I lived in Illinois for my entire life up until I came to Ferris in the fall of 2006.
Upon arriving that August, I was one of the many freshmen who did not bring a car to school. My sophomore year, however, I was lucky enough to get a 1992 Toyota Camry from my aunt so that I could have a car to drive around town. It wasn’t until then that I realized one of the many differences between the automotive cultures in Michigan and Illinois.
Since getting that Camry, and still now while driving a Nissan Sentra, I have caught a lot of flack, both in good fun and serious attacks, for driving a foreign car. I have been told by various individuals that I do not support American jobs and that I am destroying America for driving a Japanese car.
After dealing with this for a few years, I realized why Michiganders have such a stigma against foreign cars. For many years Michigan has very much been a one-commodity economy. The financial well-being of the state is dependent on the success of the auto industry. This has changed more recently as the Michigan economy has evolved, but there are still leftovers from the many years when GM ruled the job market.
The reason why I didn’t understand this before, and why the rest of the U.S. outside of Michigan is the same way, is that our economies are not dependent on driving American cars. It is simply not an issue. When car shopping, people read Consumer or CarFax Reports to see what the best deal will be and which car will be the most reliable; not on which purchase will help employ their family members.
I had a discussion about this with my father, who has been a life-long Toyota or Nissan owner. He said he drives these makes because they have proven to be more reliable. He said that when Japanese cars came on the scene in the late ‘70s they were built very simple and to last, not for showiness or excess accessories.
He also quoted a friend, who happened to be a life-long Buick owner, who said, “I drove Buicks in the ‘70s and I drive Buicks today, but the Buick today is far better than that of the ‘70s because of the Japanese. Their competition forced the American auto industry to adapt and improve.”
This issue has also evolved because the question of keeping the auto jobs for Americans has changed. Many of the GM plants are now in Mexico or Canada, while Toyota and other Japanese brands are located in the U.S. It is the foreign companies who are now employing Americans at the blue-collar level.
I do not have anything against American cars. As stated, I drive what will last me the longest and fit the profile of what is necessary for me. That may be a Toyota or Chevrolet, Volkswagen or Saturn. It simply depends on which is the best fit at that time.
To analyze this issue, I often do a random, non-technical sampling when driving home of how many cars out of 10 on the road are foreign. In Michigan, I notice around two or three of 10 are foreign. In Illinois, it is often seven or eight.
There are many other aspects to this issue that can be considered, but what is important to understand are the differences in cultures between states. Economies change as does supply and demand. What the future holds for the auto industry is very much in question.
I hope to show that I am not being vindictive or anti-American in driving a foreign car; it is simply a difference of values and culture between states. n