Fields: Why I Switched To Japanese Cars, Or How I Caused A Ruckus In An Automobile Focus Group

Guest Columnist

It was an evening in October of 2003 that I fully understood the combination of short term greed and long term stupidity that dominates the Detroit’s Big Three car makers.

The same guys who are today back in Washington begging for a taxpayer bailout.

One month earlier, I assume not so serendipitously, I had been invited to participate in a focus group about cars.

I had almost always bought American made cars. On the one occasion I didn’t I felt a pang of guilt even though the Honda Accord was made in Ohio.

I reported to an office in the Presidential Building on Hollywood Blvd. After a less than satisfactory meal a dozen of us were ushered into a nearby room with a long table and a mirrored wall that undoubtedly concealed observers with cameras.

Naively I expected to be asked about car safety, mileage, dependability, etc. I could not have been more off the mark.

For the next two hours we were asked our opinions about versions of grills, dashboards and consoles. It was clear that the car they were designed for was a Lincoln or a Mercury a classic American Bulgemobile.

“Do you prefer this grill more with the first, second of third version of the dashboard and would you change your opinion if the console was blue instead of red?

Looking around the room it didn’t take long to realize that the group was just making up responses. If asked the same questions of a different day we would have given different answers.

Two hours into this I’d had enough. I directed my attention to the mirror and unleashed a diatribe that went something like this:

“Don’t you people  realize that this country is at war and the underlying cause is oil which your cars suck up like it was homegrown, harmless and free.?

Notwithstanding that the rest of the group began to give amen nods, our moderator tried to hush me up like I was a petulant second grader.

I persisted in talking about the dead from 9/11, Iraq and Afghanistan and bitched that Detroit’s gas guzzlers were a major factor.

I talked about how during WW II Detroit was on our side. Now I was not so sure whose side they were on.

But just as I’d had enough of them they’d had enough of me and my refusal to “work and play well with others“. I was kicked out of the focus group like it was Mr. MacMillan’s sixth grade class at Shenandoah Elementary.

There was one difference. In the sixth grade I was talking trash was.  Now I was talking truth.

In the five years since I have bought two more cars. Both were Toyota’s and I did not feel even the teeniest pang of guilt.


2 Responses to “Fields: Why I Switched To Japanese Cars, Or How I Caused A Ruckus In An Automobile Focus Group”

  1. Mister Courthouse says:

    On this one you are right, Fields.

  2. buddy nevins says:

    This is one reason Detroit failed: