Marketing Report: Feb. 27, 2006

February 26, 2006

Toyota Places Among Most-Admired Companies

<[email protected]@[email protected]@>Toyota ranked ninth on Fortune magazine's annual Most Admired Companies list. It marks the first time a non-U.S. company cracked the top 10.

The magazine ranked 303 companies. DaimlerChrysler, which made the list, is sort of an American company. General Motors and Ford did not rank in the top half of the motor vehicle segment and weren't ranked in the overall list. The top five in motor vehicles were: Toyota, BMW, Honda, Nissan, and DaimlerChrysler. Ford ranked number six, while GM finished number nine, between heavy-truck manufacturers Paccar Inc. and Navistar International.

Using a scale of one (best) to 10 (worst), the companies were judged in eight categories: innovation, employee talent, use of corporate assets, social responsibility, quality of management, financial soundness, long-term investment, and quality of products/services.

GM scored 10s in financial soundness and long-term investment. The company's highest score was a six for social responsibility. Ford's best score was also in social responsibility, where it notched a three. Toyota's worst score was a two. -Michael Strong

Industry Report: Feb. 13, 2006 by TCC Team (2/13/2006)
Chicago highlights include Tundra, York gets board seat.


Current GTO Done After '06

2004 Pontiac GTO

2004 Pontiac GTO

The Pontiac GTO, so shortly revived from its decades-long coma, will be going back under at the end of the model year. Automotive News reports that the two-door coupe would cost General Motors too much to certify for tougher safety regulations being phased in for the 2007 model year. Pontiac sources told the paper that about 10,000 to 12,000 more GTOs will be built for sale before the current body style goes off the production line. GM is said to be working on a new rear-drive architecture that could spawn a new GTO as well as a Chevrolet Camaro based on January's Detroit show concept, but Pontiac has not confirmed any replacement for the car.

2004 Pontiac GTO by Marty Padgett (11/10/2003)
How does an old-school coupe make it in the day of the hot hatch? Big power, that's how.

Young Buyers Overrated, Says Study

A new study from AutoPacific stands on its head the notion that automakers have to chase young buyers. The study says automakers ought to worry less about the youth market and instead pay more attention to the Baby Boomers, who range in age from 41 to 60. Baby Boomers have the cash needed to spend on cars, the study says, while younger buyers may like them but can't afford them.

The study appears as a spate of new books, such as Generation Debt: Why Now Is a Terrible Time to Be Young, by Anya Kamenetz, are arguing that young Americans face a tough row economically because of dramatic shifts in the economy.

If the books are accurate, it appears the auto industry, like the Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon, are chasing a fountain of youth that may not exist. Baby Boomers, on the other hand, are the most affluent Americans, with three-quarters of the nation's financial assets and $2 trillion in disposable income annually. Boomers control more than 50 percent of all discretionary income and will become more affluent as they inherit a great amount from their parents, the report noted.

The average American household purchases 13 cars over a lifetime.  Seven vehicles are purchased after the head of the household turns 50, according to AutoPacific, which also notes that 50 percent of Boomer households already own 3 or more vehicles. 

AutoPacific also estimates from its research that 54 percent of Boomers expecting to keep their vehicle 4 years or less, while 26 percent will turn them over in 3 years or less, making them very active consumers of automotive hardware.-Joe Szczesny


Hale Leaves Lotus

Lotus is losing its North American chief for another undisclosed job in the auto industry. Automotive News reports that Duke Hale, CEO of Lotus Holdings Inc., has resigned from the Atlanta-based, American arm of the British sportscar maker. Hale also ran the company's engineering group in Ann Arbor, Mich. Lotus brought the Elise roadster to the U.S. under Hale's watch and will soon launch the Exige coupe in the States. Hale had worked at Isuzu and Mazda before joining Lotus in 2004.


Saab Filling In Product Gaps

<[email protected]@[email protected]@>General Motors' long-struggling Swedish subsidiary hopes to slash costs, increase its product range, and significantly boost sales over the next few years, Saab officials told The Scandinavian brand expects to see "significant investment" as the result of a five-year business plan approved by the General Motors Board of Directors late last year, according to Saab Managing Director Jan-Ake Jonsson.

Much of that money will go to a new range of products, including a new, "global" crossover vehicle. The crossover is an alternative to that which Saab had been developing in partnership with the Japanese automaker, Subaru. That project was scrapped last year, Jonsson noted, when GM sold off its stake in Subaru. Along with the new crossover, Saab is working on a product to fit in below the automaker's current small car, the 9-3. It will go up against premium hatchbacks, such as the Audi A3, according to Jonsson, and the new Volvo C30. Saab's new product offensive will take time to roll out, however: company sources revealed that a replacement for the brand's flagship 9-5 model won't reach market until calendar year 2009, more than a decade after it was first launched.

Such long lifecycles are a real challenge for the company, acknowledged Jay Spenchian, general manager of U.S. operations. And the automaker realizes it needs to speed up model changeovers significantly, he stressed. To get there, Saab needs to boost sales and slash costs, and in an interview in suburban Atlanta, Jonsson said, "Since 2002, we have reduced our structural costs by one-third." That has had a positive impact on Saab's financial condition, he said, adding that if the company can boost its global volume to somewhere between 150,000 to 200,000 - up from around 120,000 in 2005 - "we can have a good return on our business." In the U.S., the automaker scored a four-percent sales gain last year, to 38,343, and Spenchian said, "we think, by the end of the decade, we can double that."

Saab is planning to unveil a high-style concept vehicle at the Geneva Motor show later this month that will serve "as a statement of our future," Jonsson told TheCarConnection. Neither official would discuss specific details, but Jonsson suggested the show car is part of Saab's plan to craft a "more consistent" brand image. "You can't wobble," as the automaker has in the past, he emphasized. Over the years, he added, Saab has vacillated from extreme stuff, like the original 900 Turbo, to the conservative 9-5. Going forward, the Swedish maker intends to emphasize design, safety, the driving experience, and the functionality of its interiors. The message, concluded Jonsson, "is not (about) quirkiness, but uniqueness." -TCC Team


Dewar Take Over GMNA Sales from Gerosa

General Motors' latest marketing-executive shuffle will leave Brent Dewar in charge of sales, service and parts. Dewar is set to replace Pete Gerosa, who takes on an interim post helping GM implement some of its sales turnaround program before his upcoming retirement. Dewar's replacement as VP of marketing is Western regional manager Mike Jackson. In the rest of the domino effect, Susan Docherty of HUMMER takes Jackson's place, while Martin Walsh takes her place at HUMMER, while Larry Hice takes Walsh's job as executive director of sales and marketing support.


Pontiac Losing Minivan, Getting Base Coupe

Pontiac dealers at the National Auto Dealers' Association convention in Orlando are being told they'll get a new entry-level coupe to sell, and at the same time have been informed they'll lose the Montana SV6 minivan, Automotive News reports. The coupe will be stopgap product based on the Chevy Cobalt, to be sold until GM comes up with a better strategy for getting younger buyers into the Pontiac showrooms. The model, the News reports, will be a 2007 model and will be priced from about $20,000 like the similar Chevy Cobalt SS.


Ford Says It's Number One for 2005

Ford is going after Chevrolet's claim that it was the best-selling brand in the U.S. in 2005. Chevy bases its claim on sales data as reported by the manufacturers. However, new data from R.L. Polk indicates that Ford registered more vehicles in 2005, and actually beat Chevrolet by more than 5000 units, which means it kept its sales leadership for the 20th consecutive year, according to Ford spokesman Jim Cain. "To us, the Ford versus Chevy race is a remnant of the old Big Three mindset.  We're managing our business to emerge a winner in the Big Six shootout, and that means looking farther east than

Jefferson Avenue
to measure ourselves," he said. "That said, the industry standard for advertising claims is R.L. Polk. The Polk data doesn't support GM's claim of Chevrolet leadership, so we will be contacting GM and asking them to stop making the claim," he told TheCarConnection. GM chief executive officer Rick Wagoner told Automotive News that Chevrolet wasn't going to drop its claim of being number one. -Joe Szczesny

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