The following is a weekly 60 Minutes commentary by CBS News correspondent.
When I was a kid, we often went on long trips in our car and I used to pass the time by counting the different kinds of cars coming in the other direction. There were always a lot of Oldsmobiles, Plymouths, Durants, Buicks, Studebakers, Fords and Packards.
Kids couldn't play that game anymore because every brand of car has several different names.
You don't pass a just plain Dodge. It's a Durango, a Ram, a Dakota or a Charger. How do they come up with these names?
Can't you just imagine ten executives sitting around an office in Detroit. One vice president says "How about calling it a 'Durango.'"
One of the guys who works for him says "Hey, great, Chief. What a perfect name for a car. Durango! I wish I'd thought of that."
One full page ad says "Milan Can Kick It Into Another Gear When The Competition Can't."
Do you know what kind of a car a "Milan" is? I never heard of it. It's a kind of Mercury apparently. Mercury is some kind of a Ford, of course. They also sell a Mercury Mariner, a Mercury Mountaineer and a Mercury Montego. Who would have decided "Montego" was a good name for a Ford car?
It's hard to keep up with the names. (Crossfire, Escape, Explorer, Hummer, Excursion, Focus, Grand Marque, Navigator, Aviator, Escalade, Cobalt.)
I think we should all be worried about what's happening to our country, you know, where we're headed.
Two weeks ago General Motors announced that it's shutting down 12 plants and firing 30,000 workers. Just Wednesday, Ford announced it is closing ten production lines, too. They're firing 30,000 workers.
The funny thing is -- it isn't really funny it's sad -- I feel bad about the decline of our auto industry but the last three cars I've bought were not made by them. They weren't made by any American car company.
I hate to say it but we no longer make the best cars and Americans are turning away from them. The Japanese Toyota has been the best-selling car in the United States for several years now.
Consumer Reports tested a lot of cars and gave their highest reliability rating to 31 of them. Of those 31 most reliable cars, just two were American. The other 29 were Japanese.
Of the cars that were least reliable, 22 were American made.
I have an idea for getting American auto makers out of trouble so they don't have to close plants and fire workers: spend less time thinking up clever names and more time making better cars.
By Andy Rooney