Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Choice of a Car

I grew up in an American car family. My Dad was raised in rural Virginia where the American car is king. We come from a long line of coal miners and back in the day the dream car was a Lincoln Continental. My Mamaw wanted one in the worst way. Funny since she did not drive. She road instead in a short bed Chevy pickup, with a side step.

Even when we lived in Germany, it was an American car that tooled us around the country as we explored places my Daddy had been stationed on earlier tours and discovered new places for us all. I couldn't tell you the model, but the car was a white hatchback and most certainly a GM product.

In later years when we became a two car family, it was two GM vehicles that filled our driveway. My Dad would buy a new ride every three years. Sometimes a Chevy, sometimes an Olds, sometimes a Pontiac. But, always a GM. Well, there was that short time that we had a Ford Courier pickup, but that is another story.

The first car I called my very own was a GM too. It was Pontiac Sunbird held together with duct tape. It had no air conditioning (we lived in Florida) and broke down at the most inconvenient times, but it had a great radio and it was mine. There was one other used Chevy Ciatation that periodically stopped in intersections. Not stalled, but died all together. That created some interesting moments for a nineteen year old girl. Then, I had a steady job with good pay and my very first new car was about to become a reality. Dad and I looked in the car lots on Thanksgiving day and decided on a beautiful Blue Pontiac Grand Am. It had it awesome sound system, power windows, and it was stylin'.

It could have been a long love affair between my first new car and I, but just shy of the warranty expiration my mechanic friend tells me that I better find a shop I like doing business with because this car has trouble coming.

Then, I bailed. I walked away from family tradition. I bought a Mazda. Dad was not happy and jokingly told me that my car was not welcome in his driveway. But that Mazda, I had it for 10 years. And, it never let me down. Ever.

And, my Dad stayed true to GM. To him the General Motors cars stood for something. The pride America once had in making a product that was the best. That met the market needs. That created an image and a lifestyle that he was proud to be a part of.

Just last year Mom traded in the last car he bought her before his passing. I think she would have liked to buy American, but she needed a reliable, high gas mileage car that would last for more than Dad's three year cycle. In her garage is a Honda Civic. She loves it. And it will be on the road for years.

The American car companies are in trouble. There are many reasons this is the case. In my view it is largely because they are not meeting market needs, they are not setting trends, and they are not making cars that will last on the road for ten years with little effort. They have forgotten that we consumers do have a choice about what we buy, even if we do not have a choice about who we bailout.

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