It has been noted by Bob Lutz in his hallmark book “Car Guys Versus Bean Counters” , noted and made good sense that a major mistake or even catastrophe occurred to the domestic North American auto makers when they allowed the “CAFE” standards to be put into place – lobbied via foreign ( at that time Japanese not yet South Korean ) automakers.
Mr. Lutz said that if Cafe gas mpg standards (corporate average ( i.e. fleet) fuel economy) had been enacted gradually over time rather than in one hit US auto makers could of adapted over time. Yet the way it occurred major ( and costly rapid) engineering had to be done to ramp up to smaller cars. In order to make the vehicles lighter and smaller and yet still carry the same passenger loads front end transverse drive transmissions were in order. Whereas the foreign auto makers had products in place – tested over time and miles the US auto makers had to develop quickly to meet the standards. Not only did quality suffer but it was a much more costly venture to throw out the old , and bring in the new - all within time constraints. It might be said this is like having a plumber make a service call before a major Christmas dinner at your home.
Mr. Lutz said that overall the Japanese quality was not better than the products that eventually are produced now by domestic auto makers , but that they had a tested product at that point in time , with many disgruntled formerly loyal US made car owners. Not only that but the prices on new cars and vehicles had risen greatly . Add in insult to injury none the less.