Buying American

big-threeBuy an American car!  Stimulate the economy!

Yeah?  Really?  Yeah, really.

Over the last 25 years I/we have owned an Audi, three Chevys, a Dodge, a Honda, a Mercedes-Benz, two Peugeots (yes, not one, but two), a Volvo, and two Volkswagens.  We now have a Ford and a Jeep.  Six of the fourteen vehicles* we have owned between the two of us were/are “American,” though my Dodge was built in Mexico and at least one of the Chevys was assembled in Canada.

My dad would find this statistic amusing since, when I was twenty-three and obviously knew better than he did, I told him that American cars were poorly designed and poorly made, and that I wouldn’t buy American if they didn’t make something worth buying.  They were (though, as I recall, we rarely had to deal with major car repairs), and I meant it.

Of all the vehicles we have owned, there is no question the foreign cars were the most stylish, at least nominally higher quality, more comfortable, better designed, etc., etc.  But, in our experience, these cars were also the most heart- and wallet-breaking.  We only had the Honda for a couple of years, but never had any trouble with it, and the Volkswagens were pretty trouble-free (except for door latches that would freeze in the New Hampshire winters and break).  But between head gaskets, cracked cylinder heads, blown main seals, and $1,700 catalytic converters (two of them), the other foreign cars were far more troublesome.  I even referred to my blue 1988 Peugeot 505 Turbo wagon as “my French mistress” because it was so beautiful (for a station wagon), so expensive and, in the end, it just broke my heart.

It’s too soon to tell (though having warranties takes some of the anxiety out of it) about the Escape and the Jeep, but our experience with domestic cars has been better.  Only the Suburban ever needed anything other than regular maintenance – an alternator, a fuel pump, and a water pump before we parted with it at over 147,000 miles.  For all of my youthful arrogance about American cars, experience has proven them to be dependable and not nearly as frustrating – at least not as frustrating as the European cars we’ve owned.

As for the dependability Japanese or other countries’ brands I really can’t say, though you can read J.D. Power ratings as well as I can.  And even some of those have manufacturing or assembly plants in the U.S. (as do BMW and Mercedes, for that matter).  So it gets harder and harder to tell what truly is “American” in the showroom and, even though they still labor under the perception that they are second-best (a perception they deserved in the ’70s and ’80s, I would have to say that buying American is no longer just a matter of economic stimulus.

*Here’s the list, in chronological order of ownership:
1977 Chevrolet Chevette two-door hatchback
1978 Chevrolet Malibu four-door sedan
1986 Volkswagen Golf four-door hatchback
1982 Honda Accord four-door sedan
1989 Volkswagen Jetta four-door sedan
1988 Peugeot 505 SW8 station wagon
1988 Peugeot 505 Turbo station wagon
1994 Dodge Dakota pickup truck
1992 Volvo Turbo station wagon
1998 Audi A6 station wagon
1999 Chevrolet Suburban SUV
2001 Mercedes-Benz E320 station wagon
2008 Ford Escape four-door SUV
2008 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited four-door SUV

3 thoughts on “Buying American

  1. the market determines who is the most efficient in satisfying the consumer demand. If Ford, GM, or Chrysler can’t compete, then perhaps they should go out of business. Free up resources so that new industries can grow in the US.

  2. I’m not saying Ford, GM, or Chrysler should get a free pass, but I think it’s a bit of a double standard to criticize them now for behavior more than a few of us were willing to encourage only a short time ago (i.e. making big trucks and SUVs that sold like hotcakes while their smaller, more fuel-efficient cars collected dust on the lot). My other point was that they can compete, and I’ve owned enough foreign cars to make what I think is a fair comparison.

  3. Pingback: A New Set of Wheels « Rummaging About

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