For the past few years sales of American cars have been low, owing to the consumers believe that these cars lack style, dependability, and performance. During these years the foreign car makers have taken advantage and pushed their cars into the US market. The sales of foreign cars in the US have increased dramatically and part of this is due to the lack of American car class. Last year, the sales of Chevrolet and Ford outsold Toyota in the US.
But it’s time for the foreign manufacturers to watch out. American cars are back and they are coming back strong. In recent 2010 studies by J.D. Power and Associates American carmakers have earned higher scores than in imported cars in both initial quality and owner satisfaction surveys. The increases were small; but they are enough to show that American cars are becoming even with their foreign competitors.
Consumer Reports has also found similar improvements in the dependability and desirability of American cars. When compared to Toyota, the leading brand for the past few years, American car maker Ford is almost tied overall and has taken the lead in categories like safety, quality and value. While Toyota still has the lead in categories like environmentally friendly/green Consumer Reports found that this category is becoming less important to today’s car buyers. The final scores in the study were Toyota 147 and Ford 144; if it hadn’t been for Toyota’s huge victory in the green category Ford would have taken first place.
The factors that matter the most to consumers when buying a car are safety, quality and value and Ford was at the top in all of these. They placed second in safety (after Volvo), second in quality (after Honda) and first in value; beating Honda and Toyota by a small margin. Ford also claimed third place in the performance and technology/innovation categories.
Ford is continuing to improve its quality by training all of its workers in quality improvement methods as well as using new technology to find quality problems earlier. According to Consumer Reports Ford has “put a lot of focus on building cars that are reliable…and a lot of focus on fuel economy.”
General Motors has had a very bumpy ride the last few years and is slowly coming back from its fall into bankruptcy. They continue to improve on dependability and quality. GM has also done a good job of making cars that appeal to consumer emotionally. In a recent J.D. Powers survey that measured how happy owners are with their new cars GM tied Ford’s average score and exceeded the overall industry’s average score. The president of GM North America credits big cultural changes within the company for the improvements in their vehicles. Today GM expects “even a low-priced Chevy to have the same solid feel you’d expect in a high-end car.”
In 2010 General Motors sales for December were up 16.1% and Fords were up 6.8% compared to Toyota who actually saw a decrease in their sales of 5.5% from the previous year. Both General Motors and Ford sold more cars last year than Toyota; a first for both companies since 2007 (General Motors) and 2006 (Ford). Based on the numbers it seems to be fairly obvious that Ford and General Motors are back in the game and are ready to play. They have used this time of restructuring and rebuilding to commit to a more dependable, higher quality brand, producing cars the American consumers are interested in. It might be time for the foreign automakers to take a step back and regroup; or their sales could be even lower next year.