Behind the Wheel with Phil Lebeau

GM, Ford, Chrysler: Happy 4th! (Reasons To Celebrate)

1996 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am

On the eve of our country's birthday, it seems like a perfect time to celebrate the good things happening for American automakers (and yes, there are good things happening). So with that said, this 4th of July Behind the Wheel blog will include no mention of high labor and healthcare costs, dwindling market share, or the struggle to break even. After all this is the holiday to sing out, "Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet."

"Transformers" puts the company's models front and center. The movie will feature GM models transforming themselves in an action pic. Talk about the ultimate product placement. I'm not sure if this will drive sales, but it's the kind of exposure that GM will love. Hey, anytime a Trans-Am can star in a movie, you've got to love it!

And Saturn's back in orbit. With the Outlook CUV, Aura, VUE, and Sky roadster, Saturn showrooms are being rediscovered. It's about time. Saturn's line-up is sharp, fresh, and for the first time ever, truly intriguing. No wonder sales are up substantially. The once "forgotten" brand at GM is finally back in vogue.

The Edge, Fusion and Flex. The first have given Ford fans reason to believe the company still build interesting models. The last, the Flex, is the CUV coming out next year that could be the kind of hip, quirky hit vehicle the company needs. Ford still has a long ways to go before you can say it's line-up of cars is solid. Still, compared to where these guys were a year ago, Ford's situation and outlook have improved.

New owner, new attitude. Later this month Cerberus Capital's acquisition of Chrysler will be complete,and the company will likely throw celebration parties at dealerships around the country. Once that happens, watch for the new owners to start laying the groundwork for a product offensive. Yes, Chrysler has rolled out a slew of new models in the last year, but this next generation of products will be more aggressive. Chrysler's designers are among the best in the business when they are let loose. Former COO Wolfgang Bernhardt is back and leading a team of Cerberus executives who will not waste time in re-making the American auto maker.

American Muscle's Re-birth
Camaro, Bullitt Mustang, and Challenger. If you love muscle cars, the impending arrival of these three cars in the next year and half has to get your blood pumping. Muscle is one thing foreign automakers can not replicate. Yes, the Asians and Europeans can pack 500 horsepower into a new car, but from the engine to the design, the Americans know how to do muscle. The latest generation of power rides may only be niche models with limited production, but they are an important reminder that the big 3 know how to crank out the models that get the heart racing.

Happy 4th of July everyone. Enjoy the fireworks, and e-mail me with your favorite American-made car, past or present, and why you love it.Somehow, I expect to see plenty of e-mails from Corvette fans.

Questions?  Comments?