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Posts Tagged ‘Toyoglide’

GTOI’m fascinated by the rapid decline of the American car industry. 

And given Harley-Davidson’s consideration of closing its main assembly facility in Pennsylvania and moving production elsewhere is it déjà vu all over again?  GM and Chrysler went through the same China and Mexico facility debate to lower cost and cope with sales downturns now H-D wants the same experience?!  Huh?

A couple weeks ago there was an interesting article in “New York Times” on the GTO.  I recall hearing the Ronny & The Daytona’s song, but didn’t truly appreciate the “goats” until several years later when the Pontiac was a sleek ride on the boulevard.  At the time I had no idea that Jaguars were an exclusive make.  I’d see an XKE now and again, but if you wanted a real car, a hot rod, one that sparkled in the sunlight and impressed the girls, you got an American car.

In our family we had an string of American cars.  Trained as an engineer, my dad started off with GM/Chevy.  He purchased a sporty rear-engine Corvair Monza that caught fire on the way home from the dealership, but that’s what the brand stood for, great engineering.  There were several models purchased after, but not before the in-line six cylinder C-10 Chevrolet pickup that we must have drove 89,000 miles.  No matter how hard it was driven it got 9 MPG’s!  I remember a partially dismantled block in the driveway at one point theorizing how to boost the gas mileage with a timing belt change. At the end of the sixties and armed with a premonition of gas station lines my dad purchased a new 1970 Toyota Corona.  A Canary Yellow practical four door for a family of four with a dog.  A 1900cc (1.9L) 4 cylinder (3R-C) engine with a 2-speed Toyoglide automatic transmission.  After that Corona purchase I don’t remember much in the way of American car’s in our family.

My love affair with the automobile was not that much different from what I suspect was many of yours.  I studied “Car and Driver.”  I debated buddies what machines we were going to own.  Had friends with Cuda’s and “Stangs.”  But with the early-70’s oil embargo, Yom Kippur War and then later on with Jimmy Carter inflation and national energy policies… I went foreign and never looked back.   People made fun of that Fire Engine Red Corolla that looked like a thirty year old vehicle, even though it was brand new.  But then almost overnight the Datsun 510, 240Z and Celica converted the masses.  Who knew driving could be so much fun?

The usual suspects at GM have run that outfit into the ground.  And it’s hard not to compare analogies to the current state of the Harley motorcycle business.

Detroit said it was just giving the public what it wanted.  So let’s slap the backs of all those Detroit execs for ignoring the coming rise in the price of oil, the environmental concerns and just sell more SUVs.  It’s taken years.  But the Harley-Davidson world seems to be in a similar place as Detroit.  After years of coasting, it’s collapsing, and it’s not sure what the path out is.   Could it be that the blame lies on the pros who drove the business to the cliff, milking millions all the way, believing they’re entitled to their riches?  Is it union busting or “negotiation tactics?”  Where is the next act that H-D can rally around and declare great?  Not marketing noise.  Or accountant speak….like saying Britney might book revenue, but you’ll have a hard time finding any believer in her music.  Her music is not seen as necessary to most people’s lives.  It’s too discordant, or made for the cash register, not humans.  

Be it GM, H-D or Britney…until they change the product, we’ll remain in the doldrums.  It can be done, but only if the execs stop worrying about their lifestyle and get honest.

Photo courtesy of NYT.

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