The Little Minds of the “Big Three”

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GM, Ford & Chrysler may no longer be the three largest auto sellers in the U.S., but let’s cede them that title for enough longer to identify a key drier of their downward spiral – corporate intransigence bordering on outright stupidity.

Here’s the deal. For decades, the big three made the cars they wanted to make. And relatively passive consumers bought them – at least in the U.S. Yah sure, consumers did reject those most detached from consumer tastes: Ford’s Edsel (made in the likeness of family member Edsel Ford, who must have been ugly); Chrysler’s Jeep compact cars (couldn’t anyone at Chrysler spell “oxymoron?”); GM’s Oldsmobile line (it wasn’t “your father’s Oldsmobile,” as the adline went – it wasn’t anyone’s). But by and large, consumers bought what the big three stuck on the lot.

Now, however, consumer behavior has swung from relative passivity to pure pickiness – and with that pendulum swing came the “make it my way” mantra. So how does the big three react? By ignoring change and continuing to try shoving unwanted product down consumer throughts. Yup, they’re paying scant heed to changing tastes in models, options, fuel economy and the like – and continuing to push the lineup that will provide maximum profitability. But consumers aren’t buying what they don’t want. They don’t have to – not only because they’re thinking for themselves these days, but because they have such a plethora of car choices.

Talk about a fossilized industry. Detroit does look reeady to go the way of the dinosaur, dspite all its lip service to the need for change. Unless the big three get it that car design should be reactive to customer tastes – not proactive in trying to change tastes – they’ll turn into bit players, if they survive at all.

1 COMMENT

  1. Dick it’s not just US companies. Jaguar has been run by accountants who stripped the soul out of the company long ago. Take the X-Type – what an ugly old pup. (Oops I forgot – Jag is owned by Ford). Sorry Dick it is just US car companies after all.

    The only area I do disagree on though is being proactive. Good design is what is missing from the equation, but we all recognise it when we see it.
    It actually looks if Ian Callum the chief designer at Jaguar and who has put his magic into the more exotic Aston and the new sports Jag, has at last free reign and if the pre-launch prototypes are anything to go by, should bring the wow factor back into the company.

    But here is a funny thing. Who has ever found Toyota drop dead gorgeous?
    Yet they are powering ahead.

    If the US companies are to perform the resurrection shuffle,they must emulate Toyota’s quality and value for money and somehow inject some style and engaging design into proceedings. They would also do well to have a good number of Europeans in their focus groups who appreciate cornering at high speeds up mountain passes and parking in tight spaces, rather than the monotony of 1000 mile highways or shopping ‘mawls’.

    Jeremy Cox

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