(An actual General Motors internal-propaganda video.)

Somehow, in spite of the fact that GM, Ford and Chrysler are at the ends of their rope, Americans are still buying their cars. This is not particularly confusing at the outset; after all, the “Buy American” movement in the United States is still strong. Ford and Chrysler have already said they’re going to shutter most of their American operations by the end of this year; Ford has said it will shutter ten factories in the U.S. and Mexico for the rest of the year, considerably longer than usual, and Chrysler’s announced it’s going to stop building all cars entirely until mid-January, with no positive indication that it’s actually going to start building them again.

Now, look, I’m not going to bitch about those of you who are buying American cars. My family currently owns, as its full four-vehicle lineup, a 1998 Ford F-150, a 1999 Mercury Mystique LS, and a 2007 Ford Escape XLS. These cars have proven decent, workable vehicles with few reliability problems.

What I am going to tell you American-make buyers (specifically, ones that are buying brand-new vehicles from the Detroit 3) is that you’re making the stupidest decision of your lives.

You will never live down buying a brand-new vehicle from GM, Ford or Chrysler at this point. These three–all three, but especially GM and Chrysler–are totally, irreversibly fucked. There is no way they can survive this crisis–at least as they stand right now (thanks Alan for at least keeping me honest in my contradictions). As it currently stands, if you buy a car from any of these three, you’re pretty much buying a car made by a bankrupt carmaker with no warranty and no hope for any help in the future.

The warranty thing is why you’re stupid. When these three declare bankruptcy–which they will–your warranty will be null and void. Your car will have literally no protection or guarantees from any of these companies. Unless you’ve got gap insurance and a warranty from your local credit union, you’d better pray to whoever you typically pray to that your car lasts you. ‘Cause if it don’t… Well, you know.

Don’t believe it? Don’t believe such a thing could ever happen to an affluent middle-class American citizen? Au contraire.

FACT: Nobody gives a shit about me, you, my car, your car, my problems, or your problems.

GM never gave the slightest interest in what happened to Flint when they shipped jobs to Mexico. Ford never cared about the buyers of the Pinto, who might well have an exploding car. Chevy never cared about the buyers of the Corvair. Chrysler didn’t care when its Dodge Ram’s dashboard started cracking and deforming, potentially creating a safety hazard for its customers.

In fact, GM, Ford, and Chrysler have never cared about America, their employees, their customers, or their reputations. At every point in time from their inception to today, they’ve done what seems best for them. They’ve been notoriously inept, ignorant, and arrogant. When fundamental engineering problems were observed in their cars, these three did precisely nothing until the public got wind of it.

Now, every company does this. Toyota’s done it. Honda’s screwed up. And Nissan has too. I have never heard of a company that didn’t have at least one bad egg that it threw out onto the market.

But usually when other companies fail, they own up to it. When used Toyota Tacomas started rusting in their frames circa 2007, Toyota recalled all of them, citing safety hazards. If something went wrong with their cars, they recalled the defective part.

When Ford, Chrysler and GM find a problem? They either cover it up, or deny that the problem exists. IIHS used the F-150 as the poster child for the poor safety of American vehicles around 1999. Ford’s reputation for safety went out the back door pretty much overnight. News organizations all over cited it as proof that NHTSA tests weren’t enough, and that American cars were fundamentally unsafe.

Ford’s reaction? Keep it on the market until 2004, completely unchanged. That’s when Ford finally redesigned the truck, and not a moment before. By then Ford’s F150s were perfectly safe–but nobody gives a shit anymore. Why? Because Toyotas are too. So are Chevys and Dodges.

The moment the IIHS said that F150s were deathtraps Ford should have done something–anything–to fix its cars. Let us not forget that back then Ford was actually making a profit, and actually made money. So what did it use the money on? Buying Aston-Martin, Volvo, Jaguar, and Land Rover. So my family’s ’98 F-150? Pretty much screwed. Would’ve been anyway, but it would have been nice had anybody actually cared. Of course, my Mercury Mystique LS gets equally bad crash test ratings, so I suppose it just kind of runs in the Ford family. The Toyota Corolla of the time got an Acceptable, so I don’t know what else it could be.

At that point the T-100 Toyota had to compete against the F-150 got a “Marginal”, assuming my memory’s not off. IIHS removed the results from its list, presumably because of how old the truck is. But that’s not really important, because by next year its new Tundra got a green “Good” rating from the IIHS. Even the Silverado got a “Marginal” rating. Only Ford’s F-150 and the Dodge Ram got “Poor” ratings.

These companies take their sweet time to fix their cars; the Pinto and Corvair are famous examples of this tendency. But that isn’t my point here. More to the point, these companies go to the lowest common denominator to help their customers in tough times. Meanwhile, Toyota, Honda, and Nissan fix their cars or help their customers (at the very least) when things go wrong.

The Chevy Colorado recently got a Poor rating from the IIHS in side-crashes. When I emailed them about it, they told me that the NHTSA said it was safe, and therefore it was safe.

Even the Ford Ranger, which was first designed in 1979 during the freakin’ Carter Administration, and which has never received any safety updates since, got a “Marginal” rating from the IIHS.

Toyota’s Tacoma got a “Good”, the only truck in its class to do so. Toyota sensibly asked the IIHS to test its truck with side-curtain airbags, because they’d be standard in 2009.

Notice here I haven’t even touched reliability, which is even worse. Only Ford comes close to matching Toyota and Honda in reliability. It has said it wishes to best both companies in reliability in the near future (for serious).

Chevy? Chrysler? Haha. Nope, not a damn thing. Neither of those companies care about being competitive. As long as we give them their $25 billion in bailout dollars, they’re perfectly happy giving us the same ol’ shit they’ve been giving us since the Vega.

Oh yeah. Chevy’s said it’s going to give us an electric car, called the “Volt.” This is pretty much the only thing it has in the works that most Chevy fanboys are interested in.

Construction on the factory that is to make the Chevy Volt’s engine has been shut down.

Chevy has announced it’s preparing its bankruptcy attorneys.

My point here is to warn you not to buy a GM or Chrysler product right now. Fords are a bit more sensible but you’re still risking your warranty. And you still can’t help any of these companies, because they won’t help themselves. All three know what it takes to fix their businesses. Only one (Ford) is taking the necessary steps. And it may still be too late for Ford, simply because this recession has whittled its buyer base down to pretty much zero.

These three will declare bankruptcy. There’s nothing you can do about it. But if you really want to help them, here’s what you should do:

  • Wait until they’re bankrupt to buy from these three. Yes, seriously. They will still be around to buy from. At least two (GM and Ford) will be in Chapter 11. That’s a “reorganization”, for those not in the know. Reorganization means that courts take control and shutter factories, brands, and dealers to bring the company back into the black.
  • Also, make sure the government or some other group has promised to honor your warranty regardless of what happens to the manufacturer.
  • If there’s no guarantee your warranty will still be valid regardless of what happens to the manufacturer, you’ll have to use the discount GM puts on its vehicles as your warranty. Use the $5,000 or so they cut off the cost of your vehicle by putting it into the bank. Make sure you can get at it at any time to finance repairs on your car.

In the end, buying from any of the Big Three in the interest of helping the companies and their workers is a losing game right now. The current situation for all three is a broken one that can’t be helped without downsizing workers. Yes, it’s because of stupid managment, but there’s just about nothing we can do to stop that problem. And, of course, if we try to stop it, we’ll just be giving more money to management of these companies. They’ll probably continue to outsource American labor regardless, and it’s no guarantee they’ll spend money on product. Ford recently started making a brand new design on their compact Focus car for Europe. Americans got a mildly refreshened design dating from 1999, because Ford wanted to spend as little as possible on a redesign and therefore refused to bring the new platform to the U.S. You can still buy it here–as a Mazda–but not from Ford. What’ll be the difference if we give them money? Do you really think they’ll spend it on us Americans? Or will they prefer to spend our money in Europe, or Asia, where markets are growing and they make money on every car they make using cheap labor and lax safety requirements?

By the time Obama becomes President, at least two of America’s three domestic automakers will be in bankruptcy, and as much as 50% of its workforce will have been downsized. Audi, Mitsubishi, GMC, Saturn, HUMMER, Buick, Pontiac, Chrysler, Dodge, and Mercury will be gone. The U.S. economy will be in a worsening depression, and a good deal of its workforce will be out of a job.

At this point, in time, Obama’s new plans will come into play and the United States will gradually recover. If you buy American at that point, you can be a part of the repair work of the Big Three. They can (and will) recover from bankruptcy. Warrantees will likely be protected by the Federal government. New management and new manufacturing techniques will quickly change. Eventually, these three will become real competition for Nissan, Honda, and Toyota. Wait till then. You’ll probably be glad you did.



  1. Alan Says:

    I wish you were as skilled with your logic as you are with your writing. Just a few points:

    “We’ve got GM and Chrysler workers vandalizing cars in Detroit as we speak.”

    – Nothing in your link says who these people are. You apparently assume they are GM and Chrysler workers. I hope you never serve on a jury. Here’s a clue: The suspect they have on tape was driving a Ford Escape. Why do you assume it was a GM or Chrysler employee? And these incidents were limited. Probably the work of the same person or persons.

    “These three–all three, but especially GM and Chrysler–are totally, irreversibly fucked. There is no way they can survive this crisis.”


    “They can (and will) recover from bankruptcy. Warrantees will likely be protected by the Federal government. New management and new manufacturing techniques will quickly change. Eventually, these three will become real competition for Nissan, Honda, and Toyota.”

    -Talk about contradiction.

    You seem to be just rattling on without the right set of facts or a logical train of thought. Try again.

  2. theluigiian Says:

    I’ll admit that this article sucks. I tried my best to make it coherent but it’s a half-assed effort. At this point, I’m so completely exhausted with Christmas coming up, family members dying and having heart attacks, and Detroit carmakers and the U.S. economy failing that I’m just trying my best to keep up with some kind of writing schedule. I’ll try to do something better with my coming work.

    That said, I still don’t think this effort was my worst.

    I removed the vandalism part from the article, because that part is indeed irredeemably shitty and stupid. I left it in because I didn’t think anybody was actually reading the stupid shit I’ve been writing recently anyway.

    But, with regards to your supposed “contradiction”: It’s not. There’s no way GM and Chrysler can survive this crisis without going into bankruptcy. But once they do finally go into bankruptcy, they will recover, and they will be stronger than they were before.

    I am rattling on. I don’t have the right set of facts. And at this point my logic regarding this situation sucks too.

    Isn’t it the same for everyone?

    This is a logistics nightmare. We’ve got people who may very well lose their warranties, among them my mother’s Escape. If we give them bailout dollars, they’ll come back for more very soon, but the warranties will be saved. If not, it’ll mean bankruptcy, and unless something is done the warranties may become void.

    I don’t think it’s smart for Americans to buy from these two without a safety net. And thus I feel it necessary to add my two cents.

  3. Alan Says:

    Well, I still say it’s a contradiction because of the what you said. In your article you said “These three–all three, but especially GM and Chrysler–are totally, irreversibly fucked. There is no way they can survive this crisis.” Now that you’ve replied, you say “There’s no way GM and Chrysler can survive this crisis without going into bankruptcy.” Now that may well be very likely. Again, I think your train of thought was lost.

    With regards to your losses, you have my condolences. My family and I have suffered a loss just this Tuesday. Never a good time for any of that but during the holidays it’s the worst. But I do wish you well and may you have some peace this holiday season.

    We are apparently all in this together, this financial mess and the Detroit automakers are not at fault for it’s creation. It simply has exacerbated an already bad situation. I’m saving my hate for people like Madoff. It is he and his kind that are the real villains.

    Keep writing. You are good at it. I simply wanted to point out some things I found which I felt were wrong.

  4. theluigiian Says:

    For anyone who doesn’t know who Madoff is:

    I’d never even heard of him. I need to get caught up on current events. :/

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