Today, we have this story for you about cars– American cars. And like a lot of stories about American cars, this one is more tragedy than comedy, although there is some comedy in there, too. The good news, of course, about American cars is that American cars are getting better, especially in the last few years. You’ve probably heard that.
Well, at Ford, the Ford Fusion– Consumer Reports named it a better car than the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord a few years ago. I think that was a major turning point.
Michelle Krebs has been covering the auto industry for 35 years. She’s now at autotrader.com. She says the reason American cars finally improved–
I think when you’re on the brink of possible extinction, it wakes people up, and they started changing things. But that’s what it took. I mean, that’s why Ford came out with the Ford Fusion. They spent $23 billion– borrowed $23 billion, because they were almost out of business.
So basically, it’s deathbed conversions.
That’s a good way to describe it. They decided, we have got to bet the ranch on building great cars that people really want to buy. They’re still not all the way there yet. I mean, I think that’s the simple fact of the matter. There’s been progress, but it’s been spotty.
How spotty? When Consumer Reports rated the top 10 most reliable car brands this year, only one was American. 9 were foreign. 4 of the top 5, no surprise, were Japanese– Toyota, Honda, Mazda, and Lexus.
Why are most American cars still not as good as foreign cars? Why is it still taking Detroit so long to learn this lesson? It’s not like this reliability problem just snuck up on them, right?
General Motors, the biggest American car maker, started losing market share 50 years ago. Back in the 1960s, GM sold over half the cars in the United States, and then that number just slid lower and lower and lower for decades, until now, it’s 18% of all cars sold in the US.