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Will Detroit Ever Regain The Middle Market?



  • carguy58carguy58 Posts: 2,303
    "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."

    You seem to be more into "traditional luxury brands" if you know what I mean like Caddy, Buick, and Lexus. I was wondering if you like a car like the Volvo S60 or a Mercedes since you seems more into traditional luxury brands. You don't seem like the type of person that would be into sport luxury brands like Acura, Infinti, or BMW. I don't think judging by your tastes you would like a car like a Pontiac Solstice. How do you feel about Caddy;s Art & Science styling theme like with the CTs for example?
  • lweisslweiss Posts: 342
    I am in my late 50s (baby boomer) and one of the things characteristic of my generation is that we want to think young and do things like younger people- hence all of the cosmetic surgery, dieting, Viagara (Haha), buying things like that- and not to be associated as an old fogey. So for me, even my current 1998 Volvo S-70 seems old- my next car will be a Mazda 6 Speed, maybe the new Nissan Altima, an Acura TL will be a contender. GM models- no way, my kids (all in their 20's) would laugh me out of town.

    And I don't think I am alone. I've read that the Honda Element, designed for young people, has a sizeable following with baby boomers. And we can afford what we want to buy.
  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,120
    I was always very much into traditional luxury cars, even when I was very young. I don't care much for Volvo, but I could see myself in a Mercedes S-Class if the maintenance and repair costs and recent concerns about reliability didn't scare me off. A Pontiac Solstice is a nice toy for a nice sunny day or two, but I can't see myself purchasing one. I kind of like Cadillac's Art & Science theme because they had to do something in face of the challenge by the imports and it seems to be working. Lincoln is so far behind Cadillac and the imports it's not funny. Ten years or so ago, I would've liked a new Lincoln Town Car. Now it comes across more like a gussied-up Crown Victoria.
  • rockyleerockylee Posts: 14,011
    I kind of like Cadillac's Art & Science theme because they had to do something in face of the challenge by the imports and it seems to be working. Lincoln is so far behind Cadillac and the imports it's not funny. Ten years or so ago, I would've liked a new Lincoln Town Car. Now it comes across more like a gussied-up Crown Victoria.

    Isn't that the truth. ;)

  • rockyleerockylee Posts: 14,011
    Off-road icon may have outlived its utility

    General Motors Corp.'s Hummer H1 -- a tank-like SUV used by the U.S. military, sold to the public by GM, and reviled by environmentalists everywhere -- soon may be decommissioned.

    While there is no decision yet, Hummer's new general manager, Martin Walsh, said in a few years, the slightly smaller H2 sport utility vehicle could replace the H1 as the brand's flagship model.

    The H1, with fewer than 400 sales last year, is still "very important" to the brand's image as an off-road leader with iconic design, Walsh said.

    "What we've found increasingly, though, is that the H2 has come to be seen by consumers as the Hummer. In their minds, that's more representative of the Hummer brand than the H1."

    The comments come as Hummer is trying to broaden its appeal to consumers and as gas prices hover near $3 per gallon.

    In less than 15 years on the U.S. auto market, the H1 has become a status symbol to the moneyed elite -- thanks to enthusiastic endorsements from Arnold Schwarzenegger and hip-hop artists -- and a gotta-have-it toy for hard-core off-roaders.

    But its $140,000 price tag, poor fuel economy and massive size have made it impractical for many customers.

    "People still like to come in and look at them, but no one buys them anymore," said Dan Frost, owner of Hummer dealerships in Detroit and Novi. "We might sell one, maybe two a year."

    The H1 is based on the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, popularly known as the "Humvee," which was created by AM General Corp., a military contractor. It went on sale as a civilian vehicle in 1992, and was initially boosted by its exposure in the first Gulf War.

    Seven years later, GM acquired exclusive ownership of the Hummer brand name, and in 2002 added the beefy H2. Last summer, the H3, a midsize SUV that achieves 20 miles per gallon, joined the lineup and now accounts for more than half of Hummer's annual sales.

    In 2005, after a hurricane-fueled spike in gas prices, H1 sales fell 16 percent and H2 sales plummeted almost 30 percent -- a sign that the brand's biggest growth potential may rest in smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles.

    Walsh said Hummer would consider building a pickup truck, but would not -- as the Chrysler Group's Jeep brand recently started to do -- build car-based "crossover" vehicles.

    The "product expansion" planned for the Hummer brand will be based only on rugged truck frames, he said.

    Aside from adding a high-performance Alpha version last year, GM has done little to change the original H1, a vehicle it markets as "the most functional off-road vehicle ever made available to the civilian market."

    Perhaps that's because the ailing automaker knows it cannot afford to throw money at a vehicle with such a small audience, said Erich Merkle, an industry analyst with IRN Inc. in Grand Rapids.

    "There never really has been much of a market for that vehicle, except with the ostentatious crowd."

    Hummer continues to require its dealers to accept at least one H1 a year, but with fuel economy becoming a bigger concern for consumers, it may get harder to sell a vehicle that gets 10 to 12 miles per gallon.

    Yet Walsh left the door open to H1's future.

    "It's still a part of our plan," he said. "Beyond that, I really can't say." 1148
  • british_roverbritish_rover Posts: 8,476
    That part about people IDing the H2 as the "real" Hummer is very true.

    Selling Land Rovers I see a lot of H2's we actually got one stuck on our off road test track in the first two feet because the vehicle is so pathetic off road. When someone says they have a Hummer I normaly ask, "A real one or a H2."

    To which they reply sometimes sounding hurt, "I have a H2 which is the real hummer not that little baby H3."

    Most of them do not even know what the H1 is.
  • rockyleerockylee Posts: 14,011
    Actually in certain situations the H2 is better because it's more nimble and atheletic. Ya know lighter on it's feet just like Floyd Mayweather Jr. ;)

  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,167
    Most of the recently and soon-to-be-introduced domestic cars and trucks are positioned in the middle market. Therefore, to the extent that they succeed, Detroit will have regained relevance in the marketplace, or, hopefully not, visa versa.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,167
    The Saturn Aura and '08 Chevy Malibu, the Ford Fusion and '08 Taurus, and the Chrysler 300 are strong domestic entries.
  • scape2scape2 Posts: 4,119
    Image is what GM/Ford need to overcome with consumers. All these years of the media bashing them at every turn has not helped either. Don't get me wrong, GM/Ford have made thier mistakes, but so has Toyota and Honda. Whenever GM/Ford has a recall it is all over the headline news! If Toyota/Honda have issues it makes a small column in the back page. I have seen this over and over again. I run into people who think all GM/Ford products are pure junk and would never step foot into a dealership. Thank goodness for the internet and the free flow of information. I have linked numerous people to other sites showing them data about both GM/Ford vehicles vs Toyota/Honda vehicles and they are surprised.. :shades:
  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,120

    If all people had was the mainstream media, GM, Ford, and Chrysler would went under 10 years ago.
  • dtownfbdtownfb Posts: 2,915
    I agree that GM and Ford need to improve their image but the bashing is well deserve especially with respect to their car lineup. Both companies made bad business decisions that have finally caught up to them. Their reliance on SUV's and pickups while putting out mediocre cars has gotten them into this mess, not the media. Their obsession with selling cars in China and Europe while the North American market flounder allowed Toyota and Honda to gain market share. Look at the first quarter earnings for both companies. Both made profits overseas but lost money in the NA market. As you know you need the profits so you spend more money in the R&D phase. Without it you get products like the 04 Malibu and the Taurus (pick a year) or the Grand Am, or the Cavalier, or the L-Series, etc. Of course that is the media's fault.

    Both companies are on the right track now that they both have resign that they will never have 30% of the market anymore. They are now running their companies based on 20% and 15% market share and controlling production (the key to profits). GM needs a clean launch of the '08 Malibu and for Silverado sales to remain strong. They should be fine. A smaller and leaner company but a much stronger company ready to deal with the global market. Quite honestly, who cares if they are no longer number 1. Ford needs more new products quickly. With the sales of the F150 and Explorer declining, they need more sales from their other products to make up the lost in profits. Quite honestly after the Fusion/Milan and Mustang, it is slim pickings in their current lineup. Even analysts are saying the upgrades to the 500..I mean Taurus aren't going to be enough. The decision to bring products from Europe will help (hmmmm, why does the European market have better cars then the NA market?). it's a matter of can they get the products into the dealership fast enough.

    You can keep blaming the media all you want, this problem lies squarely in the laps of the decision makers at GM and Ford. BTW I owned a 2001 Malibu, the one "you knew America could build". That car exemplifies the bad decision making by GM. They not only built the Malibu but used the same parts to make the L-series and Grand Am. Guess what happened? they all had the same problems. Bad alternator, intake manifold gasket leak, bad brakes, electrical problems, etc. But of course that is the media's fault.
  • elroy5elroy5 Posts: 3,741
    I sincerely hope you (and others of your kind) keep buying American cars. Maybe they can make enough money off you, to get back on their feet. One day, who knows when, domestic auto makers could start making quality cars again. Until then, I don't make enough money to buy a car every 6 years, because it's worn out it's welcome. In my experience a 5 year old American car feels as old as a 10 year old Honda. So keep up the good fight.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,167
    I think it's a case of perception lagging reality. domestic manufacturers have made great strides in closing the quality gap in the last several years, to the point where there's little, if any, difference across the product spectrum, between them and the best Japanese cars. In some cases (Buick, for example) the domestics are rated at the top. Therefore, I don't think your statement applies to the '07 models. Many people are more comfortable with Hondas and Toyotas based on old data. The point is that Hondas and Toyotas are very reliable and durable, but so are today's domestic cars.

    My suggestion is to make your selection based on such factors as styling, comfort and driving dynamics, because all the major brands are good today. While in the '80s it was somewhat of a challenge to find a good car, because the bad ones outnumbered the good ones, today it's the opposite.
  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,120
    ...if you want to see just how far GM has come, rent a Chevrolet Classic (old Malibu) and then drive one of their newer cars. I had a silver Chevrolet Classic for a week, returned it to the car rental place, and got in my girlfriend's LaCrosse. The Classic's interior was a sloppy mishmash of ill-fitting somber gray pieces made of cheap materials. The LaCrosse's interior has excellent fit and finish, a few splashes of brighwork and imitation word, and of much better quality. Judging by the Classic, it's no wonder you guys hate GM. But things are rapidly changing.
  • fezofezo Posts: 9,328
    "While in the '80s it was somewhat of a challenge to find a good car, because the bad ones outnumbered the good ones, today it's the opposite."

    I'd certainly agree with that part!

    I'm not sure about how much the quality gap has closed. I am sure that is because I was hearing it for years when it wasn't so. I suspect now it is but now I get caught in the boy who cried wolf syndrome.

    Now I have a nearly 8 year old Accord that works just fine so my next vehicle is likely coming a long time from now, but when it does I'll look at all sorts of things.
  • dtownfbdtownfb Posts: 2,915
    I agree with your example but you simply can't toss out the past. GM and Ford earned their reputation based on past cars. Honda and Toyota earned their reputation based on past cars. Both GM and Ford are building much, much better cars but so are Honda and Toyota. My bad experience with the 2001 Malibu will greatly influence my next car purchase later this year. The winner is the consumer as we have better cars to choice. In about 5 years, you won't go wrong picking a car from any of these manufacturers.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,167
    Let's see, six months after the last message on this discussion, the big hope for the domestics regaining the middle market in '08 rests with the new Malibu. The Impala continues to sell well, but it will be interesting to see how the Malibu impacts Impala sales. The Saturn Aura received a lot of accolades, but sales have been rather disappointing. The addition of a four cylinder option for '08 could help .

    The Ford Fusion/Mercury Milan are doing okay, sales wise, but they haven't really busted through the Asian dominated front ranks. They're solid products, and have gotten good reviews on quality, so they should continue to enjoy decent sales. The jury is still out on Taurus/Sable. The new 3.5 V6 and 6-speed automatic, plus the styling tweaks, have transformed these into excellent excellent family cars, and great values.

    The Chrysler Sebring/Dodge Avenger, while better cars and better values than their predecessors, aren't cutting it with retail customers. There's talk about refreshing these on an accelerated timetable, but the time line on those changes is a couple of years away. That's a long time to depend on fleet sales to keep the factories open. Between now and the refreshings, look for creative marketing and financing, and maybe spring special editions, to appeal to retail buyers. One thing is for sure; it will be easy to rent a midsize Mopar.

    So, for the near term, the '08 malibu is the next big hope.
  • the new '08 Chevy Malibu are pretty good cars. If I was one lookng in this size range I'd consider either one and the one I think I would buy would be the Chevy 'Bu.

    But as far as Americans buying middle-sized cars overall, it looks to be all Japanese with some Korean purchases buffeting them softly from the sides. I think the new Kia Optima is a great middle-sized car and it would be between a new Optima and a new Malibu for my buying dollars probably.

    People can't seem to get over the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord and I would reallly rather buy an Optima, Malibu or even a Mazda6 before I'd sell out and buy one of those appliances. Ouch, they can't seem to design a decent mid-sized car in Toyota and Honda-land. Bodystyle-wise I'm talking here...they do absolutely nothing for me and I want my rig to do something for me in that department.

    2008 Mitsubishi Lancer GTS

  • The thing is, you and others may not find the Camry or the Accord up your alley, but there are folks, including myself who have owned one after the other (I've had three in a row). A decade and a half ago, I would add the Ford Taurus to that list, right before the bungled Catfish look.

    It's those folks those that are going to be tough to crack because they see no reason to go with something different. 450,000 people buy one every year. and I highly doubt .1% of them is going to even take notice of a lowly Chevrolet. Heck, they probably had a bad experience with one or two in the 90's which probably drove them to the Camry in the first place! :blush:

    So I am curious as to what you find missing in those two yet find in (for example) the new Malibu? Heck, park an 08' next to a Camry especially and the profiles are identical. Size wise, the Malibu is bigger but interior volume is supposedly smaller.



    This is good looking :confuse: Blech :sick:

    Now on top of that, try convincing some stubborn 3 time Camry buyer that they need to switch to a Chevrolet midsize. Tell them they need to go for a car with worse depreciation, a car that is expected to cost the same amount of $$$ as a new Camry and one that hasn't had the same reliability/quality reputation to fall back on.

    Tough sell if you ask me. And I'm not even an Accord/Camry owner!
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