Well, the outgoing American president finally convinced members of his own party in the U.S. Senate to give Detroit the money the CEOs of the Big Three say is needed to keep making cars. In the interim, Chrysler LLC has decided to shut down all of its plants to save money; almost sounds like a bankruptcy doesn't it? Call it a reorganization of a different sort.
But will it be enough, one wonders. The New York Times erstwhile columnist Tom Friedman has saidrepeatedly, that the problem resided with the fact that the General and Chrysler LLC didn't build enough small cars. But if you remember the late, less than lamented Dodge and Plymouth Neon, or the Chevrolet Cavalier, you know that it isn't as simple as that. Detroit made enough of them; at some point, not enough were sold.
Sadly for those of us who grew up surrounded by iconic American cars, now being replicated as "retro," such as the Ford Mustang or the Dodge Challenger, the facts seem closer to what Friedman said in his most recent column - "It's all about the thing itself" - which was, "walk through any college campus today. You don't see a lot of Buicks."
Where I live - Seattle - amidst a veritable sea of Subarus and Toyota Prius hybrids, you can see more and more of the Chevrolet Cobalt SS. It's a start in the right direction; however, the mark that GM and Chrysler LLC needs to hit keeps moving.
The Cobalt SS was third in a comparo of inexpensive, yet quick, cars in the January 2009 issue of Car and Driver magazine. That's not bad, considering the company. The Volkswagen GTI was second and the MazdaSpeed 3 Grand Touring was first.
Chrysler LLC had nothing selected by C/D editor Michael Austin to be in the mix of cars that also included the Subaru Impreza WRX, Honda Civic Si, Mitisubishi Lancer Ralliant and the Mini John Cooper Works Clubman.
Somehow, Detroit needs to develop product that we will indeed see more of on college campuses. Ask most any college student, who professes to be an auto enthusiast and he or she will know right away what a Cobra was. But how many know that it started out with a 260 cubic inch Ford V8? When Detroit can draw create that mental connection between what was, and what is now in the showrooms of their dealers, convincing younger enthusiasts to think of something other than Japanese or European cars, then the Big Three won't need anymore bridge loans.
- Terry Parkhurst