Are American Cars Really All That Bad?
The site responsible for a great deal of the anti-hybrid FUD that I respond to has a long and fairly deep comment thread about the recent JD Power results. Like most of my peers, I don't own an American car and haven't in quite some time (I did buy a Saturn SL2 in 1991 and the car treated me well).
To me, though, it's damn simple. All of us who travel on business know that you get to try out American cars every time you go to the car rental place. (Well, I got to rent a Hyundai Sonata last time I was in Virginia on business, but that was the first time I ever got a non-American-brand car for rent). The key here is that many of those who aren't considering purchasing them know what they're like. Fix the cars you dump on the rental agencies and you might have a prayer.
For instance, during our 2002 trip to Hawaii, I rented two cars - a Dodge Neon on Oahu, and a Ford Focus on Maui. The first just suuuuucked - despite being a tiny, tiny, tiny car, I couldn't get it to turn tightly enough to fit in half of the spaces at our timeshare. The Focus, on the other hand, was a pretty good car. When it came time to consider buying our next car, the Focus was at least rattling around in my head (maybe if Ford had made a hybrid version, we would have given it more serious thought; but had we had to back up to a normal gas engine car, it would have certainly been in the running) while the Neon, I'd have a hard time justifying buying for $5000 new.
Likewise, the following cars which I drove or rode in the last couple of years on rental also suuuuucked: Chevrolet Cobalt, Buick Rendezvous (I got 'upgraded' to an SUV since they didn't have our midsize car), Chevrolet Malibu Maxx (2 times!). And our family got to drive a Chevy Tahoe for a day as a loaner car when ours was in for service. It was a piece of junk too.
That Hyundai Sonata? Like a traditional Buick, in all the good ways. That's bad news for the 'real' Buick too.
So, no, getting 'close' is not good enough to win back customers. Hell, any business weasel ought to be able to tell you that. You either get BETTER, or you do what Hyundai did, and get 'as good' and then offer a warranty that shows you're sure of it.
Don't try to mislead me with non-representative bullcrap about how your cars get 30 mpg on the highway when I'm driving one that gets 50 overall. Don't try to tell me how great your trucks are when gas is 3 bucks a gallon. If you ever want to get a guy like me back in your showrooms, you need to make better cars and mean it. Because I'll be driving your cars every so often whether I want to or not; so it won't be possible to fool me with salesman crap.