Would You Buy a Big Three Car?

July 24, 2005
Would you buy a car from the Big Three? There was a time, not all that long ago, when Detroit metal ruled the road. Back in 1961, General Motors alone held a 51 percent share of the U.S. market. For the first half of this year, however, the Big Three was barely 60 percent, and only a massive fire sale kept the numbers from dropping even lower.

Simple logic suggests that with an ever-increasing number of import-branded products, it only makes sense that sales and share would keep falling. But I'd argue that Detroit only has itself to blame. Like all too many other motorists, I suffered through a procession of poorly built domestic vehicles. Worse, a long list of boring and poorly built vehicles. In a story in this week's issue of TheCarConnection.com, Alan Trepanier, sums it up succinctly. GM, like its Big Three brethren, "has broken the trust of its consumers." But is the retired high school teach right when he suggest, "that isn’t repairable.”

Detroit certainly seems to be trying. Lincoln topped the latest J.D. Power Customer Satisfaction Index, followed by Cadillac and Saturn. Toyota's vaunted Lexus division slipped into a respectable fourth, but the fact is that Japanese makers no longer dominate this or any of the other quality surveys. So why aren't consumers coming around? “I can't even expunge the idea of superior Japanese quality from my own mind, even though we have the data that shows it's not true," admits GM's product chief, Bob Lutz. Turning things around won't be easy, and while consumers are willing to cut the traditional quality leaders, like Toyota, Honda and Mercedes-Benz, some slack, they'll pounce on every mistake made by the Big Three. Unfair? Perhaps, but that's the way the market works, and it's not going to be easy for Detroit to win the trust of the consumer back again.

Would you buy from the Big Three? We'd like to hear your comments!

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