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Tuesday, February 03, 2004

The importance of rhythm

The January sales for the automakers are in. It doesn't look good for Ford and GM. Of course the news was rosy for the top three Japanese automakers, Honda, Toyota, and Nissan.

what is one of the main advantages of the Japanese Big 3 versus the American Big 2? Or for that matter the European manufacturers? The importance of rhythm. By that I mean, locking down upgrade and replacement dates for your vehicle models. Look at Ford. They sell the Taurus, and Sable, two cars that are most frequently described as "aging". By letting these vehicles, vehicles which are considered the mainstay of their car sales, "age", they allow the Japanese to take over. Even if a Japanese vehicle does poorly, since a mere 3 years will pass until the next "refreshening", it doesn't really matter. But if an American vehicle does poorly, it is left to languish. Worse yet, if an American vehicle does well, the Big 2 leave it alone for years and years, making only barely necessary upgrades, loathe to improve on the vehicle, and dilute profits. The Japanese, and the Europeans would never do that. Instead they would upgrade. 3-4 years a refreshening, 3-4 years, a total makeover. If the Americans had done this, instead of experimenting with broadening lineups with new SUVs and minivans, they wouldn't have this problem now. Fortunately for them, the Europeans and Japanese seem hell bent on going into every niche possible, and abandoning their core vehicles. It's at this point that the Americans could make a comeback.

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