Wednesday, February 09, 2005


What Detroit Should Be Showing At NAIAS

Note - this post has been sitting in my draft folder for, uh, about 7 days now, so that's why it's not exactly timely.

The brilliant Jerry Flint checks in with yet another excellent piece of writing, this time taking on Chrysler and Ford show cars at NAIAS. First, for the folks at DCX, who put a Viper derivative at center stage this year:

Anyway, you Chrysler people have your Viper (1782 sales last year). Put
your best people to work building a Dream Minivan. That’s where you make money.
That’s where you’ve got trouble. That’s where you need some ideas that come from
dream cars. Look at the 2004 minivan sales numbers:

Chrysler/Dodge 384,832
Toyota Sienna
Honda Odyssey 154,238

Five years ago (1999), Chrysler sold 503,824 minivans and the two
Japanese brands sold 176,610 added together. So in those five years the two
Japanese brands took more than 100,000 sales of your — Chrysler and Dodge —
minivan sales and they are still coming. Forget about General Motors and Ford.
They just don’t understand minivans and don’t even seem to care about them.
Perhaps they all hate children.

Agreed completely. Additionally, Chrysler seems well-posed to own the large-car near-luxury market in the coming years, so why not do something to demonstrate that dominance? Maybe a Pacifica-like tall wagon based on the LX platform? Maybe an actual ponycar, considering that a Hemi-powered couple would kill the Mustang GT and Nissan 350Z? Just sayin'.

Flint on Ford:

Now, Ford people: There’s no use in building Dream Minivans. You’ve given up on
minivans. Like General Motors, it seems you want to disguise them as sport-utes.
That’s what I got out of your Ford Fairlane concept show at the Detroit auto

What you need is a Dream Explorer. This Explorer is the best-selling
SUV in the world but it’s fading. Five years ago Explorer sales were 428,772
(plus another 49,281 Mercury Mountaineers). Last year Explorer sales were down
to 339,333 and you will give up another 80,000 when you shut down one Explorer
production shift this spring. The Chevy TrailBlazer might even outsell Explorer
this year. It’s a long shot, but possible.

So pull your best people from a two-seater dream to replace the Ford GT (144 sales last year). Put them to work on your fading moneymaker: the Explorer. And when they’re done with that, they might try the Expedition. Again, a good vehicle that Ford doesn’t give enough attention to. You need ideas to revitalize it, ideas that come from dreams.

Yea, enough frickin' supercars already. The GT is awesome, and will still be awesome in a decade. Take a hint from Honda and their NSX and stick with it for a while, since no one is likely to tire of it any time soon.

There's gotta be something cool to do with an SUV that hasn't been done yet. How about a hybrid Explorer and Expedition duo, using all that fancy hardware that was developed in-house for the Escape?

I don't understand why GM escapes Flint's ire, considering that the highlights of the GM area this year was

- A pair of roadsters that are likely to butt up against each other and the Mazda Miata for what's gotta be an annual market of about 50,000 cars,

- A slightly bigger roadster by the deathbed-bound Buick that seem to have absolutely no place in the market (except perhaps for the 7 people who find the styling of the drop-top 350Z to be "too controversial"),

- A really cool hybrid that is obviously far above the heads of the public (and tucked back in a dark corner anyways),

- And, uh...

Overall, a very down year for GM. Perhaps that's somewhat suitable for a company that's warning on profits for '05 and is probably suffering from a new-product hangover (especially considering that the product is having little impact on the bottom line), but GM supposedly has a lot of big stuff coming up in the next few years. For starters, there's supposedly a new line of full-size SUVs in '06, with the pickups following perhaps a year later - the-much needed GMT900 platform. Where's the concept versions of these new vehicles, like we saw in Detroit a year prior to the GMT800 launch in '98? I think some excitement might be generated if we could see what kick-ass features these vehicles have, if indeed they're going to be something beyond a minor re-fresh of the current models.

And where's the Malibu Maxx SS that was promised to us? A high-horsepower all-wheel-drive version of, well, anything affordable would be welcome in the Chevy showrooms right now. Perhaps such a vehicle could even grab a few sales from the imports. Unlikely, but possible.

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