I had a new 1969 Dodge Dart with a Factory 383 Magnum. I don't think Grampa would have bought this car. Build quality was ok but not perfect. The car was extremely fast for the time and sent many a Camaro and Mustang home with their tails between their legs. Reliabity was fantastic. I ran this car hard for several years until the Arab Oil Embargo, when I traded it in for a VW Beetle (big mistake). Todays Chrysler products are the children of German influenced engineering and their idea of what a car should be. I refuse to accept a 4-door Dodge Charger, no matter how well it performs. I was hoping for a two door coupe when the company changed hands a few years ago, but so far it hasn't happend.
For a whole variety of reasons, I believe American consumers trust Detroit again -- either that or they have let go of their preference for Japanese cars. When GM became the top automaker again last last year it came as quite a surprise.
You're right, Rob. Detroit started to improve in the '80s. But they also wouldn't admit they had had quality problems until about 10 years later. Because they refused to publicly acknowledge their earlier problems, many Americans refused to trust them, even when they started building good cars.
1977 was likely one of the worst years for American cars. I owned a mid-1980s Cutless and it was a very good car. Before that I owned an early 1980s Pontiac 6000. It had more problems than the Cutless, but it was a pretty good car. Looking back, the Cutless was probably superior to the 6000 simply because it was mid-1980s instead of early 1980s. Detroit was begining to improve through the 1980s.
That's an interesting difference, between the parts and how they go together. My first, second, and third cars (I keep them a really, really long time and don't drive much) have been Japanese from the get go. They are superior machines and Japanese carmakers have been listening to their customers since at least the 70s when they started accommodating American tastes and body sizes.
Rob, I remember the Cutlass all too well. I had a '77 Cutlass with a catalytic converter problem that caused to vehicle to balk when I'd hit the accelerator. After a 15-minute warm-up, it would operate normally, but I didn't always have time to warm it up for 15 minutes. It also had widespread, unrepairable electrical issues. Other than that, it was a pretty good car.
The Center for Automotive Research has claimed that the key to automotive reliability lies in the difference between a philosophy of "perfect parts" versus "perfect system." American automakers, they say, strive to use perfect parts, while Honda and Toyota place less importance on the parts themselves, and greater importance on the way they go together. See:
From what I hear, it's not Chrysler's designs which are at fault, but the build quality. I know someone in their minivan groups who's justifiably proud of their engineering work, but then at the same time I hear stories like that of a couple who went to a Chrysler dealer, and she cut her leg on the edge of a plastic banner that didn't have the edge smoothed down. No sale.
Chrysler's designs do win accolades but the company has consistently fared poorly in Consumer Reports' reliability studies. The poor performance continues even today, and the CR studies are an important measure, since they base their studies on approximately 1.4 million user responses.
I feel your pain, Alex, as my family suffered from a couple of lousy Chrysler purchases in the `80s as well and as a result, became Detroit-adverse when it came to buying cars. It's an unfortunate mindset, which didn't seem to have the same repercussions then as it does now to the long-term health of the American car industry and the overall recovery of the American economy.
That said, and with the work done in recent years by the U.S. auto makers, that mindset should admittedly should be revisited, especially when it comes to said OEM, Chrysler. That's one company that has consistently turned out an admirable crop of designs, from the redone Jeep series, which is not only good looking, but drives great (my husband had one) to their 300 sedan series, which consistently wins accolades.
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