NRO recently launched a new blog to promote and discuss Rod Dreher’s book Crunchy Conservatives. I confess up front that I haven’t read the book, and after reading the blog, I don’t have any particular plans to do so. Without going into Goldbergian levels of analysis and/or taxonomy, the “Crunchies” seem less like brave new ideologues than scolds looking for an ideology that fits their personalities and preferences. To put it another way, they remind me an awful lot of the people who join a homeowners association so they can force their neighbors to cut the grass more often.
But that’s not the point of this post. Sorry.
No, in this case I was really inspired to write after seeing this letter to the Crunchy blog:
If you believe that consumer purchases should reflect something more than selfishness, your second biggest consumer purchase (after your house) should be of an auto produced by an industry on which hundreds of thousands of Americans and large sections of America depend.
Now, I’ve read and heard stuff like that before, and I’m sure you have too. I used to believe it myself; I’ve owned four Ford cars, and I specifically avoided “buying foreign” when I went shopping for them. They were all fun cars (well, okay, the LTD that was handed down from my mom, not so much), at least for the first few years.
But funny thing, every one of those Fords started living up to the reputation of “Fixed Or Repaired Daily” right around the 70,000 mile mark, and the repair costs started escalating geometrically until they literally weren’t worth owning any more, generally before 120,000 miles or so.
The transmission on the last one, a 1995 Thunderbird, started skipping just a couple of thousand miles shy of the end of my extended warranty. So I took it to my then-local dealership, located in Panama City, Florida (I won’t name it here, but the first of two surnames on the sign rhymes with “crook”). The service manager came back to me and said, “The work you need ain’t covered by the warranty, it just needs a transmission service. $275 will get you new transmission fluid and you’ll be out of here.”
I shook my head, took my keys from him and never set foot on the premises again. Then I asked around for an honest transmission guy, to get a second opinion. The owner of that shop sent one of his mechanics to test-drive my car, and before it was out of sight asked me about my problem. After I described it to him, and without my ever telling him I hadn’t come to him first, he asked me three questions: “Did you go to the dealership? What did they tell you? Do you have any warranty left?”
When I answered, “Yes,” “service the transmission,” and “couple of thousand miles,” he nodded and said, “They’re tryin’ to screw you.”
“See all those cars up on my racks?” he said. I looked. They were all Fords–Crown Victorias, a Mustang, another T-Bird. “They’ve all got the same transmission as your car, and it’s a real good transmission–except for the torque converter. Those are crap. They wear out early, and it messes up the whole rest of the transmission. If you’d just gotten that service, the new fluid would have made the torque converter expand, and it’d mask the real problems for oh, two, three thousand miles. Then you’d be outta warranty, and your transmission would still be shot. The dealer figured you’d either pay him a couple of thou’ for the repairs, or trade it in for a new car.”
He handed me back my keys and said, “Go to another Ford dealer, get them to fix it right, then come see me in a couple of years when it fails again.”
So I did, and the transmission failed again, right on schedule, and I’ll never pay another penny to the Ford Motor Company. I bought a used Lexus instead of fixing the Thunderbird, and it is still running like a dream, tens of thousands of miles after all my previous cars would have needed four-figure repairs.
Sorry, guys, but the reason Ford and GM are losing business is because their cars suck, pure and simple. Not only are they ugly and uninteresting (the Mustang and Corvette excepted–and what does it say when they’re both decades-old designs?), they’re also built to break down. Intentionally.
Deciding not to buy a crappy product that’s backed with dishonest service doesn’t make anybody unpatriotic or ‘selfish.’ It just means we aren’t saps.
Quit making cars that suck, quit looking the other way when your dealers rip off customers, and maybe–maybe–we’ll reconsider. Until then, you’ve got nobody but yourselves to blame.