Detroit does it again: Lots of SUVs, few high MPG compacts

We our US automakers have again managed to miss the boat. They have lots of fuel guzzling SUV’s and few compacts with good mileage.

Is there even one person here who did not expect people to start demanding smaller more fuel efficient cars as fuel prices went up?

It seems the Model A was the last car out of Detroit that really addressed the market.

I agree. Except that I’d give them credit up through the '60s.

Detroit seem to have resigned themselves to be truck and SUV manufacturers. At times it seems like they’re trying, but then another SUV comes out of the process.

Someday, maybe in this century, we may see a Camaro again too!

I wouldn’t so much agree with that as I once would have.

Looking at both GM and Ford they own a lot of car and truck brands. I think if you are looking for a Chevrolet answer to a Corolla or a Ford answer, you’re probably barking up the wrong tree. On the other hand, there’s probably a KIA or a Saturn or a Mazda offering this is effectively made by the same company.

I think one of the problems the auto industry itself has had over the years is there are too many versions of the same vehicle. For instance, why must there be a Ford, Mercury, Mazda, and Lincoln version of a Ford Explorer? Heck, there’s even a Lincoln F150 today.

Worldwide, there’s no doubt that Ford has a plethora of small cars that it could turn around and offer in the US if the demand were there. It’s not been and hence the conversion of Lincoln which has traditionally been known as a luxury car maker to a truck and suv maker because that’s what the Lincoln consumer market demanded.

As far as making money, I haven’t known there to be too many years ever that one of the big 3 has ever reported a profit. Certainly not for Ford/GM/Chrysler in the last 4 or 5 years. I have never understood how they report loosing billions every year and stay in business.


I disagree with you. I admit that several foreign car companies have a slight edge on efficiency with their small cars, but small American cars are not that much worse. Corollas and Civics are good sellers, but they are a small part of the market.

Keep in mind that all car manufacturers build a product based on the demand of the buying public. The whole SUV market exists because people want them and buy them, and most other cars are grossly overpowered at the sacrifice of efficiency. The philosophy of the typical American driver is that his car is an image of who he is, and he wants to be big, sporty, and powerful.

The amusing part of the whole gas price situation is the incredibly short memory we have in the US. Everyone complained when gas hit $1.00 a gallon. Everyone complained when gas hit $2.00 a gallon. Everyone complained when gas hit $3.00 a gallon. Where is the surprise that gas is $4.00 a gallon? After a few weeks everyone forgets about it and goes back to buying overpowered gas guzzlers. Of course, there will be another government agency investigating the jump in prices. How many inverstigations have been done already?

Sorry for the rant, but if you want to blame someone for the lack of fuel efficient cars, we all need to look in the mirror.

Detroit doesn’t listen to the wants of most people because most people don’t buy new cars. The trouble is that buying a new car is such a losing proposition financially compared to buying used that, realistically, for people who buy new, higher fuel prices are not a serious financial concern. There is a certain segment of the market that cares about fuel economy for political or other personal reasons, but this is a pretty small chunk of the new car market that the Japanese makers have a very tight hold on. If GM spent the major R&D money to produce a compact that was every bit the equal of a Honda or Toyota, it would be a major gamble for them since it wouldn’t appeal to their traditional customer base and I think it would be unlikely to sway buyers who are loyal to the Japanese brands and have the mindset that American=Junk.

Incidentally, I think the same thing can be said about long term reliablilty-- it is a very small piece of the new car market that cares if their car will run past 100K, and again this small segment of the market is currently dominated by the Japanese companies.


I have to disagree with you on a couple of points. You mentioned that it’s a small portion of the market that cares if its cars run for 100k miles. That is a bigger portion of the market than you think. I speak with authority on this because I have conducted market research and focus groups for a certain american automaker (no I won’t say who) and people certainly would like their American cars to be durable. The people who don’t care are the wealthy folks who trade-in or upgrade their cars every few years and rarely log over 60k miles. The rest who drive their cars until they are forced to purchase a new car would very much love to hear that the car will 200-300k miles.

As for fuel mileage, most of the central to lower middle class is concerned because at $4 per gallon that starts to cut into the tight family budget when mom is carting everyone around town in an SUV that gets 12 mpg city.

The japanese don’t have quite the lock that you think. I have experienced many focus groups with people who would LIKE to purchase American, but prefer the value and driving experience they get in their Japanese cars. Almost everyone agrees-when the American cars drive and hold up like the Japanese cars they’ll go back to the American cars and give them a shot.

GM/Ford/Etc are not spending a forune developing small cars because unless everyone hasn’t noticed they’re short on cash and it’s easier to import and rebadge a foreign car than develop a new car that might not catch on if they get it wrong.

They certainly hit the market right with SUVs an PUs. They sold a lot of them over the past decade or two.

Keep in mind that all car manufacturers build a product based on the demand of the buying public. The whole SUV market exists because people want them

I disagree there. The US manufacturers spend millions on advertising to convince people that they want the models the manufacturers can make the highest profit on. It is a real effort there. They spend a lot less doing research on finding out what the customer really wants.

After a few weeks everyone forgets about it and goes back to buying overpowered gas guzzlers.

According to the information I have seen, the are seeing something different this time. Time will tell.

The interesting thing is US automakers have very efficient models abroad that sell well across the globe in other markets. They need to either trickle these models in here or the knowledge and they will remain competitive.

SUV’s were a great thing as the profit margin is/was substantial vs a low priced non luxury small car.

Sometimes the best way to lose a car sale is to lose it to yourself.

Camaro is supposed to come out this year…I think.
Atleast the new Challenger is up for purchase.

Chevrolet Cobalt 24/33; Chevrolet Malibu 22/30; Chrysler Sebring 21/30; Dodge Avenger 21/30; Ford Focus 24/35; Pontiac Vibe 26/33; Pontiac G5 24/33; Pontiac G6 22/30.

Mr. Meehan; have you ever driven a Model A Ford; not one that is restored to new condition but one typical of those in daily use with some accumulated mileage? You and Consumer Reports would have a conniption fit regarding vibration, noise and a general feeling of overall looseness at highway speeds if you have. Cars today are infinitely much better regardless of brand or national origin.

Comparing todays cars from Detroit to a Model A Ford is absurd!

Domestic cars are garbage,followed by european. M/O!


As long as Ford pulls stunts like they have on the last 2 F250’s with diesel engines in them, they are setting theirself up to loose their market on the last remaining strong hold. They gave up on the 6 liter trucks trying to fix that mess, they couldn’t possibly have done their R&D on that mess, they counted on the first year buyers doing it for them and by the 4th year when they still hadn’t worked out the bugs on it blamed the owners for the way they drove or used their trucks for the problems. Then they came out with this new animal that requires hours and hours of additional labor time to do the simplest repair on the engine because they want to jack the cab of the truck to do it. People won’t put up with that. They expect to have to do repairs, what they don’t expect is having to spend $2000 on a $200 glow plug job because it now requires 8 hours of labor to get the cab off and on to do the job. Ford is digging their grave fast.

Dodge’s newest Cummins looks like a zoo of hoses and wires under the hood and for what purpose? I’m glad I bought mine with a pre 07 engine in it and don’t have to contend with that mess.

Detroit needs to figure out how to go back to user servicable vehicles else, there’s going to be an open door for someone who can and does produce one.


Tough to disagree…the Focus being an exception still doesn’t have the reliability. Where are the compact diesels America ? The first one to come out with a compact diesel suitable for the US and in big supply for under $16 K will have a Model A reincarnate. Sit there and let VW have the onle legit offering is discraceful. Until EVs come on board, diesels will rule the road. Honda and Subaru think so while GM and Ford seem to have nothing in the plan. Just rebadge Toyotas, Mazdas and throw in a few Korean cars and that’s the US plan.

You make some good points there.

They dont make a good fuel efficient car. However they are very good at making big things. Dont say that they have missed the boat completely, they make more efficient large engines than they used to. The gas mileage on a V8 is now in the 20s, it used to be in the single digits.

I didn’t see a post from you last year warning that domestic manufacturers should be making more compact cars, hindsight is the most facile of skills to attain. US Manufacturers were responding to market demands - large powerful and gas hungry SUV’s. Those manufacturers that did produce fuel efficient compacts didn’t see any record sales figures, Honda et al have that market sewn up and a good competitive car isn’t going to be developed in a couple of years.

High gas prices are a significant result of the sub prime crunch along with other production and market factors, seems no-one foresaw sub prime either. Speculators have now re-directed their cash into energy commodities instead of the burn’t out Mortgage Backed Securities market, hence driving prices up.


Look up Euro Ford Focus, Mondeo - both excellent cars and very different to the US versions, or Renault, Peugeot, Fiat and best of all Seat.

These are all good small, economical cars sold in very demanding and competitive markets. You need to do a little research before making such sweeping and uninformed statements.

I for one would love to get my hands on a Seat Leon.

U.S. manufacturers not only miss the boat, they don’t even seem to know that the boat exists. I remember when the VW Beetle became popular in the late 1950’s. A person had to wait 3 to 6 months for delivery. The design of the VW went back to 1939. The cars came in when the U.S. manufacturers were building bigger and more gas thirsty cars and loading them with accessories. The VW Beetle didn’t offer an automatic transmission, didn’t offer or need power steering, didn’t offer air conditioning and had a lousy heater. What the VW did offer was low maintenance, good gasoline mileage for the time, and a perception that the vehicle was a quality automobile. The price of the VW Beetle was not much less than the bottom of the line Chevrolet 150, the Plymouth Plaza, or the Ford Mainline, all strippo models. I can remember in the early 1960’s that a 4 year old VW Beetle and a 4 year old Cadillac would fetch about the same price.

IMHO, Chrysler corporation had a great opportunity to get on the boat with its Neon. Had the car given the impression that it was a quality car and established a record for reliability, it could have been the next VW Beetle. When George Mason was president of Nash, he brought a a small car that was easy on gasoline called the Rambler. The car was well made and it did sell. I don’t think that our manufacturers learn much from history.