Buy American. Buy Junk.

Sunday, October 28, 2007
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Keep in mind that I am very objective concerning cars: when it comes to people who will only buy American cars, or silly, snobby folks who insist on all-Japanese-all-the-time, I am an equal opportunity misanthrope. I actually like to drive, research, and assess various cars and formulate an objective opinion based on facts and personal observations. I have no loyalty to my Motor City hometown nor do I have any designed preference for foreign cars.

So…..American cars. What the heck is going on with automotive designers, anyways? Most new cars these days are butt-ugly monstrosities. Ugly. Nasty. Cardboard boxes on 18-inch wheels. Have you noticed how so many cars are now designed to be oversized, boxey, chopped, and hyper-aggressive? Of course, the poor taste of the masses (focus groups), along with the road rage plague, accounts for the super-ridiculous aggressive look these cars are sporting nowadays. Huge, gawdy grilles. Boxey, bulbous rear ends. Overly-square fender lines. Short-and-chopped windows. Chrysler is a leader in the field of crappy exterior design. Aesthetically, what junk.

I’ve had an opportunity to drive a lot of newer vehicles, lately. Not only did I recently conduct a long search for a new car, but I tend to travel and thus rent cars quite often, too. My new car search turned up almost nothing of interest, at least compared to my old GM, extended cab, 4×4 bus with a quarter-million miles on it. That was the greatest vehicle ever. It took beatings of the worst sort yet drove like a Cadillac – with a full off-road suspension package on it. Not a single peep from the engine with all those miles. A $100/month car – for maintenance costs – with no monthly payment. What a bargain.

American cars of glorious quality are the pickup trucks and Chrysler vans. I recently drove a 6-year-old Chrysler Town & Country with 100,000 miles on it, and it drove superbly, as with all Chrysler vans. At 90 mph, on the freeway, not a shake or shiver in that thing. So right after that I had to rent a Dodge Caliber for a couple of days. Brand new, with 4,000 miles on it. It’s aggressively square, with chopped windows, ridiculous lines, and huge, hideous wheels that will make any gangbanger proud.

So this car was the biggest piece of _ _ _ _ I have ever driven. Just horrifying. Design-wise, it can only appeal to people with lowbrow taste who like that “intimidating” look. And to drive it? Oh my. First off, the windows are cut so high and so short, you cannot see out of the thing. With the seat adjusted all the way upward, my eyes were at a height *below* the top of the dash. I could not see the hood or the car’s front end. I just talked to someone else who, at 6’2″, said the same thing about the car.

The car’s transmission whined and whirred each time it accelerated, at least until it made a couple of shifts. The whining was dragging on the car’s acceleration, and it was also loud and irritating. The transmission shifted hard and lurched the car forward with each shift. My guess is that most people will simply ignore this and not be bugged by it. The seats were this really hard foam covered in some kind of nasty cloth material. My old Schwinn Stingray had a better seat than this rig. I felt like I was sitting on a cement porch covered in indoor-outdoor carpeting. And you know how when you take off the doors lock automatically? In my car it’s a very slight click that is almost inaudible. In this thing it was a huge CLUNK. CLUNK, it went, each time the doors locks. CLUNK. CLUNK. I laughed. The first time I heard it, I thought someone had thrown a rock at the car. The mechanism sounded like one cheap piece of crap. The whole interior was made of HUGE pieces of hard, ugly, textured plastic. Nothing inside the car reeked of comfort or class.

The only thing I liked about the car: glow-in-the-dark rings on the outside of the cup holders, so you could find them at night! Returning it at the car rental, I heard a customer asking for a rental: “anything but that Dodge Caliber.” She told me she hated it, too. The agent told me that almost no one liked them. How in the heck are the car companies selling this JUNK? I’ve got to believe that most people only care about one thing: I want a new car, now, and I can afford the monthly payment. They care little about real quality.

It’s not just the Caliber – this is my experience with most cars I have driven. Most of them are crap. The interiors in these cars are overdone with ultra-cheap plastic and everything squeaks. I’ve driven some Subarus, a Mitsubishi, a Honda or two, Toyotas, and the Nissan Altima. All nice cars with some high-quality engineering. American cars, it seems, are being thrown into production to try and capitalize on the buying spree fueled by easy credit and instant loans. The Jeep Compass, for instance. What a piece of junk – but it’s considered to be a “cheap” 4×4 that everyone can afford. And it shows. When the cheap credit is no longer to be, and proper credit standards appear on the horizon once again, my guess is that these American hunk-o-junks will cease to exist, and quickly. These cars are simply intended to allow everyone to have a new car every two years while we ride the tide of Federal Reserve-induced depravity.

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