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Old 12-05-2008, 01:13 PM   #1
AVANTI R5
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Default 10 cars that killed Detroit

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The global financial crisis is suffocating the Detroit automakers, but the problems at General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler have been festering for years—even when the mighty "Big Three" were earning billions. Aging factories, inflexible unions, arrogant executives and shoddy quality have all damaged Detroit. Now, with panicky consumers fleeing showrooms, catastrophe looms: Without a dubious federal bailout, all three automakers face the prospect of bankruptcy.


There will be plenty of business-school case studies analyzing all the automakers' wrong turns. But, as they say in the industry, it all comes down to product. So here are 10 cars that help explain the demise of Detroit (For a slideshow, click here):


Ford Pinto.

This ill-fated subcompact came to epitomize the arrogance of Big Auto. Ford hurried the Pinto to market in the early 1970s to battle cheap imports like the Volkswagen Beetle that were selling for less than $2,000. Initial sales were strong, but quality problems emerged. Then came the infamous safety problems with exploding fuel tanks, which Ford refused to acknowledge. Message: The customer comes last. "The problems for the domestics really started in the '70s when they were offering cars like the Pinto up against higher-tech, better-built Toyota Corollas and Honda Civics," says Jack Nerad of Kelley Blue Book.


Chevrolet Cavalier.

GM sold millions of Cavaliers in the 1980s—and decided the thrifty car was so successful the company didn't need to update it for more than a decade. To milk the model, GM even added some lipstick and high heels and tried to peddle the upgrade as the Cadillac Cimarron—a legendary flop. Honda and Toyota, meanwhile, were updating their competing models every four or five years, and grabbing market share with each quality improvement. A new Cavalier came out in the mid 1990s—then languished for another decade, while GM put most of its money into big trucks and SUVs. GM has since improved its small cars. "But they have to be miles better than the imports for Americans to forget how bad their small cars used to be," says Jamie Page Deaton of U.S. News's Rankings and Reviews car-ranking site. Even if they are better, many Americans wonder why they should give Detroit a second—or third—chance.


Chevrolet Astro.



While Chrysler, Toyota, and Honda were refining their minivans in the 1990s and coming up with innovations like hideaway seats and electric sliding doors, GM was offering an old, truck-based van gussied up with carpeting and cupholders. "It showed GM's repeated failure to market competitive products based on styling and packaging," says Tom Libby of J. D. Power & Associates. The Astro drove like a bread truck, and consumers noticed. It also earned the worst safety ratings in its class. Before long, GM was effectively out of the minivan segment. No biggie—those were just mainstream American families the automaker decided to ignore.


[Check out 10 cars that can help salvage Detroit, and photo gallery.]


Ford Taurus.


Try to explain this logic: After its 1986 debut, the Taurus became a perennial bestseller. So for the next 20 years, Ford let quality decline and neglected the family sedan, while pouring love and money into trucks and SUVs. By early this decade, the Taurus had become a dowdy, rental-lot staple. So Ford simply retired the Taurus in 2006 and replaced it with the 500 sedan—which went on to set records as one of the most short-lived models ever. A year later, Ford revived the Taurus name and applied it to a bastardized 500. But by then, the damage was done.


Ford Explorer.


This breakout vehicle helped launch SUVs and drove record profits at Ford in the 1990s, as Americans flocked to big utilities that could take them off-road if they ever got adventurous. It also blinded Ford to the future. "Executives could not see beyond the green piling up at their feet," says David Magee, author of How Toyota Became No. 1. "The Explorer helped create an addiction that lasted 15 years."



GM and Chrysler followed right behind, with SUVs like the Chevy Trailblazer and the Dodge Durango—lockstep moves that reveal how the Detroit automakers focused on each other rather than the broader marketplace.


Jaguar X-Type.


Ford bought the British luxury brand Jaguar in 1990, when all three Detroit automakers were seeking ways to expand their global reach. Eventually, Ford decided to build an entry-level Jaguar starting at around $30,000 for people looking to move up from, say, a Mercury Marquis. The down-market move "represented everything that Jaguar is not," says Libby of J. D. Power. The X-Type was built on an ordinary sedan platform from elsewhere in Ford's lineup, and the front-wheel-drive system underwhelmed enthusiasts used to rear-drive European makes. Jag purists were horrified, and aspiring luxury buyers shunned the X-Type in favor of BMWs, Lexuses, and Acuras. After fumbling the luxury brand for nearly two decades, Ford sold Jaguar to an Indian conglomerate in 2008.


[Tell us what cars would you add to this list, and why: flowchart@usnews.com]


Hummer H2.



It sure seemed cool back in 2003, when gas was less than $2 per gallon. And it sure seems gaudy now. This supersized SUV clearly had a heyday, but it also helped paint parent company GM as an enviro-hostile corporation that sold only gas guzzlers. Sales collapsed as gas prices rose toward $4 a gallon in mid-2008, and GM has been trying to sell the division for six months—with no takers, so far. "GM wanted to make Hummer a signature company brand," says Magee. "Instead, it showed the company was out of touch with the needs of the 21st century."


Toyota Prius.


While GM was spending $1 billion to build up the Hummer franchise, Toyota was spending $1 billion to develop a high-mileage hybrid—even though gas prices were still low. After the Prius debuted in the United States in 2000, GM execs seized yet another opportunity to display their intimate knowledge of American consumers, arguing that hybrids didn't make economic sense and that only environmentalists would buy them.



Today, Toyota can barely keep up with demand for the Prius, and it has plans to start building them in the United States. GM, meanwhile, is scrambling to rush hybrids and other high-mileage cars into dealerships—far too late.


Chrysler Sebring.


Did Chrysler engineers set out to build the world's most boring car? Of course not. Yet Chrysler still produces this blandmobile to keep assembly lines running and maintain a presence, however weak, in the sedan market. In the new Darwinian auto industry, this model seems destined for extinction, since the only way to sell marginal cars is with steep discounts, which money-losing automakers can no longer afford.


In fact, if Chrysler ends up being carved into pieces and sold to competitors, as many analysts expect, most of its passenger-car lineup could get the axe, since there's little to distinguish it. Besides—what's a sebring, anyway?


Jeep Compass.


Quick, what's the difference between the Jeep Compass, the Jeep Liberty, and the Jeep Patriot? The bosses at Chrysler, which owns Jeep, could explain, but the real answer is that Chrysler has oversaturated its strongest brand lineup in a desperate attempt to boost sales. "The Compass is not needed," says James Bell of Intellichoice.com. "Just the Liberty, please."



The Compass has the same mechanical underpinnings as the Dodge Caliber, which helps illustrate one of Detroit's favorite tricks: Create multiple versions of every product under a bunch of different brand names, hoping that if buyers shun one, they'll take a more favorable view of another. Message to Detroit: Consumers aren't that stupid. Give them a bit more credit, and you might have a future.

http://www.usnews.com/blogs/flowchar...k-detroit.html
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Old 12-05-2008, 01:59 PM   #2
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Agree wholheartedly. Especially the comments about detroit automakers resting on their laurels and not trying to improve or make the next big thing.
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Old 12-05-2008, 02:03 PM   #3
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true true true, although at this point beating up on them is starting to feel old to me.

Okay maybe one more good kick... but thats it!
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Old 12-05-2008, 02:04 PM   #4
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Old 12-05-2008, 02:13 PM   #5
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^^ +Eleventy billion!

I couldn't heal the scar left in my mind after I first saw it.
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Old 12-05-2008, 02:17 PM   #6
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very nice article.
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Old 12-05-2008, 02:29 PM   #7
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Poor Detroit.

VW has diesels and DSG
Subaru has symmetrical AWD And boxer engines
Honda has I-VTECH
Toyota has hybrid synergy drive
Mazda had the rotary (needs an update, badly, WHERE ARE YOU FORD?) and miata
BMW has perfectly balanced inline 6's and amazing suspensions

Wheres GM's and Chrysler's gimmick? I'll give Ford credit for mazda but that's fading.... fast.

GM has a good start with direct injection on the Cobalt for 260hp and 30mpg but everyone else is starting to do DI too so...
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Old 12-05-2008, 02:54 PM   #8
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VW has diesels, and a grand reputation for piss poor quality (along with Audi)
Subaru has flat engines??? This is a plus how? Less power and less MPG?
Mazda... Rotary? surely you don't put this in the + category
BMW, Didn't Cadi best the uber M car, for a lot less $$$

Toyota while a case study for modern manufacturing efficiency has NOTHING interesting or exciting on its showroom floors, and is no saint when it come to being neck deep in SUV's.

GM has a lot A LOT!!! of room to improve, but they have made great strides and have most at light speed compared to the past. I for one want to see the Domestics pull out of this slump.

It would be nice to see more Americans get behind our battered companies and realize that the company is more than just the CEO. Nothing good will come from the Detroit 3 going away.
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Old 12-05-2008, 02:59 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by matt30 View Post
Poor Detroit.

VW has diesels and DSG
Subaru has symmetrical AWD And boxer engines
Honda has I-VTECH
Toyota has hybrid synergy drive
Mazda had the rotary (needs an update, badly, WHERE ARE YOU FORD?) and miata
BMW has perfectly balanced inline 6's and amazing suspensions

Wheres GM's and Chrysler's gimmick? I'll give Ford credit for mazda but that's fading.... fast.

GM has a good start with direct injection on the Cobalt for 260hp and 30mpg but everyone else is starting to do DI too so...
big three has cars that can go fast in straight line and not fall apart out of the factory (initial quality)

... and Exploders,
... and Nitro.
... and Aveo.
... and the best rental cars, or cars for old people
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Old 12-05-2008, 03:03 PM   #10
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I think it doesn't matter what tech they have - if they fail to package it in a package the consumer sees value in purchasing.

The VW diesel - 6spd - interior is pretty cool for $25K - There isn't a Domestic auto maker on US dirt that has anything close to it - so value over reliability is worth taking a risk.

Subaru - AWD Decent looking pratical mid sized cars that take a beating and keep going - again not a single Domestic builder on US dirt with anything close. Regarding milege find me a Domestic car thats AWD that beats Subaru's milege? You can't because they don't exist. Better yet find me a domestic builder who only offers two key options packages on their top selling cars? I doub't if you can find one that has less than 4 options packages - each package costs money to set up - and offer. Hence Subaru - Honda and a few others try to keep the packages down to a minimum. Vs Fords 200+ possible combos of F-series etc.
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Old 12-05-2008, 03:10 PM   #11
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One more kick, I have to take this fine example of GM's loss of direction...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lboogie View Post
Lets for a moment go back and look at the birth of the Aztek. A hard working young designer first conceived plans for yet another SUV like vehicle to further milk the SUV craze at the time. He had many platforms to choose from and picked one about the right size. THen he penciled out this monstrosity. With a spring in his step, convinced he had just drew up a revolutionary and stunning new vehicle that will give GM a leg up on the competition he walks to his manager.

Upon seeing his sketch the manager say, BY GOD that thing is beautiful, we should make it....he then marches to his supervisor thinking of his next promotion and his seat on the private jet, he shows this design.

His supervisor is so enamored by this stunning looking car he moves it into the fast track to let the board of directors see it.

When all of the board saw it, they thought it was a great 'progressive' looking cars that all these younger kids these days would love. So they made it.

So from the smallest peon to the up top board members, this car was loved enough to produce. Think about how much entrenched idiots there must be that not one person had the forsite to condem this abomination.

So much needs to change.
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Old 12-05-2008, 03:13 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 2000wrx View Post
VW has diesels, and a grand reputation for piss poor quality (along with Audi)
Subaru has flat engines??? This is a plus how? Less power and less MPG?
Mazda... Rotary? surely you don't put this in the + category
BMW, Didn't Cadi best the uber M car, for a lot less $$$

Toyota while a case study for modern manufacturing efficiency has NOTHING interesting or exciting on its showroom floors, and is no saint when it come to being neck deep in SUV's.

GM has a lot A LOT!!! of room to improve, but they have made great strides and have most at light speed compared to the past. I for one want to see the Domestics pull out of this slump.

It would be nice to see more Americans get behind our battered companies and realize that the company is more than just the CEO. Nothing good will come from the Detroit 3 going away.
I'm sure everyone knows the Subaru justification for flat 4 and 6's low center of gravity, no need for large balance shafts, relatively compact. Sure it comes with trade offs but the advantages are undeniable.

Mazda's Renesis engine was a marvel when it came out, smooth, high revving, 260 hp out of a 1.3L. Like I said though it needs an update..bad.

And as far as BMW is concerned the 3-series is quality throughout the model range from the 328i to the M3 (in fact throughout there entire NA lineup). The same can't be said for the CTS and Caddy's in general.

I'd like to see GM do well but the Ethanol gimmick isn't working for me.
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Old 12-05-2008, 03:18 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SCRAPPYDO View Post
One more kick, I have to take this fine example of GM's loss of direction...



Lets for a moment go back and look at the birth of the Aztek. A hard working young designer first conceived plans for yet another SUV like vehicle to further milk the SUV craze at the time. He had many platforms to choose from and picked one about the right size. THen he penciled out this monstrosity. With a spring in his step, convinced he had just drew up a revolutionary and stunning new vehicle that will give GM a leg up on the competition he walks to his manager.

Upon seeing his sketch the manager say, BY GOD that thing is beautiful, we should make it....he then marches to his supervisor thinking of his next promotion and his seat on the private jet, he shows this design.

His supervisor is so enamored by this stunning looking car he moves it into the fast track to let the board of directors see it.

When all of the board saw it, they thought it was a great 'progressive' looking cars that all these younger kids these days would love. So they made it.

So from the smallest peon to the up top board members, this car was loved enough to produce. Think about how much entrenched idiots there must be that not one person had the forsite to condem this abomination.

So much needs to change.
With all due respect the concept did look worse than what came out
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Old 12-05-2008, 03:36 PM   #14
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I agree with this article.

Now, if only politicians in both Canada and the US read and understood this. Both the US government and the Canadian opposition parties (parliament was more or less dissolved over this issue) want to dump more money into these sinking ships...
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Old 12-05-2008, 03:41 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by matt30 View Post
I'm sure everyone knows the Subaru justification for flat 4 and 6's low center of gravity, no need for large balance shafts, relatively compact. Sure it comes with trade offs but the advantages are undeniable.

Mazda's Renesis engine was a marvel when it came out, smooth, high revving, 260 hp out of a 1.3L. Like I said though it needs an update..bad.
You're insane if you think more than 1% of consumers give two ****s about either one of these items.
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Old 12-05-2008, 03:45 PM   #16
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So true.. These companies cannot honestly tell us that they didn't see this coming.
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Old 12-05-2008, 04:02 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Layman View Post
You're insane if you think more than 1% of consumers give two ****s about either one of these items.
If that were true there wouldn't be massive add campaigns to extol the virtues of the tech, nor would there be anyone interested in any of the auto mags.

I want to say, in the case of the RX-8, if enthusiasts (ppl who know about the rotary and it's advantages) didn't fawn over, it the bandwagoners wouldn't have either.

It's innovation that gets us interested in the first place, and popularity that keeps it going.

That stuff counts for a lot.
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Old 12-05-2008, 04:07 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Layman View Post
You're insane if you think more than 1% of consumers give two ****s about either one of these items.
True, but I think consumers need an overhaul too, they should be more concerned and impressed by by a well built quality machine and not the number of cup holders it has.
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Old 12-05-2008, 04:16 PM   #19
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That article in it had so much FAIL in it, I practically started to cry.
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Old 12-05-2008, 04:43 PM   #20
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Scappydo you have it a bit backwards. Domestically, the way it used to go was that some upper level person read a report from a focus group and said "Brand x needs one of these, use an existing platform." Then they did studies to see what the market will bear, etc, etc. In the end you got a recycled product with different bumpers and cup holders. It costs 17K to make and fit into a "market will bear" catagory of 25K.

Engineers and designers are the one's who have to try to pull majic out of thier a$$es and make poop work semi-right.

Too much faith or a bad focus group sampling can do a lot of damage.

GM has an amazing V8, as stone-age as the design is with it's push-rods it make great reliable power and loads of it.

Hey Wagoner where is the Hydrogen? (Remember that one?)

Peace,

Greg
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Old 12-05-2008, 05:08 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SCRAPPYDO View Post
So from the smallest peon to the up top board members, this car was loved enough to produce. Think about how much entrenched idiots there must be that not one person had the forsite to condem this abomination.

So much needs to change.

Quoted for truth (IMO).
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Old 12-05-2008, 05:10 PM   #22
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man the car and concept is such a piece of crap lol
who knew they could fit so many morons in one building?
lol
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Old 12-05-2008, 05:10 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by matt30 View Post
If that were true there wouldn't be massive add campaigns to extol the virtues of the tech, nor would there be anyone interested in any of the auto mags.

I want to say, in the case of the RX-8, if enthusiasts (ppl who know about the rotary and it's advantages) didn't fawn over, it the bandwagoners wouldn't have either.

It's innovation that gets us interested in the first place, and popularity that keeps it going.

That stuff counts for a lot.
No - the companies think it counts for a lot, not the consumers. The desires of 99% of the consumer are far less complex: something reliable, something attractive, something practical, etc.

You keep mentioning the RX8. Keep in mind how few of those sold relative to the market.
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Old 12-05-2008, 05:16 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by matt30 View Post
Poor Detroit.

Mazda had the rotary (needs an update, badly, WHERE ARE YOU FORD?) and miata


Wheres GM's and Chrysler's gimmick? I'll give Ford credit for mazda but that's fading.... fast.

GM has a good start with direct injection on the Cobalt for 260hp and 30mpg but everyone else is starting to do DI too so...
GM's gimmick in my mind is the LSx motors. Hands down I would take this platform of V8 over any other save the 4.6l Terminator motor, and even then I'm flipping a coin as to which one I would use.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 2000wrx View Post
VW has diesels, and a grand reputation for piss poor quality (along with Audi)
Subaru has flat engines??? This is a plus how? Less power and less MPG?
Mazda... Rotary? surely you don't put this in the + category
BMW, Didn't Cadi best the uber M car, for a lot less $$$

Toyota while a case study for modern manufacturing efficiency has NOTHING interesting or exciting on its showroom floors, and is no saint when it come to being neck deep in SUV's.

GM has a lot A LOT!!! of room to improve, but they have made great strides and have most at light speed compared to the past. I for one want to see the Domestics pull out of this slump.

It would be nice to see more Americans get behind our battered companies and realize that the company is more than just the CEO. Nothing good will come from the Detroit 3 going away.
Yeah I would put a rotary in the plus column about like I would nailing a hot chick with herpes.

It would be nice if the Big 3 made the product I was looking for...oh wait Ford does.....in Europe. This is completely their fault. If tomorrow Subaru went under due to poor management and an abysmal product line I'd shed not a single tear.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Layman View Post
You're insane if you think more than 1% of consumers give two ****s about either one of these items.
I consider myself an average consumer and I can remember watching TV spots on Subaru's AWD and Boxer engine as a kid, which is what finally led me to a Subaru at age 22. Don't discount Subaru's two biggest selling points so easily, IMHO they've done a pretty good job of communicating their idea and selling a product based on it.
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Old 12-05-2008, 05:38 PM   #25
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I actually know the original creator of the Aztek. It was supposed to be a sports car, and ended up based off a mini van chassis.

At least GM is starting to phase out the four speed auto's.

Nick
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