I drove to the lake today for a 14 mile run, only to discover that my iPod has given up the ghost, so I was stuck running with nothing to listen to but my own thoughts. Scary.
So, I decided to figure out why I have such deep-seated animus toward American car makers. Turns out, it's justified.
The first car I recall in my life was a white, 1967 Ford station wagon that my folks owned when we lived in Chicago. From that point, our family cars went as follows:
- 1970 - Ford Ranch-Wagon
- 1976 - Ford Gran Torino station wagon
- 1982 - Ford Escort station wagon
- 1984 - Mercury Topaz
- 1986 - Ford Taurus station wagon
That's almost 20 years of uninterrupted Ford products. We never bought another after 1986.
Well, the 1986 Ford Taurus had a five speed manual transmission that died and needed to be replaced after two years. The details are sketchy, but Ford refused to cover it under warranty and we had to pay for a new one.
My father was livid.
From that point on, he never bought another Ford. In fact, he replaced the Taurus with a Subaru and sent a letter and a copy of the Subaru invoice to the CEO of Ford.
No member of my family of six has bought a Ford, or any American car, since.
Think about that: Six people (now five, since my dad passed away in 2004) that will not buy a Ford for 50-60 years. Multiply that by millions of people around the country and now it's pretty obvious why Detroit is desperate for your tax dollars.
Some might argue "Ancient history. Detroit is making great cars now."
Really? Remember the Ford Explorer rollovers? That was in 2000. Blame the tires? OK - but Ford sold those tires with the car. Sorry. Package deal.
How about the Pontiac Aztec in 2001?
The 2002 Lincoln Blackwood? That lasted exactly one year.
The new Ford Thunderbird? Launched in 2002 and killed in 2005 due to overwhelming indifference and underwhelming sales.
A close friend owned a Ford Explorer. When it was time to replace it, she and her husband chose a Lexus and a Toyota minivan for their family of five. In fact, I am not sure I know anyone who owns a Ford and very few people who drive a car from any of the Big Three.
So, that's why I have a tough time racing to rescue these companies. I won't give them money in exchange for one of their products. Why in the world would I hand them money... for NOTHING???
Oh - and to Wall Street Journal columnist Holman Jenkins, who is normally pretty lucid: Your most recent column is preposterously stupid. CAFE standards did NOT ruin American automakers. It was simply bad products, bad management, bad union deals and bad planning over the past 30 years. (Though you are right about raising the gas tax and letting the market decide.)