Jan Scruggs
Memorial founder

Jan Scruggs

Founder and president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.

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Driven to succeed

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?

Buying a badly engineered car -- like the Chevy Vega or Dodge Omni of the 1980s -- leaves a person with a mild version of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It takes a long time to get over the memory of putting the key in the ignition and then calling the dealer and trying to find a neighbor to bring you to work. Detroit did put some bad cars on the market.

But competition can bring about better products.It certainly has with automobiles. How about comparing the warranties of a Toyota Camry with a Chevrolet Malibu? The Chevy has 100,000 mile warranty and the Toyota has 36,000. The Chevrolet is less expensive and gets better mileage

Have you ever noticed that taxi cabs are almost always American cars? They are sturdy and, if you ask, you will find many cabs with over 250,000 miles on them plying the streets of our major cities. Stop-and-go driving is tough on a car. Why don't taxi companies buy Hyundais or Subaru? Because the American sedan is an overall better vehicle and more cost efficient.

I used to take hunting trips in Maryland with a pal whose Dodge Ram truck had 300,000 miles on the speedometer. It gave up the ghost at 350,000 due to transmission problems.

The USA has made plenty of fine vehicles and they are better than ever. Some folks cannot live with themselves unless they are seen driving a German luxury car. They will not buy American. So, let's write them out of the script.

The new Ford Focus is a really impressive vehicle for an economy car. Ford and Chevy have changed their image the logical way -- by producing quality cars. Chrysler has some work to do in that regard.

But a product's reputation can be rebuilt over time. Look at the line-up of American cars. And to those who bought a Chevy in the past year: Thanks! GM has repaid its loan to the U.S. Treasury. We need every penny we can get in Uncle Sam's coffers.

By Jan Scruggs  |  April 26, 2010; 12:00 AM ET  | Category:  Comeback attempts Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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I've owned a Toyota and a Dodge. Let's see Toyota = 9 years over 100K miles before problem that can't be fixed vs. Dodge 3 years, 50K miles before problem that dealer won't fix. I think that the Toyota was the better way to go.

Posted by: midanae | April 28, 2010 5:58 PM
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Being a reader of "On Success" and "On Leadership" is depressing - I'm going to quit. In general these leaders have trite and poorly thought out "insights". The CEO's, etc do NOT seem to worthy of following and don't seem like they could contribute much intellectually to my occasional gathering of regular B.A. educated suburban adults.

Posted by: ClarkKent1 | April 28, 2010 11:56 AM
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most cabs were American made because they are cheap. Most newer cabs are foreign because the cabbies have finally figured out that they are cheaper in the long run due to the extremely poor quality of American made cars. Sorry, I own both and there is no contest.

Posted by: djrhood | April 28, 2010 9:06 AM
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what a ridiculous assessment. Take a closer look and you will see that most new cabs are foreign makes. In the past cabs were US made because they had such a low resale value that they could be picked up for next to nothing. I currently own both American made and foreign made cars. Sorry, there is no contest. My Jeep is constantly in the repair shop. My Toyota's have never seen a dealership for anything other than an oil change. Maybe people will give American cars another chance due to Toyota's issue, but they will ultimately end up back at Toyota.

Posted by: djrhood | April 28, 2010 8:59 AM
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Most taxi cabs are not US built cars. In Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore, Tokyo, Sydney, Jakarta, Bangkok etc etc and in the majority of large cities outside of the US, taxis are built by Toyota. In Europe, taxi fleets are often Mercedes or a locally produced model (ie, Renault, Fiat, Volvo etc.) Worldwide, US built taxis probably rank very low in numbers compared to Toyota built taxis. Sorry Scruggs, you're wrong.

Posted by: ilovelucy888 | April 28, 2010 3:01 AM
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"Have you ever noticed that taxi cabs are almost always American cars? They are sturdy and, if you ask, you will find many cabs with over 250,000 miles on them plying the streets of our major cities. Stop-and-go driving is tough on a car. Why don't taxi companies buy Hyundais or Subaru? Because the American sedan is an overall better vehicle and more cost efficient."
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Not at all true. Most taxicabs are retired rental cars that are available dirt-cheap at auction, since they depreciate like stones. These beaters can't sink any lower in value than their cost, so miling them out makes sense. Saying that their prevalence is due to their build quality is like saying that a cheap disposable cigarette lighter must be better made than a Dupont, since they're more common.

Posted by: OttoDog | April 28, 2010 1:45 AM
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