advertising and other stuff. no, really.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Car industry snapshot: 1983!

Look at those Hot Wheels™! Cleaning stuff out in the basement and found a few boxes of magazines that I knew would come in handy for either eBay or blog material. Latter! A Motor Trend from July 1983 stood out. Get past the cover and the inside articles and notice how ads were eerily eerie in their prescient prescience. Heh! Like?

Well, like the fact that in times like these people complain about three things: Fuel economy, reliability and innovation. That if the Big Three did those things better, they’d buy American and Detroit wouldn’t be in trouble. Hypersimplifications over, I get that there are other reasons behind their problems these days. For the purposes of finding some horribly dated ads though, those first three will do.

First, the fuel arguement. 26 years ago people: I GIVE YOU DODGE COLT! It got 35/45! Forget who killed the electric car, look at that racing stripe! Sassy. That’s the problem though. People want better gas mileage; they just don’t want to be driving something that looks like a Matchbox car.

You’d think they’d get over that however, because at that time, we were about a decade removed from one of the worst gas shortages in this country’s history. Forget high price—there wasn’t any gas to raise prices on. People were getting shot in gas lines. (It got so bad, future ad bloggers carried two sets of license plates with them at all times because of odd/even day rationing. I would not be denied.)

FF >> to last year’s near-$5 per gallon average and it’s the same shit all over again. Yes, they care about the environment and green issues, but damn, that XM radio sure is sweet!

I also think a big part of the problem then was that people still wanted their improved mpg from an American model, not some Mitsubishi-Dodge hybrid. Cue Reagan era patriotism! Screw imports, yea imperialism! Same for trucks. This was Real Man™ time. Real Men rode Harley. Real Men drove Ford or GM trucks. Real Men didn’t blog.

People complain about lower mpg ratings now? Nissan’s pickup got 31/43—for $5,995! Mr. Gorbachov, tear down those import tariffs! (Nice to see how Nissan still runs with an iteration off the “driven” tag though.)

Fuel economy of SUVs, crossovers and trucks is one area you can rightfully say Detroit has lagged behind in. 1983 Ford Bronco? 20/30. 2009? Name any comparable vehicle that gets remarkably better mileage. All vehicles have improved across the board in terms of safety, features and reliability, but improved fuel economy is a joke.

Second, reliability. Not much to say, they’re getting better across the board, but even Chrysler offered 50,000 mile warranty protection back then (See Chrysler ad below.) Thing is, people needed that protection at 100,ooo+ because they drive cars longer. Now when I see 3 years/36,000, it’s a joke to offer that anymore because the car should go that long without problems.

Third, innovation. The things most often said in this area: “Detroit killed the electric car. Detroit is resistant to change. Detroit did this to themselves while other car companies improved.” Based on the streamlined Pacer-like styling, looks like GM wasn’t too far off the Jetsons mark with that 2002 concept car! Even though it looks now more like an Aptera and less like their Project PUMA which would follow seven years later.

But let’s see what Lee says in the Special Advertising Section. (Yes, even then, the dreaded Special Advertising Section was alive and well.) But when it came to CEOs facing down problems? Lee Iacocca was The Man. The buck stopped with him—and thanks to Dodge’s improved handling, it stopped on a dime. (Zing!) So in closing, remember, next time you’re out shopping for a new 1983 model, GM and Chrysler ARE your choices for the future!

(More irony? The word below used for long posts next to that ad.)


autostry said...

Funny how the same problems are still haunting car manufacturers today.

Michael the G said...

Uhm, 20/30 yes but only 185hp at 4000 rpm and 275 ft lbs at 3000 rpm out of a 5-liter V8 engine.

A comparably sized vehicle from Ford right NOW with a smaller engine block is turning out nearly 300 HP and 315 FT lbs of torque. It's not that they "CAN'T" make em more MPG-friendly. It's that there was a VERY profitable market that wanted grossly overpowered behemoth-mobiles.

Also, the US auto press HATED (and I mean brutally eviscerated) the domestic producers efforts to make a cheap "import-fighter" with good gas mileage. They were mortified that the big 3 dared to step away from "big-block, muscle car dickswinging" or the "Family Truckster" to give people an alternative and it set us WAY back.

Nowadays, EVERYONE makes good cars. Having said that, we recently shopped for an economy car as a 3rd vehicle and car that will soon be handed to a teenager and guess what? All the new cars under 15 grand STILL suck, BUT, they should all be able to get you 100,000 miles.