Even when the American auto manufacturers manage to sell one of their vehicles, they’re still losing significant amounts of cash. According to a recent study conducted by automotive consultant Harbour Felax Group, American companies are losing money while they’re Japanese rivals are achieving profits on every vehicle sale.

The worst performer was General Motors, with an average loss of $1,271 for every car and truck it sold in North America last year. At the other end of the scale is Toyota, who managed to make a profit of $1,715 for each vehicle it sold. On average, the profitability gap between the US’s big three and Japan’s largest trio is a staggering $2,400 per vehicle.

Shareholders of the American companies will be demanding blood from its CEOs, but blame should not be entirely placed on management. Labor costs have seriously crippled the American car makers, particular health care and restrictive work rules. For too long the United Auto Workers association has forced car makers to bend backwards with its demands. Next year, crucial negotiations between Detroit and the UAW will likely determine the future success of the big three. Other reasons for the poor results lie on US automakers' lower revenues per vehicle as well as less efficient design and engineering processes.

More importantly, they still haven't grasped the concept that they can't afford to be mediocre and sell cars. It's time to stop drawing the patriotism card and start designing products that people want.