American Cars. Well, yuk

Of course it’s unfair, and feels mighty unpatriotic to admit this, but in 25 years of buying cars, it has never really occurred to me to buy American. I know plenty of people who regard American cars as junk, but I don’t think I know anyone who thinks the competition is.

I don’t have any evidence that American cars are qualitatively worse than foreign ones anymore, but, given the crummy reputation Detroit has (at least among my group), I wonder if ANY help our government gives them would help much. Maybe some of you can help me with this.

Who’s your group?

I am also wondering who the “group” is.

IMHO - the legendary hype of Japanese over US makes was built and deservedly so during the 80s and early 90s. But that what is left is mostly the legend. At this point I just don’t think that the extra one pays is any longer in line with the differences.

Once again just IMHO

There are so many classes of cars to choose from. What specifically don’t you like? Do you like exotic cars? The Cadillac CTS-V beat the equivalent AMG Benz and M-series BMW at the Nurburgring course. Whats yukky about that?

So who is your group?

Since this Asian vs. American Domestic argument has been going on since the 70s I respectfully disagree that the Asian cars are infallible.
The reason behind my opinion is that not only was I officially employed as a VW/SAAB/Fiat tech I was also a Honda/Nissan/Subaru tech when I used to work for dealers.

Those Asian cars had as many problems as the domstics; the only thing they didn’t get was bad press.
Domestics have feedback carburetor problems and any one of a dozen emissions related faults?
So did the Asian cars; I know, because they gave me many, many headaches.

Even this site has a 1979 Honda Accord listed as one of the 10 worst cars of all time and I have to agree based on the number of warranty engine blocks and cylinder heads piled up in our dealership and even pre-sale carburetor repairs on new Accords.
Even out Subaru rep referred to his brand new demo car as a (expletive) plagued by the same carburetion/emission faults as his prior demo car.

As to financial help, I’m against giving the Big 3 anything. Buckle it up and or go under is my opinion.

As an example, one could take these links, substitute the word Chevy for Toyota and no doubt it would be a “See, just proves GM builds junk”.

(And no, I don’t think for one minute that Toyota builds junk)

I guess that is relevent if you only care about zooming around tracks in new cars. What are these cars like to own for 15 years? Beamers and Benzes and Caddys are not good long term value cars.

The North American brands did have some dark days in the 70s and 80s. Now, you are better off comparing models than brands. IMHO, people that are stuck on the American = crap/import = quality are way too conservative. Open-minded, progressive and informed thinkers know that the data indicates that North American brands surpass Euro in quality and match or surpass some Asian models in some cases.

Co-workers, family, friends. The usual suspects.

For the sake of full disclosure, I guess I should mention what we actually own. My partner has a 2001 Mazda Protege, our oldest has a 1997 Hyundai Elantra, passed down from me, and I have a 2001 MINI (a rare wild extravagance, believe me.) These cars have all served us well.

My main suggestion, though, was not that American quality is necessarily bad; it is that Detroit’s reputation might be too lousy for a bailout to be much help. After all, It’s Ford stock that’s trading at $1.95, not Toyota.

I suppose I meant, who are you socioeconomically?

It always amazes me that currently, and in the past, the Asian cars seem to get a free hall pass when it comes to problems. Just to scratch the surface a bit more…

(Scroll to 3rd paragraph on the last one.)

Substitute a GM, Ford, or Chrysler badge for any one of those stories and it would be “more proof positive they build junk”.

We all have to wonder what we’re getting whenever we buy a car with a domestic label. General Motors has in recent years used a lot of Saab engines and hasn’t really figured out what to do with Saab. The Malibu is based on the Saab, but if that is all the success there is, then I’m concerned. It is nice to have enough engines for the Saturns that roll out of the factory, but is it enough just to round up enough parts and build more efficiently? This is only a partial story but look at another partial. If you were trying to save a company and you used to build a Camaro that looked good, would you make the current styling disaster of a prototype and let real people see it? No way if you have any sense. Not getting a version of the Camaro into production is an even bigger mistake. The retro Mustang has been hitting GM on the head with a baseball bat for years and Chevy doesn’t even notice. Yes, Ford has improved the reliability of most of its cars. They don’t look too bad either. Chrysler needs more than a little help. I don’t want to say bad things about domestic car makers just becuse I can. I don’t really need style: I get happy just remembering three dollar headlights. Just build something that makes it look like you’re trying to do well in some way, and the people will buy them without feeling like dopes. When Japanese labels are providing real jobs and using parts built here, you have to find a way to compete with them.

You Don’t Need Any Outside Help. You Have It Figured out, Yourself!

You state, "Of course it’s unfair, and feels mighty unpatriotic to admit this, but in 25 years of buying cars, it has never really occurred to me to buy American.

I totally agree with the upatriotic aspect of your purchases. However, I choose to say, “It feels mighty patriotic to admit this, but in 40+ years of car buying, it has never ocurred to me to buy other than American. I don’t have any evidence that foreign cars are qualitatively worse than American ones anymore, but given the crummy reputation foriegn cars have (at least among my group, I wonder why any American wouldn’t want to help our Big 3.” People say they caused their own problems by making cars people don’t want. They were making what people wanted right up until $4.00 gas. I don’t know if you noticed, but the economic problem is worldwide and worsening. American car companies will soon not be the only ones needing help.

There is not a car on the planet that could have given me more reliable, inexpensive, longer lasting service than American cars I’ve owned in the past 40+ years (and I owned some of the 80’s and early 90’s ones, without problems).

America, what a country!

A car is only as reliable as the owner makes it.
If the owner doesn’t change the oil at all and the engine seizes on him in 20~30k miles, it HAS to be that the car junk.

Some see putting a new engine into a car with 200k miles simply as a way to keep that perfect car running. Heck, that new engine outta be good for ANOTHER 200k miles, right?

Jap quality can’t be denied today, but the Toyotas and Datsuns were afforded a great deal of “protectionism” to ensure domestic market dominance as they entered the world market. Where would these imports be if the U.S. had been as protective of its auto manufacturers in past years?

The quality and reliability aspect is not meaningful anymore as the gap is so narrow between Domestic based and Asian based vehicles. Possibly in the 150k+ range there is a difference however this is not the ownership period for the bulk of new car buyers so meaningless.

I still wonder if majority people have an image of domestic not lasting as long and simply don’t maintain them well as they age. I know many owners who have conventional wisdom that Toyota and Honda last long so they maintain and repair them.

Image and preconceived notions count for a lot. The classic example is the Corolla/Prizm from the NUMMI plant in Freemont CA. The Toyota consistently got higher ratings from JD Power and consumers for quality and reliability. The ONLY difference between those cars were the insignias on the horn buttons and the grill. Part of the difference was that Toyota dealers were better at taking care of their customers and their customer’s cars than GM dealers, but that doesn’t explain all the statistics.

My last American car was a 1964 Chevy half-ton truck. I have two cars in the driveway now with over a quarter-million miles each, a Volvo and a BMW, both look and run great. I often see cars like mine on the street, but I rarely see American cars of the same vintage still running.

Every brand, American, European, Japanese, and Korean, has had some real turkey models (though no Toyota turkeys come to mind right now).

Someone mentioned the phenomenal performance of the Cadillac CTS-V. I am not familiar with that car, or who designed and built it, but I know that over the past 40 years, Cadillac’s reputation for building reliable, long-lasting cars is comperable to Fiat’s. I wonder how that CTS-V will be doing at 75k miles?

I have a friend who was an engineer for Cadillac for several years after college in the '90s. He could tell you 100 reasons why they had major problems designing and building decent cars. Some of the problems related to union rules, most of them were due to inept management. Listening to Dave was like reading the book “On a Clear Day, You can See General Motors” by John DeLorean,

Successful domestic cars for GM are at least: Impala, Malibu, Pontiac G8 and Vibe, Cadillac STS and CTS, and their entire truck line. That’s a pretty good record. The problem is that they left the low profit models (small and intermediate cars) alone while they made money on their other lines. The buying public all of a sudden decided to buy smaller cars and that left GM and Ford with costly asset not suited to building the smaller vehicles. They can’t just turn a switch and change product lines at an assembly plant or at their parts suppliers. And even though they have small cars for sale, we can’t buy them because we are overspent and can’t get car loans in this highly restrictive market. Real simple, huh?

Last year I bought my third “Japanese” car (of which 2 were built in North America), after having had 9 domestics; cars built by the big 3. Agree with other posters that the quality gap has narrowed,and Ford quality (Fusion) is now close to Japanese levels. In terms of best/worst, here is my experience in order:


  1. 1957 Plymouth 6
  2. 1971 Mercury Comet 6
  3. 1976 Ford Granada V8
  4. 1977 Dodge Colt (Mitsubishi)


  1. 2007 Toyota Corolla
  2. 1994 Nisan Sentra
  3. 1980 Oldsmobile Delta 88
  4. 1984 Chevrolet Impala V8
  5. 1988 Caprice V8
  6. 1966 Chevelle Malibu V8
  7. 1965 Dodge Dart V8

At this stage, my read is that Hyundai and Ford are the most improved, surpassing Mitsubishi in quality and reliability. Volkswagen is still struggling, as is Audi, and Chrysler seems to be on a one way trip into oblivion, unable to make ANY improvents. The new Dodge minivan should be good, but is not. GM has some good cars like the Malibu, but by and large is only slowly closing the gap.