Back when I was semi-serious about photography— as in Pliocene Epoch photography with lots of chemicals and red lights— I scored a bunch of two-piece glass 35mm slide mounts at a camera store in Los Angeles. Most of them were empty, but a handful came with Chrysler dealership promotional slides from 1974. Read More >
Category: Sales and Marketing
At least in the insular world of the automotive media, 2010 may well go down as “The Year Honda Lost Its Mojo.” The Motor Company’s first 2010 model-year launch, the Accord Crosstour failed to get off the ground last year, and the much-hyped CR-Z hybrid coupe launched to thoroughly mixed reviews. In fact, the new 2011 Odyssey seems to be Honda’s first big new launch in the US since the latest Accord debuted in 2008, although it’s not clear how many of the Oddy’s 10,147 December sales were leftover 2010 models. And after Acura’s 2009 model-year beak-ification, Honda’s luxury division launched only one new model, the ZDX, which sold a paltry 3,259 units last year. In short, Honda seems to have pulled off only one legitimate hit in its last five launches (including 2009′s Insight flop)… but unlike some other automakers, the big H isn’t dependent on novelty to move metal. Underneath Honda’s string of missteps are some fairly sound fundamentals… as well as signs that change needs to happen soon.
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Only three automakers lost retail market share last year, as the market for new cars struggled back from the depths of “Carpocalypse.” Battered as it was by a recall scandal that engulfed most of the auto media coverage for the first half of the year, Toyota’s 1.2% dip came as little surprise. But with all the positive spin surrounding GM and Chrysler, the bailed-out automakers loss of 1.8% and .6% retail market share was a pretty huge disappointment. Ford, on the other hand, drew a huge distinction from its cross-town rivals, recording the second-largest growth in retail market share of all automakers in the US market, snagging an additional 1.2% of the market. Projecting 2010′s trends forward a year (a speculative exercise, no doubt) Ford would actually surpass GM in terms of retail market share, putting it second only to Toyota (and within spitting distance (.3%) of first place). As the bailed-out automakers lose ground in the battle for consumers (rather than volume), Ford makes a strong case for exempting itself from the “Detroit” pejorative: at least as far as consumer perceptions go, Ford has little in common with GM or Chrysler. Not that there aren’t still trouble spots…
On the surface, GM had a fairly passable 2010, as the newly-public automaker posted a 21.3% volume increase for its four core brands. In contrast to Toyota’s humbly grateful tone, GM’s VP of US Sales Don Johnson sounded a distinctly triumphal note, arguing
Our sales this year reflect the impact of GM’s new business model. The consistency of results that we achieved demonstrates the focus on our brands, dealers and customers, and how we compete aggressively for every sale, every day.
And on a superficial level, the argument certainly seems to ring true, as Buick (+51.9%), Cadillac (+34.7%), and GMC (+31.7%) were the three most-improved brands in the business last year in terms of volume. GM also delivered more vehicles than any other automaker last year, with 2,215,227 vehicles sold. Great success, end of story… right?
Toyota’s December sales [PDF here]dropped 5.5 percent compared to last December, capping a rough year for the largest foreign automaker in the US market. Toyota ended 2010 with a total sales volume of 1,763,595 units, down 6,552 from last year’s pre-recall performance. But despite holding volume basically flat and suffering the industry’s second-worst retail market share loss (at -1.2%), Toyota still finished the year with the highest retail market share of any automaker in the US market, at 17.3 percent according to our anonymous industry informant. Dig this: after the nastiest recall scandal since Ford’s Firestone debacle the Camry is still the best-selling car in the country, Lexus is still the top luxury brand, and Toyota still attracts more retail buyers than any other maker or brand. Would you have predicted that last February?
Chrysler Group’s December sales were up some 16 percent compared to December 09, as the bailed-out automaker finished the year with 1,085,211 sales, a 17 percent increase over last year. But with the overall market steadily recovering, those year-over-year comparisons hardly tell the story, so Chrysler sales boss Fred “I Am Ram” Diaz brought it back to the firm’s five-year plan, saying
Chrysler Group 2010 sales of 1.1 million units are consistent with our sales objective that we presented in our Nov. 4, 2009 five-year business plan. We are extremely proud of the sales strides we made during this transition year. Chrysler Group launched 16 all-new or significantly improved models last year, most of them during the fourth quarter. We can now share our excitement with our customers as our new 2011 models arrive in dealerships in greater volumes over the coming months.
We’ll forgive Diaz the 15k unit “round-up” that gets him to 1.1m units, but with 2010 closing out an 11.5m unit year for the industry, Chrysler’s 1.085m units puts it behind the market-share projections trumpeted in the five year plan (closer to a 9.5 percent share, per slide above). And when you start looking at retail share, the situation looks even more grim. Chrysler may have gotten close to meeting its 2010 goals, but it pulled out the stops to get there. And things only get tougher next year.
You have heard the whole year about the exploding Chinese car market. Surprise: Production growth in the U.S. appears to be stronger than China. In a few days or weeks, we will have the 2010 sales numbers. In this economy, what’s more important than spending money is making money, and that means jobs. For that, we have to look at the motor vehicle production numbers by country. For those, we will have to wait many months until OICA gets around to tabulating them. Let’s make a best guess estimate for who’s on top and by how much. Read More >
Today, Bloomberg delights its readers with the news that “General Motors Co.’s passenger-car venture in China sold its millionth unit this year, becoming the first carmaker to reach that sales level in the world’s largest auto market.” Spinmeistery at maximum revolutions.
Yesterday, we ran a story about Art Ross. Ross was the Oldsmobile Chief Designer in the post WW II heydays. He was also a prolific and gifted pornographer. Cars and sex have always been related for some reason. Did you know that in Germany, where the car was invented, “Verkehr” can mean both “traffic” and “intercourse?” I render the guess that there are more people that begun their life by the dashboard light than those who passed away in the passing lane. Many are convinced that autos have aphrodisiac qualities. Many heavily object and say that a car is just a conveyance. Then there are some who think cars are just as vile as porn, and both should be banned. Where does the dear TTAC reader stand in this discussion? Read More >
Later this month at the upcoming Paris auto show, Lotus will be revealing the first car that reflects their new strategic vision, a vision of going upmarket and luxurious to compete directly with the likes of Porsche, Ferrari and Aston Martin. The car, originally slotted to fill the role of the much beloved Esprit, will now be “something more” than the Esprit. The midengine supercar is rumored to be powered by the V10 engine that powers the Lexus LF-A. Toyota currently supplies Lotus with all of its production car engines. The LF-A’s announced production run of 500 units probably won’t cover that engine’s development costs, so the rumor makes sense.
Now that GM’s acquisition of the subprime lender AmeriCredit has had 24 hours to sink in, howls of protest are starting to surface. The charge is being led by Senator Chuck Grassley, who has requested a review of the deal from the SIGTARP, saying
If GM has $3.5 billion in cash to buy a financial institution, it seems like it should have paid back taxpayers first. After GM’s experience with GMAC, which left GM seeking a taxpayer bailout, you have to think the company and, in turn, the taxpayers would be better off if GM focused on making cars that people want to buy and stayed clear of repeating its effort to make high-risk car loans.
And though Grassley’s criticism could be read as mere partisan gamesmanship from a leader of “the party of no,” there are a number of very good reasons for opposing the deal.
Some time in summer, OICA will announce the world production ranking of all automakers and answer that all-important question: Who are the world’s largest auto makers? TTAC readers are an impatient bunch and are used to hear and know stuff before anybody else. TTAC is pleased to announce the preliminary, unofficial world ranking of 2009 production. Who’s the top? Who’s the bottom? Who dominates the industry? We present you: The top ten car makers in the world. Read More >
Cadillac’s new ad campaign, with the tag line “The Mark of Leadership”, has received mixed reviews. Some have questioned the use of the word “mark” because it may evoke a model name long used by luxury competitor Lincoln. Others have said that the mark itself is in question, the Cadillac wreath and crest logo, is itself tainted by association with tacky blinged out Escalades of questionable aesthetic taste. Those points may be valid, but I think that there’s a more troubling problem with the slogan and that has to do with Cadillac’s heritage.
With strong new auto safety legislation being debated in congress,the role and scope of government regulation in the auto industry is becoming a hotly-contested issue. But one important consideration is being left out of the discussion: the role of private “regulation” of the auto industry. Even as the new legislation was being drafted, we were treated to an object lesson in non-governmental regulation when the non-profit Consumer Reports issued a “do not buy” warning for the Lexus GX after it exhibited lift-off oversteer on a test course. Because CR performs independent testing on a wide variety of dealer-example vehicles, it was able to detect this error, which prompted Toyota to stop sales and production of the model until a fix was released. Throughout the incident, NHTSA played second fiddle to CR, merely checking the non-profit’s work. The lesson: a subscriber-based, non-profit is the real front line of US auto regulation. But, as the Wall Street Journal [sub] reports, Consumer Reports is being shadowed by another organization called Consumers Digest… and you don’t want to make the mistake of confusing the one with the other.