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Flaming Fords

There are many situations where competition is healthy for us all. One analogy I like to use is the automobile industry. The pony car rivalry between Ford and Chevy has truly improved the breed. For years, Ford was the only player with its iconic Mustang that started the breed. When General Motors threw in the towel back in 2001 and shut down production of the Camaro and the Firebird, Ford had the entire pony car market to itself.

Without any real competition the Mustang did well. You could buy a fire breathing Mustang V8 with just over three hundred horsepower and rear wheel drive for not much more than the price of a heavily optioned Civic R from a greedy Honda dealer. But the problem was that the Honda dealer was also selling a V6 Accord that was making about two hundred seventy horsepower, just thirty less than the Mustang GT’s V8. Fortunately for Ford, people who buy Accords seldom look at Mustangs and vice versa.

But like Michael Myers from the Halloween series the Chevy Camaro wasn’t about to stay in its automotive grave. The General had seen the error of its ways and announced that a new Camaro would emerge in the twenty first century and that its V6 engine would be strong enough to compete with the Mustang’s V8. The gauntlet was down and the fight was on. Ford responded with its own V6 within spitting range of the Camaro’s output and the Mustang’s V8 went to the gym as well. Both cars feature V8s that make well over four hundred horsepower. No one’s ever going to mistake a Mustang for a Honda. But thanks to competition, the Mustang has become a much better car. The Ford and Chevy rivalry is healthy. It forces the other to up its game in order to compete.

In this rivalry, the Mustang is built by Ford and the Camaro is built by Mustang. When a perspective car buyer walks into the Chevy dealership, he can be sure he’s buying the best car Chevy can make because Chevy employs people who want to build Chevys. Chevrolet would never go to the Ford factory and have Ford people helping out on the Chevy assembly line. Why? Ford people have no interest in helping Chevy build the best Chevy they can buy. In the more likely scenario, Ford people would be sabotaging those Camaros. That Ford guy putting the tires on that Camaro just might forget to tighten up those lug nuts to factory specs. Next thing you know Camaros are driving down the street with their tires falling off and low and behold Chevy sales droop because people now want Fords.

Imagine what would happen when the Ford people see their business pick up and need to hire Chevy people to help put their cars together. That Chevy guy just might not be so diligent about tightening up those fuel line connections under the hood. Next thing you know Mustangs are catching fire and who wants to go through a sequel of the Ford Pinto fiasco? Mustang sales go down and Camaro sales pick up and Ford lays off its assembly line people and they go back to work in the Chevy factory. Would anybody be surprise when there’s a rash of Camaro brake lines failures? Back to the Ford factory people go. Who’d ever think that not a single Mustang comes off the assembly line with its windshield intact?

This farfetched scenario would never happen, at least not in the car business. Assembly line workers who aren’t committed to making the best cars possible would eventually be terminated. I wouldn’t care if you were the only black person in a factory having trouble meeting mandates from the fictitious affirmative action laws that so many people like to talk about, if you’re not committed to the brand the employer would let you go like the brakes on that Camaro assembled by Mustang people. At least, that’s what a smart business person would do.

Unfortunately, the American people don’t act like smart business people. As voters making the choice between Democrats and Republicans, we have become accustomed to having Ford people on our Chevy assembly lines and vice versa. And then, we we’re not happy with the results, we’ll sit back and bitch about how the system’s broken and how we need change.

And what form does that change take? As a collective, we’ll hire Chevy people to put together our Fords and scratch our heads when all the cars coming off our assembly lines are too jacked up to drive and aren’t fit for anything but the junkyard. And when we’re standing on the side of the road with our steering wheels in our hands, we’re surprised to see the Honda and Volkswagens and Hyundais go down the road without a single problem and wonder how we got into this mess. Somebody might say something reasonable like maybe we need another party. But would anybody think it’s a good idea to hire Chrysler people to put together our Fords and Chevys?

It might just be me, but I think if I’m going to buy a Chevy it should be built by people committed to building Chevy’s. That way, I can have a little more faith that my interest, the purchase of a solid car, would be met. If only we could take such an approach to our politics. If I had somebody come into my factory and say something like his or her job is to make sure the guy in charge of building Chevys lose his job, I’d be inclined to see that guy as a problem.

But the biggest problem is that we are a country of people who like Chevys and people who like Fords. There are people who will buy Fords despite all the flaming Pintos or Explorers doing their dog impersonations by rolling over. On the flip side, people will buy their GM products despite their moniker as being unsafe at any speed. It wouldn’t matter one iota which one was better car as long as our personal favorite wins.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010 - Posted by | Life, Thoughts

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