Why Can’t Detroit Build a Corolla?

You’ve probably seen those Toyota commericals on television where happy Corolla owners boast about how long their cars have remained on the road. Obviously these owners are carefully chosen, but when you see that some of these Japanese made cars have gone 200,000 or 300,000 miles and are still on the road it sends a clear message – Toyota knows how to build cars that last.

Since I have yet to see a similar commercial touting the longevity of American made cars, the only conclusion that can be reached is that there is no equivalent to the Corolla made by the Big Three automakers. And as someone who has purchased numerous American made cars over the years, I can attest to the fact that none lasted in the 200,000 to 300,000 mile range, In fact too many just made it to 100,000 miles and along the way cost thousands of dollars in repairs. I know I am not alone with this experience of poor quality, short-lived American automobiles.

So to get back to the original question – why can’t Detroit build a Corolla? I am sure the answer is complicated but as I see Toyota, Honda, Nissan and the rest of the Asian automakers, they seem to be proactive, disciplined and visionary when it comes to making cars. American car makers have lost the competitive edge and are floundering near bankruptcy because they seem to be obsessed with bigness rather than efficiency, fancy gadgets rather than simple quality and short-term profits rather than long-term viability.

As this country moves forward with this debate over how to save the the Big Three automakers there will be the expected criticism of labor unions for bargaining lucrative contracts with high-end benefits. The American consumer also will be criticized for following an automobile lifestyle that craved for gigantic SUVs with all the bells and whistles. But the real blame for the current failure sits squarely in the executive suites of GM, Ford and Chrysler where there has been a mind-boggling lack of understanding that what the American public has wanted for a long time ( and especially for the last few years) is a solid gas saving automobile that didn’t end up in the junk yard after five years. Forget the MPG players, the movie screens, the surround sound, the GPS and the seat warmers. Just give Americans a car that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg and keeps going.

Americans are mad about a lot of what has gone wrong with our economy and the billion dollar bailouts. But when it comes to GM, Ford and Chrysler there appears to be little sympathy for saving these manufacturing behemoths. It could be that we are all “bailed out” in this country, but I suspect that too many Americans are just sick and tired of coming to the assistance of companies that make lousy cars. If the Big Three go into Chapter 11 many Americans will not be upset, since in their view Detroit needs a wake up call and the passion to make Corollas.


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