How to Save the US Automotive Industry in 10 Not-So-Simple Steps

Posted by: admin In: Auto

With the Big 3 U.S. Automakers circling the drain, we figured we would throw our hat in the ring and offer up some suggestions.

And no…none of them involve sticking your head between your legs and kissing your @$$ goodbye.

1. File chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Suck it up and file bankruptcy. During the restructure, fire some people, adjust some salaries, and trim the fat. Take the $25 billion dollars of taxpayer money and ensure that your workers get the retirement and health care benefits that you have promised them.

And honestly, I don’t care how hard your CEO works or how stressful the job is, an $8 million dollar salary is ridiculous when you are asking the federal government for a handout. He already gets free cars, maintenance, and repairs (which are normally 15-20% of a household budget). You could take $7 million of that and start saving your company.

2. Get rid of the United Auto Workers Union.

Workforce unionization is so 1935. Historically, labor unions fought to establish safer working conditions and better wages/benefits for it’s members. Having met those goals several decades ago, they have unfortunately become self-serving money funnels that drive up the cost of doing business. Union contracts don’t allow companies the flexibility they need when times are tough. And times ARE tough, if you haven’t noticed. You can imagine how having to pay someone $30/hour plus benefits and retirement to install tires significantly increases the cost of making cars. Other industries have layoffs, reduce benefits, nix bonuses, don’t give raises, etc. This is the reality of doing business in a global economy.

Following the bankruptcy, make your salaries competitive, but don’t hire any one that is union. If people need the job badly enough, they will drop their union memberships and take what you are offering.

3. Stop making shite.

Reputations always hold a modicum of truth and US automakers have a reputation for building cheap, unreliable cars. From 1990-1996, Chevy even had the balls (or sheer lack of imagination) to make both a minivan and a car named “Lumina” – that both sucked. If you asked anybody, I mean ANYBODY, to name a reliable car, Honda and Toyota will be the first words out of their mouth.

Fixing a bad reputation is a monumental task and the Big 3 need a crash course on reputation management. Step 1 involves recognizing your shortcomings (quality, innovation, foresight, leadership, dealerships, etc.) and doing everything in your power to rectify those issues. If those shortcomings consistently involve bad management decisions, then maybe the stockholders need to take the reins and clean house.

4. Combine brands and focus your efforts.

A Tahoe is a Yukon. An Explorer is a Mountaineer, a B-Series is a Ranger. An Aspen is a Durango. On and on ad nauseum.

How much money is being wasted on simply marketing the same car with 2 different names?

You could take all of the best people working on those “other” cars – the designers, engineers, dealers, marketing teams – and redirect their efforts into improving your flagship cars. By trying to have a vehicle for every single niche market, you are simply diluting the kool-aid. Dodge makes RAM trucks and minivans. Ford makes F-150s, Mustangs, and cop cars. Chevy makes full-size SUVs and Corvettes. Chrysler makes the 300C. Keep doing that.

Older generations of Americans might care about the fact that they can still drive a Lincoln or Mercury like they did in the 50’s, but they will be dead soon they still think Cadillac is the epitome of luxury. Younger generations could give a rip about brand loyalty.

5. Design a hybrid that doesn’t look like a Peep.

A. If anyone could design a hybrid that didn’t look a piece of sugar coated marshmallow fluff and cost less than $20k, I’d buy it in a heartbeat. Yes, I’m talking to you too Lexus. I’m so tired of the maximizing aerodynamics argument. I’ll take a 5mpg hit and a $10k price increase if you make it look like a Porsche. Please explain to me how Porsches aren’t aerodynamic.

B. Make a REAL hybrid truck that doesn’t cost $55k. Despite the current state of gas prices, Americans like big vehicles. They exude a certain level of socioeconomic status. They make us feel safe. They can carry all of our kids and all of our crap. And with a 66%  overweight/obesity rate, we obviously need the space. Have you ever seen two fat people stuffed in a Ford Fiesta?  Sad.  But I’m not paying an extra $15k for 3-5mpg just to have the “hybrid” logo on my truck and the piece of mind that I’m doing my part to “save the environment”.

6. Make a great car for $15k.

Buying a car in 2008 is all about functionality, affordability, and reliability.

There are a ton of people that can’t afford $40k cars, but they still need to get their kids to school, get to work, run around town, and go see Grandma every know and then. KIA and Hyundai have done well because they consistently design inexpensive, reliable cars with outstanding warranties.

7. Stop redesigning cars every 1-2 years.

Your shiny new annual redesign does not make me want to go and buy a new car.

It actually pisses me off because I’m still paying for the one I have. To make things worse, I’m up-side-down on the loan because the car depreciated $10k when I drove it off the lot. Please let me revel in the fact that I have the latest model for just a few years. Because, unless I’m leasing, I can’t afford to get a new car every 2 years.

How many millions does it take to simply redesign/redistribute all of the advertising materials for every new model? Every year you change the curve of the bumper, the hood lines, a little bit of the interior – I’ve lost track of it all. How much money does it cost to keep every version of every part in inventory to keep these things on the road for the next 10 years?

8. Let go of the nostalgia and make new Iconic cars.

You Baby Boomers making management decisions are f*ing everything up. Stop remaking everything that was cool in the 60s.

Why on earth would Chevy redesign the Camaro – to compete with the Mustang? There was a reason that the Camaro line was discontinued a few years back. They weren’t selling even when gas was less than $2/gallon! WHY WOULD YOU SPEND MILLIONS OF DOLLARS REDESIGNING A FAILURE WHEN GAS IS $4/GALLON!?!

Now I’ll give it to you, a 1964 Impala is killer. A solid steel rocket sled – all long and chromed out. But the thought of driving a 2004 Impala makes me want to slit my wrists. And if this was a lame attempt to tap into the youth and urban markets, then I’m sure you guys will do a lot better with the Trax, the Beat, the Groove – wink, wink. I’m envisioning old white men, decked in 1980’s track suits and gold chains, hippity-hopping in the board room. Yo Yo Yo.

No one wants to drive a lame remake. The Impala, the Malibu, the Monte Carlo – leave them be. And I swear to God if you guys resurrect the Geos, there will be hell to pay.

9. Design for both American and European markets.

Chevrolet, Ford, and Chrysler are massive global corporations. The current automotive crisis, as well as the current financial situation, is not a localized phenomenon. If GM tanks, it takes Opel and Vauxhall down with it. Designing cars that meet both U.S. and European safety/emission standards is easier said than done, but couldn’t we hold hands and sing kumbaya just this once?

Check out these numbers: from Houston Smith (to PBN.com)

Chrysler

U.S. – 4 vehicles rated 25mpg or greater.
EU – 7 vehicle configurations rated 32 to 40 mpg.

Ford

U.S. – 5 vehicles rated 25mpg or greater.
EU – 22 vehicle configurations rated 42 to 58 mpg.

GM

U.S. – 24 vehicles rated 25mpg or greater.
EU – 50 vehicle configurations rated 42 to 53 mpg.

You wanna reduce our dependence on foreign oil? Then let us get our hands on some Euro models and we’ll finish off that pesky ozone layer.

10. At least go Web 2.0.

Hello and welcome to the future. Please notice the series of tubes that we call the interwebs.

Take note from the recent successes of the Obama campaign – getting the general public excited, connected, and involved really works. Simply having a corporate website with wiz-bang pictures and the ability to build/price cars just doesn’t cut it any more. It’s imperative that you get a feel for your customers’ needs and concerns. How can you do that if you never actually talk to them? Seriously, the only correspondence I’ve every had with Chevy or Ford (and I own one of each) involved a recall. I’ve gotten more emails and surveys from a BMW dealer that I visited very late one Friday night – and I didn’t even buy a car from them.

If I thought for one second that any of the Big 3 actually cared what I thought about their new designs or current direction, I would be SOOOOOOO on board for buying another American car.

For that matter…why not post new design ideas on Digg and let people vote for their faves?

Team USA, fff

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  • Skyflyer


    If you want the same MPG as EU, then Americans are needing to get used to small cars

  • David Burton


    Here's the solution in a nutshell. Two years ago, I went to a Saturn Dealership to look at the Saturn Aura, voted "CAR OF THE YEAR" by several prestigious car magazines. I asked to see a "pewter" color which they only had one of and the interior had 3 different colors of leather. It looked like a "pimp-mobile". I then asked for a test drive, they put my wife and I in a blue Aura that had red caked mud on the floorboard.

  • David Burton


    I was still going to test drive the car even though the sales rep could have cared less. I adjusted the side view mirrors (both sides of the car) and then I reached up and adjusted the rear view mirror. When I let go of the rear view mirror, the mirror fell onto the floor of the car. I looked down, took the key out of the ignition, handed to the sales rep, got out of the car, walked 40 yards across the street to the Honda dealership, and BOUGHT a Honda Civic. I've been very pleased with the car.

  • David Burton


    Now to all you big three CEO's on Capitol Hill in Washington DC. Read this story, realize that you've been screwing the American consumer for over 30 years with inferior quality products, and then say to yourselves "We made our bed, now we are going to lie in it". You don't deserve the American taxpayer's sympathy, empathy, or bailout money. I agree with this article hole-heartedly. Don't BAIL them out!

  • Simple Mom2boyz


    Basically, Americans wouldn't need larger cars if they would downsize their family activities — kids don't HAVE to be on every cheer/dance/tennis/music/soccer/hockey/football/basketball/baseball/art club/team in order to be well-rounded! These moms who live vicariously thru their kids are nuts — their cars have become their home on wheels that tote EVERYTHING and are even dining roomson the go! We would do well to simplify and have smaller cars, not tanks, where in we travel to and from, not take residence from dawn til midnight for busy-ness. We were created as human beings, not human doings! Downsizing lifestyles would make it easy to downsize vehicles!

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  • Chris


    Ive just got two words for this artical. Wait for it. Wait for it. HELL YA

  • http://www.areal.ca Jack


    Thanks for the information:)

  • http://www.ronsamericanrv.com/ Used Motorhomes


    All your thinking is great but i think some point which you have been suggested is not possible. Like you said that combine brand, stop redesigning cars, make a great car for $15 K. If this will possible in future it means the competition between all companies at higher level.

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  • moparjg


    Good points, union dues take money that we as consumers provide when we buy American made cars. As for your views on mpg’s, I hate to admit it but, I love my gas guzzlin’ old Dodge truck…

  • D K Jensen


    Thank you for saying what I have been telling my customers for quite some time now. When you look in an application guide, and there is five pages for Chevrolet, six for Ford and so on and so on, just to put on an oil filter or look up an air filter, their is a problem. I agreed with every thing