When the Toyota recall debacle kicked off, there were two types of reactions from their competitors. There were the ones who went after Toyota customers like a Catholic priest after a choir boy. And then, there was the “we are taking the high road” brood. Franco-Japanese Nissan were a part of the “we are way above this” bunch. They confirmed that they wouldn’t be introducing programs to woo Toyota customers. Who would want a Nipponese cannibalisation in the far abroad?
Having recently posted a nearly $5b loss, bailed-out auto finance giant GMAC says it needs more help from automakers to remain competitive. Automotive News [sub] reports that GMAC CEO Mike Carpenter told reporters that “the success of GMAC Financial Services hinges on more loan and lease subsidies from General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group,” and that “GMAC requires additional marketing funds from the automakers to provide competitive loans and leases to the GM and Chrysler dealer networks.” GMAC’s Chrysler business has nearly doubled in the last quarter of 2009, now providing about 26 percent of Chrysler’s retail financing and about 30 percent of GM’s.
Yes, they’ve got themselves one heck of a problem down Pentastar way: the boffins have done the math and reckon some 67 percent of Chrysler Group minivan buyers are previous owners. That’s a good thing when it comes to polishing your R.L. Polk Owner Loyalty award, but it’s not exactly helping Chrysler make inroads on volume or market share. Which is where the “Minivan Pledge” comes in. “It’s Time To Drive Detroit Again: The Best Minivans In The Industry Just Got Better,” shouts the headline of Chrysler’s release announcing a 60-day money-back guarantee for buyers who trade in a competitive product towards a 2010 minivan. “‘Minivan Pledge’ gives competitive owners the peace of mind to ‘try us again,’” is the pitch. The only problem: everyone knows it takes at least 90 days for a Chrysler minivan to eat its own transmission.
This week saw the Volt’s price point issues return to the public eye, as GM’s Chairman and CEO made it clear that he takes the government’s $7,500 tax credit for granted. But Whitacre’s dissembling revealed once again GM’s fundamental problem with the Volt: getting people past the sticker shock. Though GM’s short-term viability doesn’t hinge on the Volt selling like gangbusters, it’s clear that the Volt’s initial success or lack thereof will be a crucial factor in GM’s ability to hold a successful IPO and extricate itself from government ownership. Which, according to The Big Money‘s Matt DeBord, is one of the reasons the government should expand the Volt’s credit of $10k. Another reason: the Volt’s competition is too good!
with the base Prius selling for just over $20,000 and the base Honda Insight hybrid for under $20,000, the feds may have to start thinking about how to enable innovative electric and gas-electric plug-ins to survive. The EPA mandate to raise fleet fuel-economy standards to average of 35.5 mpg by 2016 looms, and a component of that target should be EVs and plug-ins. Otherwise, carmakers may abandon the tech, leaving it stillborn to cynically massage their fleet numbers by importing small cars from foreign operations to North America—cars they know Americans will only grudgingly purchase and that may force the government to chuck the 35.5 requirement.