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Thursday, May 7, 2009

One of GM's Biggest Mistakes

If GM had kept making it, they'd probably be putting in overtime instead of shutting down plants this summer. A few years ago when I suspected gas prices were about to go up, I found and bought a used Geo Metro. I had heard they get amazing fuel economy, and that is true. But, beyond that, my Metro is one of the best cars I've ever owned. Everywhere I go, people say to me, "I used to have one of those, and it was the best car I ever had. I wish I'd kept it." So, it's not just me. The Geo Metro was a great car.

My 1994 Metro goes from 35 to 50 miles on a gallon of gas. I hear ads for new cars touting fuel economies of 25 to 32 miles per gallon. So what? My Metro is 15 years old, has over 100,000 miles on the clock, and does better than that. Fifteen years ago this country was making a car that gets better fuel economy than just about any vehicle being made today. Yet, for no good reason, GM stopped making the Metro over ten years ago.

Compared to a Cadillac, my Metro is a bit of an "econobox." I suppose the interior is a little spartan. The cup holder is a kind of a cheap plastic deal that pulls out under the radio. And, the window regulators are weak; my driver's side window won't roll up without parts inside the door bending and making the window glass go off-track. So, I never roll down my window. This is mostly an inconvenience when I get to work and need to show my ID to the security guard. I have AC, and the rest of the windows seem to work fine. Both of these issues could have been easily and cheaply fixed by GM.

The heat and AC work great. There are no blind spots. And, there is a whole lot more room inside than you'd ever imagine. Four normal-sized adults can easily ride in my Metro. My freakishly tall step-son finds the back seat a little tight, but he'd find the back seat of virtually any car a little tight. Plus, on my hatchback version, the back seat folds forward, giving me almost as much room to haul stuff around as a small pick-up.

Have you seen ads for car tires where they have a super cheap price in big, bold numbers and then read on to find out that the tires for your car are significantly more expensive than the boldly advertised price? Well, the Metro uses the tires that actually sell for the cheap price in those ads. I recently put a whole set of new treads on my Metro for right around $150. Tires for my truck cost about $150 each.

Unlike most of the cars made in the past 10 years, the Metro is easy to work on, too. Plenty of room under the hood, and no plastic covers designed to scare off do-it-yourselfers. You know what I mean - the crap they put on top of engines now that make a simple car engine look like a small nuclear reactor. The three-cylinder engine in the Metro can literally be lifted out by hand. You can't more home-mechanic friendly than that. But, unlike many cars on the road today, you don't need to pull the engine out of the car just to change the belts. All in all, the Metro is a do-it-yourself mechanic's dream.

Handling in the Metro is stable, and the ride is acceptable. You'll feel bumps, but they won't shake your teeth out. Even with only 3 cylinders, the Metro moves. I've driven it on the Interstate at 70 mph with no problems. Around town, with a 5-speed manual gearbox, my Metro keeps up with anybody who isn't looking to have their license revoked. And, it's a fun car to drive. I call it my "go-kart." Like any car that can be lifted off the ground by a few fairly fit guys, the Metro will hydroplane. But, that's to be expected. Slow down when it's raining.

The bottom line is this: car-makers have spent untold piles of money developing hybrids and over-engineered economy cars which don't go as far on a gallon of gas as the Geo Metro, which first hit the roads nearly two decades ago. GM, what were you thinking?

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