Saturday, June 09, 2007

It's too early for such stress...

I’ve been going to Curves for about a year now and I’ve decided it is bad for my health. I don’t mind the exercise, but my blood pressure cannot take the conversations. My heart rate increases more listening to those women talk than using the butt-tightening machines.

Take this morning, for instance. In-between arm curls and jogging in place, a woman was telling everyone she needed a new car to replace the Toyota Camry she’d given to her daughter. The only cars she had looked at were Nissans and Toyotas.

At this point I was weighing my options: do I say something or just chalk it up to her complete and utter ignorance and ignore her? I opted for giving her a pass until she started comparing a Saturn Aura to a Nissan (the model of which she couldn’t even recall!).

A lady who was working on her thighs said she’d bought the Aura and loved it. The ignorant one said, “Well, I heard it was chintzy.”

At that point I had no choice; you do not call my husband’s company’s car “chintzy” and get away with it.

I, as sweetly as I could, said, “You know, the Aura won Car of the Year. And it’s been highly rated by Car and Driver and Motor Trend.”

She couldn’t have cared less. She was completely convinced no American car could compare to the foreign cars she’d been driving. There’s nothing like the arrogance of the ignorant to make my blood boil.

I was walking out the door at this point, and all the way home I was steaming. The economy of Michigan is in the tank. People are without jobs, tons of houses are on the market, people are moving out of the state in droves, but this woman, who complains about all of that, cannot make the connection that her support of Japan means she is not supporting Michigan.

I wanted to roll down my window and scream, “Hey, Michigan people: You know what? You, who buy Toyotas and Nissans and Hondas do not have a right to complain about the state of your state! You are the problem! The major industry in Michigan is the car business and you are not supporting it! Do not complain about high taxes or a slow economy or the glut of houses for sale – YOU ARE CAUSING THE PROBLEM!”

In this day and age there is precious little difference between a Toyota car and an American-made car. For crying out loud, the Saturn Aura won Car of the Year at the North American International Auto Show, an award voted on by journalists(http://www.tinyurl.com/34fnar). Motor Trend named GM’s Silverado Truck of the Year (http://www.tinyurl.com/2n9g3t). And if you scroll down to the previous entry you’ll see a lengthy article on the troubles Toyota’s been having with its new pickup.

One of the greatest things about our country is competition. We can choose between Wal-Mart, Target, K-Mart, Meijer or any local store. There are hundreds of restaurants, and all kinds of hair places, nail salons, department stores, strip malls. We Americans are not without choice. So I do not wish that Toyota or Nissan or any other foreign car manufacturer to be prohibited from selling here. What I object to is the complete and utter ignorance of the American public.

I say this realizing that the 70’s and 80’s were not good years for American car manufacturers. They showed their own brand of arrogance, thinking no one would want those small cars Honda and Toyota were making. They, unfortunately, didn’t see the oil crisis coming, nor did they consider the American consumer was getting savvier and would no longer buy something just because it was “Made in the USA.” But the days of American cars not standing up to the quality of a Honda or any other foreign brand are behind us.

Years ago a common saying was, “As General Motors goes, so goes the country.” That’s not a phrase we hear any more, but perhaps we should. It’s not rocket science: when we stop buying American-made goods, the American economy declines. Think about the steel industry, or the garment manufacturing industry, the electronics industry. Those industries were outpaced by foreign markets that did things better, faster, cheaper. The American companies didn’t keep up and went out of business. That’s competition, and as I said before, I don’t think that’s bad. (The companies not evolving – that was the bad thing.)

Thankfully, the American car industry has evolved, painfully slowly, but they have moved from the arrogance of the 70’s to the amazing innovations of today. They are building a quality product cheaper, faster and better than ever before. They have streamlined the way a car is built and are building cars with fewer and fewer workers (which, I suppose, is why my husband is working crazy hours…). And American car companies have to do all this while carrying the pensions and health care benefits of thousands and thousands of retirees, a burden foreign companies don’t face, yet.

I think I’ve worked the crazy woman from Curves out of my system now. If I could go back and talk with her I would just ask her to have an open mind.

And for crying out loud, GM executives, could you please hire a decent ad agency?