Crunchy Consternation

NRO recently launched a new blog to promote and discuss Rod Dreher’s book Crunchy Conservatives. I confess up front that I haven’t read the book, and after reading the blog, I don’t have any particular plans to do so. Without going into Goldbergian levels of analysis and/or taxonomy, the “Crunchies” seem less like brave new ideologues than scolds looking for an ideology that fits their personalities and preferences. To put it another way, they remind me an awful lot of the people who join a homeowners association so they can force their neighbors to cut the grass more often.

But that’s not the point of this post. Sorry.

No, in this case I was really inspired to write after seeing this letter to the Crunchy blog:

If you believe that consumer purchases should reflect something more than selfishness, your second biggest consumer purchase (after your house) should be of an auto produced by an industry on which hundreds of thousands of Americans and large sections of America depend.

Now, I’ve read and heard stuff like that before, and I’m sure you have too. I used to believe it myself; I’ve owned four Ford cars, and I specifically avoided “buying foreign” when I went shopping for them. They were all fun cars (well, okay, the LTD that was handed down from my mom, not so much), at least for the first few years.

But funny thing, every one of those Fords started living up to the reputation of “Fixed Or Repaired Daily” right around the 70,000 mile mark, and the repair costs started escalating geometrically until they literally weren’t worth owning any more, generally before 120,000 miles or so.

The transmission on the last one, a 1995 Thunderbird, started skipping just a couple of thousand miles shy of the end of my extended warranty. So I took it to my then-local dealership, located in Panama City, Florida (I won’t name it here, but the first of two surnames on the sign rhymes with “crook”). The service manager came back to me and said, “The work you need ain’t covered by the warranty, it just needs a transmission service. $275 will get you new transmission fluid and you’ll be out of here.”

I shook my head, took my keys from him and never set foot on the premises again. Then I asked around for an honest transmission guy, to get a second opinion. The owner of that shop sent one of his mechanics to test-drive my car, and before it was out of sight asked me about my problem. After I described it to him, and without my ever telling him I hadn’t come to him first, he asked me three questions: “Did you go to the dealership? What did they tell you? Do you have any warranty left?”

When I answered, “Yes,” “service the transmission,” and “couple of thousand miles,” he nodded and said, “They’re tryin’ to screw you.”

“See all those cars up on my racks?” he said. I looked. They were all Fords–Crown Victorias, a Mustang, another T-Bird. “They’ve all got the same transmission as your car, and it’s a real good transmission–except for the torque converter. Those are crap. They wear out early, and it messes up the whole rest of the transmission. If you’d just gotten that service, the new fluid would have made the torque converter expand, and it’d mask the real problems for oh, two, three thousand miles. Then you’d be outta warranty, and your transmission would still be shot. The dealer figured you’d either pay him a couple of thou’ for the repairs, or trade it in for a new car.”

He handed me back my keys and said, “Go to another Ford dealer, get them to fix it right, then come see me in a couple of years when it fails again.”

So I did, and the transmission failed again, right on schedule, and I’ll never pay another penny to the Ford Motor Company. I bought a used Lexus instead of fixing the Thunderbird, and it is still running like a dream, tens of thousands of miles after all my previous cars would have needed four-figure repairs.

Sorry, guys, but the reason Ford and GM are losing business is because their cars suck, pure and simple. Not only are they ugly and uninteresting (the Mustang and Corvette excepted–and what does it say when they’re both decades-old designs?), they’re also built to break down. Intentionally.

Deciding not to buy a crappy product that’s backed with dishonest service doesn’t make anybody unpatriotic or ‘selfish.’ It just means we aren’t saps.

Quit making cars that suck, quit looking the other way when your dealers rip off customers, and maybe–maybe–we’ll reconsider. Until then, you’ve got nobody but yourselves to blame.


72 Responses to “Crunchy Consternation”

  1. tim maguire Says:

    Right on! You want to be patriotic? Buy the best car for the best price. That’s the only way to force our manufacturers to make the best car for the best price.

    Subsidizing crap only encourages them to make more crap–we cannot live by domestic market alone.

  2. Southern(USA)whiteboy Says:

    Right, but then again I bought a 92 Taurus in 95 with 39,500 miles, spent the usual repairs -radiator, tires, tune-ups- and it finally was totalled at about 140,000 two years ago. Buy American IF you can. Now I drive a 91 Pontiac Sunbird convertible V6 [has Isuzu transaxle, I think]. To polish it up, I have put a lot of money in it, engine, top, coolant stuff but I knew that when I bought it in 02. Fun car.

  3. Gerry N. Says:


    I drive a beat to shit ’73 VW Westfalia camper conversion with 280,000 miles on it. Runs well, shifts hard, has for about 70,000 miles. Still gets 20+ mpg. I put about 8k miles a year on it now, mostly on dirt roads because I use it for fishing, camping, and hunting trips. I’ve had it for ten years and figure it’s good for at least ten more. I change oil every 5k miles, and have the xmission serviced every 24 months, at the same time I have the front wheels aligned.

    What are the chances of getting a third of a million miles out of a Ford or Chevy van over thirty or forty years of daily use?

  4. Joan Says:

    Very interesting stories about the Ford transmission woes. We had pretty much exactly the same thing happen with our Contour. (That’s the last time we put our faith in Consumer Reports for cars, let me tell you.)

  5. Ian Wood Says:

    I too was going to make various religiously affirmative comments, but now I won’t.

    Suffice: our household car is a 1995 Honda Accord that my GF’s father “donated” for our use when we bought said house in 2002. It’s approaching 300,000 miles…and it looks like it will outlast our ownership of the house, not to mention our relationship.

    I will *never* buy an American car, new, used, or otherwise. The fact that the Big Three cannot comprehend that the vast vortexes of suck that are their products have cost them a generation (going on two!) of customers just beggars belief.

  6. Siergen Says:

    Also, don’t forget that many “domestic” cars contain a high percentage of imported parts, while many “imports” are actually assembled in the US, with a growing percentage of locally manufactured parts.

  7. Chuck Pelto Says:

    TO: Will Collier
    RE: Until THEN!

    “Until then, you’ve got nobody but yourselves to blame.” — Will Collier

    I’m buying Japanese.

    My ’84 Nissan Stanza had 300K on it before it became uneconomically repairable; anticipating $4000 in repairs in the next 12 months.

    My ’87 Nissan Stanza rode out a tangle with an 18-wheeler at interstate speeds one Winters night and was STILL ‘street legal’. However, the frame was bent, behind the rear axle. So I decided it was beyond repair.

    My ’90 Nissan Stanza threw it’s timing chain in ’01; 200K miles. Up til then there had been no problems.

    Currently I’ve got a ’97 Toyota Celica convertible. Whisper quiet. I’ve got to honk my horn while coasting down parking lanes to warn people there’s a car coming. I’ve actually snuk up on pedestrians while driving it. Beep the horn and watchem jump out of their skin.

    It’s a hoot….



  8. Declan Says:

    I buy only Japanese cars – Hondas. My accord was manufactured in Ohio and our Odyssey in Alabama. Superior cars built with American (sometimes Canadian, too) hands. The last Ford we owned was a Thunderbird – a total POS.

  9. JP Says:

    I’ve heard that the 300 cubic inch “straight six” nearly killed Ford. Or at least put a hurtin’ on dealerships. The engine, according to local legend, was too dependable. And since the 300 was put in pick-up trucks, it didn’t matter how rusted and rotted out the body was. I mean, it’s a pick-up; guys will drive them into the ground.

    I have no idea if there was any truth to the stories. Putting a reliable and durable powerplant into a vehicle designed to get dinged up and dented, and your customer might not be back for 8-10 years.

    Perhaps Ford said, “Never again!”

  10. buzz Says:

    Yeah, back in 91 I choose a ford escort built in Mexico over a honda built in Ohio. I got 140K on it with it still getting 40mpg on the highway. I needed to do some work on the front end, so I gave it to my brother and bought a 2001 Pontiac Sunfire built in Canada?? I have 135K miles on it but spun a rod bearing this december. Found a engine on ebay with 15K miles on it for $450, neighbor put it in for me in two days. Figure I will drive it for another 5 years or so. Rambling point is, buy cheap cars, they last forever. Buy the expensive cars, go imports.

  11. rbj Says:

    What a shame, when American businesses have to rely on pity or patriotism to get customers, instead of value.

    I drove my ’87 Isuzu Pup for 14 years, from Portland Maine to New Orleans, from NY to Portland Or & back (pulling a small U-Haul trailer with all my worldly possessions over the Rockies). After 178K I finally got a new Ford Ranger in Oct 2001. I figured I wasn’t going to get any better than a 0% interest, but I could still have driven the Isuzu.

  12. szaszhareen Says:

    i have to agree with buzz. about 2 years ago i bought my first vehicle, a 1984 dodge ram van. i paid $350 for it. since then i have probably spent $400 or so on repairs and maintenance, and the old heap is still running strong even though the odomometer is showing something like 85k miles. (i have my suspicions that the odometer has already rolled over once, making it a possible 185k). every time i get into it i think of al bundy’s dodge, and how he drove it for 1,000,000,000 miles. i wonder if i can accomplish the same… but when this thing dies, i would love to buy foreign if i go new. the only problem? nobody imports a decent van! i’ll probably wind up with a new dodge.

  13. Mark Jones Says:

    Just as a counter-point, maybe Ford generally makes crap, but my 1989 Ford Festiva is still running. The only major work on it was replacing the radiator a few years ago, but given my lackadaisical approach to car care, I’ll take the blame for that. It’s beginning to show its age, but it should last long enough yet for us to finish paying for the new Hyundai we bought a couple of years ago. I’ve certainly gotten my money’s worth out this Festiva.

    It’s been a great little car, thoug h when we get around to replacing it, we’ll nonetheless probably go with a Honda or Hyundai.

  14. richard mcenroe Says:

    “the “Crunchies” seem less like brave new ideologues than scolds looking for an ideology that fits their personalities and preferences.”

    Well, I once heard libertarians described as “an Iowa Republican who’s thinking of taking up sodomy” but who am I to judge?

    And I agree with the point of the rest of your column, there are plenty of options for buying quality American-made cars without fattening up Ford, GM or the UAW…

  15. Mythilt Says:

    Gerry, My fathers 1991 Ford Ranger had about 350k miles on it when he finally gave it to my sister. Our neighbors Ranger has almost 250k miles on it. Both were/have been very reliable through the years.
    (They did have transmission problems at the 100k mark, but that was fixed, and stopped causing trouble.)

  16. Wally Says:

    Great story, Stephan. Reminds me a bit of my brother, a staunch buy-American guy since forever. I used to chide him for this, because he went through all of the same things that Stephan talks about.

    Then, back in the early 90s, he gets a Ford Probe. He gets 150K trouble-free miles out of it, and tries to use it to say that domestic cars have finally turned the corner on quality.

    That’s when I laid bare the truth to him. “YOU IDIOT!”, I told him, “that’s a fucking MAZDA MX-6!”

    The next year, he finally caught on and bought a Camry.

  17. JD Says:

    I have to be one of the luckiest individuals alive, for I have bought four consecutive Ford/Mercury products (92 Taurus, 97 Contour, 98 Sable, 2004 Monterey), none of which have demonstrated the horror stories being elicted here. The Taurus and the Sable were both previous daily rentals, so they came to us a little more beat-up and in more need of repairs (O2 and TPS sensors on the Taurus, brakes on the Sable), but the Contour we bought new and beat the crap out of it for 130K+ and traded it in (growing family, ya know) for the Monterey, which has been wonderful.

    I would love to have bought a Sienna, but I was unwilling to pay the $10K price differential which existed at the time (which is not so much the case any more).

  18. ErikZ Says:

    The type of jobs I’ve been able to get in IT have made it necessary that I get a very dependable car.

    My coworkers and I work 12 hour shifts in stations. If you don’t show up for work, the person who had just worked a 12 hour shift has to stay there until you do.

    I’m currently driving a Corrola. The only thing I don’t like about it is the road noise on the highway.

  19. Joe Schmoe Says:

    American cars are, hands down, the most reliable on the road if you look at it from strictly a cost to operate per mile point of view.

    My dad was a cab driver. All cab drivers buy domestic, though in the 80’s a handful went with big Mercedes sedans. Cabbies routinely get 300,000 miles out of Ford, GM, and Chrysler domestics. And taxi service is probably the most demanidng job a car can do. You idle for long periods of time, the a/c is on all summer long, most trips are city, not highway, full loads of passengers with luggage are routinely carried, etc.

    Cab drivers would use imports if they had lower operating costs. But they don’t, so they are never used.

    Cabbies are always experimenting with differnet cars — see, e.g. the diesel Mercedes sedan example — but the domestics always prove to be the most reliable. For example, my dad was very excited by the advent of the minvan back in the 80’s. Minvans would make perfect cabs — large passenger, capacity, easy ingress and egress, more luggage space, good fuel economy. Unfortuantely, none of them are able to withstand the rigors of taxi service, and that’s why you rarely see them used as taxis. The ones that are out there are generally used to comply with ADA regulations becuase they can more easily transport senior citizens and the disabled. Cabbies have tried everything, from the Camry to the Renault K-Car, and domestic sedans like the Crown Victoria and the Impala have always proven to be the most reliable.

    The imports are clearly superior with respect to fit and finish and minor qualtiy issues, there is no question about that. A 10 year-old Honda accord will look a thousand times better than a 10 year-old Chevrolet Impala. The imports use higher quality interor trim, and are cosmetically better all around. Also, they have fewer minor problems; you don’t need to get the door seals, trunk hinges, and window motors replaced as often, etc.

    But if you actually sit down and do the math, large US domestic vehicles are clearly the most reliable cars on the road.

    I myself would probably not buy another domestic sedan, though my last Buick Century went 200,000 miles, because the fit and finish advantage that imports have is important to me. The Century was looking and driving pretty rough by the time I traded it in, a comparable Honda would have been in much better shape.

    But if all you want to do is get the most transportation for the least amount of money, it’s domestics all the way.

  20. Ted B. (Charging Rhino) Says:

    What is a “domestic car”?

    The Crown Victorias that fill the Police and Taxi fleets of America have been built in CANADA for decades. Chrysler Corp. and Dodge are part of Germany’s M-Benz Group. Yet, half the “foreign cars” on the Ten-Best list are produced by U.S. car-plants and US workers.

    Most of the Volkswagens sold in American are Mexican-built, and a larger percentage of the BMW’s are US-bult. Is the Chrysler Pacifica with it’s M-Benz engine and chassis “American” while the American-built M-Benz SUV is “foreign”? The engine in the Chevy Colbalt, the Pontiac GT AND the Saab are built at GM-Holden in Australia. And that cute Porshe Boxster you neighbor has? It’s built in Finland.

    The traditional concepts of “foreign” and “domestic” are irrevalent today. It’s a myth perpetuated by the UAW.

  21. Doug Dever Says:

    Regarding cabs and other fleet vehicles. Remember that the fleet vehicles are generally built to get the stuffing beat out of them… especially the police interceptors. They’re built a bit more “Ford Tough” than what the average Joe usually runs out to purchase.

    My 2000 town car came out of rental service after a slight accident. One year old and with 12,000 miles, I’ve had a lot of luck with the vehicle – not to mention a steal at the price. Sure, between 90k and 100k I had to replace the coil packs, plugs and wires, and the idle vacuum pump. I had a couple of things I didn’t really expect – blower motor (on a 10 degree morning – lovely), stuck thermostat and a faulty O2 sensor. I was a bit worried, but after those 3 months of complaining, I’ve had a solid year and just crossed 120k. *knock on wood* The biggest problem with the V8 Fords is the transmissions – the engine will run long after the tranny dies. But all in all, considering how hard I drive my cars I have few complaints.

    Now if I could only find a 2006 CVPI that some department doesn’t take delivery of that a dealer gets stuck with. It’s the only way for the general public to buy one “new.”

  22. RPD Says:

    Sometimes I feel like one of the luckiest guys around. I never have problems with my windows computers, my cars last about as long as I expect, and when they do break i generally know where I’ve gone wrong with it.

    Ah well. If some are happier with Macs and imports, so be it.

  23. BenJCarter Says:

    Lots of comments backing the “Ford Sucks” theme, but not much from the GM crowd. Why paint them with the same brush as Ford? Any dissatisfied GM owners out there?

    Just askin…

  24. cthulhu Says:

    I actually own stock in Ford.

    I had a ’79 Mustang with a 2.8 V6 liter engine. You could only get it in California because it was CA smogged and every other jurisdiction had dumped the POS for the 3.3 liter. It had the variable venturi carb that required research-grade gasoline to run reliably. It went through valve-cover gaskets like candy, two carbs, three starters, two ring gears, a tranny, a water pump, and three sets of tires (factory spec was a toe-in misalignment) before I got rid of it at 65K miles for 1/4 of original price. The first six months I had my next car — a Nissan Sentra — I paid less in down payment, car payments, and maintenance than I did with repairs alone on the last six months of the Mustang.

    I’ve thought about shopping at a Ford lot since, but I can’t. Once I set foot on the premises, I am consumed with the notion that I should be repaid for the grief that Mustang caused me AS WELL AS find a good value that day. It leaves me shaken with the effort of holding in the rant.

    Fortunately, I don’t have the same problem with Mazdas, Jags, Volvos, Astin-Martins, or Land Rovers.

    Per BJC’s comment, my dad got a Chevy S10 pickup when his Datsun died. The very first time he loaded some sheets of plywood into the bed, the wheelwells dented. That’s great if you want a pickup made of tissue paper to drive to Macy’s; notso hotso if you’re thinking of hauling building materials to a construction site.

  25. rosignol Says:

    I’m currently driving a Corrola. The only thing I don’t like about it is the road noise on the highway.

    Put softer tires on it. They won’t last as long, but it’ll cut the road noise considerably.

    Regarding cabs and other fleet vehicles. Remember that the fleet vehicles are generally built to get the stuffing beat out of them… especially the police interceptors. They’re built a bit more “Ford Tough” than what the average Joe usually runs out to purchase.

    Yup. Around here (Seattle), most cabbies drive Ford Crown Vic’s that are retired police interceptors.

  26. Freeman Says:

    “Crunchy blog”

    I guess I’m the only soul around here who sees that and thinks…

    “Do you at least take the bones out?”

    “Well if we took the BONES out it wouldn’t be CRUNCHY, wouldn’t it?”

  27. Veeshir Says:

    If you are determined that Americans make money from your purchase, here are the questions you have to ask yourself.

    Who would you rather make money? Suits in America and workers overseas with shoddy products? Or suits in Japan and workers in the US with good products?

    My XTerra was made in Tennessee. Many Hondas, Toyotas and Nissans are made in America. Many Chryslers, Fords and GM products are made out of the country. The first digit of the VIN is country of origin.

    Saying that, my next car purchase will be a new Ford Mustang GT convertible with a V-8. I like Japanese 4-6 cylinder cars, I’ve owned quite a few, but there’s nothing like 2 tons of Detroit steel barreling down the road with a V-8 rumbling through the dual exhaust.

    I will avoid Ford Dealers as I learned they’re all scum when I bought my 84 Cougar new. They screwed me over and over and never used lube.

  28. Prague Says:

    I used to love Chevys. Very few problems with the family’s 1992 Corsica until the day I went to the dealership to look for a new car and suddenly a growling noise started (I swear, it *knew!*).

    So I bought a 2003 Malibu. I was halfway home from the dealership after picking it up when I noticed the airbag light had never gone off. In the two years after that, it went in the shop six times for various reasons – all things that shouldn’t have been a problem based on the time/milage.

    My favorite, though, was when they failed to let me know about the recall on the gas pedal sticking. I had to put the emergency brake on at stop signs; red lights gave me the chance to reach down and yank the pedal back up. This car nearly killed me several times on my way to the dealership – a whole three miles.

    After waiting for five days, I had to call them to see if it was done (they hadn’t even started). Two days later, I finally got my car back. Twenty minutes later, I returned to the dealership. Somehow, in fixing the gas pedal, they screwed up the steering and the brakes. It still doesn’t drive the same as it used to.

    Did I mention that this was the first car I’d bought on my own and was so paranoid about it breaking down that I refused to even consider getting a used car that had more wear and tear on it?

    I can’t wait to pay the thing off so I can get rid of it. I’m thinking MiniCooper, since they’re owned by BMW and have a reputation for good service. Anybody got any comments on them?

  29. Rob Says:

    I first owned a Ford Bronco, then a Jeep, then finally a Ford Explorer which I ditched in 2001. The ’86 Bronco was a marginal vehicle at best, but I was happy with it due to the relatively newfangled SUV moniker attached to it. I had it seven years, and then it was stolen. No major work was done on it, but it was slipping.

    Not married to Ford, I moved onto a Jeep Cherokee Sport. This truck really sucked. I had some work done on it under warranty, some not, and fed up with the tinny box of crap after four years I traded it in (for a lousy price no less) for a Ford Explorer.

    That Explorer was a relatively expensive model (Eddie Bauer version if I recall). And boy, did I dislike the way that thing drove. Rough ride, things rattling all over the damn place, and weak to boot. Sure enough I had it 4 years and the darn thing started acting up on me.

    I traded it in for a Toyota Highlander in 2001. The Toyota drives great and has not been unkind to me in the least. If I ever feel the need for a different vehicle, it’s going to be a Toyota. There is just no way I would look at a Ford. They lost me and they could have easily roped in a lifelong customer back in the 90’s. Their loss.

  30. Michael Parker Says:

    Just stay away from Mercedes. I foolishly bought an E320 back in 2001, and the car couldn’t stay away from the shop more than a month at a time. Never actually stranded me on the side of the road, but I had to resort to duct tape on more than one occasion. Finally ditched it and got another Ford. I’ve always had good luck with Fords, hopefully this one will continue the streak.

    I’ve had bad luck with Chevys though — my family was a Chevy family, and have one by one gradually ditched them in favor of Fords — my dad’s the last holdout, though the only thing keeping him from buying a Ford is his company vehicle (ford) suffices while he decides whether to unseize his Chevy’s engine (at 70k miles!) and try to trade it in, or just sell it for scrap.

  31. E-HO Says:

    That was excellent! bravo!

  32. E-HO Says:

    Never mind that Henry Ford was a Nazi. That fact alone wont let me set foot in a Ford dealership. and I agree – the cars are visually unappealing anyway & They are built to breakdown. What’s the point?

  33. rosignol Says:

    I’m thinking MiniCooper, since they’re owned by BMW and have a reputation for good service. Anybody got any comments on them?

    My mom has a bimmer (not her first), according to her the build quality has slipped in the last 5 years or so.

    I’m quite happy with my Infiniti (built by Nissan)- 150k miles, and the only repair that’s been in the 4-figure range was on account of a ditz in a Thunderbird who sideswiped me.

  34. Chuck Pelto Says:

    TO: All
    RE: Car Comparisons

    When you see a car abandoned on the side of the road, take note of it’s nationality.

    I’ve seen many more American manufactured vehicles abandoned than I’ve seen Japanese. More than I think market share would account for.



  35. JimD Says:

    My wife and I bought our first brand-new car in 1987 – a Ford Tempo. It was bad enough that it was a complete POS that couldn’t stay out of the shop, but what made the owning experience exponentially worse was the Ford dealer we bought the car from in MA. They pulled in a lot of revenue selling interceptors to various police agencies, vans to fleets, etc., and treated the ordinary customer like crap. Whatever dealer repair scam you can name was pulled on us, until finally I reached my boiling point and literally got into a screaming match with the service manager. When that pinhead stood his ground, my wife and I asked to meet with the owner of the dealership, who we knew was there at the time – and the a-hole refused to meet with us. We somehow managed to keep the Tempo on the road, but traded it in after it continuously overheated in the summer of 1996. On the day I traded it in, I had to literally coast it in to the dealer’s lot because it was ready to die after a 10-minute trip.

    I decided right there and then that I will never buy another Ford car, ever. My decision was only reinforced when we bought a new 1992 Nissan Sentra. I owned that car for a decade, put 150k miles on it, and never had to take it to the shop for a repair. I have since owned two additional Nissans and have had pretty good luck with them.

    As info, I have looked at both GM and Chrysler products the last two times I’ve shopped for cars, but I keep getting turned off by their insistence to price basic options that 90% of consumers want as part of expensive add-on packages. Nissan and other foreign companies, on the other hand, will produce a base-level model with most features a frugal car shopper is looking for, and offer more expensive models with goodies for those looking for higher performance or luxury. Just reason #512 why the foreign automakers ‘get it’ while the U.S. auto companies and their dealers remain clueless.


  36. Eden Says:

    Simply for the record, seven of the eight vehicles I’ve owned have been Fords (there was a Saturn in there during their early days). One LTD, two Escorts, two Explorers, one F-250, and one F-150. Perhaps I’ve had great mechanics, but I took three of those vehicles past 100,000 with only the most minor of repairs, and I’m not obsessive about maintenance. I’ve gotten much better performance out of the trucks, if that says anything.

    Planned obsolesence pisses me off, though, whether it be parts that are designed to degrade or electronics that are not backward compatible. I buy Fords because I like their simplicity and old school clunkiness, not because of patriotism; the AFL-CIO alone is almost enough for me to try to find cars designed and built outside of the country.

    If you want to support the American economy through your purchases, I agree: buy quality. But also buy local. Support your brick and mortar merchants. Buy from farms, factories, and craftspeople in your area. Little purchases make a difference: you can get your strawberry jelly from hundreds of sources — Smuckers is happy to take your money — but by buying from a family farm on the city outskirts, you’re putting a couple of dollars right back into your own community.

  37. sammler Says:

    How does one go about finding out how much American content various vehicles have? I have seen a couple of teaser numbers in articles, but obviously the only real value is in seeing the whole database. Is it online anywhere?

  38. Steve Teeter Says:

    Stephen: Would you consider printing out this entire discussion thread and sending it to Ford? If you do, please do tell us what response you get.

  39. Mikey Says:

    I have a 1998 Escort coupe, 140,000, original clutch, runs like a champ.

    My experience has been good.

  40. Royal Says:

    Most of the commenters above that have stopped buying GM/Ford did so after a bad experience before, say, 1996. I read somewhere that perception of quality in the automotive industry lags 15 years behind product. Even assuming that this time has been compressed by the internet, this would have been like nixing a 1995 purchase of a Subaru based on the performance of a 1985 Justy. To take a more recent example, Hyundai has improved nearly exponentially between 1995 and now. I don’t follow Ford or GM much (I’m an old Mopar fan), but I understand that, for example, Buick has done very well in initial quality surveys for the last several years.

  41. Mark the Pundit Says:

    Screw Ford and GM

    Everything Will Collier says about Ford and GM cars mimic my family’s experience with them. Every. Single. Bit. Yes, Ford and GM make shitty cars, and no, I will not spend one dime of my money on them. My last…

  42. Sigivald Says:

    JP: Sounds like the 22RE 4 cylinder in my Toyota pickup.

    12 years, 180k miles, and the worst thing that’s ever gone wrong with it just happened – airflow meter went out. Put in a $125 used one with half as many miles on it, myself, in half an hour.

    I don’t know what I’d have to do to kill that truck, considering how I overload it. (But oilchanges every 3k rather than Toyota’s 4k or more interval must be helping, I reckon…)

  43. John Says:

    My ’96 T-bird did the torque converter thing around 100,000 miles (I do more highway driving = less shifting), and the transmission fluid change did fix things for a little longer than your mechanic said — it made it to about 120,000 before the problem cropped up again. Fortunately for me, before I had to really deal with the problem, a 13-year-old who stole his mom’s Chevy Blazer and led sheriff’s deputies on a high speed chase didn’t make the turn on the street outside my office in time and crushed the left rear of the vehicle, so I ended up with $5,100 from the insurance company as downpayment on a new car.

    That was in 2002. I’m giving Ford another try right now with an ’06 Mariner, though the SUV is actually just a Mazda Tribute with a few bells and whistles added.

  44. Laurie Says:

    Had an 84 Mustang GT ragtop and loved it, literally to death. Best car I’ve ever owned, and the most fun I’ve ever had on four wheels.

    Replaced it with a 94 TBird which, amazingly enough, needed a tranny replacement about three days after the warranty was out. The dealer-recommended fluid changes were just enough to get it to that magical date, when the tranny went out completely.

    Painful lesson in trusting a dealership’s recommendations, and I have NO problems telling the story to anybody who asks about my experiences with that particular dealer or that company. If they’d been halfway honest with me about the torque converter problem, or even *halfway* good about repairing the problem ahead of time, I’d still be singing their praises like I did before the TBird. “Hope that the problem will go away” is not the best of customer relations.

  45. JEM Says:

    There is truth to the perception of bad quality hanging on. What is the best car to buy right now: According to JD POwer it is a Cadillac. It outdoes even Lexus and of course for the money a Lexus needs to look much better than they do. The Buick sedans have always been amongst the most reliable cars in surveys, but their styling is a little geared to the older customer. A baseline Chevy today will do as well as an import – the Malibu is very solid – but I would watch their stats as many have been redesigned in the last 5 years.

    Best recommendation in this import vs. domestic is this: Look at local BBB complaints on the dealer ships in your area. Import dealers are huge crooks too because the manufacturers (Toyota, Nissan, etc.) lie about their problems. Toyota is legendary for refusing to accept warranty claims for things that were clearly their fault. The domestics seem to have more crooked dealers because there are more of them (domestic cars sold per dealer are much lower than imports). See who runs a fair business in your area – if you know anyone personally from an auto zone office call them and see which dealers they like to work with. That means the dealer takes care of things in house and is worth trusting. Then decide which car you think looks nice and hits your price target and go buy it. And if you really like a car and can’t find a good dealer in town who sells it, go to the next town over and find a dealer there.

    The reliability stats on cars today are in reality awfully close – anything else is just war stories.

  46. JimD Says:

    The reliability stats on cars today are in reality awfully close – anything else is just war stories.

    Then Ford and GM should stop just talking about quality and extend their warranties. After all, if the cars are truly improved, they shouldn’t lose too much money, right?

  47. Ed Says:

    Crunchy Consternations

    I’ve linked several times to Rod Dreher’s “Godless Party” article, which did a thorough job of documenting one of the trends in American politics over the last 25 years, and one that was completely ignored by big media. And I’ve…

  48. Slartibartfast Says:

    I had over 175k miles on my first car, a ’73 Volvo, before I tore the engine down. And I didn’t tear it down because it needed it, I tore it down because I wanted to overbore it. Youth and stupidity, combined. At about 150k I had to put in new tranny bearings. Worst thing about that car was the finicky electronic fuel injection; everything else was as reliable as anything else you’ll find out there. These days, of course, Volvo’s traveled to the other end of the reliability spectrum, whilst exerting a stranglehold on the parts supply (which of course keeps the price sky-high). I wouldn’t own one, now.

    Next car was a ’91 Sentra, which lasted me until 2004. Only reason I got rid of it was that it was approaching a need for major service, and the interior was disintegrating. Still, it was getting 30 mpg in town, which is a lot more than I can say for my ’95 Accord. If they still made THAT version of the Sentra, I’d snap it up (only in four-door version).

    I owned a Ford once upon a time; bought it in 1994 or so to haul mulch, firewood, etc. It was a ’68 F250 with the fabled 300 in^3 straight six transplanted into it. I had to replace the radiator (original equipment), the alternator (ditto), and the shocks (ditto again). There really isn’t much more to the vehicle than that. Oh, and I did the rear brakes, which was a PITA since it had the HD rear-end (you have to pull the axle half-shafts to remove the brake drums). My wife and I bought a Ford Windstar back in ’98 and drove it until last summer. It was a piece of crap. After less than a year, the mileage we were getting dropped by about 5 mpg, and never went back up. Even after repeated trips to the dealer. After about four years, the check engine light came on. The dealership told us some manifold passages were clogged, and it was going to cost over $800 to unclog them. Incompetence or evil-ness, take your pick.

  49. JEM Says:

    The mainline imports and the domestics already have the same warranties.

    The imports who went way up are the Koreans. Because they used to sell junk. That has always been the problem with extended warranties, they signify you are selling junk.

  50. es Says:

    My ’68 F-100 with the 240 straight six (same block as the 300, shorter stroke) has +300K on it, and STILL gets over 9 MPG!

    It may be old, but it’s slow…

    My wifes ’98 Caravan (3.3L) has actually been pretty good – over 160K and still running well.

    I drive a 2000 New Beetle TDI with over 100K on it. Mileage is great (mid-40s), but the O&O costs are outrageous. I spent $800 less in fuel costs last year than my wife for about the same mileage, but the maintenance costs on the NB were well over $1500 (timing belt plus some other quality-related issues).

    I won’t buy another new VW (as much as I love the TDI engine), but am definitely looking at picking up another used ’98 Caravan for my 16 year-old son to drive when he gets his license in another month or two.

    Interestingly, other than my ’64 Beetle, which had over 300K on it when I sold it, my next-highest mileage car was my first – a 1971 Chevy Vega with +220K on it when I traded it in. Of course, I had rebuilt every component in the car at least twice, and had replaced the 4-banger with a Buick V6…

  51. Just One Bite Says:

    And on this farm he had some cows

    Friday Post #2 I just added a comment to a post over at VodkaPundit about buying American cars (my beloved Fords were under attack, so I had to put in my two cents). While I won't defend the Ford Motor Company any more, I do want to expand on some…

  52. el duderino Says:

    I had a Ford Taurus once, and more tranny problems than the WNBA. I have two Honda Accords both made in Ohio which are quicker, stop better, get better mileage, handle better than any Taurus and are nearly maintenance free. Ford should stop having that stiff also named Ford pitch their lack luster cars for them.

  53. COD Says:

    I just bought my first “American” vehicle, ever. We’ve owned 4 Mazdas and an Isuzu, been happy with every one of them. My daily ride is still a 97 626. However, I needed something to pull a horse trailer, and when towing 5000 lbs – I felt more comfortable with a big heavy American V8 – so I went with an 05 Durango with the HEMI. Although I admit, the amount of German engineering in that truck was a plus for me.

  54. E-HO Says:

    I don’t think it’s a conspiracy. I just think Ford’s in house engineers and outside dealership technicians don’t get it.
    They have probably been give a prescribed fix, and even though it’s a bad one, it’s probably not a conspiracy. That does not omit the occasional tricky local dealership owner from turning poor quality control into a money making situation. The problem is, that can only last so long. At some point, the jig is up.
    Still, Ford and ALL American car manufacturers need to get their act together and create a car that is not only more reliable, and gas efficient, but also affordable. It’s called competition. If they continue to make crap – no one will show up.

  55. Erik Says:

    While I agree that we shouldn’t subsidize bad companies, I also believe that the bigger picture isn’t being talked about. Profit! What does profit do? It buys influence. It buys intellectual property. It buys options.

    Right now, the Chinese are sitting on a vast amount of money. How are they going to use that power? Right now, Japan is sitting on a vast amount of IP. How are they going to use that power?

    Maybe this is a good thing. The great depression was a terrible thing to go thru but the people who lived thru it came out stronger and smarter. Maybe we need to lose power so that when we get it back, we respect and appreciate it more. I just wanted it to be me that paid the price and not my children.

  56. Jrm Says:

    The simple fact is, Detroit lost sight of customer loyalty. Not loyalty from the customer – loyalty TO the customer. It’s a two way street. They owe me the best vehicle they can build for the years of income I invest in it. Instead, they demand my loyalty for inferior products. I’ve owned one US-built car in the last ten years. Never again.

    I’m the proud owner of a ’92 Toyota pickup with 481,207 miles on it, and a Tacoma with just under 10,000.

  57. grayson Says:

    Wow, Jrm. That beats mine. I had a Toyota Corolla with 360,000 miles on it and I thought that was something. (It was still running when a Ford Expedition driving soccer mom with 7 kids heading to confirmation hit me so hard from behind she blew the trunk lid off.)

    On the other hand, I have an old Ford with 200,000 miles on it. Only that’s split between 2 engines and 3 transmissions. P.O.S.

  58. Ramrod Says:

    My 10 year old Honda Accord has 179k miles on it, original engine, original transmission. And it still gets 25 MPH. I’d buy American, but I’d pay twice as much for a car that lasts half as long. Show me an American car that lasts that long with original parts, and I’ll show you a car owner who’s a lying POS.

  59. steve Says:

    I bought a hatchback Accord (made in Ohio) in 1986. I did a formal comparison with a hatchback Chevy Cavalier. The Chevy salesman fed me the standard line: “Yes, we used to have quality problems, but we’re really much better now.” I decided I didn’t believe him, and spent 10% more for the Accord.

    I maintained it pretty well for the first five years. Then grad school and family pressures interfered. It kept running anyway. After 18 years and 180k miles, it developed water-in-the-oil disease and I traded it in on a new one.

    If I hadn’t killed it with a decade of sustained neglect, I’m sure it would still be running fine. I can find several others of the same vintage within a few blocks of my house. But even here in California, where cars last forever, I haven’t seen one of those Cavaliers in this millenium.

    I wrote a version of this story in the comments of GM’s “Fastlane” blog. Got called a lot of names, and got told “We’re really much better now.” Yeah, right.

    I think they’re doomed.

  60. syn Says:

    Is “crunchie” an off-spirng of “nanny”?

    That said, I’ve read enough of Dreher to recongize he’s a whiner so I’ll pass on reading his book.

  61. Prague Says:

    JEM – Malibu? Solid? Scroll up. And to continue that story, the rental I got at the time was a 2005 Malibu. Not only was it out of gas when they gave it to me, but was impossible to see out when looking over your shoulder – a nice wide support between the rear windshield and the backseat window. The blind spot was deliberately designed to be bigger.

    But the best part is that yesterday, I got a recall notice about the gas pedal sticking. The one that I should have gotten in 2004, got fixed in 2005 – and it was sent from the same dealership that replaced it. Apparently, according to their records, I never had the work done.

  62. Joe Katzman Says:

    Will, don’t dismiss the concept just yet. Without buying Rod’s book, take a look at Winds of Change.NET’s explanation of what “Crunchy Cons” are all about.

    You might also be interested in our discussion of Jonah Goldbergh’s criticisms – some of which are very justified – and the trends that say this is still something to pay attention to.

    The NRO blog is not, so far, a very good snapshot – and the concept itself is still more of an anthropological noticing than a coherent political program at this stage.

  63. Joe Says:

    Three weeks ago, after my daughter’s 92 Acclaim got hit by an idiot, I let her use my Civic while the insurance company rented me a car. When I saw it was a Pontiac G6 my heart sank; in the past Pontiacs were the wourse rental cards I’d ever driven. The car was a dream. Only my Honda Odyssey has given me as much pure joy driving. I don’t know what the long term reliability is, but the design is fantastic and build-quality amazing.

  64. Joe Says:

    I’ve gone through a list of all the cars I’ve owned. I swear by Hondas, though do find the Toyota engines slightly more reliable.

    Of the American cars I’ve owned, the physical construction is just plain poor. It has definitely gotten better though (see Pontiac G6 comments above–this is truly an excellent car, reliability unknown.)

    I’m quite excited by many new American designs (the Dodge Challenger concept is beautiful.) The quality is greatly improved. Until US automakers can dump the unions and use cost savings to improve reliability, it will still lag behind.

  65. UNCoRRELATED Says:

    Just Bad Business

    I haven’t visited Vodkapundit in a while and had a little time this afternoon, and so ran into Will Collier’s post on “Crunchy Consternation”. I hadn’t heard of “Crunchy Conservativism” before reading the post, but I have to agree with Jonah Goldberg’s…

  66. Ofc. Krupke Says:

    The progression of the Ford Crown Victoria is as follows:

    Police department buys the car new, drives the hell out of it, then replaces it.

    Taxi company buys the old police car, drives the hell out of it, and then gets another retired cop car to replace it.

    The cast-off taxi is then bought by drug dealer.

    My current cruiser is a 2003 Crown Vic. By the end of the decade, some doper will probably have it. Maybe I should leave him a note.

  67. Ricky Says:

    106k on a 2000 jeep wrangler. It sees 80% street and 20% trail and offroad. I did have to replace the water pump at 100k… but that was it…

  68. Robin S. Says:

    I know that with this many comments, Prague will never see this response, but I absolutely adore my MINI Cooper, and based on the forums around the ‘net, I don’t believe there’s been a lot of problems with them (mine’s too young to really tell just yet). I can say for certain that they were very good about notifying me about the recall on it (they had to reroute some wiring that was getting rubbed raw or somesuch).

  69. Aaron Says:

    My wife drives a BMW – totally sucks and needs to be repaired all the time for big bucks. It sometimes won’t start. (The dealers blame this on the kind of gasoline sold in Taiwan…yeah sure buddies.)

    Our company uses a Ford Aptiva for inspection purposes and drives the hell out of it. So far, we’ve only needed to replace windshield wipers.

  70. nn Says:

    If the new GMs and Fords are really as reliable as the Japanese they need to prove it. Lexus started by purposely underpricing the LS400 and then raising prices as reputation increased.

    If, let’s say, the new Cadillacs are as good as Lexus, they should a) lower their prices b) match Hyundai’s long warranties, and c) improve the interiors so they are as refined as Lexus or MB inside. In a few years quality will pay off with reputation and prices can climb back up.

    But they won’t. Which means they can’t. Kill the unions. Let GM Ford go bankrupt now.

  71. Larry Says:

    Crook-Poopyhead, eh Will? Every time I’ve shopped for a new car since moving to PC in ’80, Ive gone there and been uncomfortable with the sales staff and the crap they sell.

    Had good luck with Pontiacs (5, including one Firebird). No outstanding Mx problems and good dealer service.

    Three Jeep G C Laredos, all excellent and I’ll buy another when this one (’04) wears out.

    Had 4 Fords since attaining adultery. One good, a’61 with the old straight 6, 3-speed with O/D. Way over 100k, but rubber and paint were shot.

    The most fun, solidest cars I’ve ever had were ’91 and ’94 Miatas. :(( totalled the ’94, but saw my life flash before me when sideways on pavement at highway speed, the lil sucker just kept spinning, TG!

  72. Outside The Beltway | OTB Says:

    Bloggers, Flacks, and Media Ethics Redux

    Howie Kurtz weighs in on the bloggers and P.R. firms controversy that has the blogosphere (but judging from the dearth of comments, no one else) in a tizzy. He basically agrees with most of the bloggers who have commented on the story that running wit…

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