Feb 252007

1960 Studebaker LarkDo you remember these automotive nameplates: Hudson, De Soto, Packard, Rambler, American Motors, Studebaker, Plymouth… Oldsmobile??

They, I am sad to say, are no longer in existence.

I ran across the following article; Business Week:Why Toyota Is Afraid Of Being Number One and it brought to mind a recent flurry of advertisements for Toyota’s Tundra pickup truck. Have you seen the one where the ‘Tundra’ launches down a track, fast enough to beat a pair of ‘massive’ steel doors and then stops in the knick of time at the edge of an abyss? What is the point of that??

Now if dived off the cliff and a parachute popped out, then I’d definitely recommend it to folks living near the Grand Canyon.

The real issue of the article is Toyota’s apparent concern of a buyer backlash should the company become the largest seller of cars and trucks, surpassing GM and the two remaining American manufacturers Ford and Chrysler. The Japanese auto companies have done a terrific job of capturing segments of the market place over the years. Today, the Toyota Camry is top selling car in the US, followed closely Honda’s Accord and Civic models, then the Nissan Altima, where finally the Chevrolet Impala and Malibu models make the list.

The truck market is just like the old days, Ford’s F Series, Chevrolet’s Silverado and Dodge Ram run 1, 2, and 3, where Ford sells more than double number of pickups than Dodge.

We live in a global economy, most of the big foreign manufacturers have US plants. Toyota’s market penetration is greatest on the coasts, but American heartland buyers are still loyal to our Big Three and that’s why Toyota is concerned. They don’t want to alienate those buyers.

What is Toyota going to do, hold back production, slap a ‘Nova’ nameplate on a Corolla? Oops they tried that already.

I have never owned a foreign car. I like the BMW, Volvo and some Mercedes designs, I also like the styling of Infiniti, but even if money was no object, I’d still rather drive a ’63 TBird, a ’69 Riviera, or IROC Camaro or better still a Cadillac Allanté.

Ford, Chrysler and General Motors are going to live or die in the market place, by selling the best products and taking care of their customers, Toyota with one hand tied behinds it’s back won’t help in the long run.

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  One Response to “What’s in your Garage??”

  1. The “Big Three” have made numerous strategic blunders. Perhaps the worst was racing each other to the bottom, so to speak, by competing to build bigger and bigger trucks and SUV’s for the consumer market to gain some sort of extremely short-term profit. Sure, they were selling like hotcakes while people were cashing in on the ATM of their home equity, and gas prices were staying well below $2/gallon. But when sales of these high-profit vehicles dropped off, there was nothing coming out of Detroit to replace ‘em.

    I found GM’s decision to drop the S-10 and Sonoma compact pickup truck line completely and replace it with the larger and more expensive Colorado and Canyon to be one of the most puzzling. On the surface, it seems as if they wanted to compete with the larger Ranger and Dakota from the competition…but that left the American automakers with absolutely no bottom-level low-price utility-grade pickup truck. While the S-10 and Sonoma were frequently ridiculed as being small, underpowered, and uncool, they still sold like gangbusters because they are purely practical.

    Around the same time (around two years ago), GM also announced plans to scrap a re-release of something Camaro-like and instead invest even more resources into ramping up ultra-large SUV production. Of course, we watched as the European and Japanese began to crank out new sports sedans and “dignified” sports cars at attractive prices, successfully capturing the baby-boomer midlife-crisis market while Detroit lost their opportunity to reclaim that demographic with “exciting” cars that could bring back memories.

    Finally, Detroit simply ignored hybrid technology for the longest time while Japan got at least a five-year jump on them. When the Toyota Prius was announced, people rushed like lemmings to the dealers to pay far over MSRP for the privilege of waiting months for delivery of one. Now the Prius is a nice car, I’ll grant it that, but no amount of gas savings over the car’s life (particularly considering battery replacement cost) is enough to pay back the buyer’s investment. But it’s been successful…as have Honda’s hybrid products. Detroit has finally caught up but, as usual, late to the party.

    I’m not criticizing the American product here: far from it. I’m just disappointed by so many bad business decisions. When it comes to a 4-wheeled vehicle, there’s nothing I’d rather drive than my trusty Chevy S-10 4-cylinder 2WD el cheapo pickup truck. It’s comfortable, practical, convenient, economical, and reliable. Plus it was dirt cheap to buy. What’s not to like? My biggest complaint is that I won’t be able to buy another one if this one ever wears out. :(

    When it comes to a 2-wheeled vehicle, nothing even comes close to my fine Yamaha YZF600R. :) Who needs 4 wheels when 2 can get you there? 15,000 miles/year on the bike and 6,000 miles/year in the truck keeps getting me where I need to go.

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