With the current economic situation and all of the talk about the bailout of the “Big Three” (even though Ford has not requested a bailout yet) there has been a resurgence of the “Buy American” discussion. I’ll start with a little bit of my own automotive history:
My first car was a 1974 Javelin. It was my Mom’s car a long time ago and was handed down to me when I got my license. Unfortunately, someone rear-ended that car and totaled it.
I then went through a few “throw-away” cars with a Ford Escort and Mercury Topaz. These cars were pure pieces of junk but they were free to me so I couldn’t complain.
The first car that I ever bought with my own money was a 1982 Ford Crown Victoria. This was a good car, all except the fact that it go a whopping 18 MPG on the highway. I soon learned that I had to do something different when I started going to college 30 miles away from home and commuting every day. Even when gas was “cheap” it added up for a poor college student like myself.
Right around this time frame was when I started getting into sports cars and I bought a 1988 Toyota Supra Turbo. It was a fun car until the turbo blew up.
Soon after I bought the Supra, I also sold the Crown Vic and bought a 1989 Toyota Celica. This car was in excellent condition and even though it had over 100,000 miles on it, I NEVER had a single thing go wrong with this car. Add to that the fact that it got 40 MPG highway and it quickly became my favorite commuter car.
I traded in the 1989 Celica for a 1991 Celica convertible after a couple of years. The convertible looked shinny, but I never should have made that deal. Anyways, after the Supra’s Turbo grenaded itself I found myself using the convertible as an autocross car. Another lesson learned when I destroyed the engine in that car and had nothing to drive.
This led me to a 2001 Toyota Corolla, and Excellent toaster oven. This car NEVER broke down and got 42 MPG on the highway and 36 MPG in the city. Once it turned 100,000 miles and the warranty expired I traded it in for a car that I still own, a 2003 Civic.
Along with the civic I also bought a 1987 CRX Si. This was a fun little car that wouldn’t quit. I autocrossed it for a few years and then decided it was time to step up to a real autocross car. So I bought my 2000 S2000.
The S2000 is a marvel of modern automotive technology, and I have yet to drive a car that surpasses this car as an all-out sports car (yes there are cars that are faster in a straight line, but straight lines are lame). Well I guess except for maybe newer S2000’s.
Anyways, I sold the CRX and decided that I had a need for a truck. Thus came the latest addition of a 1995 F-150 to my line-up. This is a good truck for the $2200 that I padi for it.
So there is a brief history of my automotive history. There are many other vehicles that I have minor experience with but those are the major ones that I have had long enough to get a feel for them.
So back to the “Buy American” discussion. Here it is: I feel that the people who buy American just so that they are buying American have contributed to the near collapse of the American automotive industry. Consider this… Back in the 1980’s when “The Big Three” were starting to get pressure from all directions… Unions, foreign competition, regulations, etc. They started to make some REALLY crappy cars (see Ford Escort and Mercury Topaz). Unfortunately, even though the product that they were making was far inferior to the foreign competition (see 1987 CRX Si), people kept buying them because they were “Buying American.” This led the American automotive industry to become complacent with making crappy cars.
Think of it this way. If a child acts up in school, and then gets rewarded for acting up in school, what incentive is there for that child to begin to change his or her behavior? It falls similarly true for a car company. If they let it slide and make crap, but people still buy the crap, why would they change?
Well this worked all well and good until momentum started shifting, and more people started buying the foreign cars. Then came a stroke of genius on the part of the foreign car makers. They began making cars in the United States. This started to erode some of the stigma that revolved around buying a “foreign” car. My Civic was made in Ohio. Thus, I “bought American” when I bought my Civic. Once this shift occurred, the momentum for the “foreign” cars was rushing ahead full steam. The only real holdouts were the people who were still determined to “Buy American.”
Now it is 2009 and we are in an economic “situation.” When GM and Chrysler begged for bailout money from the government people were rightfully annoyed at the prospect that we as taxpayers would have to pay for an industry that has been failing us for the last 30 years. If we wanted to give them our money, we would have bought more of their cars. But why don’t we buy their cars? Most people who won’t buy an “American” car now have been scorned in the past by some piece of junk car that they once owned. Perhaps if the shift towards the higher quality “foreign” cars were more abrupt as the free market should have allowed, “The Big Three” would have corrected their path in 1980 instead of making a feeble attempt right now. I fear it is too little too late. All because people ignored the basic principles of the free market and “Bought American.”