When I was born there were many more domestic car companies.
GM had Chevrolet, Buick, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, GMC and Cadillac.
Ford had Ford, Mercury, and Lincoln.
Mopar had Chrysler, Plymouth and Dodge.
American Motors had AMC, Rambler and Jeep.
Since then, GM added Saturn and Hummer. AMC added Eagle.
Since then; GM dropped Olds, Pontiac, Saturn and Hummer. AMC went away altogether with only Jeep remaining as a part of Chrysler. Mercury is dead. Plymouth is defunct.
The imports were unheard of when I was crawling.
All of the Japanese makes have added an upmarket brand. Toyota even added a "youth" brand in Scion.
I wonder why we don't have a new domestic brand to make a car that people will buy. A new company would not be shackled to union deals or legacy production facilities.
The engineering and manufacturing plants are expensive enough, but a boutique maker should be able to get a toe hold and start making a small run.
Crash safety and emissions testing come right to the fore. Government mandated, manufacturer funded. These are steep barriers to entry. Part of emissions testing it corporate average fuel economy (CAFE). CAFE is pretty simple, take the EPA estimated MPG for all the cars you make and calculate the mean fuel economy. What that gives us is two econoboxes per gas guzzler; the CAFE is skewed to encourage small gas sipping cars.
What I don't understand about emissions testing is why it costs so damn much to certify a car; unless the process is deliberately expensive to prevent new participants in the market.
Crash testing requires that several cars be destroyed.
A boutique econobox is not going to sell. A boutique brand needs to be sexy and have gigantic profit margins. Ferrari and Lamborghini epitomize this. But a super car will not pass CAFE muster.
Very small boutique models are out there, but the problem is getting from making a handful of hand-made cars to manufacturing a few hundred. Then getting from a few hundred to a few thousand.
We need the government to get out of the way or to subsidize the development of new manufacturing. I propose that it start with an American version of Ferrari!
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