Now that the North American International Auto Show is over, we can start to make sense out of it and draw some conclusions.
The gist is that this particular show is the first one of the year and made it more apparent than others that some companies are more in trouble than anyone thought. Maybe the sub-title for this article should have been: “The harder they come, the harder they fall”?
When You Are On Top If The Wave. Last year was very tough for companies that were on top of the automobile game. Think the many Toyota recalls, which no matter how many commercials on TV, recalls are a public image nightmare and have damaged the reputation the company worked so hard for. BMW also did not fair well last year with its incessant bigger cars and it diametrically opposite M series and finally its truly genius concepts. Honda is still grasping for air and does not seem to show a real direction.
In Toyota’s frantic race to dethrone GM, both companies find themselves in perilous positions. How vain for so little in the end. If Honda’s P-Nut is breath of fresh air, the new Crosstour and the final version of the much anticipated CR-Z was… a let down. As a reminder, Honda’s Civic in the 80s got 45 mpg and was a lot of fun to drive and looked sleek. Those new vehicles are almost disproportionate. What happened? It feels the company will have to rely on more advertising boards as it did that said, “big but not bloated”. I guess if you say so.
The exception in this group is Ford. Either the company got lucky when it borrowed money when it did or just played it well but it is now squarely back in the game, will surpass its neighbor very quickly and is now again offering good quality while working on its next generation of electridrive vehicles. Very well executed.
Smaller Players Have Nothing To Loose, All To Gain. And their lies the hope for the new decade. Smaller players and new ones have everything to gain and little to loose. Tesla Motors’ coup of driving from Los Angeles to the show was a brilliant PR move. Fisker is still going strong and in the mind of many, both entice passion. If that until now was reserved to Ferrari, Maserati and Porsche, these niche players have new contenders with the alternative and electric drive.
So What Is The North American International Auto Show Conclusion? The fields have been leveled and competition will be much healthier in the next few years. While a few companies are still in denial mode or struggling to make the change, other nimbler car makers and startups have jumped on the chance. Nissan has conquered the electridrive with an all encompassing driver experience, Ford is steadily building up to its transition, Tesla Motors is working away at its Model S and Fisker will challenge the Volt with its Nina, to name a few. What makes perfect sense is that smaller companies are more flexible than bigger ones and their corporate culture is less entrenched in delusions and more more open to change that inevitably must happen.
All in all, the show revealed how the top companies tripped over themselves, neglected the most important aspect of their business, consumers and putting the fun in driving. However, on the flip side, this has unleashed a stream of alternative drives concepts and pushing forward the electridrive that promises to be more fun, less guilt, less bloat and just all around better for the environment. 2010 will be interesting indeed.