Over at my much beloved American Spectator, automotive columnist Eric Peters has an excellent analysis of what is troubling GM. He suggests that the company makes too many models in too great a variety, particularly given the company's market share.
I think he's right, at least in part. There are other reasons. I've become a Honda man all the way. So is everybody in my family. We are the type of people who would typically buy American, but the quality issue drove us over to Honda.
I still remember my first car, a 1980 Ford Mustang Ghia (everybody asks what Ghia means -- I don't know, like GT, I guess). That car looked good, had decent power, but just felt kind of loose and lazy in an undefinable way. The best way to describe it is to say that when I got my next car, a 1986 Honda Accord, I could immediately feel miles of difference in the quality, responsiveness, tightness, solidity, etc. of the car. It was just better. I moved on to my grandfather's Caprice Classic (can't recall the year, but still boxy). It drove like a sofa on wheels. Comfy, but didn't feel as good as the Honda.
The conviction settled in my mind, deservedly or not, that the Japanese imports really were better cars.
It is my suspicion that millions of Americans had the same experience in the 80's and early 90's and made the same long term call.
When in the market for a car a few years ago, I test drove a Ford Ranger. I was shocked by how solid and tight it felt. It felt like quality. It felt like a Japanese import. I didn't buy it because I still didn't trust the car to last like a Honda. Reading Eric Peters' article, I think it is possible that the American cars are much better made today.
The bottom line is that I suspect that general queasy feeling about American cars is just as much to blame for GM's troubles as Eric Peters' thesis about an excessive diversity of models.