Colorful local auto magnate O.C. Welch, who is known for including an image of a billy goat in his television commercials (can someone explain?) has made national news with his new series of radio spots. Apparently, some of the commercials blame consumers for Detroit’s current problems. A WTOC story provides an excerpt from one of the ads:
“One thing I wanna ask you, with those Japanese cars. Even when they are brand new, how come they don’t smell like a new car? They are rice ready, not road ready,” Welch says in the commercial.
Racist overtones aside, the commercials make Welch seem way out of touch. Is he unaware that cars of Asian manufacture and his own product line traded places in the quality hierarchy decades ago? I mean, when is the last time you can remember someone complaining about the poor quality of Japanese cars? Will one of his ads take a jab at the Yugo? Luckily for Welch, at least that vehicle is no longer a threat.
On the other hand, Welch does make slightly more sense in another commercial from the series. Again, WTOC provides the snip:
“When will you Wal-mart shoppers, you import buyers, when are you gonna wake up and do something for the United States of America,” Welch asks in “Wake Up America.”
I’m all for the idea of buying products manufactured closer to home. Unfortunately, even if the “Wal-mart shoppers” and “import buyers” “wake up” and decide to do something for the US of A — as Welch commands — they will have trouble finding domestically manufactured products on the shelves of Wal-Mart or anywhere else. Except for, of course, for Welch’s dealership.
This is the core of the issue. U.S. automakers are, in a sense, a lagging indicator of a trend that’s seen this country get out of the business of making things. A retail outlet that holds acres and acres of domestically produced inventory on hand is something of an anomaly. That’s not to say there’s no place in today’s world for a Ford dealership. The issue is size. It’s important to remember that automobile dealerships haven’t always taken the form of sprawling campuses. A former automobile dealership in downtown Savannah, now adapted for reuse, provides a hint of an enterprise with a smaller footprint. Still, if Welch is uncomfortable operating on a smaller scale, perhaps he should consider offering vehicles that are selling at a brisk pace, at least in some parts of the world.
Datsun ad scan by John Lloyd via Flickr.