Horsepower in the 80's
I recently read the "click and clack" column (if you ever listen to national public radio, you may be familiar with Tom and Ray Magliozzi, the "tap it" brothers) and was amazed to relearn some information I had once known but had forgotten, which is: cars in the 1980's had a lot less horsepower.
Today, of course, even the weakest of the weak automobiles generally have about 140 to 150 horses under the hood in a 4 cylinder. And for autos that carry a heavier price tag, it's very common to hear of horsepower ranging between 200 and 300 (which is very odd and curious considering that 1. "allegedly" we have become more conservationist as a country (obviously not) and 2. gas is not likely to ever fall under two bucks a gallon again.
As the tap-it brothers point out, in 1982 the Honda Accord only had 75 HP. Wow. In 1986, however, my Pontiac Firebird had (this will sound laughable today) a 2.8 liter V6 with only 160 HP. Today's baseline Accord, by comparison, has 166 HP in a 4 cylinder engine.
One would think that the last couple decades of "Earth Day", "Captain Planet" and nonstop trouble in the middle east would have had an effect on consumer buying habits to the extent that U.S. auto makers would have been forced to significantly change their vehicle lineup. But that didn't happen. People like trucks and SUVs, not to mention high output sedans, so that's what U.S. makers kept making.
Only thing is, the foreign auto makers were a little smarter. Yes, they accomodated the desires of the U.S. market by coming out with products like the Honda Ridgeline, Nissan Armada, and the Nissan Titan, but they also stuck with making quality compacts. Emphasis, of course, being on quality.
Quality construction, and a reputation for it, is what accounts for who's on top in sales. What I don't get is this, though. Many of those "foreign" cars that we like to buy are actually assembled here in the U.S., so what's the problem? I suspect it has nothing to do with american workers who, in my estimation, are the best in the world. The problem...lies at the feet of those who run Ford and GM and the corporate culture they've bred into every aspect of their management, the chief characteristic of which might be labeled "all we care about is short-term profit and the next quarter".
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