Saturday, March 13, 2010

I Brake for Mothra

Do you remember when people spoke about things made in Japan in a derogatory tone? Before your time, probably (I wish I could say that, and mean it), but we did. We even had a snappy little jingoistic two word put down the seconded of which was 'crap' and the first word rhymed with it. Oh how superior we felt as we laughed and got into our 1963 Terraplanes with the white-wall tires and eventually got the bad boy started and drove away. Those were halcyon days.

The awful thing about that line was that it was true-but it didn't stay true. Every year, more of what we had in our house and garage was made elsewhere until ALL of it (or just about) was and it was pretty easy to do since in some areas, like auto manufacturing, the US guys just got sloppy or stupid or something. That, too, is an overstatement and a generalization, but it hides a reality of a self-fulfilling prophecy that crept in, on little cats' feet and stamped "paid" to the dream of unending good times and decent wages in many parts of the country.

We always speak of Detroit when we say US automakers, but I remember applying, with John Cornell while we were both at Rutgers, for a summer job at a Ford plant in Metuchen, New Jersey (they built Torinos, I think) and there was a Saturn assembly center in Spring Hill, Tennessee. One's gone and the other's not long from being gone.

And now 'Japanese' cars, come from exotic places like somewhere in Indiana, probably near Dan and Marilyn Quayle's PotatoE Farm, and the Nissan, Honda and Toyota folks are all heading the same way. Those who've concluded in print and electronic media that 'American-built' vehicles are inferior (because they're built by Americans?) should walk east until their hats float.

Perceived quality problems soured us on Seeing the USA in a Chevrolet. My mom tells me I used to watch Dinah every afternoon, sitting on the coffee table in my parents' apartment and would blow a kiss right back at her at the end of her show. Kiss my butt, Burt. Dinah, I saw you first, even if he ended up with the Flying Nun in a Trans Am (for crying out loud!). Now it's one of the 'other' guys' turns to have recalls and repairs. We're back to smiling smugly, except no one has ever confused a Prius with a Pinto or a Corolla with a Corvair. Sing this altogether and see what happens.
-bill kenny


Anonymous said...

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dweeb said...

Happy to read I helped, though unless you're attending Wysocki College (sorry, Rik!), I can't imagine how.