latter. I hate spending money. But, much to her chagrin, my father and I view car shopping as a game.
It’s very simplistic; it is a cat and mouse game. When you’re car shopping, you are the cat, the salesman the mouse. For the most part, you have control over his every move. For God’s sake do not let him get the control. It’s your money! My favorite is asking them questions I know they do not have an answer to or catching them in a lie and using it to my advantage — ultimately a lower cost and the rubber floor mats. I have been (not sure if it was jokingly or not) asked to work at a dealership a couple times because of my knowledge on all things wheels. But when I walked away after negotiating my first car deal, and helping my parents do so over the years, I feel like I won a battle. Sorry, my ego came through there.
Back to my colleague’s shopping story.
He has always bought American automobiles. However, for the first time ever he is looking at a Japanese brand. Why? Being from Michigan and a diehard blue oval (Ford) lover, I am a big advocator of the American manufactures. Sure, the things they were making ten years ago were crap. And they knew it. Don’t believe me? Read American Icon. But seriously read it, it details the turnaround of Ford Motor Company and the hiring of their new CEO Alan Mulally. But NOW! Look at what they have to offer. Within six years, Ford was able to reconstruct their company which was facing possible bankruptcy right before the financial collapse and lending freeze of 2008. Their new lineup is full of great cars with reliability rating that are on par with or beat foreign makers.
I often tell friends that time heals everything. I know it sounds corny, and I have a hard time accepting it most of the time, but looking back, it truly does. I just hope it can heal Detroit and the American automakers. We do depend on them. Several parts manufactures are based in Ohio, there is a Chrysler plant in Toledo (passed it just last week!) as well as a Honda / Acura plant in Marysville Ohio, just to name a couple. They are essential to our economy.
Something many people do not think about concerning U.S. automakers is that we are expensive. When I say “we” I mean “Americans.” What caused American manufactures to lose, in terms of quality, was the rising cost of labor. With pressure from the UAW (United Auto Workers Union) and workers, manufactures were required to pay their workers top dollar. Japanese makers could pay their assembly line workers less than half of an American worker. Where did GM, Ford and Chrysler (the Big Three) cut corners? Quality. They sacrificed quality and consumer satisfaction for a buck. It soon caught up with them. They realized it too, which is why they structured a rebound and renegotiated with the UAW. Knowing they had to win back customers, incentives are on the rise and products are top notch. Now we can hear the roar of their engines (yes, that is a reference to the Clint Eastwood Super bowl commercial, it gave me goose bumps the first time I watched it, take a look here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_PE5V4Uzobc).
Dashboards were made from (what appeared to be) recycled action figures and the handling felt like an oxcart, and bodies would rust within five years. Take a look now. New Chryslers are outfitted with silky smooth leather, chrome and wood accents. The new Fords are dripping with great technology and stylish bodies and Chevrolet has reached some of their best quality rankings ever. For more on this stuff check out a piece I wrote awhile ago for The Talon, New Albany High School’s online publication here: http://thenatalon.com/node/63.
I recently read an article that a friend posted on Twitter about Detroit and their rebound. It was wonderful to hear that business are slowly coming back to the old ghost town and breathing life into its boarded up buildings. You can read that article here: onforb.es/S7g8eb .
In short, cars are a part of my life. I really want those American manufactures to thrive and be what they once were—the number one and two auto firms in the world. Thing is, they now need our help.
Me and a buddy at the Detroit Auto Show, December 2010. That is a Sabb (a company that is now deceased) 9-5 on the right.
GM’s headquarters in Detroit. Sorry for the poor quality, it was a drive by (photo) shooting.