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U.S. News Publishes List: "10 Cars That Sank Detroit"


Speculation runs rampant as to why Detroit's Big Three find themselves in their current predicament. U.S. News and World Report's Rick Newman has his own view, and below we'll give you a quick run through his short list of the vehicles that caught Detroit with its pants down and its eyes focused on a quick buck. Wonder if Dave Letterman would cackle through this top-ten list out on his late-night comedy show...

creative commons - flickr.com: http://www.flickr.com/photos/frazgo/978534413/sizes/o/

creative commons - flickr.com: http://www.flickr.com/photos/frazgo/978534413/sizes/o/

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1. Ford Pinto. From the dark days of Detroit playing catch up to its lean, mean foreign competitors, Detroit's old school mentality of low-tech small cars built with big-car engineering (small interiors, big exteriors, wasted space, inefficient packaging) just didn't impress savvy consumers. Sure, they sold initially in huge numbers, but when haphazard engineering resulted in a raft of exploding fuel tanks and horrendous reliability, class-action lawsuits sealed the Pinto's fate for good. Not a proud chapter in the history of the American automobile.

creative commons - flickr.com: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mulad/29993204/

creative commons - flickr.com: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mulad/29993204/

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2. Chevrolet Cavalier. Ahh, the GM J-Body. Another example of poor space efficiency, the Chevy Cavalier/Pontiac Sunbird/Buick Skyhawk/Olsmobile Firenza/Cadillac Cimarron (gasp, I'm out of breath) featured uncomfortably high dashboards, asthmatic four-cylinder pushrod engines, sloppy and unresponsive three-speed automatics, and oversprung/underdamped suspensions. The ultimate insult to the American consumer came in Cadillac form, points out U.S. News & World Report: "GM even added some lipstick and high heels and tried to peddle the upgrade as the Cadillac Cimarron." While this vehicle sold in the millions, brand-loyal consumers learned their lesson. It's no wonder they're loathe to buy American small cars now. And yet GM persists, bringing us the Pontiac G3 to name but one mediocre example.

2005 Chevrolet Astro Cargo Van 111.2

2005 Chevrolet Astro Cargo Van 111.2" WB AWD exterior front upper left

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3.Chevrolet Astro. If you didn't love the Chevrolet Lumina APV/Pontiac TransSport/Oldsmobile Silhouette minivans with their Karl Malden proboscises, you could always opt for the sturdy old Chevy Astro/GMC Safari twins. With their gravelly 4.3-liter pushrod sixes huffing way beneath the huge center-mounted hump between passenger and driver, bus-style driving position, and very mediocre reliability, these vans kept an ancient design alive that other automakers had abandoned decades before. The Ford Aerostar was a marginally better vehicle, but Chrysler stole the show with its lightweight, car-based, forward-thinking minivans that saved it from obscurity. Says U.S. News: "The Astro drove like a bread truck, and consumers noticed. It also earned the worst safety ratings in its class."

creative commons - flickr.com: http://www.flickr.com/photos/resedabear/297813889/

creative commons - flickr.com: http://www.flickr.com/photos/resedabear/297813889/

Enlarge Photo


4. Ford Taurus. Much like the minivan was for Chrysler, the Taurus and Sable proved that Detroit wasn't comatose. The Taurus became a bestseller, points out U.S. News, and rightfully so. A forward-thinking styling ethos, fresh and ergonomic interior, good space efficiency, and sprightly driving dynamics gave Americans a vehicle they could be proud to own. So what did Ford do? "For the next 20 years, Ford let quality decline and neglected the family sedan, while pouring love and money into trucks and SUVs," claims U.S. News. The 500 sedan followed, and "went on record as one of the most short-lived models ever." A revival of the Taurus nameplate to a "bastardized 500" was too little, too late: "by then, the damage was done."

 
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Comments (4)
  1. I remember having to sit in the back seat ! of a pinto to go cruising back in the 70's. It was truly frightening and claustrophobic.
    This makes me laugh every time :-)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Glcj0szvevU&NR=1
     
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  2. Not sure it was the cars that sank US auto but management philosophies. 10 philosophies that killed us car industry
    10 Badge engineering: change the grill, add some different bts on the side and maybe change the lights. Fooled no one. Meant there was no difference b/w a Chevy/pontiac/ Buick/oldsmobile/Cadillac so killed those brands. VW group uses the smae parts and drivetrains accross wide variety of vehicles but each has its own personality
    9 Small cars must be cheap and nasty: For years no one though Americans would buy small cars, no but after pinto/ Chevelle and co who would buy one. Asian and Euror brands show that inexpensive but fun small cars can sell in the millions. Detroit's answer? sell crappy 90's engineered Sth Korean cars vs updated Japanese and Euro cars
    8 Diesels are dirty and no one wants: yes until common rail diesels came on line, rest of the world caught on, US still hasn't
    7 if you make a profit on it flog to death and don't invest in keeping it up todate, if it was good in 1988 must be good in 2008: eg Taurus, town car, mustang (live rear axle come on), must alrge SUV's
    6 If you give into the unions you save money and trouble in the long run: Nope overpaid workers tend to look at what next the company can do for them not what they can do for the company. Health benefits and work rules prohibiting innovation adn effecient use.
    5 WW1 approach to tactics: if you keep doing the same thing over and over agin somehow you will succeed. It took the invetion of the Tank to change that war. When things aren't working you need to try something new.
    4 see 7 above Don't re-invest from profitable vehicles: German car companies re-invest most of their profit into new vehicles and product development, GM et al spend on private jets and executive sallary
    3 promise more than you can deliver: lie to peopel we are all stupid and believe marketing hype. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. Most people when they have a bad experience learn from that and go elsewhere. Reputation of big 3 is so bad even if they did produce the best cars int he world would anyone belibve them?
    2 pay your supplies nothing so they can't make a profit: cutting prices to supplies tot he point they can not make a profit and cannot re-invest profits so only choice is to cuts costs so you get what you pay for. There is good reason re-calls are increasing, part supplies have to cut costs so things fiale more often. Interirors are crap because car companies won't pay for propper plastics. Consumer gets a bad experience and goes elswhere
    1 (also see 5)If management can't get it right, don't sack em keep around eventually soemthing has to work. How long has Wagoner been around? Or for that msot of the senior execs? (Mulklaly is a rarity) If you have the same managers making the same mistakes nothing will change.
     
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  3. The Hummer H2 did not help sink the Big 3. On the contrary, it has been one of the biggest money makers for GM. The Hummer H2 and the Corvette are the only vehicles GM has been making a true profit off of now. This is one of the reasons that GM has sought to sell it - that and to get a "greener" reputation. The Hummer H2 has actually been UP in sales internationally. The author of this article needs to do a little bit more research.
    And to the poster (Reece) above...you need to do some research too because the unions did not sink the Big 3. On the contrary, the UAW has made concessions. You need to look beyond just the big 3 at all the outside at companies like American Axle where the CEOs are making nearly 350% MORE pay than their employees and they want to cut their pay. That is ridiculous to then turn around and blame the unions for the greed of the CEOs and the corporations.
    And the NUMBER 1 thing that sunk the Big 3 was FREE TRADE! The greed driven corporate CEOs want to pull out and go to Mexico or overseas to make more money to pad their pockets causing US worker after worker to lose their jobs!
     
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  4. Interchangeable parts. Simplify, simplify, simplify. Make everything interchangeable that can be. How many different triton engines are there? No, I'm not talking 4.2, 4.6, 5.4 and V-10. How many non interchangeable parts are there on each engine size. Most, absolutely unnecessary. You've got too much design money to burn.
    There are dozens of major and minor design differences with no design objective. The parts from one 4.6 won't work on another 4.6. ,,,what, 9 different horsepower ratings? No, I'm not talking 2 valve vs. 3 valve, I'm talking 2 valve only. Every head, exhaust manifold, oil pan, valve cover, injector, and spark plug wire and sensor off a every 2 valve engine should fit every other 2 valve engine.
    How many different GM FWD engines were there over the past 20 years? ...just the v-6's, all the way from 2.6 to 3.0, 3.1, jeese, who can keep track? ...with no clear advantage of one over the other. Well, they should all be interchangeable. There should be one bell housing bolt pattern and input shaft size and design for everything in that size range; say 90-200 hp. Manual transmissions should interchange with AT's as much as possible.
    Who can afford all that design, re-design, and re-design?
    And not to show improvement!!??
    How many different oil filters are available for GM engines? Looks like a different filter for each engine. You could get by easily and save load of money with maybe 3 or 4 filters to cover everything within a 20 or 30 year span.
    How many different sized batteries fill the racks at Auto Zone? Less than maybe 6 would cover every need in cars and small trucks and minivans.
    Look at all that wasted design resource and bloated inventory. What a waste. That is where our industrial capital is being consume.
    And we still can't produce a trouble free vehicle. Spark plugs are blowing right out of the triton engine. Consumer are vowing to never buy Ford again. Design flaw. A plug held in with 3 threads. And nobody saw it coming. Too busy redesigning somewhere else, just to be different.
    You guys got a gripe against the backyard mechanic who shops junkyards for used interchangeable parts? Are you sooooo obsessed with trying to defeat him that you are sinking your whole industry?
     
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