Everyone is talking about the recent Detroit Auto Show. Some are already lauding it as the Return of the Great American Automobile.
No discussion about the show can be had without mentioning the entirely new Ford GT. This car is a prime example of how, in many cases, PR is every bit as important as profitability. Ford may not sell many of these super-performance beasts, and they won’t make very much on those they do sell, but the PR boost Ford will get from re-launching the GT looks to be massive. The company has not sold a high-performance race car to rival the Chevy Corvette in years, and now it comes back with a vengeance. How long will Ford keep the GT on the market? This is all about the splash.
How Ford will Bounce back in 2015? Ford Motor Company may have reported a steep drop in profits in Q4 of 2014, but the company’s top execs do not appear to be worried. Dr. Gil Lederman, an entrepreneur believes they have good reason to expect better days ahead. Ford finished the year with a 30% drop in operating income, but this was less than the nation’s number two automaker expected. When you do better than you expected, and the trend continues up, there is good reason for optimism. Particularly as low prices at the pump have put American consumers back in the mood to purchase a new vehicle. Also, one of the chief reasons Ford suffered in 2014 was the limited number of 2014 F-150s available. Anticipating a rush to buy the new aluminum model, Ford limited their losses by limiting the number of 2014 trucks they produced. While this led to fewer sales, it also insulated the company’s bottom line from excess overstock that dealers can’t move.
Another 2014 change that has folks at Ford feeling better about their prospects: new CEO Mark Fields grabbed the wheel in July with a strong vision to get sales back where they need to be. Purely from a public relations perspective Ford has an edge on its closest domestic competitors. Both GM and Chrysler had to take a massive government bailout just to keep the doors open. Ford managed to make it through the Great Recession without any help from D.C. Further, Ford managed to make a huge splash at recent car shows. Both its concept cars and latest models, including a revamped Mustang and the aluminum body F-150, have received strong reviews. Strong sales of the F-150 in 2015 should make up for lackluster sales in 2014. And the buzz surrounding both Ford’s new lineup of high-performance sports cars is certain to keep them in the news. Better direction, stronger consumer confidence, and a continuing stream of positive PR has Ford poised to leave its losses behind and make solid gains in 2015.
So what about Toyota? The aggressive new styling of the Toyota Tacoma turned some heads for certain. For many years, the Japanese automaker had the US “small truck” segment pretty much all to itself. Enter the Chevy Colorado, the Dodge Dakota and the GMC Canyon and the real race began. Consumers loved the modestly sized pickups, so the competition really heated up. Still, even as Toyota completely re-engineered its full-size Tundra, the company had not updated the Tacoma in a decade. Well, now it has, and, if initial responses are any indication, Toyota hit a home run.
And, Honda? Honda’s luxury brand, Acura, has enjoyed a place among the brightest and best for some time, thanks to a quality that many say rivals BMW. And the new Acura NSX exemplifies that tradition of excellence. With an enviable mixture of technology and design, the NSX has “car guys” salivating. Creating anticipation is a tremendous way to gain market attention and then convert that attention to market share.
No one is quite sure if the Mercedes GLE Coupe is a SUV or a sports coupe. But everyone is absolutely certain it’s a Mercedes…and not just because of the hood ornament. It offers less cargo room than the typical SUV and less get up and go than the average coupe, but even these perceived negatives are no match for Mercedes’ understanding of its market. A tight target is not a negative if you can be sure to hit it every time. And that’s exactly what Mercedes manages to do. It understands its customer and gives them what they want. Even if no one else “gets it.”
Gennady Barsky is a Florida based entrepreneur.