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Looking forward, going backwards

Looking forward, going backwards

Dan Scanlan bemoans the lack of creativity in today’s car industry.

February 21, 2010 5:30 by

These are dark days for the automotive industry. The events of the past year have resulted in the elimination of storied brands around the world, and the restructuring of ownership, labor, debtors, and creditors. It’s been a long time coming.

One sign was the American industry’s fascination with retro styling and the resuscitation of old models. The past decade has seen a raft of vehicles harking back to earlier eras.

The muscle car resurgence was perhaps the trend’s boldest sign, with each of the formerly Big Three making their nostalgic bids with the Mustang, Charger, and Camaro respectively.

The saddest part of this exercise was its lack of imagination: These retro versions were about the most exciting things the companies had going. The best that they could do was to look backwards.  This not to indict the cars themselves, which certainly have their appeal. The danger for the industry was the lack of inspiration. After it had revived the Charger, Chrysler moved on to the Dodge Challenger, a slightly less than iconic also-ran in the Pony Car era. What would have come next, a new Dodge Dart Swinger?

What was most dangerous about the trend was that it trained the buying public to look backward as well, and not associate Detroit with innovation and leadership. I believe that Ford and GM now have a good chance of being inventive in the coming years. Whether it succeeds or fails, the Chevy Volt will at least show that GM is willing to take some chances, particularly with Bob Lutz saying that he believes the Volt to be the most exciting project of his decades-long involvement in the auto industry.

Ford’s attempts to reposition itself, which began a few years ago, are now bearing fruit with the raft of new models set to sell well as the economy recovers. As for Chrysler, devoid of new models, their fate rests solely on their ability to adapt existing Fiats for the American market. The company will be hoping the Jeep name can sustain them.

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1 Comment

  1. OFiroz on February 27, 2010 9:24 am

    Chrysler was on the edge of suicide when they introduced 300C. Bold, aggressive and Mafia look win the hearts of Americans instantly. It clicked and sold more than their flagship brand Jeep Cherokee in 2005 – 2006 years. In fact it was the first car that Chrysler looked back for the inspiration, kind of vintage car with modern twist and tweak. It revived Chrysler brand dramatically and placed against other top American companies like Ford and GMC. Secondly they came up with Dodge Charger after witnessing tremendous success of Ford Mustang Retro style in 2005. In 2006 Dodge had came up with Charger. With HEMI and 3.5 engines it also became a hit. Cleverly they affix four doors instead of the original two door cars they used to produce in 1975. It was a great vision and unmatched creativity that brought Charger forward, it never looked like a 4 door sedan, and obviously sold more than two door sport cope!
    Ford’s success continued with their Mustang, Explorer and small car Focus. But it seems like nobody knows about their best cars that appeared to be lost in clutter. Ford Taurus (Five Hundred) cars are highly competitive, stylish and most affordable luxury car in the market right now. Ford revived their bad sales effected Five Hundred in 2008, with more powerful brand new 3.5 V6 engine, with much better fuel efficiency! Same engine as Ford Edge. In fact Ford had clear winner there, only if they had better marketing strategy and tools!
    GMC is one American motor giant that had never came out of the trouble. They sold more small cars recently than the big trucks. In 2007 they came up with the New Bold Style strategy after reshaping almost all of their car line up, but after 2 years we can see the quality of these cars are fading, excessive plastic and cheap interior is far behind from their own soil cousins Ford and Chrysler, where these American cars too far behind from Japanese and German brands.
    Now American car brands had done initial move almost successfully to push the sales and make the ripple in the market, they most important part they seems to forget that is consistency and sustainability, to sustain in this most competitive market world is better product and service, I think that is where the American motor companies are failed, and failed miserably. Any how still there are people in Middle East and around the world who just drive none other than American cars purely because of their handling, majesty and performance. I confess I am one of them!


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