Skip to comments.U.S. Automakers Battle Public Bias
Posted on 01/08/2007 6:15:51 AM PST by Flavius
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Americans have a bias against cars made by U.S. automakers, but an AP-AOL Autos poll found flickers of loyalty that could offer hope for an industry struggling to survive.
The problem for Detroit is changing perceptions that often don't match reality.
hose questioned in the survey said they have more faith in Japanese-made cars than in vehicles produced by Detroit's Big Three. But General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and the Chrysler Group are going back to the future in their uphill effort to again inspire consumer loyalty and regain market share.
What is the American auto industry doing to reclaim its evaporating support?
The industry is returning to the types of autos that gave it a sense of "swagger and attitude in the 1960s," said John Wolkonowicz, an auto industry analyst. Many of those cars will be on display in Detroit over the next two weeks during the North American International Auto Show.
And the mood of U.S. auto industry leaders?
"They're tearing their hair out," said Wolkonowicz, who works at Global Insight, an economic research and consulting company. "It's more of a problem of perception than reality. The problem started in the late 1960s and early 1970s."
Back then, a teenager's first set of wheels probably was something like a 10-year-old American-made car, with all the attendant problems. The replacement might have been a new Japanese compact, a more reliable performer with better gas mileage.
As the Japanese began offering luxury models, that brand loyalty grew stronger. Also, European-made cars became more popular as consumers looked to drive something distinct from their parents' vehicles.
In the poll, 44 percent said Japan makes the best autos, 29 percent said the United States and 15 percent said Germany. Asked what car manufacturer makes the best autos, 25 percent said Toyota, 21 percent said General Motors and 17 percent said Honda.
"The best cars are made in Japan or maybe a BMW from Germany," said Pat Goeglein, 51, who lives near Los Angeles and works in real estate. "Those cars last forever. I have to get economy out of my cars."
While the public perceives that Japan makes the best cars, several poll findings could offer encouragement for U.S. automakers.
--Only 17 percent of current or potential car owners in the poll say they prefer to buy foreign cars. Also, 39 percent said they prefer to buy American cars and 44 percent said it makes no difference.
--Support for buying American cars increases with age, but six in 10 of those 30 or younger said they were open to buying foreign cars or American cars. That suggests they may be receptive to efforts of American automakers to win them over.
--Eighty-five percent of foreign car owners said they were very satisfied with their cars, while eight in 10 owners of American cars were very satisfied.
Auto industry analysts say many people have the perception that cars made overseas are built better than American cars. But the performance of American-made cars is now actually very close to those made in Japan and higher than many cars made in Europe, they said. Foreign cars do have an advantage in resale value, however.
The domestic industry is trying to bring consumers into showrooms to look for something other than trucks, offering traditional cars like the Ford Mustang and introducing muscular new models of the Chevy Malibu and a concept car that could serve as a replacement for the popular Chrysler 300.
For the past decade or so, American automakers have tried to win back car buyers who purchase gas-efficient imports, industry analysts said, but that effort has met with limited success.
American models are getting more gas-efficient, analysts say, and prices for regular gas have dipped from their average $3-per-gallon price last summer.
But the biggest audience for American-made cars and trucks may be the blue-collar population, analysts said.
The poll found that 51 percent of those with a high school education or less preferred American-made motor vehicles, while 31 percent with a college degree felt that way. Younger people and those with less education were also most interested in more traditional or "retro" cars.
The share of autos sold in the U.S. by the Big Three has dropped sharply in recent years. General Motors and Ford have cut their labor force and related costs to be more competitive, and the Chrysler Group of Daimler Chrysler is likely to make similar moves.
George Maglione, an auto industry analyst, said the Big Three's share of the market has dropped from seven in 10 sold in 1998 to just over half sold in 2006.
That dropping share has accelerated as older people, the generation most loyal to American cars, have aged and left the buying market.
That has made it critical that American automakers win over young adults, who are just starting to build their loyalties.
Leticia Bowlin, a 29-year-old mother from Sanford, Fla., said she makes her choice on what car to make based on its ratings and safety features.
"I don't have a preference based on the country," she said.
Features such as side air bags and antilock braking systems were the options people most wanted, while onboard navigation systems interested them the most, according to the telephone poll of 1,004 adults conducted Dec. 19-21. The margin of sampling error was plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Both American and foreign automakers offer such features, so they may not be the key factors in a purchase decision. And there are some willing to buy American just to be patriotic.
Justin Watson, a 25-year old laborer and student from Beaumont, Texas, says he is fiercely loyal to American cars.
"My great-grandfather, grandfather and father fought against these people," he said of countries that are leading competitors of American automakers. "We're killing ourselves by buying their cars. I drive a Dodge truck, and always buy American."
AP Manager of News Surveys Trevor Tompson, AP News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius and business writer Tom Krisher contributed to this report.
I've begun limiting my purchases to cars made in South Korea and Alabama.
The big 3 musta sent some HUGH donations to the DimNC as the MSM is just raving over the Big 3!!!
I'll own a new 07 Chevy m900 pickem up in a week.
Best pick up ever made
It's pretty simple for me - if the VIN number doesn't start with a "J", I don't trust it. ;)
We have a 2001 Dodge Caravan and Chrysler was already telling us in 2005 that certain very routine parts and manuals were Out Of Stock. Screw 'em.
They lost this war back in the early 80's.
Detroit is busy trying to figure out how to make a feminized girly man muscle car with a neutered engine.
THEN try and market it into success.
There are too many left wing politically correct brain deficient suits in the corporate tower for them to ever get out of the stupid box.
big two, Chrysler is a german company now.
Union contracts are tied to the level of the minimum wage.
Minimum wage goes up, automobile construction costs go up.
They MSM needs their leftist buddies in the unions to survive.
This is not about making cars. If it was they would not be making blob shaped least common denominator vehicles. This is about keeping the unions alive.
If Ford and GM go into 11 then the Union contracts go into danger.
The MSM knows exactly why they are suddlenly pro american auto.
Unfortunately for them, American carmakers are now reaping what they sowed in the 1960s and 1970s by utilizing planned obsolescense as their chief design principle. Because of that, the image of most American cars---true or not---is "ugly and will break down and leave me stranded."
Considering a new car/truck has no service history, how can you support such a statement?
Don't forget the ubiquitous Chevy ads by John Commie Mellancamp.
I'll bet the person who managed to con Daimler-Benz into buying this crap-heap of a company must be laughing all the way to the bank by now. What the heck was Daimler-Benz thinking when they decided to buy out the absolute worst car company on Earth? If anything, Chrysler has brought Benz down!
What a curious way to phrase that. So, there is only a 5% difference in satisfaction level, hence the story is not really that important.
That 5% difference is we old goats who remember the exploding Pintos and Fieros,the Corvair (Yes, I had one), the Ford 3.8 V6 with self-dissolving head gaskets, GM V-8's that had pressed-in rocker studs, and other tributes to cost-driven "engineering".
Our new TITAN is getting @ 20mph, go figger??
ATTENTION AMERICANS (remember us?)
Why Be A Traitor--be a patriot, buy an American car for a change!
America (remember America?) was the world leader in industry, military, etc., etc. Why help them continue to bury us!
Get up on yer hind legs and act like Americans even if it is no longer PC to do so, even if you are not!
Amen to that... My next car will probably be another Honda made in Ohio, Toyota made in Kentucky, or a Hyundai made in Alabama :)
If that makes me biased, so be it.
The day a zone rep from Dodge told me that the paint falling off my two year old vehicle in patches the size of my hand was my fault beacuse "you don't wash it enough" was the last day I even considered an American made vehicle.
Before that I "Bought American" - and suffered the consequences with products from ALL THREE major manufactuers.
Since then, I've bought Japanese (assembled in the US when possible) have had almost no problems.
I still ocasionally rent US designed vehicles.
They are still an inferior product.
Sorry to say it, but the US run auto industry as it exists today deserves to die.
Titan trucks are made in Mississippi. That would be what I would buy, if I didn't only buy used cars.
On another car thread yesterday, I saw an interesting response where the poster said the automakers could save themselves if they would bring the styles of vehicles they are producing in Australia and Europe over here.
"There are too many left wing politically correct brain deficient suits in the corporate tower for them to ever get out of the stupid box."
I'm not enabling that.
Brain-washed by advertising or just plain old stubborn "I only buy American Trucks" intellect. Let me guess, you have never driven a Tundra have you?
The whole trouble with the American auto industry comes down to one thing: the UAW.
You called that one right!
Mass hypnosis--shades of Walter Cronkite--this nation of boobs will believe whatever the lobotomy box tells them--right now we are being told not to buy housing--result? You know.
all third world nations have Toyota's or Nissan's not gm's or fords
they probably dont want to be parked on side of the road waiting for tow truck
you cant buy that advertisement
I rented an Impala a year or so ago for a few days. It felt light weight, unstable and tinny, I was glad it wasn't mine. My '96 Dodge diesel pickup is a very good vehicle, though.
I worked in my Dad/'s gas station back then, when you got your windshield cleaned and oil checked and the gas pumped for you. We could count on selling a quart of oil to every other Vega that came in. American cars are far, far better today than they were then (thanks BTW to competition from Japan), but they still have their legacy to deal with. Good luck to them.
And we folks here in Bama appreciate it!!! :) I have several kin-folks that work at the Honda plant in Lincoln, AL. It is a nice plant. Great jobs for those folks there. Making well above the pay scales of any other jobs around here.
Years ago, a Chrysler guy told me that the main thing that attracted M-B to Chrysler was the Jeep brand. Mercedes had all sorts of plans for the brand, including Jeep resorts, Jeep tours, putting the Jeep name on all sorts of non-automotive products. For some reason, the concept was put on the shelf.
You left out the GM 200 V6 from 1978. The engine that enlightened me to no ever buy an American car or truck again.
I hear you. I've been driving Toyotas since '84.
Yes, go figger! That is extremely slow. They should put a larger engine in it ;-)
Now BMW is the #1 German car company, even after making a mistake of their own by buying British Leland.
So, if you need a cheap, disposable vehicle that you won't mind becoming riddled with bullets, buy a Nissan/Toyota.
It's not reliability, it's cost that drives the usage of these small trucks by "Technical" units. They can't afford the fuel for real trucks, and their shoestring budgets can buy more of these than they could real trucks, plus they aren't out as much when one of these throws an axle or blows a Birfield.
***other tributes to cost-driven "engineering"***
Having worked as an engineer in the industry, I think that one sentence says it all.
I love those old trucks too. Some of 'em were Dodges, I think. I have a friend who owns a couple of the smaller ones for a hobby, shown in the last photograph. And Dad had one of those old Willys Jeeps back in the day. My brothers and I learned to drive in it. Thanks for the pictures.
My first vehicle was a 1973 Chevy C10 which was trouble from day one. Being young and full of pride in America and everything made in America nonsense, three years later I bought/ordered a new 1978 Chevy El Camino with a 200 V6 to save gas. After one year I realized I still have 3 years to go on a car loan for a pile a junk that I had to keep running no matter how much it cost. I kept it going by carrying a case of oil in spark plugs with me at all times until 1986. I bought a used 82 BMW and have never regretted buying foreign cars and trucks since.
76 Mustang II
80 Ford Courier
79 Chevy Silverado
94 Explorer Sport
04 Escape - I guess this was supposed to be the replacement for the Explorer Sport, but it really isn't that good. I would go back to Chevy, but since they hired John Mellencamp to air those ignorant commericals, I'm done with them as well.
I think I'm turning Japanese. I really think so.