Big 3 Beef Up Lineups to Battle Imports; Hope to Shift Focus Away from Incentives
After years of promising that an arsenal of new "gotta have" cars is all it will take to regain market share lost to the imports,particularly the Japanese, the Big Three domestics are ready to roll out the weapons for 2004, according to the Chicago Tribune.Domestics believe that there is pent-up demand for cars after loyalists held off buying them while the automakers revamped their truck and sport-utility vehicle lineups. Industry observers, however, point out that not everyone waited for the domestics to redo their aged car lineups, and many instead fled to imports, according to the Tribune.The numbers back this up: General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and the Chrysler division of DaimlerChrysler AG all lost market share in 2003. "Import success has primarily been in the car segment," said Alan Starling, chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) and a Florida dealer with Chrysler, Jeep, Chevrolet and Saturn stores. "It will be difficult to win share back, but when the domestics get more new vehicles, they'll bemore of a force and are going to make it a horse race."In addition to regaining market share, the domestics insist the new products will allow them to focus on selling the vehicle, not the deal on the vehicle, and therefore reduce dependence on profit-robbing incentives. "New cars will help apply the brakes to start weaningconsumers off incentives," said Ford Chairman Bill Ford, according to the Tribune.Starling said it is certain they won't disappear anytime soon. "They aren't going tostray from incentives or pull back too quickly because no one wants to move backward when it comes to market share," said Starling.Starling said the first sign of whether or not the domestic car strategy is working will be where the crowds concentrate during the auto-show circuit, starting with Detroit in January. "The last couple of years people have surrounded imports and trucks at the auto shows. The domestics have to get more of those people back surrounding their cars," Starling said."Consumers have been disappointed with our cars in the past, which led to the exodus out of our cars and into Japanese cars," said Bob Lutz, vice chairman of GM, according to the Tribune. "But consumers haven't beendisappointed with our trucks. No one has said, 'Now that Toyota has a truck, I'm getting out of my Chevy and into a Tundra.' That's not going to happen."