More Bad Tidings For Domestic Cars

For years, Americans have thought more highly of Japanese cars than of the American brands. The saving grace for U.S. automakers was that consumers regarded the Japanese vehicles as pricey, making domestic models seem a better value for the money. In yet another bit of sorry news for Detroit, a new CBS News poll finds public opinion has swung the other way on this issue (see chart below). By comparison, a 1997 CBS poll found a plurality of respondents rating U.S. cars a better value than Japan’s (35 percent vs. 23 percent, with most of the rest judging them equal in this respect). The current poll finds upper-income consumers especially unimpressed by U.S. cars: Among respondents with income of $75,000-plus, 60 percent rated Japanese cars a better value; 11 percent said American cars are. It’s not that respondents think domestic cars are dreadful. The quality and reliability of U.S. cars were rated “excellent” by 18 percent, “good” by 47 percent, “fair” by 28 percent and “poor” by 5 percent. The trouble for Detroit is, Japanese cars scored much higher: 41 percent excellent, 37 percent good, 11 percent fair and 2 percent poor. Still, people tend to keep buying the sort of car they’ve already got, and 62 percent now own a U.S. model. This helps explain the responses when people were asked what sort of car they’d buy now: 51 percent said American, 30 percent Japanese, 8 percent German and 1 percent South Korean.