Jay Leno is America’s foremost unfunny late night talk show host, but did you also know that he knows stuff about cars? It’s true! He owns lots of them!
As such, Leno is uniquely suited to be doling out advice to the U.S. automotive industry — which is undergoing a seismic shift thanks to plummeting sales of gas-hording SUVs and light trucks:
The problem with what’s happened over the past few decades is that you have a whole generation of kids who have no brand loyalty. They’ve grown up on Honda, Hyundai, Kia and Toyota. To lure them to the American brand, you’ve got to give them something exciting, something bold, something different. America does technology well, and I think this is how the companies will bring those buyers back. I think cars like the Chevy Volt, which is entirely battery-powered, or hydrogen cars from Chrysler, Ford, and G.M. will take off.
Like most people, Leno seems oblivious to the difficulties of altering product lines on such a massive scale. Think about how hard it is for you to rent a U-Haul truck for an afternoon — calling the rental place, confirming your rental, arguing with the guy at the shop about your reservation, paying, etc… Now imagine trying to renegotiate contracts with thousands of independent parts suppliers, outfitting hundreds of manufacturing centers with new equipment for producing more light cars, realigning the global shipping routes of hundreds of thousands of 2,000 pound packages, calculating product distribution charts among dealerships in hundreds of countries, and rolling out brand-new multimillion dollar sales, accounting, human resources, and supply chain software to support it all. And that’s before you consider how to market your new cars or, you know, figure out what they should look like. [Yes, I write about shit like this for a living. Bored? Deal with it.]
But Leno does raise a good point here:
When you get into a high-priced, well-made American car today and the key is in the ignition, you hear a melodic bong, bong. But when you get in a cheap American car, like a rental, and the key is left in, it goes plink, plink, plink. It’s just horrible. Every time you use the turn signal, it’s like breaking a chicken leg. In order to make the more expensive car more appealing, U.S. companies feel as though they have to dumb down the cheaper car.
In other words, automakers have to recognize that buying wisely is a virtue and not a sin — and they have to design cars accordingly. Also, would it kill them to make the cup holders bigger? I can hardly fit my magnums of Cristal in most of them.