Thursday, August 24, 2006

Observations: Automobile Tastes

Having grown up in the greater Detroit metro area for the first 17+ years of my life I've always been a car guy. Now, what I mean is not that I can tell you the difference between engines, or why one model year car is better than another, what I mean is that I've always had an interest in the car business and how that business effects out country, and more importantly to me, my family back in Michigan.

I've always had a preference to Chysler and their other brands (Dodge, Jeep, and the defunt Plymouth). My grandfather worked for Chrysler for most of his adult life, eventually retiring from there in the mid eighties. My whole extended family drove Chrylers...Jeeps, minivans, sedans.... Cherokee's, Grand Voyagers, Stratuses. I prefered the look of a Chrysler over a Ford or Chevy too. That's not to say the Chrysler wasn't lacking in many areas, it was. But for me, I was a Chrysler guy, and that's just the way it was going to be.

Until I discovered German cars in high school. Man, did those Germans know how to design and engineer something or what? I'd never really looked at BMWs, or in Detroit was a Buick, Lincoln, or Cadillac. Only yuppies drove cars from Germany...but boy did those yuppies have nice cars.

It was BMW really, and later Audi, that a truly fancied. Their clean lines, hard edges, smooth contours, that was what appealed to me. Mercedes never really did it for me as much as Bimmers and Audis, and even to a point VWs. I still thought there were nice though, so don't get me wrong, Mercedes are indeed very very nice cars.

It was sort of a best of both worlds feeling when Chrysler and Daimler/Mercedes "merged" to form Daimler/Chrysler. Chrysler had been hurting and needed some help, Mercedes saw a brand that could really help them take a greater share of the American, and ultimatley world, market. Things started to look up almost immediatley, as the PT Cruiser was a smash hit, and still sells well to this day.

Chrysler, while not in the clear yet, has continued to rebuild their brand and created cars that have become icons in America. The Chrysler 300c is the flagship sedan of the brand, and very well should be. It's elegance demands respect, and it truly looks like the car of royalty...albiet the royalty of Auburn Hills. The Dodge Magnum, allowing dads restricted to driving wagons have a little fun while doing it. The Dodge Charger, taking the 4 door American sedan to new heights. The, yeah...that one was sort of a miss. Anyway, they've got three strong hits, a great line of Dodge trucks and SUVs, and the whole "Hemi" thing.

Good stuff.

However, I've been troubled by the problems with GM and Ford. As much as I know Chrysler is in my blood, in a way Ford and GM are too. Afterall, they've helped fuel Detroit as long as Chrysler has. I remember what happened to Flint when the plants closed. That city is a shell of it's former self, a true lesson is putting your eggs in one basket. However, Ford's and GM's problems are different than Chrysler.

I can't think of a car that I want to drive from either of them. Sure, the Mustang is nice, but I've never really liked Vettes. Giant GM SUVs, please. Ford F-150, not a pickup guy. Buick Lesabre, gag me. Chevy Montecarlo, do people still buy these? Ford 500, not a bad start, but no one else seems to think it's good enough to buy. How do you fix a company that makes a TON of cars no one really cares for, and then has to give away at employee prices? How do you fix a company without causing thousands of people their jobs and livelyhoods? I'm glad I don't run either of those companies. The only job worse than that is running the Detroit Lions...oh wait, the Ford family has F'ed that up too. Coincidence?

There are continued rough times ahead for Ford and GM. I wish them the best...even if I have a slight grin knowing that my guys are in the best shape.



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