Detroit needs to blow its own horn

November 19, 2008

Although Detroit helped put America on wheels, I think it could do a better job blowing its own horn.  For instance, here is an article from Detroit Free Press columnist Mark Phelan, disspelling some oft-repeated — but incorrect — myths about the Big Three auto companies.

6 myths about the Detroit 3


The debate over aid to the Detroit-based automakers is awash with half-truths and misrepresentations that are endlessly repeated by everyone from members of Congress to journalists. Here are six myths about the companies and their vehicles, and the reality in each case.

Myth No. 1

Nobody buys their vehicles.


General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC sold 8.5 million vehicles in the United States last year and millions more around the world. GM outsold Toyota by about 1.2 million vehicles in the United States last year and holds a U.S. lead over Toyota of about 560,000 so far this year. Globally, GM in 2007 remained the world’s largest automaker, selling 9,369,524 vehicles worldwide — about 3,000 more than Toyota.

Ford outsold Honda by about 850,000 and Nissan by more than 1.3 million vehicles in the United States last year.

Chrysler sold more vehicles here than Nissan and Hyundai combined in 2007 and so far this year.

Myth No. 2

They build unreliable junk.


The creaky, leaky vehicles of the 1980s and ’90s are long gone. Consumer Reports recently found that “Ford’s reliability is now on par with good Japanese automakers.” The independent J.D. Power Initial Quality Study scored Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Ford, GMC, Mercury, Pontiac and Lincoln brands’ overall quality as high or higher than that of Acura, Audi, BMW, Honda, Nissan, Scion, Volkswagen and Volvo.

Power rated the Chevrolet Malibu the highest-quality midsize sedan. Both the Malibu and Ford Fusion scored better than the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.

Myth No. 3

They build gas-guzzlers.


All of the Detroit Three build midsize sedans the Environmental Protection Agency rates at 29-33 miles per gallon on the highway. The most fuel-efficient Chevrolet Malibu gets 33 m.p.g. on the highway, 2 m.p.g. better than the best Honda Accord. The most fuel-efficient Ford Focus has the same highway fuel economy ratings as the most efficient Toyota Corolla. The most fuel-efficient Chevrolet Cobalt has the same city fuel economy and better highway fuel economy than the most efficient non-hybrid Honda Civic. A recent study by Edmunds.com found that the Chevrolet Aveo subcompact is the least expensive car to buy and operate.

Myth No. 4

They already got a $25-billion bailout.


None of that money has been lent out and may not be for more than a year. In addition, it can, by law, be used only to invest in future vehicles and technology, so it has no effect on the shortage of operating cash the companies face because of the economic slowdown that’s killing them now.

Myth No. 5

GM, Ford and Chrysler are idiots for investing in pickups and SUVs.


The domestic companies’ lineup has been truck-heavy, but Toyota, Nissan, Mercedes-Benz and BMW have all spent billions of dollars on pickups and SUVs because trucks are a large and historically profitable part of the auto industry. The most fuel-efficient full-size pickups from GM, Ford and Chrysler all have higher EPA fuel economy ratings than Toyota and Nissan’s full-size pickups.

Myth No. 6

They don’t build hybrids.


The Detroit Three got into the hybrid business late, but Ford and GM each now offers more hybrid models than Honda or Nissan, with several more due to hit the road in early 2009.



  1. This is very interesting. I never would have guessed those facts to be true. After growing up in a family that only bought American cars, I haven’t owned any in the past few years. I do have a lease coming up on an Acura this year, and have decided that it’s time to buy American again.

  2. Detroit does need to get the word out on all the things they’ve done right. The situation for American car manufacturers is complex, and there are many things to consider in looking for a solution. I hope the Big Three are able to find ways to stay afloat, for the sake of their employees and all the other businesses and individuals whose livelihood is tied to the auto industry.

  3. Sharon, thank you for your support, too. Right now, with all the news out of Washington, I feel that many people don’t care what happens to the Big Three. But financially, I really think it’s a case of a stitch in time saving nine. If the Big Three go under, the ripple affect would be tremendous all over the country, including local dealership and repair work, plus the cost of health care for the workers, and the loss of billions of dollars in federal taxes paid by people associated with the auto industry. I think the bridge loan makes sense until the credit markets loosen up and people can borrow for cars again.

  4. I’m happy to hear that, Anne. I know I’m biased, but I think Detroit truly has earned another chance. I know the domestic auto industry has made some mistakes, but in Michigan we hear reports every week about the Big 3 downsizing, cutting plants, adjusting or retooling…or the UAW agreeing to wage cuts and other concessions and taking over health-care expenses. All the major players have made big adjustments. But that news usually doesn’t get much coverage nationally. I think Detroit has been doing a much better job of retooling itself than of promoting itself. This credit crunch is affecting other countries, too. China’s automakers are asking for a bailout/loan, too. These are tough times, but I think hope Detroit can get the help it needs to weather this storm. Our family still wants to buy the Chevy Volt in 2010!

  5. Great post Cindy — Like everyone else in Detroit, I am watching all of this with baited breath. Many families are depending on the outcome of all of this!

  6. […] I think part of the problem is that we Michiganders are often better at making real things than spinning publicity about ourselves or creating worthless financial paper. Possibly related posts: (automatically […]

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