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May 06, 2005

GM and Ford Feedback

Amey Stone

I've already written about how car prices may be on the rise in the coming year due to the financial problems of General Motors and Ford -- the subject of a 4/26/05 story (See "Detroit's Woe, America's Worry").

But since America Online has been pointing to the story lately, I've gotten many reader responses in just the past few days. Several of them are well worth reading. I welcome more feedback on the subject.

Here are some excerpts of what I've received so far:

I hear what you are saying about Ford and GM maybe having to raise prices, but if they can't sell cars with all the incentives, how in the world are they going to sell them if they raise prices? I personally am probably going to purchase at least one new vehicle by the end of the year, and I am looking at both the Ford Freestyle and the Saturn Relay (I really think that the quality of both of these vehicle is a step above what Ford and GM have been doing in the past), but if they go up on the prices, I definitely will go back to the imports (which I currently own two of now. Jim from Florida

GM has chosen the route of lousy unacceptable service which in my opinion is deteriorating in a southward fashion. SC Johnston's slogan is we listen to our customers. Perhaps GM should do the same. I personally would never buy GM again based on the trouble I have had with my car, A Buick Lesabre Custom, 2001, with all the trimmings. All of my requests fell on deaf hours, countless hundreds of wasted hours (unnecessary I might add).I still have it, my second car is Japanese and probably I will change the Buick for a foreign one. The locals profess service in lip-service. What a pity, what a shame! The largest car market in the world right in the back-yard and still they blow it! How about a CEO,COO,CFO, not getting remuneration if performance is down? Then perhaps, attention might be paid to Joe Shmo the customer.

How can the automakers expect to sell cars to unemployed people? Is that $1.00 to $3.00 per hour person in India or Viet Nam going to afford a car? No. They are shutting out their own market. The purchasers are trying to make a name for themselves. How much are they really saving by buying all of these parts overseas? Will it matter after they have sold out the U.S. and the average person can't buy their product? When you figure in the shipping, downtime, replacing parts, travel expenses and time, are they really saving enough money to warrant losing their own clientele? Don Taylor Jr. D & J Manufacturing Inc. Warren, Michigan

Fixing GM and Ford is really pretty simple. They need to build dependable cars. Right now they practice Planned Obsolescence. Their cars, as a whole, begin breaking down when cars from Toyota and Honda do not.
David Velsor, NY

I enjoyed reading your article on GM and Ford. I bought a new car two months ago. I spent many months researching what car to buy and then decided on a Honda CR-V. It was not any one thing that influenced my decision to buy my first foreign made car but rather an accumulation of things. Both of my American cars suffered repeated premature failures of their drive train components. These were expensive transmission and engine failures that should not have happened. To make matters worse the manufacturers have taken regional zone managers out of the consumers reach leaving only technically ignorant phone clerks to address concerns. In spite of their shortcomings I still looked at the American offerings. They were expensive, uninspired and frankly I worried about their poorly designed engines and failure prone transmissions. It was sad in a way, I am a motor head, a car guy, I own a 1963 Corvette for gosh sakes and nothing that Detroit turns out appealed to me. I am very happy with the Honda that I bought. It is well designed, priced right and has performed beyond my expectations. So it is goodbye to Detroit and hello to Tokyo. GM and Ford have lost yet another customer. Too bad. J. Zelmanoff, Philadelphia, Pa.

09:06 AM


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I do not think that any foreign car is better than a American car. I also want to know were people get this information from that foreign cars are far more superior. I have friends and family with Toyota and Honda cars that were lemons, some had to take it to the court system to get there money back. My main point is no car is perfect, and excellent marketing schemes from foreign car corporations has forced ingnorant Americans in believing that foreign cars are better than American cars. I have asked many people why they feel so strongly about foreign cars and no one can answer the question with hard facts they can only repeat what they heard or what they read in a car magazine. Remember writers of these magazines, tv shows, and car awards (motor trend and others) can be paid off.

Posted by: Travis Smith at May 24, 2005 03:42 PM

I think the woes of the North American car makers are rooted in very complex attitudes and pressures. You'd think it would be easy to improve reliability of vehicles by adopting Japanese production techniques. Instead they spend millions trying to change the public's perception of what quality is with advertising and bogus quality rating schemes. The fact is that the chances are good that you will have relibility trouble in many aspects of the car if you buy North American. I've driven North American, European and Japanese cars. By far the most robust and reliable are the Japanese ones, no contest!

Perhaps the companies have to be "remade". If they have any excess cash, or credit available buy back as much stock as possible to stabilize the shares, then restructure everything, retrain the assemblers and supervisors and managers, change the purchasing policies and make them fussy as you know what when purchasing parts, catch the bad parts before they go on the car, if the parts don't fit, don't put them on, etc. Have the cars made the way you'd like to think they are made if they are to be transporting your loved ones.

Then once the quality issue is taken care of, throw out the old North American, "Harley" attitiudes. Why have such big bulky innefficient engines in cars? Push rods? When was the last European or Japanese pushrod engine manufactured?

Another aspect is customer service. What is going on with the blatant dishonesty and unethical practices at car dealerships? If any car dealership owners are reading this and are insulted they should immediately hire an independant marketing or even detective agency and have a secret survey done on how business is conducted in their premises. It is unworthy of any business other than perhaps hawk shops and sleazy taverns or even cell/mobile phone sales/service. The most amazing transformation I have witnessed is from Saturn. They had changed the customer perception in terms of ethics and service levels. I was a very happy Saturn driver and was raving to anyone who would listen about how honest and good the service was. Now, since they were purchased back by Chevrolet, the service is returning to the GM norm, that is, sleazy and dishonest. I've seen it with my own eyes. What a shame!

If you want to drive innovation in technology, change the rules in racing. Change the rules in Nascar so that it does not so much resemble a high speed WWF style demolition derby as the Indy or Cart series, allow the manufacturers to use the latest technology in engines and only restrict the displacement to keep the speeds down, allow them to use whatever tires, suspension, brake, aerodynamic tricks they can come up with. For safety force them to keep their drivers alive and uninjured at 200 mph crashes with heavy sanctions of they don't. You'l see plenty of innovation and it won't be driven by offshore companies.

So there's the silver bullet. As more and more people become educated about cars and their technology they are demanding it in their every day mid size economy cars, not their top line luxury cars. Its time to wake up and smell the coffee, North America, do something before its too late!

Posted by: Michael Clarke at June 14, 2005 10:13 AM

i have a 96 ford explorer sport. i brought it in to ford /lincoln-mercury to get the a/c fixed. it cost me $1300.00 for parts and labor the a/c was cold for a month and a half. brought it back twice and they tell me its hard to find a a/c leak all they do is recharge it-thats why people are getting feed up with american cars and their dealers i am a union worker and i have to put up with this its a disgrace!

Posted by: tim at June 21, 2005 06:00 PM

"I also want to know were people get this information from that foreign cars are far more superior. ... excellent marketing schemes from foreign car corporations has forced ingnorant Americans in believing that foreign cars are better than American cars ... writers of these magazines, tv shows, and car awards (motor trend and others) can be paid off."

Are you seriously suggesting that the American auto industry's main problem is that they don't buy off as many journalists as their foreign competition? The mind boggles.

Posted by: Jerry Kindall at July 12, 2005 01:14 PM

i think that fords are built for the junk yard instead of the road.But i say that because im a chevy lover.i mean yeah Gm has their share of problems but so does ford,maybe not now but im sure they have in the past.Another car that i love not only because its hott but because its reliable is honda.But yet the corvette is definatley attractive.But any car is better than a ford and i will give them some credit for their trucks but GM is soooooooooo much better and no one can tell me otherwise!

Posted by: anonamus at July 14, 2005 10:35 PM

First I'll respond to Michael Clark's comments above, which are typical of an ignorant consumer.

Pushrod engines are no more bulky or inefficient than the OHC/DOHC designs. If you are talking bulk, the OHC/DOHC design is a much taller (bulkier) engine. Pushrod engines deliver power cheaply. The media focuses on GM's buzzy engines while the foreign engines are smooth. NOT RELATED TO PUSHROD DESIGN. Sounds like you are drinking the kool-aid that the foreign makers are serving.

Second, Saturn has always been part of GM and is not owned by Chevrolet. Chevrolet is a sister company, as is Hummer, Pontiac, Buick, GMC, and Cadillac.

Where I do agree is that the end-user purchasing method is broken. It's a game between dealerships (stealerships)and customers to see who can rip off who the worst. GM gets a bad rap because many of their dealerships are family owned, etc, and have business practices that were popular in a simpler time.

My proposal is to disband all dealership franchises. GM should open company-owned stores that have 1-3 of every vehicle sold by the company. Customers can test drive those cars, and if they want a certain type, buy the one they drove, do a store lookup, or have them order the exact one they want and ship it directly to the customers' house. Prices are clearly marked, rebates and dropped, and gimmicky promotions are ended. Buyer confidence would be restored, and the buying process would be as simple as buying a pair of Dockers at JcPenney. GM would have a flexible manufacturing and then wouldn't have tons of inventory on hand, trying to blow cars out the door. Service would also be handled by the same company stores.

I strongly believe that people buy cars brand first, dealership second.

Posted by: Wes at July 21, 2005 03:12 PM

What has happened to quality at GM? I've owned GM cars and trucks for almost 40 years. Recently, I've had trans problems (expensive) with a 2000 Blazer 700R4 electronic trans, my previous Blazer also had trans. problems, never had problems with TH350, TH400, Powerglide transmissions, after approx 100 years experience building vehicles maybe it is time to get it right, I maintain my vehicles meticulously. Quality may boost sales, what a concept.

Posted by: Mike G. at July 23, 2005 12:23 PM

It's sad to hear and read such disheartening
stories about poor quality in US vehicles. On the
other hand, having had a toyota tundra, and
catching the dealership trying to rip me off,I
refuse to go toyota again. Try sending the CEO
to alot of dealerships to get the stories, first
hand. It's good PR. Even might set a trend. We
customers are your life blood, if you don't agree,
THINK AGAIN.........

Posted by: Gerald K Madonia at August 15, 2005 06:23 PM

Auto quality/value is different when comparing a Toyota or Honda to a Ford, Chrysler or GM. On average, Japanese cars last longer and retain their value longer. Price conscious consumers demand value for their investment. That's most of us!

I owned seven American cars from 85 to 96. I now own a 96 Honda and 96 Nissan. I also bought a 2001 Ford wagon for my wife that blew a head gasket at 112,000 km. Fixed and sold! Never again! I had problems with every American made car and truck I bought. Some were major. Many were consistent. I generally purchased two vehicles at a time so I was in a position to see them break down with the same problem within a week of each other.

I will get two new Honda next year. I know I will own two reliable cars for years to come!
I want low maintenance, dependable, economic cars with standard safety features.

NA might take a look at branding issues and find a competitive advantage in a target market. Consistent quality seems totally out of reach. CUSTOMER SERVICE is still as illusive as it was in 1988.

Posted by: tony at August 25, 2005 02:57 AM

I won't comment on Ford vs G.M. I will say that I love my 95 Chevy 1500 Silverado. It was purschased in 95 by my nephew who was paralyzed in a motorcycle accident a year later. He gave it to my father whom I helped with the up keep. My father passed in 2002 and my Mom in turn gave the truck to me. It had 115,000 miles on it when I got it and now has 367,000 miles. The only work that has ever been done on it is a timing chain and didn't need it. Except for regular maintenance its still going strong. I LOVE MY Chevy truck. Vern.

Posted by: Vern Hildreth at August 28, 2005 12:17 PM

Besides quality problems, GM also suffers from marketing stupidity. Examples: 1. They are now, sept 2005, starting to sell SAABs in Opel dealerships! I mean, people who traditiaonally buy SAAB they also look into Mercedes, NMW, Jaguar and Lexus dealerships, many will not want to share time, space, dealer an salesperson with Opel econoboxes. How about showroom atmosphere; what is right for the wealthy will be intimidating to others, what is right for the econo mind will not be acceptable to the SAAB client.

2. They are selling in Europe, Korean econoboxes under the Badge of Chevrolet. Who the hell is going to buy a Corvette if you share "badge prestige" with seven thousand dollar boxes. What kind os salesman is going to be able to relate to peopple on small budgets and people on high budgets.

It seems to me GMs probles is "bean counters" AND engineers who do not understand car buyers.

Posted by: victor lopez at September 10, 2005 08:03 AM

Here's a quick history of my family's car problem's in the past decade. My 2000 Acura Integra and my mother's 1993 Acura Legend combined have had fewer problems/breakdowns than my father's 1999 van, made by GM. He has roughly 18-20 mpg, while both my and my mothers car has about 25-30 mpg. I personally think the handling is much better on the sedans although since its a van, that could be understandable. Get real. Japanese cars have better mpg and dependability than American Cars. End of story.

Posted by: Mike at October 5, 2005 12:36 PM

I'll never buy another GM product again. Just spent$2000 on my 3 yr old Impala when the security module, airbag module, and battery all died within a week of each other. Plus 60k servicing and brakes, and inspection. When I bought the car used it was 2 years old, and already needed new front rotors (driven by the proverbial little old lady, btw, not a leadfoot). Now I find that the intake gasket leaks, and this is also a typical problem in the 3.1 and 3.4 litre engines, yet no recall has been issued. Just got a letter and reimbursement form from GM in case I need to have my catalytic converter replaced. Seems the 3.4L and 3.8L V6 engines made in 2002 may get a blocked converter due to the "front endcone unsulation breaking away and blocking the front of the first catalytic brick."

By contrast, I just sold (gave away) my Nissan pickup truck that I had driven for over 18 yrs, 200k miles, with hardly any service ever needed. Boy, am I sorry for buying American. A word to the wise. To the person who questions that foreign cars are better than American: buddy, it is empirical evidence. Ask your neighbors who own American cars, read Consumer Report, listen to the stories posted by all the people on this web page.

I remember the 70s when American cars became absolute crap. Many of us were hopeful that they were improving lately, but experience is indicating otherwise.

Posted by: robert p at October 6, 2005 10:22 AM

Travis Smith you talk about hard facts then you post biased remarks without any facts at all about "being paid off" and "repeat what they hear" which is in fact hearsay in and of itself.

Fact is: The auto industry is too top heavy, from the steel manufacturers to the parts makers, to the corporate stooges that do little to nothing all damn day and make as much money as they can possibly get away with. Everyone is profiteering and they end user is paying the price for it. I quit buying new, or used from a dealership for that matter, so I no longer care what they do or don't do. I will be buying old cars from now on, and I am honestly looking to move to a city with public transportation, so I can save TONS of money.

Posted by: Travis's nemisis at October 7, 2005 12:46 AM

I agree with you the way you view the issue. I remember Jack London once said everything positive has a negative side; everything negative has positive side. It is also interesting to see different viewpoints & learn useful things in the discussion.

Posted by: Anonymous at October 14, 2005 12:23 PM

What do you mean. America builds great cars and trucks. My American made toyota tacoma with american made parts has been the best car or truck I have ever owned.

Posted by: duane stenquist at October 15, 2005 08:29 PM

American auto manufacturers have always made junk. We just did not recognize it until we were exposed to japanese quality. The sub-quality autos
by the big three are the reason that they are all in trouble now.
Americans are extremely happy with toyota, honda and nissan. Good-bye Big Three.

As a word of caution, we do not want to see the japanese become too dominant or they will go the same way as the Big Three. We always want the Big Three to remain competition to keep everyone else honest. BILL

Posted by: william jackson at October 22, 2005 05:49 PM

The main reason for the woes of Detroit is quality - or more appropriately, lack thereof. GM has built fundamentally flawed V6 engines for a decade (intake manifold gasket leaks & cracked manifolds). Ford has built fundamentally flawed automatic transmissions for the same amount of time. Chrysler has built just plain junk since the late sixties. Until recently I could never imagine myself buying a foreign car, but the shortcuts and quality sacrifices by the big 3 in the name of padding profits are inexcusable.

Posted by: Richard Laskey at November 1, 2005 03:10 PM

2001 Lesabre 71K miles, well maintained not abused or used for towing...blown transmission the dealer wants 2000.00, 1994 Ford Aeorstar in 1999 Blown engine 2000.00 to replace it Neither gave me a warning light.
I own 2 american made bikes and have owned GM primarily and Ford products my entire life. This is an excess of 30 vehicles...I'm starting to rethink my vehicle choices. Will I buy Japanese probably not 20 years in the military still giving me a pang of guilt, GM or Ford at these maintenance Costs, I don't think so.
I am very interested in pushing for a Class action against Buick as I have researched and found that they knew they had a problem.

Posted by: Roy Thornton at November 10, 2005 01:49 PM

I have a 1999 Chevrolet S10 Pickup with 97000 miles. Last month I was told that the noise coming from the engine was caused by piston slap. The vehilce is primatily a used for communiting and the oil was changed every 3000 miles by a Chevrolet dealer.

This was to be my retirement vehicle. According to a local mechanic, it will cost $3400 to install a rebuilt engine. A lot of money, but the truck has a $5500 trade in value and this is a lot of money to throw away.

Currently GM is stalling with regard to the problem.

A couple of interesting things I have dicovered:
1) This is a long standing problem with the GM engines starting in about 1999. There are class action suits aginst GM for the piston slap issue as well several other engineering/manufacturing problems. Google "General Motors"+"Class Action" for a listing.

2) In relating my problem to others I have heard about a mechanic in Southern Minnesota who will not buy GM products and a union member from the Minnesota Iron Range that will not buy US vechiles.

At this time I am trying to find the name and address of the GM Zone Manager so that I can press my case. Can anyone help?

Posted by: Larry Bedard at November 16, 2005 12:25 PM

I also want to know were people get this information from that foreign cars are far more superior.
- From driving them. They fall apart literally. I have bought Gm car's (cavalier, sunfire, malibu's) in the past and was very disappointed. They had so many problems I can't list them all. And to get any service from Gm is impossible. I am currently driving a used 2000 honda civic for the last five year's with almost 250 000 klms on it and the only thing I replace was the brakes, try to do that with a GM I've rarely heard of a GM motor getting over 200 without the head gasket going. I will never buying GM again and know that there bankruptcy is inevitable.

Posted by: charles at November 7, 2008 05:10 PM

Ford and GM
I'd like to have a short comment about Ford and GM.
I'd like to see them will go out of businesses. It's for real that they don't really do their job very well.
3 years ago, I had a few problems with my new Explorer and guess what! Ford did not want to fix the problems. Unfortunately, Ford representatives did not want to solve the problems, and its problems have never been fixed.
Toyota and Honda have been upgraded and fixed their customers' needs. Those companies will make much better cars for Americans.
Luckily, my new car now is an American Honda. I will marry this vehicle for a long run.

Posted by: Tony at November 20, 2008 12:22 AM

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