Consumer Reports car guy makes the call on U.S. automakers

January 11, 2009

Reuters sat down with David Champion, senior director for automotive testing at Consumer Reports magazine, at the Detroit auto show. Some highlights:

Q: What is your opinion about the U.S. automakers and where they stand on vehicle quality?

 

– GM

“They’ve done extremely well in designing and building really interesting products that really test well and really hit the market where the customers are buying. They have the product. Unfortunately, they don’t have the reliability. In today’s day and age, you really need everything to succeed.” 

– Ford

“Ford has done really well in terms of building reliable vehicles. It’s not a flash in the pan. It’s a sustained improvement. You get to today … a Ford Fusion is more reliable than a Toyota Camry, yet the Camry you think is the poster child for reliability.”

“The problem with Ford is that their interiors, their exterior styling is not really exciting the public to get them to go into the showroom, to go and buy one. They’ve really missed the boat in many ways. They really need to get more excitement in their product.”

 

– Chrysler

“Unfortunately, their current model mix is recently redesigned and it’s all poor in terms of our testing. Their interiors are appalling. Probably their best vehicle currently is the 300, which is probably the longest in the tooth of any of their products.”

 

Q: What role does public perception play in the problems of the U.S. automakers?

“You reap what you sow. If you were at GM, Ford and Chrysler in the ’80s and early ’90s, their vehicles were appalling in terms of product quality. Somebody that goes out and has bought one of those vehicles — bought it, had horrendous problems with it, sold it — they’re not going to buy anything from that manufacturer again. One model can kill a manufacturer in many ways.”

“You’ve got to build your brand from the bottom up. You can’t start it with Cadillac and hope that it comes down because you’re never going to get anyone to the Cadillac in the first place. You’ve got to build your Aveos, Cobalts (well).”

 

Q: What do younger buyers want from automakers?    

“The old thought that young kids are going to want performance and sports cars and things like that I think has gone. They want green technology. They want funky and roomy.”

    

(Photo/Consumer Reports)

 

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