Friday, April 3, 2009

Where Did It All Go Wrong?

Here's a picture of an American icon: the 1957 Corvette SS. This race car prototype debuted with a magnesium body over a steel tube-frame chassis. It weighed just over 1,800 pounds, had aluminium brake drums, used coil-over suspension and enjoyed a high-revving V8 delivering over 300 hp. Rule changes ultimately meant that this car never really competed seriously, but it's some consolation that the world got the Corvette Stingray instead, the direct descendants of which we are enjoying to this day.

How on earth did the US car industry manage to sink from these sublime heights to the deep, dark depths it's currently plumbing? At the very least, they forgot to love cars, preferring instead to hear the ringing of cash register as accountants in the 80s and 90s squeezed another year of record SUV and truck sales out of 20 year old technology.

Chrysler is dead, we're just waiting for the funeral to start. GM will be put into a controlled coma, hopefully to emerge sometime in the future when the US government has found a cure for what ails it. Ford ... well Ford will make it through, it seems, largely because of some adult supervision appearing on the scene a couple of years ago that was finally willing to take some very hard decisions.

Let's all hope the US car industry can, at some point soon, once again find some passion, and produce innovative cars that will lead the world. But don't hold your breath in the meantime, OK? Expect nothing much except more of the same for the next five years. Still, at least we have the memories.

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