Detroit is abuzz with preparations for the 2012 International Auto Show. General Motors and Chrysler have made tremendous progress since their 2008 government bailout, going as far as to pay back most of the money that they borrowed. Ford even positioned itself in the running for car of the year with the 2012 Focus.
However, news was released today that the North American car of the year was in fact manufactured by a Korean company, and there was nary an American truck on the nominees list for truck of the year.
Despite the fact that nearly all those on the panel of judges were Americans, they couldn’t find it in their hearts to give an American icon and legend such as Ford the credit it deserves. They not only managed to avoid a government bailout, but also didn’t let a sluggish economy stand in the way of their innovation.
Yet, American manufacturing gets the snub from its own people. These so-called “auto experts” should be ashamed of themselves.
In effect, the “experts” have refused to recognize the possibility that American manufacturing could be once again be finding its own right in the world again. They are saying that despite the fact U.S. automakers stuck through the thick and thicker in 2008, they are incapable of producing a vehicle that compares in any way, shape, or form to a foreign vehicle. They are also adding fuel to the fiery argument by Mitt Romney among others that it was a mistake to bail out the auto industry.
One of the main comparison points is price. Of course there is no way that American automakers can compete with the price tags on most of these foreign vehicles, even when they utilize NAFTA provisions to ship manufacturing jobs out of the country. They still have to ensure that their mostly American workforce is able to maintain the standard of living history has given us.
Another point of comparison is fuel mileage. Years of obscenely cheap gas in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and even the 90’s spoiled not only the American manufacturers but the American people as well. It wasn’t until about six years ago that gas mileage became not only a concern but a mandate from the government. Our foreign competition has not been so lucky and therefore has years of experience fine tuning their powertrains to deal with the rising cost of fuel and lubricants.
Design of the interior and exterior are another factor that weighs into the determination of which vehicle is named car of the year. As far as I can tell, most cars that are on the road look relatively the same. The interiors of course are notably different, but the differences can be boiled down to a few main points: Does it have seats, cup holders, a radio, and a steering wheel? The rest is purely aesthetic preference.
I am quite positive that the 2012 Ford F-150 (#1 on the 2011 top sellers list) is better appointed for its overall price tag than the Land Rover Evoque, which won truck of the year over several other foreign vehicles. Yet, the F-150 didn’t even make the nominees list.
The Ford Focus was admittedly a close contender with the Hyndai Elantra. It might have won if not for Elantra’s looks, interior appointment, and gas mileage, the former two being completely objective measures.
If these “auto experts” are so determined to make the public aware of how American cars compare to foreign vehicles, they should set up separate awards, like a North American Car of the Year and North American Import of the Year.
This would be a great alternative to leading the American public to believe that no American cars are befitting of the title “Car of the Year.”
Americans are being led to believe that there is only one American car worth purchasing this year, and no American trucks worth purchasing. They are being told that the best place to spend their money is not at home but abroad.
In these unsure times, American consumer reporting should be doing everything that it can to increase domestic consumer confidence. If American consumers have faith that American companies are producing products worth purchasing, they will spend their money accordingly and stimulate our economy, which will lead to more jobs and less poverty. Surely that would be worth creating separate awards for American and import vehicles.