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Imports about to overtake Big Three

Old 02-06-2007, 07:12 PM
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Default Imports about to overtake Big Three

Very sad but not a surprise.


Imports about to overtake Big Three

Domestic models from GM, Ford and Chrysler took barely half the U.S. market in January, and their share is getting smaller.

By Chris Isidore, CNNMoney.com senior writer
February 6 2007: 6:27 AM EST
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and ... imported cars?

That old Chevrolet jingle, which was written to position the General Motors (Charts) brand as the all-American make of car and truck, could be due for an update, according to the latest sales figures in the auto industry.

That's because imported auto brands reached a record high of 49.4 percent of U.S. sales in January, according to the latest industry figures.

Experts in the field say imports should cross the 50 percent mark in the world's most important auto market sometime this year, perhaps as soon as March.

"There's going to be at least several months this year when, we think, the import brands will top 50 percent," said Jesse Toprak, senior analyst with automotive Web site Edmunds.com.

Toprak and David Lucas, vice president of auto sales tracker Autodata, pointed to a redesigned Honda Accord sedan due out later this year and the roll-out of the new Toyota Tundra, the company's first real entry in the full-size pickup truck market, as among the factors that will further lift the import brand sales.

"I think we're going to see it soon," said Lucas, regarding imported brands topping 50 percent of U.S. sales. "If not this year, then it will happen next year. It's just a matter of time."

High fuel prices over the last year have helped the sale of fuel-efficient offerings from Toyota Motor (Charts), Honda Motor (Charts) and Nissan (Charts).

While fuel prices have retreated in recent months, another rise towards $3 gas as the summer driving season approaches could give another lift to those brands' U.S. market share.

The imports include some brands owned by the traditional Big Three, such as GM's Saab, and Ford (Charts)'s Volvo, Land Rover and Jaguar. DaimlerChrysler (Charts), which owns Chrysler, also includes European-based Mercedes-Benz.

So far this year, the traditional Big Three have mainained their edge as the biggest sellers of cars in the U.S.by relying on fleet sales, especially to rental car companies and other corporate buyers.

While the Detroit automakers have been trying to scale back on those less profitable sales, they're still relying on them to a far greater extent than are their import competitors.

If you look only at retail sales to consumers, the Big Three are close to losing that important battle for U.S. car buyers' hearts and wallets, according to industry experts, even if you include their import brands.

Those three corporations had just over 50 percent of U.S. retail market share in the fourth quarter of 2006, according to recent figures from J.D. Power & Associates, and could easily slip below that level in 2007, even with the inclusion of Saab, Volvo and Mercedes.

Excluding those import brands, the Big Three's retail sales fell below 50 percent for the first time way back in the first half of 2006.

"There's no question the import brands have gained strength steadily for a long time," said Tom Libby, senior director of industry analysis for the Power Information Network, an affiliate of J.D. Power.

He said the shift appears to be picking up speed, though.

"The Toyota brand gained 1.8 percentage points of share in one year in 2006, which is almost unheard of in this industry," he said, referring to retail sales.

Of course, the distinction between imports and homegrown brands is getting more and more cloudy, according to experts, with vehicle parts being produced globally and even the Big Three making many of their cars in Canada, Mexico and South Korea,

Similarly, Asian-based automakers, as a group, sold n
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Old 02-07-2007, 04:42 PM
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Default RE: Imports about to overtake Big Three

I agree it is sad but like you said it isn't surprising. First of all, look at how many non-U.S. brands are sold here. Too many to list. Secondly, look at the mid-sized offerings made by the big three in comparsion to Japan.

The Fusion offers much lower fuel economy and lower output in both I4 and V6. The interior is nice but that is were it ends for the Fusion. The Fusion needs to have its platform strengthened since it is below industry standards in terms of safety. They need to get rid of those unreliable Aisin-Warner 6-speed autos and switch over to their new 6-speed they co-developed with GM. They should offer the Mercury Milan with the 6-speed standard instead of the 5-speed auto to distinguish itself from the Fusion. They should ditch the 3.0L Duratech and develop a new V6 or have Yamaha make one for them that has some actual power and reliability. They also need to stop using F-words to describe their new models, it is stupid. Mercury needs to stop using M-words on theirs as well for the same reason.

The Sebring/Avenger offer their outdated 4-speeds as the only choice with their I4 making it slower and less fuel efficient than their Japanese rivals. They detuned the 3.5L when it needed the full 250hp & 250ft-lbs of tq to remain competitive. The dash interior is full of hard plastics that will not match Honda's quality. It is sad that an ex-luxury division markets themselves as being a discount to a non-luxury model. They need to give the 3.5L the full 250hp version with some technological updates (VVT and Direct Injection). Chrysler should match the best technology being used in the industry regardless what the cost is. That is the point of a luxury division. They need to ditch that pointless 2.7L and either reintroduce the Chrysler 3.2L (not the 3.2L offered in the Crossefire, the one from the LH cars) or offer the 3.8L V6 as a medium offering that would offer a resonably priced V6 for those who just want a V6. The Chrysler should offer the 6-speed in all levels standard. The Dodge should offer the 6-speed as an option for all engines.

GM's only model that can compete in terms of refinement against the Japanese varients is the Saturn Aura, but the problem is they aren't offering their I4 with a 6-speed as the base engine. They are instead using that stupid strategy of offering a V6 for the price of a I4. The problem is that some people buy the I4 because they want the fuel mileage and they notice that their V6 with an outdated 4-speed is no faster than a 5-speed auto I4. When they finally offer an I4 with a 6-speed, which model do they give it to? Chevrolet! That is the dumbest strategy ever. Chevrolet will never compete successfully against Honda and Toyota because in the mind of consumers Chevrolet=cheap; meanwhile, Honda and Toyota in the mind of consumers equals class leader offerings. They need to make a Buick version of the Eplison platform and offer the most innovative technologies within the company to one up their competition since Buick has developed a positive reliability image as well as a refinement image. They could pull the rug from underneath Toyota and Honda if they would just try for crying out loud.

That is just the tip of the iceberg of things I would do differently, but I'll save that for my book I'm currently working on my spare time.
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