“Hey c’mon! We’re all going to buy Buicks in the alley behind the school!”

“Well, gee, my mom told me that’s kind of dangerous, and it usually makes my nose bleed…”

“Whoa. Everyone’s doing it. You don’t want to be a loser, do you?”

And we don’t want to be losers, do we?

For the past couple decades, peer pressure to buy American cars, especially in suburban Detroit, has been high. We went and shot up Chevys instead of hanging out with the new Asian kid who was kind of boring but always did well on tests or the sexy European exchange students who didn’t play by anyone’s rules.

But because we caved into the pressure, American automakers have suffered. After the bottom fell out several years ago, however, the Big Three (Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp., and Chrysler) are finally giving consumers real reasons to buy American again.

In the 1990s and early this decade, consumers bought American. Because sales were good, the Big Three evenly motored on without much pressure to innovate or improve engineering, manufacturing or design. They did, however, make cars bigger. They also sold nearly identical cars through different brands (referred to as brand engineering). The GMT-360 platform, for instance, has been sold as different models through six GM brand — most notably as the Chevrolet TrailBlazer, GMC Envoy and Oldsmobile Bravada. These aren’t efficient or sustainable business practices.

The Big Three rode high on sport utility sales (fuel-gulping SUVs like the Jeep Cherokee and Ford Explorer) and were too content swimming in profits and buying up random companies to look in their rear-view mirrors. If they did, they would have seen Asian rivals looking ahead and leading in the types of vehicles that are selling in spades today — small, fuel-efficient and green.

The story from the late 1990s to the early 21st century is a sad one. Oil prices shot up to as much as $5 per gallon in some places and that whole economy thing sort of collapsed or something. Americans, realizing that cars that cost less to purchase, fuel and maintain was the way to go, fully embraced East-Asian and European automakers and Ford and GM realized they didn’t have the resources or skills to run niche automakers they had purchased. Sales drastically dwindled. Companies married and then had ugly divorces. Everyone began to doubt the future of the Big Three.

Several years and a bailout later, I’m endorsing something I never thought I would: buying American. Nope, this isn’t out of some hyper-nationalistic epiphany or even sympathy.

It’s far simpler: Ford, GM and Chrysler now have the strongest model lineups in the industry. The automakers finally rethought the entire way product development is handled and their new approach is working well.

The new Chevrolet Volt is one such example. Long after its concept was revealed in 2007, the electric vehicle is just hitting the streets in North America and Europe. There is much to praise. On Oct. 11, GM finally released long-awaited details about the Volt. This press release included an acknowledgement that at high speeds, the engine, rather than the electric motor, directly powers the wheels. This means that in official terms, the Volt is not a pure electric vehicle. Angry blog posts, Tweets and a hailstorm of bad press immediately followed.

I’m not sure why so much emphasis was put on the Volt’s classification instead of its accomplishments. Just because the Volt doesn’t fit the exact definition of electric vehicle doesn’t change the fact that Motor Trend saw 126 MPG while testing it. Or that Popular Mechanics named it a Breakthrough Product.

A slew of other American products are class-leaders and that trend continues to grow. The Ford Fiesta and Chevrolet Cruze are currently leading the small car revolution. The Dodge Ram is constantly lauded as the number one pickup on the market. Six out of Popular Mechanics’s 10 Best are American. Motor Trend’s Car of the Year was a Ford.

Americans, along with Europeans, Canadians and Asians, are buying — and should continue to buy — American cars not because they feel they need to, but because the Big Three are finally giving us cars we want.

Andrew Weiner is an LSA freshman.

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