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Will Detroit Ever Regain The Middle Market?

hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,120
edited March 8 in Chevrolet
The Camry, Accord, and, recently, the Sonata now control the lucrative and strategically important sweet spot of the family car market, replacing the once dominant mid and high-level trim Chevys, Fords, Plymouths, as well as the Pontiac Catalina, Olds 88, Buick LeSabre, Mercurys and Dodges. What are the chances that such models as the Chevy Malibu and Impala, Pontiac Grand Prix, Buick LaCrosse and Lucerne, Saturn Aura, Ford Fusion and 500, Mercury Milan and Monterey, Chrysler Sebring and 300, and Dodge Stratus and Charger will eventually take the sales crown back from the best selling Asian models?

I believe this is an important challenge if the domestic manufacturers are to avoid becoming niche players. It seems to me that while not all of the domestic models need to be huge sellers, some will have to achieve comparable volumes to their leading Asian counterparts for GM, Ford, and the Chrysler component of Daimler-Chrysler to succeed long-term. Your thoughts?

The rapidly growing markets outside North America must be included in a comprehensive discussion, of course, but this discussion is about North America only.


  • wonderwallwonderwall Posts: 126
    I think a major issue for domestic automakers is that so many Gen Xers and Gen Yers grew up with the perception of American cars being inherently inferior in terms of reliability to Japanese cars and inferior in terms of style and driving dynamics to European cars. These perceptions are-- let's face it-- based on fact. Those individuals of my age that I know who bought domestic vehicles did so on one factor and one factor alone-- they couldn't afford anything else. All of them appear to have the sense that they settled for an inferior car. In our area, domestic cars frequently appear to be sold at prices below even the Korean makers (just bought an Elantra and probably could've gotten a Cobalt for a little less) once you factor in all of the incentives and so forth.

    I think it's an major uphill battle for domestic car makers to capture our market. In any sales situation, perception is everything. I do feel, having ridden in domestic vehicles and driven a few for short periods of time, that the perception is correct. In the end, when I bought a car -- and I prefer driving compacts-- the only domestic car in that class that didn't look and drive like a pile of random parts thrown together was the Ford Focus and I didn't want to buy that because of what I know of it's reliability history. At that point, I wound up buying a Mazda PR5 and loved it until it was totalled and I wound up being sold on this Hyundai (desired, but couldn't quite afford a Mazda 3). I think as the Koreans begin to prove themselves more and more with quality products, we may see dmestic cars fall further and further behind because they will have no advantage. It's kind of sad, but look around, I think we're beginning to see that it is true, as goes General Motors, so goes America. I mean, at risk of being incindiary, look at who is running this country right now...
  • john_324john_324 Posts: 974
    I think the "perception" point is spot-on.

    It's one of the big reasons why Detroit sells as many middle-ground cars as they do these days...older consumers who remember the firms from their glory days, and still have the perception that American cars are the best out there. After all, these consumers remember when the time when Japanese cars were inferior and cheaply-made, and seemed like utter wastes of money compared to solid and dependable American vehicles. Neither situation is the case anymore, but try telling that to your old Uncle Fred, who's still angry that Oldsmobile is gone... ;-)
  • wonderwallwonderwall Posts: 126
    my grandfather recently bought a 1998 Camry, but at the beginning of his search, he was a little perplexed because Olds was, for the most part, out of the running because he didn't want to buy an orphan. My grandmother convinced him to buy her a 1989 Honda Accord about 15 years ago, but he put up tons of resistance because of Pearl Harbor. I remember telling him, "I think they paid for that many dozens of times over at Nagasaki and Hiroshima." He wound up loving the car and its "sporty" driving dynamics and to replace his dying 1988 Olds 98, he bought the Camry and is in LOVE. They still have that Accord. Something like 150,000 miles and it's just now starting to nickle & dime them, mostly cosmetically. He's still marvelling at the fact that the digital clock in it still works perfectly.
  • carlisimocarlisimo Posts: 1,280
    At this point... if Detroit does a great job, they'll regain a fair share of the market. But to take control of the market again, the other players would have to really drop the ball. All at the same time. Simultaneously with strokes of brilliance from GM, Ford, and/or Chrysler. What are the odds of that?

    I also don't think "the domestics" will share equal fates. Sure they have things in common (past mistakes, truck dependence, UAW), but they're taking different paths (especially globally). Just in the same way that "the imports" operate as a unit, either. It's just an easy, simpleton division for us to make...
  • pernaperna Posts: 533
    GM and Ford really screwed themselves with two entirely different generations.

    Baby boomers: 100% crap product in the 70s and 80s. Many of those cars were so bad, people twitch when they talk about their 1982 Dodge Aries K.

    Gen X: The SUV craze in the 90s. They put zero dev money into anything that didn't stand a mile above traffic and have 4WD, so what are people who hate trucks like myself supposed to buy.

    The answer for both generations was imported cars, mostly Japanese, all vastly better than their American competition. Back in '03, I bought my aspirational car at the time, which was a Nissan Maxima. No American mfg in early '03 had a car that came close.

    And you know what? In the past 3 years, the Nissan has proved itself to be the best car I've ever owned. Guess what my next car is going to be? Oh sure, I'll test drive anything I perceive to be serious competition to my car, but it is entirely possible that I will be a lifelong Nissan customer based on how incredible this car is. Their stock will certainly be heads above all others when I'm out shopping. Any GM or Ford will have to blow me away to get me to switch, and the slow/dull Five Hundred or boring Impala is going to get me to take a look.

    At 32 years old, I am a Gen-Xer, and as such have many car buying years in front of me. It was Gm and Ford's obsession with SUVs at the expense of their car lines that cost them my business - for the sake of their businesses and America, I hope they turn the corner.
  • bumpybumpy Posts: 4,435
    that the domestics DO have a competitive share of the midsize sedan market, but that they dilute that position by spreading it through half a dozen models and a bazillion trimlines, rather than one model and three trims like their Asian competitors do.
  • carlisimocarlisimo Posts: 1,280
    They do sell a large number of cars, but they haven't made much money on them. Giving up profits has kept their numbers high. That's fine in terms of market share and presence, but it's a downward spiral of red ink.
  • john_324john_324 Posts: 974
    Chevy's "most popular car in America" or whatever tagline is ringing increasingly hollow these days. I laugh every time I see about fiddling while Rome burns...
  • wonderwallwonderwall Posts: 126
    and i alluded to it in my first post, i feel less of a stigma driving my Hyundai than if I had a Chevrolet or a Pontiac. GM, in particular, seems to carry a big stigma in cars with young people. But then again, me and most of my friends eat sushi, majored in the Humanities or Social Sciences and voted for the smart guy in 2004, so we're probably "unAmerican".
  • rockyleerockylee Posts: 14,011
    The smart guy in 2004 ? :confuse: LOL Was there one :surprise:

  • rockyleerockylee Posts: 14,011
    My question is will there be such a thing called the Middle Market in 20 years ? :sick:

  • ubbermotorubbermotor Posts: 307
    Columbia was once America's best selling brand. 20 years ago Oldsmobile sold more cars than Ford (1985 1165649 vs 1149427). Five years ago Cadilliac finished its 50th consecutive years as America's luxury car leader (in sales). In 1975 Chrysler had 2 distict models for the first time ever, in 2005 they sold more cars than Dodge. I've been following the auto industry for nearly 30 years, I know better than to try and predict what its going to do in 5.
  • rockyleerockylee Posts: 14,011
    Do you think if GM loses the #1 spot, do you think it could regain it's crown again ?

    General Motors vs. Toyota

    It's sound like a great prize fight. Peter Manfredo Jr. vs. Sergio Mora

    I personally think if GM loses it's crown in 2006, GM Will win it's title back in a rematch in 2007'

    GM will be "undisputed" Champion in 2007' and knockout Toyota for good. :shades:

    Well that's the way I have dreamed it up :blush:

  • dieselonedieselone Posts: 5,627
    Do you think if GM loses the #1 spot, do you think it could regain it's crown again ?

    Can = yes

    Will = beats me, not if they continue to operate as they have the past few decades.
  • grbeckgrbeck Posts: 2,361
    wonderwall: "But then again, me and most of my friends eat sushi, majored in the Humanities or Social Sciences and voted for the smart guy in 2004..."

    If you believe that, you really do need to get out more...

    Incidentally, according to a recent news story, the most cross-shopped brand with Hyundai is...Chevrolet. So there must not be too much stigma associated with owning a Chevrolet among Hyundai intenders and buyers.
  • carguy58carguy58 Posts: 2,303
    "Gen X: The SUV craze in the 90s. They put zero dev money into anything that didn't stand a mile above traffic and have 4WD, so what are people who hate trucks like myself supposed to buy."

    I am a generation Xer myself being 26 years old and your're right in the 90's American Car Companies forgot about cars and just concentrated on SUV's. I grew up on GM and Ford cars because my parents always owned them and yes they are boomers. When I bought my first car I stayed away from American Cars because of perception(bad reliability.) I bought a Mazda 626. My second time of buying a car I stayed away from Detroit makes and even Toyota because of looks. Again I bought an Acura CL. I am a big Mazda and Honda guy and I just don't care for Domestic Big 3 cars. I mean Chrysler is the best domestic that Detroit has to offer. I still don't think I would buy a Chrysler over a Mazda or a Honda right now even though Chrysler has some great products stylewise right now and their interiors aren't half bad either.
  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,071
    I'll be 41 in May, so that must make me a "proto-GenX'er."

    I grew up on Ford and Chevrolet cars because my parents and grandparents always owned them. Dad was from the generation between the "Greatest" and "Boomers" and Mom was among the first Boomers. When I bought my first car I immediately went straight to General Motors because of perception,(extremely good reliability.) and bought a Buick Special Deluxe. The perception was true! I went back to Buick and got a Park Avenue! I am a big Cadillac and Buick guy and just don't care for imported cars. Lexus is the best the imports have to offer but I wouldn't choose a Lexus over a Cadillac or a Buick even though Lexus has some great products reliability-wise and their interiors are really nice.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 32,923
    I'll be 29 I am a late Xer I think. My parents are older than most my age, pre-boomer. They were pretty loyal to big 3 cars when I was growing up, and they had more than a couple lemons. Because of that, I have a jaundiced eye, especially towards middle market domestics. Fall-apart Blazer, Clunky Ciera, Tauri that ate both head gaskets and trannies, we had em all. I have a suspicion my experiences are mirrored by many my age.
  • rockyleerockylee Posts: 14,011
    I'll be 29 I am a late Xer I think. My parents are older than most my age, pre-boomer.


    29 ? Whoa. I thought you were in your 40's based on your broad knowledge of older cars :P

  • fintailfintail Posts: 32,923
    I have mature tastes I guess
This discussion has been closed.