Why aren't US-based car makers already building great small cars?

Automotive News publisher Keith Crain has a column up today telling the US car-makers to start working on small cars now. Mr. Crain doesn't go nearly far enough. The fact that General Motors, Ford and Chrysler don't have competitive B-class cars in the US market today is totally inexcusable. They have more than enough engineering resources to create really good small cars. They have been doing it in overseas markets for many years. General Motors has the Opel Corsa, Ford has the Fiesta and Ka, Chrysler has through DCX has the Smart and Mercedes A- and B-class.

These manufacturers should not need to go looking for overseas partners to work with, the way Chrysler is trying to cut a deal with a Chinese car maker right now to build the Hornet. The cars exist today. They should have been able to foresee that gas prices were eventually go to go up and they should have been ready to sell some small cars here. Clearly, European built small cars wouldn't be price competitive in North America. However, since 2001, they should have been able to find a lower cost manufacturing location. If Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Kia, and others can sell cars like the Fit, Yaris and others here there is no reason that Ford and GM can't.

GM already sells variants of the Corsa in Mexico, the most recent versions should have been engineered to meet US requirements as well. Instead they won't be available in the United States until at least 2010. Instead the closest vehicle that they have is the Daewoo built Chevy Aveo. Similarly, Ford should have had at least the Fiesta and probably the Ka on sale here by now. The funky looking Ka would be a good competitor for cars like the Scions and the Mini. In fact, properly equipped, the Ka should be able to sold as a premium small model against the Mini and might even make money for Ford. As for Chrysler, why can't they design small car on their own? Why do they have to rely on Mitsubishi or some Chinese company to build a car?

Instead of working up sixteen variations of every SUV and truck they need to re-assign large numbers of engineers now! If you have a subscription to Automotive News you can click on Read for Keith Crain's column.

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