Automakers Blame Low Spec for Slumping Sales

automakers blame low spec for slumping sales

I'm beginning to lose track of manufacturers' excuses for slumping car sales: Japanese currency manipulation, the "perception gap," diminished fleet sales, poor housing market, the credit crisis, gas prices, etc. Here's the latest, courtesy of USA Today. "June sales were constrained because few automakers had enough cars that shoppers really want: well-appointed but with gas-sipping engines. 'I'm sure we're missing some business because we don't have exactly the configuration the consumer is looking for and adequate stock to satisfy' the demand, says Jim Lentz, president of Toyota Motor Sales." While the explanation makes some sense for ToMoCo, who couldn't build the Prius fast enough for demand, are we seriously meant to believe that Ford would have sold lots more Fusions if the base model had more features? Yup. "'A lot of it had to do with price points,' says Eric Peterson, communications manager for Ford Motor's crossovers. Buyers who spent more wanted more power. 'Now, there's more of a shift in consumer mind-set that we're reacting to… Consumers are saying, 'I want fuel efficiency, and I want all these options as well.'" So where's the statistical evidence for this theory? You know; some data showing that highly-optioned four-cylinder models are gaining popularity? *crickets chirping* Facts. Who needs 'em?

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  • Wmba Wmba on Jul 07, 2008

    Went on a road trip today and was just amazed at the sheer number of Saturn Astras we saw. Looks as though people in these parts (Nova Scotia, Canada) are stepping up to these cars rather than suffer through another Cobalt/Cavalier/Sunfire/G5 doinkmobile. Counted seven on our relatively lightly travelled roads. They're pretty distinctive and easy to spot. A worker from the business next door to mine got an Astra about a month ago, and I must say that it's a step up inside from the usual GM 4 cylinder rubbish. She's delighted with it. Canadian price is only a bit more than the US one, rather than the usual 25 to 40 percent premium, so that helps. On the other hand, a co-worker of hers just bought a new Sebring. Chrysler sales were up 0.2% in Canada this past June, while GM and Ford tanked. Based on that fact, I'd have to say my fellow citizens are more in love with beer cooler plastics than is credible or wise. Nevertheless, exterior panel fit on the Sebring is excellent, and puts my new Subie to shame (US built Legacy), as does the apparent paint quality. The other small car I'm beginning to see a fair number of is the new Focus, the absolute personification of the word "nonentity", except as viewed from the front. They all seem to be trying to hide, as if desperately shy like a twelve year old experimenting with Mom's lipstick and then being forced to appear in public. That grill has to go.

  • Golden2husky Golden2husky on Jul 08, 2008
    I would much prefer to have a truly discrete, individual options list so I can select just what I want and avoid what I don’t.... Thats the way Detroit used to make cars, until the Japanese brands became household names in the US. When the beancounters realized it cost more to manufacture a car with 2000 possible variations they adopted the Japanese way of using option packages. However, I share the frustration of packaging options that make no sense. Big ticket items like nav should be available as stand alone options. There is no reason to package something like this with leather or a sunroof, other than to force the buyer into spending more than they would otherwise...damn that "follow the money trail" thing really works!!

  • Ronin317 Ronin317 on Jul 08, 2008
    John Horner: Auto makers have traditionally bundled the biggest engines with the top end interior goodies. Just try finding a four cylinder, manual transmission, leather interior with navigation car on the lot of any mainstream auto maker. Well, The TSX still fits that bill. And there are still a few of the '08s on lots that are configured that way...plus the manual on the TSX is quite a slick shifter. If only they hadn't killed the RSX off... I guess you could go after a Civic SI as well, or a Scion. There really aren't many options, eh? Sucks, because I think Toyota is missing the mark without the Celica at this point, and you figure Mercedes and Lexus would come up with something for the segment (the low-end mercs blow...IMO). Not sure if the Mazda 3 has a navi available...does the VW Rabbit? I know the A3 does...It is amusing though, that there's not a single, well-appointed 'domestic' in the category.

  • Beelzebubba Beelzebubba on Jul 08, 2008
    John Horner: Auto makers have traditionally bundled the biggest engines with the top end interior goodies. Just try finding a four cylinder, manual transmission, leather interior with navigation car on the lot of any mainstream auto maker. Take a look at your local Honda dealer and you should find one. The Accord EX-L with Navigation comes standard with a 5-speed manual transmission and 2.4L 4-cylinder. # golden2husky Says: July 8th, 2008 at 8:46 am I would much prefer to have a truly discrete, individual options list so I can select just what I want and avoid what I don’t.… Thats the way Detroit used to make cars, until the Japanese brands became household names in the US. When the beancounters realized it cost more to manufacture a car with 2000 possible variations they adopted the Japanese way of using option packages. However, I share the frustration of packaging options that make no sense. Big ticket items like nav should be available as stand alone options. There is no reason to package something like this with leather or a sunroof, other than to force the buyer into spending more than they would otherwise…damn that “follow the money trail” thing really works!! The "`A la carte" old school Detroit options list had to be a HUGE pain on the manufacturing end and buyers rarely would find exactly what they wanted on the lot. They either had to settle for what was in stock at the dealer or order to their specs and wait up to a few months for it to be built. Honda is the only major automaker that doesn't offer "factory options". It makes the manufacturing process more efficient and simplifies the shopping process as well. There are only a limited number of variations to be found on any Honda dealer's lot. Mazda and Toyota offer a bit more flexibility- there are various trim levels, but you can order a moonroof on more than highest-level, leather-lined models. However, Mazda does limit the option of Nav to the top-of-the-line 'Grand Touring' trim in most of their vehicles. Nissan is the worst offender, in my opinion. Not only do they package several non-related items in a high dollar package, but often choosing one package REQUIRES selecting yet another option package of unrelated items! For example- start with an Altima 2.5SL, if you want to add the "Technology Package" (Nav & Backup Camera) for $2000, you MUST also select the "Connection Package" (XM/Bose/Bluetooth) $1000, Fog Lights for $310 and Rear Spoiler for $370! Or on the Sentra SE-R- want the $750 Rockford/Fosgate Audio Package, you'll also have to take the $750 Moonroof Package, $250 Intelligent Key, $150 XM and $140 Splash Guards!!! WTF?

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