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Will Detroit Ever Regain The Middle Market?

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  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,193
    Likewise.

    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: 4,209
    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: 15,193
    ...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: 9,364
    "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: 4,209
    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.

    2011 Kia Soul Sport 5-speed

  • 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.

    image
    image

    image
    image

    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!
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,209
    What do you drive, anythingbutgm?
  • your pictures sell my point. IMHO(we're supposed to put this in there even though everyone knows that what we say is much more than opinion, it's fact, right?)the '08 Chevy 'Bu has a lot more going on looks-wise than either the homely, blocky 2008 Honda Accord and/or the homely 2007 Toyota Camry.

    I would trust a 2008 Kia Optima, a 2008 Chevrolet Malibu and a 2008 Mazda6 entirely enough to spend anywhere from $16,494 for the Optima to upwards of $21,000-$25,000 for the Malibu's and Mazda6's.

    This is all fantasy-land for myself as I much prefer my '08 Mitsubishi Lancer GTS and it's racing getup than a mid-size car. Although the Mazda6 looks more and more like a great choice for a sporty ride and good looks. And I'm not one that likes Mazda's blocky-chunky styling etiquette, either.

    2011 Kia Soul Sport 5-speed

  • S2000 in the warm, Impreza wagon in the bad months.
  • If I were buying in this class, I'd go for either the Mazda6 or Nissan Altima. Or even a Subaru legacy. The Accord would fall next probably tied with the Fusion/Milan, then the Camry (SE only). I'd by a much better looking Saturn Aura before I buy a Rentabu for the same money. At least that thing has a chance of holding any resale value three years down the road... And I'd buy a Sonata long before either of those.
  • volvomaxvolvomax Posts: 5,274
    That is the problem in a nutshell.
    The General has to do things BETTER than Toyota if it wants to win customers back.
    It can't be "just" as good.
    What is the incentive to change if your other choice is only "just" as good as your current one?
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,209
    Good choices; you've got the New England seasons covered.
  • elroy5elroy5 Posts: 3,741
    For 15 to 20 years people bought Domestic cars, sometimes two or three bad cars, and never switched to Toyota or Honda. It will not take 15 years of bad cars from Toyota and Honda, maybe just one bad car, for them to switch back to domestics. Toyota and Honda will have to stay on top of their game to stay ahead in sales. IMO, people will not be as dedicated to the Japanese makes, as many were faithful to the domestic brands. I have been loyal to Honda because of two great cars, but all it will take is one bad experience to turn me away. No slip-ups allowed.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,209
    GM seems to be making some progress in reestablishing credibility in the middle market with the Chevy Impala and Malibu, and the Saturn Aura. Ford may be running in place with the Fusion and Taurus, plus the Mercury Milan and Sable, but is making little, if any, progress. Chrysler Corp. is clearly slipping with its Chrysler Sebring and Dodge Stratus, and the 300 and Charger, while still competitive, are no longer fresh and exciting.

    The upshot is that GM needs to build on its momentum. Fixing Pontiac and Buick would help a lot. Ford needs to gain momentum. Maybe its plan to offer some of its successful European models will do the trick. Chrysler needs new mid range products to compete effectively.
  • scape2scape2 Posts: 4,119
    This is one thing Americans are good at. Challenges. Ford for one is doing the right thing by dumping Jag, Aston, Range rover. Now Ford needs to dump Mecury and funell that money into Lincoln. Ford needs an image brand like Toyota has Lexus, Honda has Acura. Lincoln is prime for this. Ford needs to keep Mazda and Volvo however. Mazda is doing pretty well with its line-up, along with Volvo. Ford is stronger than the media leads the American public to believe. Markets are strong in Europe and Asia. It was announced Ford is going to be bringing many of its platforms from Europe to North America. One that is going to be a hit is the Focus. The Focus in Europe is way different than the one made for North America. The Euro Focus is a much, much nicer vehicle.

    The Big 2 will be left to carry on the U.S. auto makers. GM is going to take back what Toyota took this last year. I believe it will happen in about 3-5 years. I also believe Ford will take the #2 spot back from Toyota in the next 5 - 7 years.
  • iluvmysephia1iluvmysephia1 Posts: 5,709
    bold predictions on your part, indeed. I do think that Ford is improving by leaps and bounds. And so is GM. But just how Toyota ends up is still a question mark, as far as how much of the American market they continue to take. They will hold in 2nd place after GM. Toyota's slipping, and not slowly slipping. I'm talking slip-sliding away. OK, that's mostly wishful thinking. I don't care for Toyota much. Way too much vanilla in their cake.

    2011 Kia Soul Sport 5-speed

  • dtownfbdtownfb Posts: 2,915
    Remember that vanilla is America's favorite ice cream....
  • iluvmysephia1iluvmysephia1 Posts: 5,709
    and it must be emphasized again, Americans love to miss the boat on good car styling. Toyota's are hideous personified.

    2011 Kia Soul Sport 5-speed

  • explorerx4explorerx4 Central CTPosts: 9,755
    i live in new england, too. i have kids. neither of those vehicles would work for me.
    it's just a different situation.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,209
    The Malibu, the Chrysler 300 and the 2010 Fusion suggest that Detroit can compete effectively in the middle market. The missing ingredient is renewed buyer confidence.

    The 300 needs a refresh, or the introduction of the second generation of this RWD entry, to regain competitive status.
  • dtownfbdtownfb Posts: 2,915
    If I remember right, they don't have the capacity to build enough Malibu or Fusions to overtake the Accord or Camry. Plus it would take away from the Impala and Taurus.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,209
    If they do, it'll be without Mercury.
  • tomcatt630tomcatt630 Posts: 124
    I think topic was 'mid size' not 'mid price makes'.

    Fusion has been breaking sales records, so the older posts are moot.

    There are not too many truly large or full sized cars for sale anymore, and the term 'mid size' doesnt work if there are no larger cars to compare. Should just say "large" for anything bigger than a compact.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,209
    Middle market refers to mid-priced. That was the market once covered by most Oldsmobiles, Mercurys and DeSotos, Pontiac and Dodge were at the lower middle end of the market, as were some Mercurys. Most Buicks, Chryslers and some Mercurys were upper middle. More recently this has been referred to as entry luxury.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 22,026
    Once upon a time, Consumer Reports divided the automotive market into five categories...

    Low price class (Chevy/Ford/Plymouth)
    Lower Medium (Pontiac/Dodge/Edsel, some Mercurys, Buick Special)
    Medium (DeSoto, Oldsmobile, upper-level Mercurys, mid-range Buicks)
    Upper Medium (Chrysler, Buick Super/Roadmaster, the cheaper Lincolns in some years)
    Luxury (Cadillac, Imperial, most Lincolns, Continentals when they tried to make them a separate division)

    I think nowadays though, the market is re-aligning and simplifying to...

    Mainstream (Ford, Dodge, Chevy, Honda, Toyota, Nissan, etc)
    Luxury (Lincoln, Cadillac, Acura, Lexus, Infiniti, Benz, BMW, Audi, etc)

    Brands like Buick and Chrysler are starting to have problems fitting into this new mold. Chrysler really doesn't have what it takes right now to go head-to-head with the others in luxury cars. To do so, they'd have to get rid of minivans, the PT Cruiser, the Sebring, and the cheaper versions of the 300. Yet, those models I just mentioned are what keeps them down in the mainstream market, where they are often redundant because of Dodge.

    Buick, at least, isn't reaching as far downscale as Chrysler. But, they can only go up so high in prestige, otherwise they'd encroach on Cadillac. So, my guess is that, if this mainstream/luxury polarization continues, Buick may cease to exist, while Chrysler ends up taking over for Dodge, relegating them to only trucks.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,209
    The Ford Fusion and Chevy Malibu seem to be competing well, as are the Ford Taurus and Buick LaCrosse. In addition, the Buick Regal looks promising, so I'd say Detroit is gaining some ground in the middle market. Not much, maybe, but at least it seems to be holding its own.
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