Marketplace Scratch Pad

What are you driving?

Scott Jagow Mar 31, 2009

Since the President’s looking for ways to encourage people to buy American cars, Politico took a gander at the White House parking lot. Only 5 out of 23 cars were American.

The Detroit News recently had a summary of the cars driven by members of the President’s economic team:

Timothy Geithner — 2008 Acura TSX. Once owned a 1999 Honda Accord and a 2002 Acura MDX.

Larry Summers — 1995 Mazda Protege. Once owned a 1996 Ford Taurus.

Peter Orszag — 2008 Honda Odyssey and a 2004 Volvo S60. Previously owned a 1997 Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Jared Bernstein — 2005 Honda Odyssey.

Austan Goolsbee — 2004 Toyota Highlander.

The “Climate Czar” Carol Browner and the Energy Secretary Steven Chu say they don’t own cars.

I don’t care what kind of cars these people drive, except that it shows how difficult it will be to reverse the perception that is now ingrained in the minds of many Americans – foreign cars are better.

I’m sure there are still people who buy American for patriotic reasons. But obviously, many more otherwise patriotic Americans buy foreign cars because they believe them to be superior. A few of those people work at the White House. And since American workers make plenty of foreign cars in this country now, it’s harder to use the “stealing American jobs” argument.

My dad’s a pretty red-blooded American who happens to think Japanese cars are the only cars worth buying. I was raised on that thinking. My first car was a Datsun. My second car was a Nissan. I rebelled with my third car and bought a Volkswagen Passat, despite my father’s ridicule. He turned out to be right. I spent a fortune on repairs.

In my most recent car-buying experience, I kept an open mind, but avoiding repairs, especially costly ones, was my primary motivation. Second to that was aesthetics and function. I’d say those are pretty strong American values.

I bought a Toyota.

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