Challenge Ahead for Detroit's Automakers

Article excerpt

Detroit's Big Three automakers--General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler--are going to have to make changes in their products if they want to stay competitive, says automotive trend watcher Micheline Maynard.

The American automobile industry is by no means in trouble, but it will be based less and less in Detroit. "There will be more new plants opened in the United States by 2010, more new choices and more jobs introduced into the car market," says Maynard. "These vehicles won't be sold by Detroit companies, most of those new plants won't be built by Detroit companies, and those factories won't employ United Auto Worker members."

Market trends show that the future holds more growth by imports than by the Big Three. If things get no worse between now and 2010, and the companies simply lose ground to imports at the same rate they have been doing for the past years, the Big Three will see their share of the American market slip to roughly 50%.

"If the Detroit companies are to win back customers, they can't simply flood the market with new vehicles and hope that they will somehow generate sales," Maynard writes in The End of Detroit. They will have to do what their foreign counterparts do: make every vehicle they develop uniquely special and targeted precisely at the consumers who will own it. "Every pickup, car model, and minivan has to be the best of its kind ever built, and every generation after that must be the same," she says. …