What's wrong with the domestic manufacturers? Well, if you ask the people who write letters to the editor, it's that they're not building the cars people want to buy. The letter-writers pick apart the Detroit Three because they're not producing the small, fuel-efficient vehicles that the public would pounce on and buy by the bucket-load, if only GM, Ford and Chrysler would build them.
But wait a moment. I just got the year-end results for US sales, and it seems there's a bit of a problem with that theory. In that country, the top-selling automobile in 2008 was the Toyota Camry. Second place? Honda Accord. Both of these are midsize cars.
Third and fourth place went to the Toyota Corolla/Matrix and the Honda Civic, respectively, but fifth on the list is the Nissan Altima, followed by the Chevrolet Impala. Cut to the Ford Focus and Chevrolet Cobalt, and there's the Malibu in ninth place. The Toyota Prius rounds out the list.
That means that, of the top ten passenger cars sold in the United States in 2008, only four of them are compacts (the Prius is, also, but I'll leave it aside due to its hybrid powertrain). And not one of them is a subcompact. If people really are clamoring for the tiny cars that the Detroit Three are lacking, then why aren't there are any subcompacts on the list? Every buyer out there could select a Chevrolet Aveo, a Honda Fit, a Toyota Yaris, a Nissan Versa, a Suzuki SX4, a Hyundai Accent, a Kia Rio. If the only reason no one's buying Big Three is because they don't make little cars, then logically, shouldn't the Top Ten be nothing but little cars?
Here's a fact: Americans want subcompact cars -- they just want other people to buy them. In the United States in 2008, midsize cars held the majority of market share, at 20.9%. Compact followed at 15.6%, then luxury at 5.9%. Subcompacts took only 3.8% of the total share of passenger cars, topping only sport, high-end luxury, and luxury sport.
In other words, in terms of size, the Detroit Three are building the cars people want to buy. Which makes me think that the mad rush they're all making to bring tiny-footprint, tiny-engine cars to market may satisfy the letter-writers ... but not the people who are actually walking into dealerships and driving away with a purchase.