The Big Three

General Motors, Ford and Chrysler (a.k.a. the Big Three) are a hot topic as I write this column. I trust that by the time you read this, the government will have done something to help the American automotive industry recover. Over the course of the recent government hearings, I have heard many statements about American automobiles and manufacturers which I do not feel are accurate or presented in the proper context. Let me give you my opinion on a couple of these points.

American car companies need to build vehicles Americans want. I feel American car companies do build the vehicles Americans want. Based on the sales in the Peoria/Bloomington market, many of our neighbors feel the same way. General Motors represents nearly 27 percent of new car sales in central Illinois. The fact is, many Americans want a truck or SUV, and the Big Three excel in that category. It has only been since the recent rise in gas prices that people looked to switch to cars. They didn’t want to switch—they felt they had to switch. That is a big difference.

According to a recent Biz360 study, Ford and Chevrolet are actually ahead of Honda and Toyota in consumer perception. The study was based on 300,000 online opinions about midsize cars from Ford, Chevrolet, Honda and Toyota. Ford and Chevrolet were favored by consumers in categories related to performance, comfort and exterior styling. Additionally, Toyota and Honda received a higher percentage of negative comments than Ford or Chevrolet. The study also reported that “Ford was No. 1, and thus rated better than the other three brands, in the categories of comfort, general comments and exterior styling. Chevrolet, meanwhile, was rated the highest in performance, followed by Ford at No. 2.”

This information is compelling because it is based on actual owners who drive and interact with their vehicles on a daily basis—not someone who drove the vehicle for a week and wrote a review. Let’s not forget Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep. Chrysler (via Dodge and Plymouth) invented the minivan, which is probably the biggest automotive phenomenon of the past 25 years. As other manufacturers began to produce their own minivans, Chrysler continued to lead the way in family van technology. In my opinion, the styling of recent Chrysler and Dodge vehicles has been truly extraordinary.

American car companies need to build “greener” vehicles. Did you know Chevrolet has the most fuel-efficient half-ton pick-up truck on the market today? In a world where a large number of people require a truck for business, Chevrolet’s is the most fuel-efficient. Moreover, the Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid was voted the 2008 Green Car of the Year by Green Car Journal. Chevrolet currently makes more models that get over 30/30mpg on the highway than any other manufacturer. Both Ford and Dodge are making strides in their fuel economy as well. Even if they are not leading, they can certainly be called competitive. The bottom line is that there is no overwhelming difference between them and their foreign competitors.

To conclude, I am confident that American automobile manufacturers are deeply committed to producing cars and trucks that meet our needs and the needs of the environment. Unfortunately, just as the Big Three had themselves set to really make inroads back into the hearts of the American people, the national economy deteriorated. Most manufacturers are down in sales right now. However, Peoria’s economy is one of the best in the nation, and our local General Motors, Ford and Chrysler dealers are still selling vehicles to people in central Illinois. iBi

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