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Detroit Needs Future Cars Now


SM 2003
Full Member
Aug 11, 2002
Detroit Needs Future Cars Now

What they?re talking about for tomorrow is desperately needed today.
by Jerry Flint 11/24/2002

I?m beginning to see enthusiastic articles about the future cars coming from General Motors, Ford and Chrysler.

At GM they talk particularly about next year?s Chevy Malibu with its special stretched Maxx model, and the Pontiac Grand Am with a hardtop convertible, too. These cars built off a new global platform. And there?s talk about the Pontiac Grand Prix, the future Saturn large car and maybe a Saturn convertible. A V-8 engine for some cars, too. Lots of stuff.

At Chrysler they talk about the future rear-drive sedans for Dodge and Chrysler built with Mercedes parts.

And at Ford they talk about the coming Five Hundred model and a Taurus replacement smaller than today?s model.

I?ve seen some of these, photos of the Malibu and Pontiac (including the convertible) and I saw the Ford Five Hundred in the clay.

They looked fine, really. The Malibu was squarish, a European look. The Pontiac looked sleek and pointy like a Pontiac. The Ford looked like a big Audi, which was okay.

These are all future models. The designs might have been exciting a few years ago. But next year and the year after? They will be on the edge of dated.

Now and then

Then this last weekend I put a couple hundred miles in the new 2003 Honda Accord. It was the EX model with a 3.0-liter 240-horsepower V-6 engine, a five-speed automatic (right, five-speed), dual heater controls, moonroof, CD (no tape deck) a terrific design and even a side air curtains in addition to side airbags. And it was big, outside and inside, incredibly roomy, front and back. The trunk was huge, too. The speedo went up to 160. I didn?t even try (no more tickets, the wife insists), but this car took off from zero with the best and was fast on uphill climbs. Over 300 miles, mostly highway, I got 25 mpg. The sticker was $24,160.

Complaints: The interior was good but it was all gray, gray seats, gray dash, gray all over. Some color would have been good. My wife found the interior boring and thought the exterior could have been sharper and sexier.

Everybody?s a critic today. I liked the exterior. So will most Americans, I am sure. This car will be the best seller next year.

The point of all this is that the newest Honda sedan takes the family four-door to a new level against Toyota and Nissan (and the Camry and Altima are very good vehicles, too). GM and Ford are not going to catch up with these future cars. (I haven?t seen the new Chryslers so I can?t talk about those.)

How do I know? Well, I have seen them and they don?t take design to a new level. GM, despite Bob Lutz, still has senior officers who believe that the customers are too dumb to know the difference between engines. The key engine at GM still is the 3.8-liter V-6, an old design. It is a technological eon behind the multivalve engines used by competitors like Honda.

Why does GM use an outdated engine? It?s cheap to build. It?s so old that the tooling is paid for. So it?s cheap to build. The multivalve engines the competitors use are much more complicated and expensive. So GM executives pretend their old engine competes instead of giving it a share of the blame for market share losses. But in fact GM uses dated engines to save money.

Catchup game

Does this discourage me?

No, as I said these new Detroit cars won?t catch up, or even seriously challenge the major league foreign players. But they are a start.

Don?t anyone be discouraged. Detroit must just keep pumping out new models but intensify its efforts. Here are the points I see as critical to future greatness:

Styling. It must be much more eye-catching. Detroit cars used to look head-turning great. Now they are middle-of-the-road boring. Understated design won?t catch anyone.

Quality must improve dramatically. I have a friend who calls me regularly to brag about GM quality. And what has it improved to? Average! That?s according to Consumer Reports. Average doesn?t win either. The Ford Focus recalls are a disgrace and have hurt the Ford name enormously. Ford keeps demanding lower prices from parts suppliers until it gets its prices and cheaper parts. That creates defective cars like the Focus. GM is little better. Michelin, the most respected tire maker in the world, won?t sell to GM in Europe because GM demands giveaway prices. Believe me, GM in Europe will lose sales because of this.

Speed, speed, speed. Detroit is incredibly slow in its decision-making. Remember the Solstice, the gorgeous two-seat roadster Lutz and GM showed off last January at the Detroit auto show? It was a major hit. Any Japanese or Korean company would have been halfway through the tooling already. General Motors says it still is studying the car. The Solstice could be dated by the time it comes out. Chrysler showed a handsome two-door PT Cruiser at the

Paris auto show. But it is years away from production. There is no excuse for that. The California Cruiser would be in the showroom next fall if Nissan were building it. Intolerable.

Don?t give up. They must get rid of the idea that the best strategy is giving up ? as in goodbye Plymouth, bye-bye Oldsmobile, adios Mercury and maybe one day, sayonara Taurus. As I wrote, this coming first wave of new Detroit cars won?t win the war. But as the old Chinese friend, Lao-tzu used to say when we drove together in The Great Wall 500, "A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step."

source: The Car Connection
I agree that the domestic car's have a long way to catch up to some of the imports and their reliability.....I never claimed to be an auto expert...and haven't claimed to have been here and there and back when it comes to cars...so this is just my opinion...from things either owned, driven, or borrowed...

I would like to see the Opel line come to the states from Chevy...they have some nice models that I feel would be successful here in the states....seeing how more and more cars out on the road on all sport compact's.....for instance the VW Golf...the R32 I believe displayed at one of the auto shows not to long ago...the Paris show If I'm not mistaken.....now that was one attractive hatchback.....AWD...VW V6...and all the goodies to go with it...everything from heated seats to full leather interiors....very nice and all for about $30,000....I feel as long as the oversees competitors keeping offering such vehicles....moderately priced and obviously reliable....the Detroit folks are going to have their hands full.... :B:
Heck yah. It is about time that Detriot took a giant step forward. They can't keep waiting to see how well recieved the other manufs. are doing on progressive designs. Detroit needs to take the lead. As the saying goes; "If your not the lead dog, the view never changes."