How To Save The American Auto Industry

This is an idea I’ve had for quite a few years now, long before the Big 3 automakers went to congress with their hands out. The idea stemmed from a trend in the musical instrument industry. When facing an influx of newer, cheaper competition from the overseas markets in the 1970’s, the first thing the american musical instrument manufacturers did was to cut corners on quality, trim expenses, and increase their ability for mass production (sound familiar?) This had the opposite effect they were looking for. With declining quality and service from the American brands, it actually encouraged musicians to try out the newer imports. But then, you see, many of the manufacturers realized (very late in the game, I might add – and very similar to the lessons learned by the “new Coke” fiasco) that their biggest assets to face this competetition were (1) their name, (2) their back catalog of quality products, and (3) their history, heritage, and connection with the American consumer.

So what did they do? Did they completely retool their factories, spend millions in R&D, and innovate new and exciting products? No, they didn’t. They re-released replicas of their finest vintage products! The importers could not copy their designs because they were patented and protected. So the manufacturers all now offer some sort of “vintage reissue” or “heritage” or “classic” lines of products now (and they ask top dollar for them, too, by the way.) So you can now buy a newer, solid state Fender guitar amp for $349 – OR – you can buy a Vintage Reissue ’65 Twin Reverb amp for $1,299. AND FENDER IS SELLING A TON OF THEM. The imports can’t compete because they don’t have the name, the history, the heritage, the design, or the “sound”. There is only ONE Fender Twin – and you can only buy it from Fender.

fender_twin

WHY THE HECK CAN’T AMERICAN CAR MANUFACTURERS DO THE SAME THING?

There is only one ’57 Chevy. One ’66 Mustang, ’56 Corvette, or ’55 Chrysler 300. Why not do a Vintage Reissue of them? (And I’m not talking about the modern homage like the recent Dodge Charger and Challenger, and Ford Thunderbirds. While those are cool, these are not what I’m talking about.) I’m talking about actual modern replicas of the old designs – exterior and interior.

Now, of course, I realize that certain modern adaptations would be both practical and necessary. Obviously, seat belts and air bags and ABS and modern sound systems, power door locks, air-conditioning, front wheel drive, etc, etc, etc would have to be allowed for. And modern materials like fiberglass would probably take the place of an all steel body. And engine specs, fuel economy and emissions standards would have to be worked out. BUT the whole idea is to stay as true to the original look and feel as humanly possible. WHAT COULD THE IMPORTS DO ABOUT IT? Absolutely nothing. They have no vintage back catalog of products to pull from.

Tell me people wouldn’t buy new cars that look like these! (Click a thumbnail for a little larger version and year/make/model)

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5 Comments on “How To Save The American Auto Industry”

  1. Eric H Says:

    As I understand it, that was the intention behind some of the recent products from the big 3 (Charger, Mustang from a few years back, Prowler, etc). I’m no expert but I think the bottom line for the big 3 was that they allowed their costs to soar on them and the trade-offs they chose (with the help of the unions and regulators) led to a decline in both quality and flexibility. Changing anything in the capital structure for one of these companies equates to running a gauntlet, and this made it hard for them to compete.

  2. Eric H Says:

    By the way, I’m not disagreeing with you. I think the number of Chargers on the road supports your theory. I just think it was too little, too late; the brands were so badly damaged by years of shoddy products that it would take more time than they have to rebuild their reputations.

  3. jermtech Says:

    There’s no question that they are in a huge mess. When $2000 out of the cost of each new car goes towards retirees pensions and health care – you’re facing a huge challenge. But what’s the way out of it? Either you reneg on your promises to retirees (which the UAW will never allow), or you find some way to sell a bunch of cars.

  4. Steve Says:

    I think the re-tooling of facilities to be able to manufacture said classics might be cost prohibitive. Novel idea, however.

  5. jermtech Says:

    Something is going to have to be done to increase demand. Look at the Nintendo Wii. The automakers BADLY need something with that much demand.


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