The Giant Green Lie Of Detroit
Big media has been beating the drum that if Detroit built more fuel-efficient vehicles, buyers would flock back to their showrooms. But there is an inherent lie in this line of thinking. And if investors buy into this lie, they could end up on the wrong side of the trade when it comes to considering the major American auto makers any time in the future.
Detroit seems to be suffering from decades of reliance of fuel-guzzling behemoths that fell out of popularity as oil hit historic highs. The champions of green, including big media, now say that if only Detroit could follow in the footsteps of Toyota, Honda and other hybrid pioneers, then American buyers will return to the showrooms in droves.
This is not entirely true.
The issue is not confined to high mileage. The other factor ignored in this green wave of propaganda is quality. After all, what if Detroit did manage to turn around the old battleship in enough time to build green cars – but those cars were just as junky as the cars coming out of Detroit today?
While green is certainly top-of-mind in shell-shocked American consumers, it seems that no one is talking about the lagging quality of American automakers in this new generation of smaller, thrifty vehicles.
After all, don’t Americans buy foreign cars not only for better mileage but for their superior quality?
In looking at the Consumer Reports Most Reliable Cars of 2009, only three American cars made the cut in a grand total of 47 vehicles.
Detroit didn’t even make a decent showing in it’s traditional stronghold of trucks and SUVs. Only the Lincoln MKX ranked in the category of Mid-Size SUVs. The categories of Large SUVs and Pick-up Trucks were a clean sweep by the Japanese.
When the CEOs of the Big Three came hat-in-hand to Congress last week, they talked about payroll reductions, discontinued pensions and plans to build greener cars. They even had the audacity to ask Washington for R&D subsidies for new battery development.
But to the best of our knowledge, they never promised to build better, more reliable vehicles.
Yes, the green flag wavers can climb onto their soap boxes and pontificate about Detroit’s bad karma. While it’s certainly true that Detroit must compete with the Japanese and Koreans on fuel economy, the Big Three also need to make these new smaller cars better than ever before.
If we don’t see Detroit’s new, green vehicles showing up in Consumer Reports Most Reliable Cars of 2011, then Washington and American investors are wasting their money.