Detroit's opportune moment. American cars are better than Asian cars, Americans say

Posted by: David Welch on April 23, 2010

Well, I haven’t heard too many people say this since the late ‘70s: American cars are better than Asian cars. No, really. Associated Press and GfK Roper Public Affairs and Media conducted a survey of 1,000 adults in early March. The results showed that 38% of Americans said that they think American cars are the best-made vehicles and 33% said Asian cars are the best. The same survey done in December 2006 showed that 46% of Americans thought that Asian cars were the best and just 29% favored American cars.

This is especially good news for Ford and General Motors, both of which are in different stages of a turnaround. Chrysler gets a bit of a boost here, too, though the company’s product line has yet to get the same kind of overhaul as its two larger Detroit rivals have done. Making some hay of this kind of sentiment will be tougher until Chrysler has some new cars to tout. All three can capitalize on this newfound respect if they continue to build better models and if, a big IF in GM’s case, they can market the cars well. They also need to show better business results.

There is one big question. How long will this last? The survey was done March 3 though March 8, when Toyota’s recall news hit a fever pitch. Toyota has been the talisman of Japanese industrial superiority. When its brand image takes the kind of body blows Toyota has sustained in recent months, you can bet the others will feel some of the pain. Remember, too, that Ford was also putting out good news. The Dearborn, Mich., automaker is firmly in the black and sales are surging. A lot of the change in consumer attitude comes from reversing fortunes at Toyota and Ford.

GM could burnish its image further in mid-May when the company will release its first-quarter earnings. Already riding a high from the fact that it paid off $8.4 billion in government loans about five years early, GM could look sharper still by reporting a tidy profit, which is possible. It may only be an operating profit, with one-time charges and problems in Europe still dragging earnings down. But the company is expected to show a profit.

This could be an inflection point for Detroit. After years of losing to Japan, GM, Ford and Chrysler became a symbol of American failure. While Google and Yahoo showed the way to the Internet and Apple has dominated Sony in portable music players, Detroit continued to strike out. If Motown carmakers put out a few more hot cars and keep improving quality, they may be able to finally steal back respect and a lot of customers.

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Reader Comments

antonio311

April 23, 2010 07:16 PM

Ford, GM, & Chrysler build much better cars than the Asian brands! Safer, more solid & Overall better on almost every level! Asian cars are all about HYPE will little substance! I just had the opportunity to drive a Nissan Altima for the last week! What a crock! The dash is way too high, the AC is either full blast or hardly on, you touch the gas & the car takes off! Thanks but no thanks! I'll stick with my Chrysler products! Hands down Chrysler makes a much better product!!!

Weinberg

April 24, 2010 07:11 PM

I have to admit that American technologies are the BEST in the world. But American cars are one of the worst cars on earth. Asian cars are superior in many ways from engine reliability, exterior & interior designs, even the paint jobs look superb. Toyota & Lexus reliabilities are the BEST in the world even Mercedes,BMW, or Audi can't even come close.Many of my friends & I happen to have Toyota & Lexus. I did ask around and we agreed that besides routine maintenance we never had major problems with Toyota. I believe "driver error" is very very likely in those cases. Also Toyota sold those same cars around the world and only US market happened to have these accidents??? Sounds not very logical. Toyota makes the best cars in the whole world even German cars do not have that kind of reliability. Media, Detroit big three, Lawyers, and greedy people are all opportunists. I know for sure that there are many many talented engineers & designers in US but what is wrong with American cars: look so ugly & the engine is the worst thing on earth. Maybe greedy CEOs just want to cut corner to make profit for stock owners without caring for the American spirit/brand/proud.etc...The "Ameri-can do" spirit has long gone since around 1970s.
Please read the objective article of Jerry Flint's " Toyota's Kipling Moment" at Forbes.com

siphandone

April 24, 2010 07:59 PM

Since owning Buick Century in late 1980's, I always have bought Jap cars... I have owned 2 Nissans, 4 Toyotas and 1 Honda since then...

Josh

April 25, 2010 04:09 AM

Too bad Chrysler doesn't have newer cars to qualify for this survey. We've bought Chrysler cars since they came out with FWD, now Chrysler has nothing we want.
If we buy a NA car next, only Ford has mid sized cars that interest us.

Ballbuster

April 25, 2010 09:58 AM

GM paid off $8.4billion loan with TARP money while the American taxpayers still own more than 50% equity stake in Government Motor. Ford still has massive debt and Chrysler is an Italian car company. Evidently, Welch is clueless talking about American car companies when he includes Chrysler with GM and Ford in the same breath. The inflection point for Motown carmakers has come and gone. It is marked by the technical knockout of GM and fatal body blows to Chrysler. Despite massive government bailout of GM, the fate of Detroit is sealed as bulldozers demolished tens of thousands of abandoned urban houses to make way for the return of farming communities last seen since the late 1700s. Like all consumer electronics sold in America, Apple's ipod, ipad, and computers are all manufactured in Asia using components made in Asia. How Welch can claim Apple dominates Sony is beyond belief; he is either on drugs, a victim of government propaganda, or suffering cognitive dysfunction. Instead of driving hard to improve its manufacturing sector, America has detour to the easy-street pursuing gambling business as evidenced by the proliferation of casinos, lottery, derivatives, real estate flippers and default swaps.

peter

April 25, 2010 10:44 PM

Detroit's new change in fortunes coincide with it's newfound, yet belated realization that many of it's best products can come directly from it's European arm. Wow! It takes an outsider from a global company like Boeing to finally make the the obvious happen!

BIGWEEDS

April 25, 2010 11:13 PM

Folks,
Now let me see....GM pays back the US Governement 8 Billion using government money not profits (they have not made any money since the US government bought the company and now we are told that US cars are better than asian. Give me a break. Does anyone believe the stuff washington keeps spewing? I sure do not and my next car purchase will be the same as the last 15 cars i have bought and that is TOYOTA!!! Regards

cheap cars

April 26, 2010 04:53 AM

No doubt.. the creditability for the American cars are much more better than that of the Asian cars.. Its more powerful, it has most elegant design style, most comfortable and superior in quality as well. I am very agree with this statement as well.

Real World

April 26, 2010 10:32 AM

Reality does not change overnight.

OBAMA and his gang are trying mightily to boost the UAW. All the people who fall for his deception will have American cars which are worth far less than the imports, and the American cars cost more to start with.

Detroit has no clue how to make a car more valuable three or five years after purchase. They offer junk and we buy it, why make something better?

Darren

April 26, 2010 03:16 PM

Again, people keep bashing GM for cars they built in the 80's and 90's. "My 1984 XXX was a piece of crap", etc. Truth is...GM has won more quality awards this year than anyone else, has more Consumer Best Buy ratings, and has more engines on Ward's AutoWorld Best Engine ratings than any other manufacturer. As for Toyota's and other imports holding better value, let's compare today's cars (not 10 yrs ago). In my city (canadian city), a 2009 Camry middle of the row for equipment, with 29,000 kms is selling for 16,995. A 2009 2LT Malibu (middle of the row) with 30,000 kms is selling for $18,995. 2009 Corolla for $12,995 and 2009 Cobalt for $13,995. Toyota and other imports have taken over the slack in the rental business since GM cut back, and now their values are dropping just like GM's did for year (supply and demand people). Get over the government buyout thing. If GM had folded, all you same people would have been crying about all the people out of work. People don't realize Toyota, Honda, Nissan, etc get hundreds of millions in support from their home country's head offices that don't show on paper here. Plus, the majority of their costs for research and development in designing new cars does not show on their balance sheets here...it shows in Japan. Plus, their hybrid technology is funded mainly by the Japanese government because cleaner vehicles is in their country's best interest. So these companies didn't have to spend the billions developing it like GM did (but yet you all cry for cleaner vehicles and better gas mileage). Do imports build good cars...yes. Does GM build good cars...yes. Who gives better value (features you get for the $$ you spend)...GM. Who has best warranty and Roadside Assistance....GM. I have a friend who's 2009 Civic has been in the shop 17 times in the first year. Another's Sante Fe has been in 14 times in 1-1/2 yrs. I'm not saying everyone should by GM, but if you don't at least test drive one, you are selling yourself short. Like Whitaker says, "May the best car win"!!!!!

jambo

April 26, 2010 03:28 PM

GM comes up to me and borrows $100.


Next day, he borrows another $100 from me and then, pays me back the first $100.


He's not paying me back with profit, but with my borrowed money. Then he has TV ads telling everyone he's paid me back. Sounds like mind tricks to me.

Darren

April 26, 2010 03:37 PM

Again, people keep bashing GM for cars they built in the 80's and 90's. "My 1984 XXX was a piece of crap", etc. Truth is...GM has won more quality awards this year than anyone else, has more Consumer Best Buy ratings, and has more engines on Ward's AutoWorld Best Engine ratings than any other manufacturer. As for Toyota's and other imports holding better value, let's compare today's cars (not 10 yrs ago). In my city (canadian city), a 2009 Camry middle of the row for equipment, with 29,000 kms is selling for 16,995. A 2009 2LT Malibu (middle of the row) with 30,000 kms is selling for $18,995. 2009 Corolla for $12,995 and 2009 Cobalt for $13,995. Toyota and other imports have taken over the slack in the rental business since GM cut back, and now their values are dropping just like GM's did for year (supply and demand people). Get over the government buyout thing. If GM had folded, all you same people would have been crying about all the people out of work. People don't realize Toyota, Honda, Nissan, etc get hundreds of millions in support from their home country's head offices that don't show on paper here. Plus, the majority of their costs for research and development in designing new cars does not show on their balance sheets here...it shows in Japan. Plus, their hybrid technology is funded mainly by the Japanese government because cleaner vehicles is in their country's best interest. So these companies didn't have to spend the billions developing it like GM did (but yet you all cry for cleaner vehicles and better gas mileage). Do imports build good cars...yes. Does GM build good cars...yes. Who gives better value (features you get for the $$ you spend)...GM. Who has best warranty and Roadside Assistance....GM. I have a friend who's 2009 Civic has been in the shop 17 times in the first year. Another's Sante Fe has been in 14 times in 1-1/2 yrs. I'm not saying everyone should by GM, but if you don't at least test drive one, you are selling yourself short. Like Whitaker says, "May the best car win"!!!!!

Michelle

April 26, 2010 04:41 PM

My entire family of 6 bought only drove american made cars, vans, and trucks. In 1989 I was the first to drive a foreign car a honda prelude. My family continue to drive american made cars but it was a disappointment 1 after another. I tell you we went through Mabibus, pontiacs, chryslers, etc... What a disappointment its not like we didn't give them every opportunity. Everyone in my family have there own families and we all drive foreign cars. Don't know what kinda a quality American cars have these days. None of my family have one for 10 years now.

Fred Roberts

April 26, 2010 05:32 PM

I think what bothers me here is the sentiments of intelligent people unsupportable by independant data. Despite all information to the contrary you cling to your preconcieved notions rather than facts. US cars placed quite well in the JD power raking for reliability as one example: #1Porsche was followed by Lincoln, 114; Buick and Lexus, 115; Mercury, 121; Toyota, 128; Honda, 132; Ford, 141; Mercedes-Benz, 142; and Acura, 143. (3 out of the top 5 are US cars)

These numbers are supported elsewhere time and time again, yet a seemingly intelligent person says "I believe "driver error" is very very likely in those cases" (Toyota crashes)Really? How blind are you, how stubborn?
Do yourself a favor and do some research, go drive a Ford Fusion or Chevy Malibu, try a top end Cadillac CTS if you are a BMW guy. Read the data, then decide, don't spew out of date info and blame bad driving. In the end we are all Americans and if we don't start looking out for each other, soon they're will be nothing left. If you don't want to buy one of these cars then for God's sake and your country's sake buy a transplant assembled in the US and stop complaining about a Buick you bought in 1982. Yes they sucked back then and they still make a few lemons, but before you buy a Camary or Accord (yes transplants) you owe it to YOUR COUNTRY to at least drive a Malibu that comes with a 100,000 power train warranty, etc.

What else will you see shipped overseas then wonder why our country is slipping? Lets see, all your small appliances, more of your big than you think, all your electronics, all your clothes and shoes, etc, etc.

For what it's worth Detroit is trying their guts out, you owe them at least a fair shake, not a preconcieved notion


ps

April 26, 2010 08:30 PM

Well, it's a good step forward. The test will be on how many 2010 US brands are on the road compared to their Japanese brethren in 2015. The junk product perception will take time to recede. They have to stay on their A game.

rustem

April 27, 2010 12:24 AM

I'm not living in America, and I'm not an American.
I'm driving Hyundai now, and I've had a chance to drive Chrysler too. American cars till 2010 was the worse of all cars in the world. But now, Ford and some GM products are really competitive. Especially Ford is very successful, both in design and reliability. But, Chrysler products are of very low quality.

Reliability is not a unique factor to evaluate the cars, Lexus is not the same level car with Audi and Mercedes. And, there is no American car like these giants. Only some sporty cars like Camaro, Mustang are really exclusive. They are one of the bests in the world.

Bama O'Husin

April 27, 2010 06:08 AM

Hope that Americans can turn the screw on the Japanese and Koreans on Green vehicles as well.

rustem

April 27, 2010 07:24 AM

GM's Volt, is a hope for Americans. But, I don't expect they will be leader in Green car..

A Buyer

April 27, 2010 08:38 AM

I must say that American auto makers have learned their lesson and have pretty compatable cars out in the marketplace. Look at Ford and GM, their designs are much much better than a few years ago. Ford posting their biggest quarter earnings in years and GM spun off their bad assets and liabilities and formed a new GM. Toyota is having trouble with their vehicles only becuase of volume, just as Ford, GM and Chrysler had in the past. Honda is still solid but their target market is for economical cars. The American cars have build more muscle yet somewhat economical cars, compared to what they have produced in the past. I believe that American cars are, currently, ahead of the curve but at the same time they have to maintian rather than relax and stick to what they have.

Cal

April 27, 2010 10:42 AM

Going after #1 at all costs and making profits at all costs. Perhaps the two biggest sins committed in our industries.Rather it's autos, financial, home,etc.Let us get our brand of "Made in America" back.

Made in USA

April 27, 2010 12:10 PM

I've never owned an import, never will. I know people that swear by imports, and they, like many on here have been completely fooled by friends and media that imports are of better quality. They are all the same - why - because many of them are built on the same lines with the same parts, but different trim. Ever see a mazda pick-up truck? It a ford ranger. If you dont believe me look underneath the car and around the wheels, same parts, same people, same line, built on different days of the week, yet those who believe that cars ending in vowels are of better have never taken the time to look because they never worked a job that relied on their neighbor supporting them. Anyone who has ever had grease on their knuckles could tell you these cars are nearly identical. I will always drive a car my neighbor built - the difference in my car? My money ends up in corporate headquarters USA. All of you union teachers, cops etc I see driving jap cars, do your fellow union member a favor and keep your final dime on our soil, they support you-support them. Let the japs make money off themselves. There is a reason a chevy cobalt sells for 50k in japan, its to discourage import buying....they dont care about you, so dont care about them. Signed, self employed white collar man, son of a union pipe-fitter of 35 years.

ps

April 27, 2010 09:05 PM

@made in usa....yes Detroit is improving but your logic is butt backwards--- you forgot to mention the manual tranny in a Ford/Mazda...made in Japan... In terms of money ending up in corp hq, more money from a honda accord made in america ends up here (material cost) than a Chevy Aveo (nickels to Detroit from Korea). I gather you haven't ventured far from your mobile home but the a Cobalt doesn't sell for 50k in Japan. And they are not quite up to Japanese sub compact standards. You may want to learn what American made is.. Ike is no longer president and gas isnt 38 cents a gallon.

chosuana geofred

April 30, 2010 05:41 AM

think that is not true,
as for me i consider the two producing industries as average producing industries.
Asian cars could compete with American cars only when we talk of how to design but when we talk of the power of their engines i can say that the Asian cars would beat all in competition

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Want the straight scoop on the auto industry? Detroit bureau chief David Welch , Dexter Roberts and Ian Rowley bring daily scoop, keen observations and provocative perspective on the auto business from around the globe. Read their take on such weighty issues as Detroit’s attempt at a comeback, Toyota’s quest for dominance and the search for an efficient car.

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