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Whatup With Motor City?

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The motoring world has three major car manufacturing nations.

Japan is known for making the most practical and efficient vehicles. Germany is, of course, famous for superior engineering, which often translates to luxury. And you have the United States of America—or should I just say Detroit?

Through the years, American vehicles have always been, and still are, about Size, Strength, Power, and Heritage. Hence the term ‘American Muscle.’ They certainly like it big.

Their monuments are big. Their food servings are big. For generations, big has become synonymous with the American lifestyle. That’s why, sometimes, we find American products somewhat exaggerated. That includes their cars. (Think Hummer with a V12 engine and a 6.0L displacement.)

Decades passed and although Americans have always adjusted to consumer trends, it was only recently they took a big blow. In 2008, the US along with many parts of the world experienced an economic slump. Fuel prices skyrocketed in an instant! This was called the Automotive Crisis of 2008–2010.

Since the demand for cars has always been related to fuel prices, one can imagine what happened. Some people resorted to public transport. New car purchasers were now more concerned about a car’s reliability, fuel consumption, and maintenance issues.

The demand for SUVs, muscle cars, heavy sedans, and light trucks plummeted. Japanese and Korean cars survived, while Detroit’s big three (Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors) went sayonara!

For sure, every car brand in the world took a hit. However, it was the Americans who really felt a, well, greater depression. The American car companies instantly had to lay off factory employees and put a lot of plants on hold.

Ford was in dire straits. Chrysler and General Motors eventually declared bankruptcy, which made more consumers hesitant to buy their products. Not even the brand-lockout sponsorship of General Motors in the Transformers movies could do much to save the ailing car titan.

Worse, General Motors had no choice but to sell the Hummer brand to a certain Chinese Group as a quick remedy. [Rumors of the Hummer’s sale to Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery in 2009 came to nothing. In the wake of Hummer dealership shutdowns and depleted inventories, GM gave up trying to sell the brand. The last Hummer rolled off the assembly line in May 2010—Ed.]

Return of the Automobile Aces

It’s been almost two years since the Detroit fallout. The big three are still in existence thanks to contingency measures, America’s consumer cooperation and, to a certain extent, the Bush-Obama bailout plan. Thankfully, for some, the crisis is already forgotten.

Today, Motor City is staging a comeback. Or, more accurately, a campaign for a comeback. Just like an injured super athlete who missed a year playing his sport, Detroit is now trying to prove to the world that it is well on the path to recovery.

Chrysler has a very captivating running ad campaign right now. Called ‘Imported from Detroit,’ one of its television commercials debuted during the last Super Bowl. The ad featured local Detroit artist Eminem, with his song “8 Mile” as background music.

The inspiring commercial reminded viewers about Detroit’s history, tribulations, and why Detroit should not be treated just like any other American city. In the last few seconds of the ad, Eminem, in typical in-your-face fashion, looks right at the viewer and states, “This is the Motor City and this is what we do.”

General Motors, on the other hand, rethought the types of cars they wanted to offer the public. While they still maintained the vision to produce and sell classic heritage vehicles—such as the Chevrolet Camaro, Cadillac Escalade, and the excessively large GMC trucks since some Americans still demanded them—GM started to offer cars that were more similar to their Japanese counterparts.

The Chevrolet Cruze is a new vehicle without a predecessor. Its purpose is the same as the Civic and the Corolla; a basic reliable sedan. Nothing flashy, not gas-guzzling, yet still attractive.

Along with the Cruze, GM hopes that the Volt would soon be a marquee member of their vehicle line-up. A reliable source tells us the Volt will soon reach Philippine shores.

One can say that Ford was least hit among the three. But although they didn’t go bankrupt, they still lost a lot of moolah. Just like the others, though, their marketing and products have been modified to go along with current trends in the automotive industry.

If you check their website now (ford.com), you will notice that their main banner ad features the three main Ford sedans alongside text showing just how low the fuel consumptions are. The Ford Fusion even has a hybrid version. Traditionally, Ford has been known for its full-sized SUV Expedition, the E-150 van, and the classic Mustang. But times have changed and Ford had to do what it had to do to compete.

In the Philippines, Ford and Chevrolet are solid mainstream market players and are looking to eat up more market share from the Japanese brands very soon.

Chrysler (with subsidiary brands Dodge and Jeep) has always been a somewhat lesser costing alternative luxury ride compared to the European brands.

It isn’t hard to believe that America will soon regain respect in the industry it created. They are already poised to take advantage of the shortage in Japanese car supplies due to recent disasters. What better leg up can the US get than the long line of consumers waiting for their Prius to roll off the production line?

Print ed: 07/11


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