The Volkswagen GTI. Could cars the size and shape of this one eventually become the norm in America? (Volkswagen of America photo)
General Motors is officially bankrupt today and Chrysler Corp. rolls into the future under the guidance of Fiat. Only Ford is strong -- up to a point. Hopefully they won't be the next domino to fall.
But it's hard to say the American auto industry is dying when most of the Japanese, Korean and European brand vehicles sold in the United States are made in this country by American workers (who spend their money in America) and we don't see those companies going under.
I can speak from experience that most of the Japanese-made cars I've owned in the past 30 years were built better than their American competitors.
Maybe the engineers and executives from the remaining American-based manufacturers will learn something from this mess about building quality into their vehicles.
I'm also somewhat concerned that the feds will force GM and Chrysler -- and maybe Ford -- to cut back on trucks and higher-performance vehicles and market primarily weak-engined, cramped slugs that no one wants. The Obama administration appears to me to be leaning toward forcibly moving Americans into smaller vehicles. That could possibly -- emphasis on possibly -- happen if trendiness, power and room are emphasized and promoted, not forced.
It is possible to make a high-quality, option-loaded, powerful and energy-efficient small vehicle. European and Japanese companies have proven it in their home countries. Pick up a copy of British-based Car magazine next time you're at a bookstore in Tullahoma, Murfreesboro or Nashville. Read its content and you'll see cars from the European point of view -- and read about what the American auto industry could be.
Example: Volkswagen. I'm considering a GTI as my next purchase. It's a small, two-or-four-door hatchback (think VW Rabbit with guts and attitude) with a high-performance engine, leather seats, world-class handling, great sound system and loaded with the amenities of a large car. Testers say GTIs have the feel, quietness, options and solid build of larger cars. Some experts consider them among the best cars on the road.
GTIs also have flat, abruptly-ending rear ends, and a few people whose opinions I highly respect think they're weird-looking. Definitely something to consider, but maybe some people need to open their minds a bit.
But I like VW's current model mix and respect them for building their new plant in Tennessee.
Smaller vehicles may be in our future -- if done right. But I don't have a lot of confidence in government officials sticking their noses into American vehicle production.