Friday, January 20, 2006

Understanding Auto Shows

Recently we have seen the Los Angeles and Detroit Auto shows come and go. What can be drawn from these press party PR galas? I think a lot.

If a car brand has only concepts showing, and no new models, you can expect their sales to decrease for the following year. Chevrolet had no new models for the Detroit show, but they did have a new concept. I expect Chevrolet's sales to decrease.

New models are usually introduced to the public formally a few months after their introduction at an auto show. The new models give us a good idea of the styling focus for a brand, for better or for worse. Jeep showed us its new Compass, a bloated sluglike car based SUV, and their new slightly altered Wrangler. I expect Jeep's sales to decrease.

Auto shows rarely showcase exciting new vehicles from the Japanese. The biggest most exciting introductions are usually European and American. Americans still know how to put on a show. The Japanese in many ways don't need autoshows. Perhaps auto shows are a waste of money, especially if your vehicle is a multi million dollar concept that never gets produced. The Japanese seem to do quite well without them (or without success stemming from them). Do we still need them?

I think we do. They benefit a company through the following:

1. They are great for press relations. The press love a free junket.

2. They attract some buyers, mostly male. An autoshow is a mostly male experience for better or for worse, and they get the middle class of a society a chance to sit in any car they want. I'm middle class and I love sitting cars I can't afford. Right now that means any new car on sale in the Western world.

3. They are a litmus test to see if your car is going to sell. You'll have a very good idea most of the time whether your vehicle is beautiful or hideous. There is such a thing as ugly in the auto world, and it is told in sales numbers. The Chrysler Imperial and Jeep Compass are ugly. They will not sell.

They are also a huge waste of time. How many bizarre vehicles that have no bearing in reality are produced and have been produced by the auto industry? How often do we see great concepts never produced? How often do we see concepts that are watered down to nothing when they are sold to the public? It probably would make sense for some companies like Toyota to not attend an auto show. But the press backlash at not getting free stuff, and the fear of the possibility of other companies succeeding because a competitor dropped out keeps everyone attending. Except Isuzu, and they'll soon be bankrupt.

You are mistaken about GM at the autoshows, they had a few introductions.

New cars introduced by GM in L.A.:

2007 Chevy Aveo Sedan
2007 Chevy Suburban/ Yukon XL
2007 Pontiac Solstice GXP

New cars introduced by GM in Detroit:

2008 Chevy Tahoe Hybrid
2007 Saturn Vue Hybrid
2007 Cadillac Escalade ESV
2007 Cadillac Escalade EXT

Each car mentioned is not on sale to the public yet.
Rick, have you ever heard of the Tokyo Auto Show? The Japanese spend as much money on quirky concepts as anyone else and many of them will never see the road.

They don't bring those to the US shows, because most of them are of the micro car class.

You've missed the plate on this one.

As for your hobby as Auto analyst, stick to your day job. You may have a degree, but you don't have a clue. You're blinded by the bias that most journalists suffer from. Maybe you'll work for Car and Driver some day?
All right Big Ford Fan calm down. Take a deep breath and pop a lithium.

Borat--I do not consider the Solstice GXP to be a new car. It is merely a trim level. The Aveo Sedan is all new though. Other than that it is yet another SUV fest, and that is not going to cut it amidst rising gas prices (haven't even hit the summer driving season), and the fact that the SUV fad is fading away. I expect Chevrolet to do dismally as a result.

Big Ford Fan--I think the fact that the Japanese build all these quirky concepts means that the shows tend to be a waste of money for them. The Tokyo Auto show is not big news in America. I would expect it to be big news in Japan, but I don't know for sure as I don't live there. Japan's only growing market is America, so why bother?
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