Cleve Francis
cardiologist, musician

Cleve Francis

Cardiologist; President, Mount Vernon Cardiology Associates, Alexandria, Va.; musician.

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Gaining traction

Q: U.S.-made cars are now held in higher regard by American consumers than Asian-made vehicles -- a significant turnaround in public opinion. Is this the result of negative publicity about Toyota or have Ford and other U.S. carmakers made the changes needed to change the perception about their vehicles? How hard is it to transform a person or product's reputation once it's set in people's minds?

One only has to look at any parking lot or notice the cars passing on the road while you are driving to see how many " foreign" cars that we as Americans own. I don't know the "how it happened," but the "why it happened" is still fresh in my mind.

Not so long ago, American carmakers became associated with cars (not all of them) that were of poor quality. The American public began buying foreign-made cars at that point and has done so ever since. The American car maker is slowly making a comeback with its emphasis on things like style, quality, gas mileage, reliability and most of all safety.

I don't think that the "made in America" marketing works any more, especially with cars. The most important thing we want is safety. After that, we want them to be economically affordable, reliable and to have the best possible gas mileage.The new thing catching on is that the car should be "environmentally friendly."

Another significant point is that even though an automobile carries a foreign name, it may very well have been manufactured in the United States, providing jobs and opportunities to Americans.

We've been through the gas tank explosions, the roll-overs and now the auto accelerations. We all realize that these machines are very complex and can be prone to these kind of things. The main thing we all want to see is how these problems are handled by the automakers to prove to us that these machines are safe and reliable.

As far as reputations go, the ones lost by the American auto makers and the ones gained by foreign automakers such as Toyota have developed over a long period of time. If a reputation has been legitimately earned or lost, it will usually take more than one event (provided that it is not a catastrophic one) to change popular perceptions.

Right now, the American auto manufacturers have an excellent chance at improving their reputation as carmakers, thus making them more competitive. I strongly doubt that this incident involving Toyota will cause them to lose anything.

By Cleve Francis  |  April 26, 2010; 5:40 PM ET  | Category:  Comeback attempts Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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