This is a long-time grump that I was reminded of again in this morning paper’s Business section, recounting the problems of the three “American” automakers and the successes of the “Asian” automakers.
I am sick and tired of this nationalistic divide–particularly because it is factually inaccurate and makes no sense.
My Honda Civic is every bit as much an American car as your Dodge Neon, maybe more.
Made in the U.S.? Check–for my 2001 Civic and for most Hondas sold in the U.S. (except that California buys more Hondas than the American factories can build, so my wife’s 2005 Civic is Japan-built; if we’d taken a different color, it would have been Canadian-built or U.S.-built). Whereas “American” cars may be built in Canada, Mexico, Korea, or somewhere else entirely.
Made from primarily domestic parts? Check–85% for Civics (“domestic” explicitly includes Canada for all U.S. labeling); a much lower percentage for quite a few products of the Big Three.
Of course, I know why the Big Three are “American” and Honda isn’t: Because, at one time, GM, Ford, and Chrysler were American-owned.
But somehow, when Daimler-Benz essentially took over Chrysler (it may be called DaimlerChrysler, but it’s a European-owned, European-controlled company), it didn’t become the Big Two, Ford and GM. Nope; DaimlerChrysler somehow retained its status as an American car company.
At which point the whole thing became completely ludicrous. So why does the reporting still work that way?
I know the answer to that, too, and it’s a shame: Tradition and sloppiness. It’s just traditional to consider Chrysler American, and nothing will change that. Doesn’t matter where the cars are built. Doesn’t matter where the parts come from (some “GM” cars are built in Korea from almost entirely Asian parts–but because they have GM nameplates, they’re American). Bizarrely, at least when the Fremont plant was building both Toyota and GM cars, it didn’t matter if the cars came off the same assembly line. One was “American,” one was “Asian.”
(Now here’s the interesting question: Since most “Asian” cars sold in the U.S. are built in the U.S.
by union autoworkers, why is it that these “Asian” cars have substantially lower defect rates and higher quality than “American” cars? Yes, “American” cars have gotten better–theyr’e almost as defect-free as Toyota and Honda were a decade ago–but so have the Japanese cars, and the Korean cars are catching up fast. You can’t blame it on the UAW. I’m sure it couldn’t be corner-cutting management…that wouldn’t be the American Way.)
Modified 1/6/06, but you can still see what I originally said: I was wrong about “union workers,” as some American plants for Japanese-owned car companies are nonunion.