Let's talk about quality.
An earlier post on a pristine Chevy Malibu Classic prompted slick to reflect on G.M.'s seventies-era quality control:
"I will agree in the heyday and that toward the mid to late '70s cars such as the Malibu pictured were produced when the mentality was f*** it, ship it, if they don't like it tough shit...I can remember when a car got close to the 50k mark my dad would get nervous and get rid of that car...Today, GM cars go 200k with relatively few problems, for the most part. Every once in a while a customer will say, 'They sure don't build cars like they used to.' And one of our guy's favorite response is 'They sure don't, thank god."
So we can probably all agree that G.M. cars in the seventies were not exactly finely-tuned machines. The attitude was that you drove the car a few years then got another one. But I have a real world example that's the exception to the rule — my brother's Buick.
The deal in our family was that if you made it through college, my grandparents bought you a new G.M. car as a reward. So when Matt graduated from Aquinas College in 1976, he became the proud owner of a yellow Buick Century.
So here's the scenario. You've got a young Flintoid known to frequent bars like the King's Armor who has friends with name's like Bobo and Hooker with a poorly made G.M. coupe. This car's doomed, right?
Not so fast. The Century racked up 198,000 miles before it finally died in 1991. It was a little rusty, but it still had the original transmission and it never needed any major repairs. He sold it to the kid next door as a project car for $1. "It was very reliable even though that was probably the low point of Buick," Matt remembers. "It was fine. It worked."
And that, my friends, is about as enthusiastic an endorsement of a mid-seventies Buick that you're ever going to get. Especially out of my brother.
But what about today's American made cars? Jalopnic.com asked the same question earlier this summer, and home-grown autos got a lot of support from readers who agreed with slick's evaluation. For example:
"I have to put my two cents in on this one, I manage a large GM dealership Service Department, and the shift in quality I have seen in the last 5 years is nothing short of amazing. In a time where 75% of our business was warranty related repairs, now it is less that 25% and trending downward. The biggest struggle dealers now have, believe it or not, is the increased quality has reduced the amount of repair dollars, and with the reduced or extended maintenance the newer vehicles provide, there isn't a lot for us to do. We have been forced to jump on the "fluid transfer" bandwagon just to survive. It is the strangest progression I have seen in the car business in 25 years."And vehiclevoice.com has a post declaring that crummy American cars simply don't exist anymore. And this was after the writer rented a Chevy Aveo:
"Aside from the looks and bargain basement image, this was easily a car that I could live with day in and day out. Which brings me to a point I had long comprehended in theory but only now really understand. There are no bad cars anymore. Virtually all cars – even the most basic ones out there – are competent and well built. There is no modern equivalent of the Pinto or Vega today; even the most humble car out there will get the job done, and in relative comfort.
"As such, the product itself is becoming much less of a differentiator these days. Now, design and marketing have much bigger roles in getting people to notice the product. Today, choosing a new vehicle is much more about how it looks and how it speaks to a consumer’s wants and sensibilities than it has been in the past. Automobiles have always been emotional purchases to a degree; today this is even more so the case due to the fact that there are truly no bad cars out there – making emotional attributes all that more important."
With all this good news, maybe my brother will consider G.M. when he buys a new car. But that might be a while. He's still got the Acura Integra he bought in 1991 when the Buick Century went to the great impound lot in the sky. It's running fine, and he says it corners a lot better than the old Buick.