Doc Searls’ 4th law hits again

Doc Searls 4th law states that "No matter what car you want to rent, what you’ll get is a Chevy Cavalier."

Ain’t that the truth.

I read recently that Toyota is about to become the world’s largest car manufacturer, surpassing General Motors. Judging from the design and quality of the Chevy Cavalier that is to be my constant companion for the next six weeks, I can only wonder what took them so long.

A few issues after just two days: The front seat armrest, when down, blocks the parking brake. Snow on the rear window falls into the boot if you open it. The boot (or luggage compartment, can never remember what is UK and what is US English) is of decent size, but the door is so small that I had a hard time getting my one large suitcase in. You can’t open the luggage compartment from the inside (well, maybe you can, but I can’t find the button – you can use the remote key, however). My head touches the ceiling since the front seat cannot be lowered – and I am 6′ 3”, which is nothing out of the ordinary. The engine is noisy. The car understeers. Everything is cheap and plasticky. The brake pedal squeaks and the paint flakes off the door armrest, and this on a car with less than 9k miles on it.

At the same time, the people I am staying with are driving a 1988 Toyota Camry that they would like to renew. However, that is hard to do, since the the old clunker just keeps running and what little rust there is is purely cosmetic, according to their mechanic.

I wonder if you can say the same about any 1988 Cavaliers….

UPDATE I: Took another look at the car. It is not a Cavalier, but a Cobalt. Not that anything else has changed…..

UPDATE II: Have now driven this clunker for 5 weeks. Add a gas gauge that will alternately tell you "low on fuel" and "1/4 tank left", increasing engine noise (especially in cold weather) and the most anemic heater I have encountered since driving a VW Beetle many years back. (The Beetle was said to have only to heater settings: Cold and Ice Cold.)

…and an add-on: Interesting discussion over at Marginal Revolution on why most rental cars are US brands. Best hypothesis so far: Volume discounting because of inability to reduce production capacity.

6 thoughts on “Doc Searls’ 4th law hits again

  1. Patriotic North Americans

    I believe all you losers who buy your japanese vehicles should all lose your jobs wherever the hell you work. It must put a smile on the faces of these idiot traitors who i believe are entirely responsible for the american auto giants General Motors and Ford who have been in the last decade struggling to maintain a presence in their own damn economy. As a Canadian citizen i am disgusted with what we North Americans have achieved. In the past five decades we have witnessed several auto companies close their doors like studebaker, AMC, plymouth, oldsmobile and many more. At this time companies like GM are producing vehicles that have better build quality than that of there japanese competition. Look at for full details, and you will see that vehicles such as Tahoes, suburbans, impala’s and malibus are definitely the head of their classes. Wake up America before we lose all our jobs and patriotism. Support your own Nation. Do you really think people in japan buy american auto’s. ha ha Good luck. They are much more patriotic than we have become. We Americans should be ashamed

  2. Espen

    Well, Mr. “Patriotic North American”,
    for one thing, a Toyota bought in the US is largely assembled in the US, as well, so the patriotism charge doesn’t quite apply. But I have never figured out what is so patriotic about buying a bad car. Why can’t GM simply create a good car – one with adequate heating (my 1995 VW Golf has a better heater than the Chevy Cobalt, and I bought that one cheaply in the US, assembled in Mexico) and good handling in bad weather, for instance. It isn’t THAT hard.

  3. Bob

    Unfortunately, I agree with the opinion American cars are poorly designed, and poorly manufactured. My GM vehicle has lousy brakes. Getting new brakes at the dealership does nothing but change the tone of the squeal and the smell of the brake material when applying the brakes. The brakes are always mushy. I have to maintain a great distance between me and the vehicle ahead of me. On in town driving, it is a white knuckle experience.
    The electrical system is unreliable. I am on my third window motor, driver’s side and second window motor, passenger’s side. It is only a 2 door, thank goodness. Also, second alternator, ignition modules have been replaced, recalls to modify the electrical sytem to prevent fires when starting the car. Hydraulic lifters are very noisy, i.e., partially collapsed. The engine leaks water internally, so it steams out the tail pipe all the time, all seasons, as if it were a cold start on a winter’s morning. Also on the fourth water pump. It took three times to get one new water pump to work properly (dealership). The cost to me was $1,700.00 by the time they succeeded. For a water pump? I run synthetics in all my cars. Engine and transmission. That’s the only reason this American made p.o.s. is still running. U.S. cars start falling apart within a year from purchase. Sad. I am done with American made cars unless some true changes occur.
    I purchased a Honda Accord for my (now ex) wife in 1991. She still has it. Oil changes, 4 wheel alignments when buying new tires and a battery are all it has needed in 14 years.

  4. JLovato

    I have the absolute complete opposite experience with forign cars as compared to domestic. First there was my mothers old eclipse. It ran great till bam all of a sudden it started failing. Almost everything you could immagine started going wrong. She started having parts replaced only to see the part fail. The cost for fixing it was also outrageous. Since that time my family has bought nothing but American and never has any one of them needed any non routine parts. Infact my very first car my dodge neon got in a rear end accident every thing was pushed back about six inches and it started back up and ran me all the way home with zero problems save the leaking radiator. Now my friend who used to own a Toyota will not buy any thing but american. He got his truck and with in 6 months he shelled out over 3000 on it. Mean while my other friends old 1980 something f150 has only needed some new cables and a timing belt. Infact the only reason i would consider japanese cars is for the look and the infanite amount of customizable parts for them.

  5. Pater

    Just because GM has figured out how to game the JD Power & Ass. studies does not mean they have a better product. Their cars simply fail to hold up in the real world. Just look at GM and Ford recalls vs. Honda and Toyota. Not even close. Why is it patriotic to buy garbage made by a greedy company who would never do anything to help ME? Why should I pay the overinflated salaries of union goons? I’ll buy the car that gives me the all around best deal for my money, which generally means no so-called “American” cars (hey, I guess Mexico is technically part of America the continent).

  6. Mike Tan

    So you think I am not patriotic because I drive my Toyota?
    Lets get one thing straight Mr. Joe six pack w/ a 6 grade education, we live in a free society that allows us to buy what we want without idiots like you dictating to the rest of us on the best course of action to take to keep Americans on top economically. Consider the alternative!
    Let me put it to you this way old schooler, we live in a global market that competes for everything; jobs, oil, manufacturing, services, etc. Its not my fault that GM and Ford can’t seem to make the GRADE.
    In my opinion, the engineers at these companies are always a day late, dollar short when it comes to designing what people want. People are always changing what they are looking for based on the direction of oil prices and upkeep costs.
    Why is it that GM and Ford go bigger with V8s and Hemis when people are shifting to more economical and hybrid technologies.
    When oil shoots up to $60 a barrel, all the Hummer, Suburbins, escalades, etc…are all parked at home. Its a damm shame. These companies in the greatest country in the world cant seem to offer what folks want! Granted things have improved significantly, going from D+ to say a C+, alot more has to be done.
    I would love to buy American, if only the styling was alittle better, more to the gallon, and low maintenance costs all wrapped up in affordability.
    Until American auto makers get the picture, its doom and gloom for them and for you, there’s always flipping burgers at McDees if you loose your job!

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