I've been back in the automotive market, involuntarily. The week before Christmas my wife's 'round-town' car was smacked in the front end by an errant elderly driver. Both drivers suffered nothing worse than bruises, the other party accepted responsibility, but our poor little Scion xA was totaled. So I started the New Year with a round of car research and shopping.
GM and Chrysler products weren't on the candidate list, and never will be again. The same week our Scion was wiped out, Chrysler and GM got into the Federal hog trough to the tune of $17b of loans of dubious legality. From William Durant to
Wesley Mouch Rick Wagoner. What a come down.
And now Chrysler is back squealing for $3 billion more. Meanwhile GM and Cerberus Capital (owner of Chrysler) got the Feds to dump some taxpayers' money into GMAC, which they jointly own. That's another subsidy, since GM and Chrysler may not be able to make a profit without their financing arm. And now GMAC has dropped the credit score to qualify for a loan from 700 to 621. (Hmmm, we are in the current mess in part because the Feds coerced/enticed mortgage lenders to give loans to those who could not repay. Let's do the same for cars, that'll fix things!)
Any company that takes my money by force or fraud will never see a single cent of it voluntarily, ever again. If the government won't hold the domestic automotive industry accountable, then it's up to us as customers to do so. Honda and Toyota regularly show that you can make a quality product on American soil with American labor. It's the bozos in charge in Detroit - UAW, management and politicians - that are the problem. Let 'em go down. (Ford gets a pass for now. They had the guts to turn down the government cheese, at least for now, and settle their fate in the marketplace.)
Of course, this isn't actually going to change my behavior that much, just the motivation. In spite of coming from a GM family, I haven't bought one of their products or a Chrysler brand, or even considered it, in 25 years. The reason why illuminates the root causes of Detroit's debacle:
Once I decide on a class of vehicle to buy, my next stop is to pick up the latest versions of Consumer Report's Used and New Car Buying Guides. Then I go through the category of interest and strike out any vehicle that doesn't regularly make better than average reliability as a used car, and have the same forecast for the current year's model. That step has eliminated every Chrysler and GM vehicle without ever setting foot on a dealer's lot. Need more? The Used Car guide I just picked has a list of the 11 vehicles with least satisfied drivers for the 2005 model year. Every one of them is a GM or Chrysler product. This car blog's list of the 10 worst autos of 2008 includes nine GM and Chrysler products. The last is a VW, and now VW is whining to Washington about how they should have some bailout money. Coincidences?
There is justice in the market. GM and Chrysler are suffering the results of decades of milking their brands. There is no justice in handing over taxpayers' hard-earned dollars to incompetents. Boycott.
My wife is driving a cute new Honda Fit.