Wednesday, April 05, 2006

GM, Ford sales go downhill, Toyota zooms ahead- The Economic Times

GM, Ford sales go downhill, Toyota zooms ahead- The Economic Times

What this means for the auto transport industry is anybody's guess. Might help to brush up on your Japanese. What I've been thinking about lately is how out-of-touch GM, Ford and Chrysler are with the female car-buyer. (Sorry, still think of Chrysler as an American brand!)

Just a few weeks ago, my wife wanted a new car. I suggested several possibilities: the Ford 500, a used Chevy Tahoe (to pull my new boat on the weekends!).

My wife actually test-drove the Ford 500 and loved the handling, fit, finish, etc. It seemed too much of an "old person's car", so she wasn't interested in buying one. I was interested in the Tahoe for reasons of safety and boat-towing ability, but she didn't like the fuel economy, didn't want something that big (she parks in a garage downtown and has trouble with the pillars). Besides, she didn't really feel like she was a truck person.

After borrowing her mom's Toyota Camry, she decided she really liked the way that drove. On the way to the dealer to buy a Toyota Camry, we passed a Honda dealer. As an avid reader of the car review in the Saturday paper, I recalled that the new Honda V6 got rave reviews for comfort and performance. She test drove a fully loaded EXL and it was love at first sight. After driving the Accord, she did try out a new Camry, but it felt a bit "stodgy" to her after the V6 Accord. Needless to say, we bought the Honda.

What really struck me about the whole experience was how no GM product (other than the Tahoe-- which I brought up) or any Chrysler at all even came under consideration.

Driving by the line-up of the new cars at the local Chrysler dealer, it struck me how far off the mark their designers are when it comes to the female buyer. It's like they made a decision that they'll sell mini-vans to the moms and pickups and Chargers to the dads-- and that's it!

Ford is making an attempt to get the female buyer with the new front-wheel drive car... hell I can't even remember its name right now! At one point, I we were thinking about the mini SUV they built on the 500's platform, but then we looked up reliability and Consumer Reports didn't rank them very high, so that was the end of that.

I'm glad my wife is happy with her new Honda, but I've got to admit-- I'm really not a Honda guy. Plus the disconnect between American car makers and American women doesn't bode well for these companies' fortunes.

I think we could be looking at a future where Ford builds nothing but SUV's and trucks and the Mustang GT (My next car.) GM will continue the trucks and SUV's, plus Cadillac and Corvette. Pontiac? Oldsmobile? Buick?