Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Why the American Auto Industry is in the Crapper - Exhibit A: The Plymouth Reliant K Car

It's no wonder that the American Auto Industry is looking for a government bailout. That gravy train better make a stop in Detroit, or these guys are toast.

But let's not feel too sorry for them. In this multi-part series, I'll take an up-close and personal look at the reasons why GM, Ford, and Chrysler really suck balls. It's not for lack of spending or number of employees. Rather, it's their extreme allergy to innovation and customer satisfaction. It turns out that pretty much all other car companies in the entire world are better at this than the Big Three.

Case in point #1, a throwback from the 1980's, but you still see a few of them on the road today. They make me nauseous.

The Plymouth Reliant K car.

Standard features included ashtray pre-filled with used butts, and 4 mismatched hubcaps.

Ooh, it comes as a station wagon too. Still looks like shit, though slightly more utilitarian shit.

How dare you Chrysler. How dare you.

It actually turns out that this car was the Motor Trend Car of the Year in 1981. I guess back then there weren't many other vehicles that could travel at highway speeds without bursting into flames. And so, the Plymouth Reliant took home the prize.

But even if the K car was somewhat innovative at the time of its introduction, and represented a sharp departure from the gas guzzling behemoths of the 1960's and early 70's, it still looked like absolute, unadulterated shit. I mean, a child could have come up with this design. In fact, the boxy design appears to be lifted straight out of a Fisher-Price catalog.

Chrysler engineers' original electronic rendering of the Reliant.

So despite the advanced and highly stylized design, the Reliant won some awards and sold a decent number of cars. But the real tragedy of the Plymouth Reliant, is the fact that the damn thing barely changed for almost an entire decade. The car was sold from 1981-89, and looked essentially the same over that entire span - ugly as hell.

Sure, they may have tweaked the engine and improved the performance - 1981 Reliant, 0-60 mph in 3.5 days; 1989 Reliant, 0-60 mph in 36 hours. But this is a perfect example of the American Auto Industry's disease. Freshen up the lines after a few years, Chrysler. I mean, give me a break. When you build the worst looking car in the world, at least add some spoilers or ground effects to make it even more ridiculous.

In any case, the Plymouth Reliant is a terrible, terrible car. And I'd bet all the money in the world that Chrysler executives have recently (within the last 2 years) discussed re-introducing it to the market, with little cosmetic changes. If they do, you can be sure I won't be first in line for a test drive.

Subscribe to my sweet feed

No comments: