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Old 08-13-2011, 02:17 AM
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Kitdy Kitdy is offline
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 10,075
I am going to leave what I have to say mostly in the realm of the North American market, as it is what I know, and what I read about online and in print.

North American car companies just went through a massive cluster disaster, with two of the big three going bankrupt. Just as they were getting back on their feet, we have the stock market collapse again. GM stock has been hit very hard, and the auto industry bore more heavily the wrath of the market than major indices such as the DOW, DJIA, etc. I worry for these fledgling new companies. So many jobs are tied to their existence, and they remain as some of the last great manufacturing titans of this continent, which used to be ruled by the working man and industrial production.

I grew up being indoctrinated into a dislike of American cars. Part of it was nationalistic; my family (and many Canadians) seemed and seem to take delight in the plight of our bigger brother. 10 years ago, America was flogging crap at dealerships. I have ridden in some circa 2000 era GM cars and they are utter garbage. Now though, when I see some of the things that America has made - Ford and GM in particular - I have hope.

I grew tired of Europeans shitting all over everything the US made (thanks to UCP for that) and I began to look at US cars in a new light. Detroit needed shaking up, but the product could compete. This is in jeopardy now though. The economy still seems to be broken, there are problems with sovereign debt, and the future is uncertain - something investors and consumers do not like. Something that could be disastrous for Detroit, which was just was brought back from the dead.

Ford is doing amazing things right now. Fiesta, Focus, Mustang; all great. The Fusion needs redone, and I suppose they do kinda lag behind in the green area but I don't care about that much.

GM is doing some things right, but other things, very, very wrong. GM is still leading in cash on the hood of cars, and this is something I am quite upset about. GM has some very competitive products out there right now, and they still need cash on the hood to move them. This is the old way of thinking at work - volume, not profit. GMC looks pretty useless in my eyes. There seems to be some old GM lurking in the new GM. 4 CEOs in 2 or 3 years is not a good thing. Whitacre struck me as a dick kinda guy from the moment he stepped in, and I don't care for Akerson at all. I think Fritz got a raw deal. Mind you, on the positive side, GM really led the DI charge, and has some interesting technological stuff going on (Volt, now small turbos in the Sonic and Cruze, and maybe even a diesel Cruze in NA).

Chrysler seems to have glossed over its problems by doing what I think are more of extensive facelifts than making all new models. The new 300 is very striking, and oozes class whenever I see it; it draws my eyes, but there are quality problems. The 200 got off to a good initial sales start thanks to Eminiem, but it is essentially the same POS Sebring but with an uprated interior. I wanted to like these two core cars, but the reality is that they are not that good. When I read reviews of them, I sensed the writers wanted to write nice things about these cars, and say they were near the top in class, but the reality was that they were not.

Chrysler has just attempted to tide things over before they can properly redesign their lineup with the aid of Fiat. I think that Fiat jumping into bed with Chrysler could prove to be a huge, huge disaster for both companies. The move Marchionne took was hugely risky, and his company seems saddled with uncompetitive brands already (Alfa? Lancia?). Chrysler selling cars as Lancia in Europe is just plain dumb. Dodge has a lineup of hugely uninspiring barges, and the Ram 1500 and HD are almost certainly worst in class.

Saab is a joke, and I think it remaining on life support is a goof soap opera. Maybe the Chinese will take it over. As hellcat said, for many enthusiasts, that is a fate worse than death. I would say odds are leaning more towards them simply folding.

Hellz also mentions 2 of the 3 cars I think are the best on the market today. The 2 is the car I would have if I could afford a new cheap car, and the Mustang - V6 or V8 - is a performance bargain the likes we have never seen.

A rarity that the two of us agree, but there you go.

The Koreans are going to keep gobbling up market share in the US. Since the launch of the Genesis Sedan and Coupe, Kia and Hyundai went from being the punchline of jokes to true contenders. The Sonata, Elantra, Genesi, Optima, and Forte have utterly transformed the landscape in North America, and my inkling is that the Japanese serve to lose the most. Japan had such a meteoric rise here, especially in the last few years when things went tits up for the big three, but now the Koreans could steal some of their thunder. The natural disaster in Japan is only going to help the Koreans gain more market share, which may be hard for the Japanese to gain back.

Troubling for me are the new CAFE standards. As much as I hate gas tax (and as much as my interest in saving the environment has faded in recent times), the current approach seems utterly moronic, and a totally political play. Raising the gas tax in the US as a politician would be suicidal, so one must instead obfuscate the price the consumer will ultimately pay by putting the onus on the manufacturer, not the consumer. I mentioned this to hellcat last night, and he and I agreed that it was not the right path to take (as he has written). The very high MPG standards could easily grind new sales to a halt, and give an advantage to automakers that place less an importance on the NADM (ie, all but the big three).

Ultimately though, the big monkey in the closet is gas prices. Gas pre-recession here was very expensive, and for other places, near unbearable. Will we start seeing cars become tame in the next 5-15 years? Will anodyne greenness via expensive gas keep anyone from driving tire shredding beasts? As someone that likes fast cars, this worries me, probably even more than model bloat. I know the performance car will survive, but I could see it be placed in an even less important supporting role that it already is.

The post bankruptcy era should be an interesting one. I hope that the economy picks up for the sake of everyone, and for the sake of these new companies. To be honest, GM is the one I fear for most. I don't care for Mopar anymore (though they were the bitchinest in the muscle car era), and it is GM that has the biggest potential to me to be redeemed.
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