So now that I have passed my driving test and feel that I have practiced enough to consider buying a car, I have to wrestle with what kind of car to buy. My wife and I live in the city, so a small car seems the sensible way to go. Most of my friends have warned against American-made cars. "They suck," said a former military officer friend of mine. "They will break the bank," said my friend who is an accountant. "We do not know how to make cars anymore," mentioned my friend Joey. My attorney friend recommended a Honda or a Subaru. Those are only a few examples of the negative comments I have heard about American cars. Few friends have had anything nice to say about them.
Hearing all of this was a buzz kill for me, because while the car size and color were important to my wife, having an American-made car was important to me. This is primarily due to three main factors.
First, American cars were quite popular while I was growing up in Dubai in the late '80s. They were everywhere and almost everyone was talking about the 'muscle' cars that were coming in from America. (Ok, they love their Benz too.) So I grew up coveting American-made cars and goods.
Second, I have made frequent trips to Michigan, to the city of Dearborn particularly, and I know how prideful Arab-Americans are about their American made cars. Everyone in that town loves to talk about Ford and how it was the reason many immigrants ended up there working in the car industry and building American engines. Many Lebanese flocked to the area in the early 1900's seeking jobs at Henry Ford's Model T plant, as the pioneering automobile entrepreneur was offering a whopping $5 a day. That kind of pride left an imprint on me. I have had dinner at the home of an engineer who works for Ford and was part of the team that worked on the Sync technology. You cannot match this kind of pride, not even in Japan. Notable Arab Americans have played significant roles in the car industry, like Jacques Nasser, who was formerly the president and CEO of Ford Motor Company. Another Arab American is credited with creating "the 'revolutionary' 1949 Ford car design, a design that some credit with saving the company." You have Richard Caleal to thank for that.
Third, I live in the States, a place that has given me a refuge -- a home away from home. I went to school here and work here. I live here and I know that in these tough economic times, people need to stick together. We cannot always look for what's best for ourselves, like better car mileage, and ignore the ghost towns around the county. This was the same mentality of an Arab American physician that limited himself to buying only American cars. The same sentiments were echoed by my good friend Sarah -- a native of Michigan who got on my case until I finally bought our car. It might be loyalty, or some might call it patriotism, but either way it's a choice people here are free to make.
My wife and I settled for a Chevy Aveo LS -- a nice compact car that meets our needs. My wife Roa has even given it a name after her own mother. She loves the little car. We have learned that American-made cars tend to have cheaper parts and there is no shortage of mechanics who are well-versed in American cars. One doesn't need to hop in a time machine to find good American-made cars.
I once worked for a former member of Congress, a native of Cleveland, and she told me that she will only drive American cars to show support to the hard working men and women working in local car plants.
But the cynics and skeptics are not all bad. In fact I think those who criticize the American car industry do it a huge a favor; they pressure automakers to innovate and make better cars. We cannot all take whatever the car industry makes -- they have to be responsive to their customer base. This is what makes a free market and this certainly makes better cars. If all customers were content with mediocre cars, then no one wins.