Recently I drove out to Marysville, Ohio to attend a farewell celebration for a Honda employee who was moving on to a new position with the City of Columbus. The event was held at the Honda Heritage Center, a new building in the Honda complex of buildings that have sprung up in western Ohio since Honda built its first factory more than 30 years ago.
While I was at the Heritage Center I visited a little Honda museum that is located in the building. It’s a neat feature, and provides the opportunity for car buffs like me to take a nice trip down memory lane. I got to see the very cool, sleek-looking Asimo in person — or should that be, in robot — gape at the Honda race cars, and check out some of Honda’s other manufactured products. For me, though, the highlight was the vintage cars that are displayed there, in pristine condition. They included the very first Honda car that I ever remember seeing on American streets: the Honda Civic, circa the early ’70s, which is pictured below.
I loved that car. Its paint color was “Harvest Gold” (I think) and it had headlights that flipped up and down when you turned them on, which I thought was cool even if no one else did. It was a steady, if unspectacular, car that served our family reliably for many years. By the end of its long period of service it bore the marks of melted crayons, the lingering sour odor of spoiled milk, and other unmistakable signs that it had belonged to the Webner family and its two young and growing sons.
In addition to being a good car, the 1988 Honda Accord was a milepost vehicle for two reasons. First and foremost, before I bought the Accord every car that I had ever owned was either a gift from my Ford dealer father or a used car. The 1988 Accord was the first new car I ever bought. With a job, a mortgage, and a new car, I felt like I had truly reached adulthood. Kish and I bought the car on our own, without any help from parents, and I feel like we chose wisely.
Second, the Accord was an orders of magnitude improvement over its immediate predecessor. The car I traded in for the Accord was a used green Ford LTD. It was a roomy car, but it had one of those distressing quirks that plague certain cars. It ran fine when you were on the road and moving, but when you were idling at a stoplight the LTD often would start knocking and sputtering and shaking. Sometimes the engine cut out just as the light turned green, cars behind would start honking, and you would pray that the car would start again. The dreaded shaking condition made my very brief commute a nerve-wracking experience as I gripped the wheel with white-knuckled intensity and tried to time my arrival at stoplights so that I never had to idle. When I got the Accord and it ran like a well-made clock I felt like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders and the morning commute because a much more tolerable experience.
I heard this piece on NPR — www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=102728244 — recently and it made me laugh. The point of the story was interesting; it noted that many of the people involved in supervising and monitoring the actions of GM and Chrysler drive cars built by foreign-owned companies, and as a result there is an element of hypocrisy when those individuals, and the Administration and Congress generally, urge everybody else to “Buy American.”
(Of course, “Buy American” itself is a bogus concept for two reasons. First, free people should buy the goods that they think are best for them, regardless of the ultimate ownership of the company that manufactures those goods. “Buy American” is the battle cry of a company that does not sell competitive products. Second, how do you determine what is an “American” company? Many companies that began overseas have significant plants and investments in America. Honda of America Mfg., Inc., which has plants in Marysville, East Liberty, and Anna, Ohio, is a local example of this reality. Those Honda plants employ thousands of people, purchase component parts from other companies with plants in America, and build excellent cars, engines, and other products. Given those facts, why should I feel compelled to buy an ugly, gas-guzzling Chrysler sedan when I can buy a well-made, less expensive Acura that gets great gas mileage?)
The moment that really made this piece memorable, however, came as the story noted that people who live in the midsection of the country are much more likely to buy cars manufactured by Ford, Chrysler, and GM than are those who live on the coasts. The piece then speculated that this discrepancy might be due to differences in “education.” What a great example of the condescension that many East Coasters feel for those of us in the Midwest! We’re just a bunch of ignorant hayseeds out here in the heartland, ready to be gulled by any ad campaign! I was glad to see that some of the internet comments to this piece pointed out this little example of East Coast bias.