Monday, April 26, 2010

The 10 Cars That Killed Detroit

Last week's claim that General Motors had repaid its loan to the American public was accompanied by a cacophony of self-congratulatory rhetoric by the administration. In his weekly address, the President lauded the move and claimed, "the auto industry has actually added 45,000 jobs – the strongest growth in a decade [and] GM announced that it paid back its loans to taxpayers with interest, fully five years ahead of schedule."

As RedState's Luke Matthews explains, the claim was as bold as it was fraudulent.

This truly a fantastic accomplishment. So, from hearing this stunning example of government efficiency and foresight, it would appear Government Motors is back on the profitability track. We can assume, can’t we, that GM has be making money to pay back the government bailout loans? We invested billions of dollars to save Government Motors and UAW Motors, er Chrysler, and that investment is paying off. Right?

But the automaker is a long way from regaining its old blue-chip status: It remains more than 70 percent government-owned and is still losing money — $3.4 billion in last year’s fourth quarter alone. And while its car and truck sales are up so far this year, that’s primarily due to lower-profit sales to car rental companies and other fleet buyers.

Wait a second. If GM is still losing money hand over fist, where is it getting these funds to pay back the loans? Is this really the glowing example of government wisdom Obama is touting?

Grassley said in his letter that a Securities and Exchange Commission form filed by GM showed that $6.7 billion of the tens of billions the company received was sitting in an escrow account and available to be used for repayment.

So, we loaned GM a whole bunch of money. They stashed some of that money in an escrow account.

And then they used it to pay back some of the money they owe the taxpayer. At least $60 billion's gone to the auto companies and methinks we won't be seeing that amount paid back for a long, long, long time. Like ever.

The epitaph of the auto companies -- the days when the U.A.W. and an idiotic, bloated management structure decided that whatever crap they shoveled out was good enough for you, the consumer -- is written in the US News & World Report list of Detroit's crappiest cars. Truth be told, the quality of GM and Chrysler vehicles is light-years ahead of their fat-dumb-happy heyday. But there's no forgettin' this "top ten".

One of our "winners"

I modified the list a bit, since it included Japanese cars that helped put a stake in the heart of Detroit (e.g., the Prius).

10. Ford Pinto: Hey, only a couple of hundred fuel tanks exploded. What's the big deal?

9. Chevrolet Cavalier: Here's a plan: let's go a decade without upgrading any technology plus try to pawn off a high-end model (the Cadillac Cimarron) on an unsuspecting public. AKA the rubes. AKA us.

8. Chevrolet Astro: Hey, we need a minivan! Let's slap some sheet-metal on a truck -- no one'll know the difference!

7. Ford Taurus: Introduced in '86 to great acclaim, Ford went on to ignore the sedan for two decades, until it ended up an Avis staple.

6. Jaguar X-Type: Speaking of the Taurus, may I introduce the Jag X-Type? Or, as some like to call it, The Brand-Killer.

5. Hummer H-2: Can you imagine the planning process? "First, we're betting gas prices will never increase. Second, let's show everyone what we think of the environment. Third, the guiding principle is to crush other drivers."

4. Chrysler Sebring: It's called the Sebring because the Vapid was taken.

3. Ford Explorer: it's not a 401K rollover, but it's almost as well known for its catastrophic tendency to crush passengers. And it helped spawn Detroit's addiction to SUVs that ultimately doomed the company.

2. Chevy Cobalt: What's it take to win the "Least Reliable Small Car" award from Consumer Reports? Or a two-star review from TAC? Or blogosphere reviews like "...the worst vehicle I have ever driven..."? Simple. It takes a Cobalt.

1. Chevy Vega: Some of the quotes from Car Talk's worst car list say it all.

"As near as I could tell, the car was built from compressed rust."

"My Chevy Vega actually broke in half going over railroad tracks. The whole rear end came around slightly to the front, sort of like a dog wagging its tail."

"Burned so much oil, it was single-handedly responsible for the formation of OPEC."

* * *

What killed Detroit? There's a compelling argument that overregulation and Congressional idiocy played a central role. But these egregious examples of automotive mediocrity didn't help.


ck said...

Actually the Chevy astro was a very popular and practical van for us out dorsy types.It has 4wd and you can actually load it down and haul a decent trailer.We used to do 6 boat 16 people Grand Canyon trips with my suburban an Astro and 1 small car.

directorblue said...

Actually a good buddy of mine had an Astro and we used it for camping, sports trips, etc.

No complaints here.

Unknown said...

I'm not about to discount all of the concern over the Explorer tendancy to roll over; but, my only experience was a sudden evasive turn to avoid a utility trailer that had become disconnected from its tow vehicle and was in the middle of the left lane of I95. Going 75 mph I turned shaprley, first to the right to miss the trailer and just as suddenly to the left to stay on the highway. I was impressed with the handling during this move. All together, I have about 600,000 miles on three of them without incident. I hit a deer at 55 mph in the rain and didn't break anything (except the deer). Four minor accidents where someone hit me and damaged their car without anything more than a scratch on mine. No maintenance except for routine things like brakes, etc. I don't think that it belongs on the list.

Andrew said...

I actually love my 1993 Chevy Cavalier... it's been a reliable car. I did have some major work done to it (it has 182K on it), but other than that I really like it.

The_Bad said...

Nothing beats my Adobe. You simply can't find better quality for under $200.

OregonGuy said...

The Sebring sedan is a dog. But I bought the Sebring convertible.

When I have the top down, after a fresh detail, it is stunning. True, it's a '98 edition, before they turned it into a box. Point is, if you want a stunningly beautiful car, look at an older edition of the Sebring convertible. They are amazingly cheap. And the old body stody is a work of art. IMHO.

OregonGuy said...

stody? style. talk about some weird fingertips.

Whitehall said...

The Cosworth Twin Cam Vega was a pretty good car. Never had a rust problem and oil consumption was perfectly reasonable.

Of course, it was built on a design that had had a couple of years of evolution before the Cosworth was released.

Anonymous said...

How bout the greedy unions? You left them out....

Stew Magoo said...

You missed a couple.

1. The Aztec. One word, "Horrible".

2. The Crysler K car. wtf were they thinking?

3. And I'd like to remind you of the Chevy Chevette, which as I recall was a good selling (albeit terrible) car.

Then you have the slew of forgotten crapmobiles like the Spectrum, etc etc, ad nauseum.

(I kinda liked the Astrovan)