I think that the term “patriotic” has been twisted into something unuseful, but I guess I would consider myself somewhat patriotic. I love my country and want it to prosper. I hate it when people use July 4th as an excuse to bash America. I defend America in arguments with arrogant foreigners who think that they know more about America than Americans do. This extends somewhat into international business where I want Boeing to beat Airbus, WM and iPhone to beat Symbian, and so on. But this all has its limitations. I sometimes root against our team in international competition when its obvious that the other country cares a lot more. I don’t buy “Made in America” products solely because they’re Made in America.

Errr, on that last one,it would seem that there is an exception.

Ever since I was young, my family has purchased American cars. It used to be Dodge but now everything’s a Ford. Part of that is attributable to my father’s general conservatism about major purchases with a strong bias towards going with what you know. He kept buying Dodge Colts until they stopped making them. Then he bought Ford Escorts and he would continue if they hadn’t stopped making those. I think part of it is that he knows his preferred car people can fix Fords and Dodges and though with a simple question he could find out if they would work on Toyotas too, why ask when he can just keep getting Fords?

I’m not sure how much life my current car has in it. Most likely enough to get us off to wherever we move to in the next year. But at some point I’m going to need to buy a car. I noted that Nissans have a near looking car that boasts a good amount of interior room but with a small footprint, which I like. It would also be convenient if Clancy and I both drove the same brand of car.

At the same time… I have such difficulty imagining buying a non-American car. I would myopically look at whatever follows the Ford Escort (Ford Focus?) and maybe it’s competitors put out by Chevy and Dodge. And I have no idea why this is the case. I can think of things that I might think are reasons. I think that Americans cars are less likely to have rigged up dashboards making it difficult to put in aftermarket players. I think that American cars cost mildly less to get fixed because there are more people that can do it. But if any commenters here tell me that I’m wrong about these things, I’m not sure that it would change my feelings on the matter.

I also can’t cite support for the American worker. I could get a Toyota made in Texas or a Nissan made in Tennessee easily enough. At least one of the Dodge Colts we got was full of parts made in Japan. It’s not outrage that the plants in the south aren’t unionized since I hold no strong belief that the UAW is a particularly positive influence as the Big 3 struggle for air and the foreign auto-makers do not. And the more I think about the different models, the less I want to buy American. Union issues aside, there are numerous other things that the Big 3 did to get themselves in their current mess and a part of me is extremely resistant to the idea that “Even though you did these things, I want to support you with my dollars anyway.”

But nonetheless here I remain, befuddled at the notion of buying a Toyota or a Nissan.

Maybe it’s partly an image thing. The same thing that drives some to buy the loudest environmentally correct car that they can without any honest assessment about what they can really do to lower their carbon footprint or whatever. Maybe I don’t want to be one of those people that buy foreign cars. Except that I don’t think less at all of Clancy for her Toyota nor did I Julie for her Honda or Kyle and his Mazda. Maybe there is a little redneck in me that wants the eternal struggle be between Ford and Chevy. Or I like the simplicity of choosing between three companies rather than between 11. Maybe I have a subconscious view that foreign cars are less genuine even though there’s really no solid basis and besides it’s more possible that the foreign car was built by a (distant) relative or friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend than the American car since I have roots throughout the south and none in Michigan.

None of these possibilities are things that I can stand behind, but they’re really all I got. Maybe I’m just my father’s son, going with what I know until I can’t anymore. Which may be sooner rather than later, it would seem.

-{Note: This post says nothing about Republicans or Democrats or lobbyists. I’d like the comments to steer clear of that as well.}-

Category: Road

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13 Responses to Patriotism & Sentimentality On The Road

  1. Peter says:

    iPhones are made in China. In fact, I don’t believe Apple has any manufacturing facilities at all in America.

    I could get a Toyota made in Texas or a Nissan made in Tennessee easily enough. At least one of the Dodge Colts we got was full of parts made in Japan. It’s not outrage that the plants in the south aren’t unionized since I hold no strong belief that the UAW is a particularly positive influence as the Big 3 struggle for air and the foreign auto-makers do not.

    Workers at the “transplant” auto factories in the south get paid just about as much as UAW workers in Big 3 factories.

  2. Abel says:

    I will never buy an American car again. MG and I love our Toyota Sienna. Our other car is a GM brand. It’s been okay, but not great. When it expires in the next five years, our plan is to replace it anything but a car from the Big Three. (If they’re even around by then.)

  3. trumwill says:

    iPhones are made in China.

    Yeah, but they’re designed here.

    Workers at the “transplant” auto factories in the south get paid just about as much as UAW workers in Big 3 factories.

    Do you have a source on this? I’ve heard salaries and benefit packages of UAW jobs that make my head spin. I wouldn’t be surprised if starting salaries were about the same, but I have difficulty believing that senior floor workers at Toyota plants make comparable to the amounts I’ve heard out of Detroit. Or maybe the amounts I’ve heard out of Detroit are erroneous?

  4. trumwill says:

    I will never buy an American car again.

    Is this because you love your Sienna so much (and are relatively indifferent to your GM) or because of the politics of the matter?

  5. Abel says:

    Is this because you love your Sienna so much (and are relatively indifferent to your GM) or because of the politics of the matter?

    Actually, it has more to do with the fact that the Sienna requires little or no maintenance beyond the 5,000 K oil changes. The Saturn (and other American car’s I’ve owned) have been service heavy requiring major services every 30K or 50K to keep it running right. So yeah, we love the Sienna. It’s perfect for getting the family around and I don’t have to worry about replacing belts at 30K miles.

    Secondly, my experience with American car dealers has been downright awful. That fact alone made us go to foreign dealers first. The Toyota place was the last one we visited and we actually didn’t plan on driving home in a new van. They let us go on a nice test drive, didn’t push us to buy anything, and were in more of a negotiating mode when it came to the price than the other places we visited. Hands down I’d buy another car from that dealer if I was treated that way again.

  6. trumwill says:

    I’ve had reasonably good luck with my Fords. It does seem around every $30-50 that something is required, though it’s usually pretty cheap. After 200k miles, my old Escort needs a big repair that it won’t get. Dad will just run it into the ground. Our Toyota, on the other hand, required a whopping $4k repair bill when we moved to Estacado. That was partly our fault, though. Something went wrong on our drive down from Deseret and we kept driving on it, require the replacement of the whole steering system. At least they told us it was required.

    Clancy has had nothing but great things to say about Toyota dealerships, though we think that the one in Estacado may have been one of the bad apples. They took us for $4,000 when we moved to Estacado and when we moved away they found another $3,500 of “needed repairs” even though the car was running fine except for some needed regular maintenance. Given her family’s good luck with Toyota dealerships in the past, the Estacado dealership may have been an outlier. Or maybe her car will break down tomorrow and they will be proven to be correct.

    We never buy cars from dealerships, actually, so I wouldn’t know how they are there. Dad usually bought from a local credit union (repo, presumably) or a private seller if he could negotiate the ability to take it in to his trusted mechanic.

  7. David Alexander says:

    Dodge Colts

    My dad has owned two Dodge Colts, the first he owned for a few years, and the second sat in our backyard as a sign of our prolehood. At some point, my dad ended up losing the title for the car, and thus due to the fact he moved out of the state the car was last registered in (New Jersey), he ended up having a 20 year old car with only 50k miles sitting around doing nothing. It wasn’t until we moved away two years ago that he ended up junking the car. Interestingly, my dad bought the car as a way for my mom to practice driving, and twenty years later, my mom still has no drivers license, and I ended up using the car in my backyard as a source of basic driving techniques.

    Ever since I was young, my family has purchased American cars.

    Interestingly, my dad started off driving various 4X4s made by Land Rover in Haiti, and once he moved to the states, his first car was a Toyota. He stayed with imports until he ended up driving for a car service, and has stuck with Lincoln Town Cars even though he’s no longer in that buisness. He’s become accustomed to the large size, and my mother has a fondness for the soft suspension that those cars offer which isn’t available in most other vehicles on the market.

    As for me, my first and current car are both Saturns, and I’ve become accustomed to them despite some of their quirks. My brother in contrast has lucked out with a high-mileage Toyota Celica. If GM nukes Saturn, it’s highly likely that I’ll go play with a foreign brand…

  8. thebastidge says:

    For me, it’s Korean cars. Japanese cars are overpriced in comparison, but I would go with them next well before an American car. I have a Ford truck also, but bought it quite well-used.

    Korean/Japanese cars have the best warranties, lowest maintenance cost, better longevity, longer runs of matching parts between year models, better look/feel, and better performance than comparable American cars.

  9. Webmaster says:

    I’m happy with my Ford. Was happy (even with the one design flaw) with my Oldsmobile prior to that.

    I’d never touch a Volkswagen because of all the “proprietary parts” nonsense they’re pulling these days; you can’t even change your own headlight without going to the dealership (part of the car’s wiring harness actually has to be decoupled from the frame to get to the headlight cage in the latest few VW models, and you have to buy “official” VW brake pads with a sensor in them or else the car throws a fit about not being able to “find” the brakes).

    As for Japanese/Korean cars… I know a number of people who have them. Honda would probably be #1 on my list of “trusted” foreign cars. I think a lot of the animus and “OMG American cars are crap” stuff comes from people’s anecdotal minds, however – the media covers it more (because of the financial stories), and up until a certain time in the past they were the majority of the cars on the road, so of course there are a lot more “broken down American car” stories, yet judging by the past couple years, the broken down cars I’ve seen on the Colosse highway system are almost always foreign makes.

    If I’d ever owned a foreign car, I’d probably have a story about the day that “piece of crap (name of foreign car here)” died and I had to get somewhere important. I don’t have that story because I didn’t own a foreign car for the inevitable breakdown occasion, not because of any deliberate malice or incompetence on the part of the car designers.

  10. thebastidge says:

    Proprietary (and expensive) parts are one reason why I am not a fan of European cars.

    A bigger lesson is don’t buy piece of crap cars. Or rather, to set your expectations appropriately.

    There’s obviously a valid and rational case for buying a POS car. If you simply can’t afford something better, any means of transpo that allows you to keep making an income is better than none.

    However, most people simply don’t do any research. They may ask a few friends for their opinions, but one would think that the second largest purchase one ever makes would justify some serious reading, research and comparisons, running the numbers in regards to affordability, price, and return on investment.

    It’s also not that all American cars are crap. It’s a combination of quality and price point.

  11. Webmaster says:

    Part of it is the difference between “foreign cars” then and now, and you’re right, part of the “price point” issue comes in as well.

    My Oldsmobile, even when I got it as a 13-year-old vehicle, had been a “big, solid luxury car” when it rolled off the assembly line. It was reasonably well made. There was a design flaw involving the alternator belt, which didn’t have much to be done about it, but it only got me twice. The other flaw wouldn’t have been as bad had I gone in to get it checked, but I’d ignored an intermittent “check engine” light (that was only coming on at very infrequent times) that turned out to be a breakdown in the head gasket. When the gasket went, it was at an “out in the middle of nowhere” moment, and wound up being something of distress. Had I gone in to get the car checked rather than “living with” the symptoms, it probably would have been only a $600 repair rather than $2000.

    The death of that car had to do with its getting flooded. I cleaned it out as well as I could but the damage was done – the body started rusting, the engine and other bits had water involved, and it eventually clapped out in the middle of a road trip.

    As for “not buying crap cars”, my current Ford is a Mustang. I generally put between $1000 and $2000 per year into it in maintenance, but it’s completely paid off. Even at $2000/year maintenance, that’s only $167/month, a bit over half what I’d probably pay in financing on a new (or “new to me”) vehicle.

  12. Linus says:

    I second the recommendation of Korean cars. Reliability is equivalent to Japanese cars these days, although their reputation hasn’t fully recovered yet. That makes them a bargain. Since our two cars have 370,000 miles between the two of them and are worth only $2000 combined, we’re perpetually eyeing the new & used car markets.

    My personal view is that avoiding Big 3 cars is a patriotic move in the sense that short-term losses move the country’s auto industry towards longer-term competitiveness, although I’m sure some would disagree.

  13. Becky says:

    I think it’s easier to say “buy American” when it’s an article of clothing, but when it comes to cars, you have to go with what you want to drive in terms of price and quality. I bought a Nissan Murano three years, but I went to American dealers first and they could not offer the same type of quality/model for the same price. I’ve known many people that drive their Hondas, Nissans and Toyotas into the ground, but my own family’s experience with American cars is that they start to break down so much that you just have to give up on them in relation to th cost to maintain them.

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