The first quarter of the year is now over and what a busy three months it has been. Not for car sales unfortunately as the US (indeed the world) market has been down sharply since last fall. Yet, there are some signs that things may begin picking up as we move forward through the year with pent up demand bringing customers back to car showrooms.
Among the big events of January, February and March 2009 were:
Barack Obama Assumes The Presidency — Whether you voted for Obama or not, you must give him credit for spurring more legislation than most would expect in his young presidency. True, trillions of dollars of debt faces our country, something I absolutely hate to see. His plan for the auto industry involves sending billions more to GM and Chrysler, but with strings attached. If they don’t get their respective acts together than the government’s recourse is bankruptcy.
General Motors — The top selling automaker for 76 years saw its position change to Number 2, thanks to the rise of Toyota. But, GM has been losing tens of billions of dollars since 2004, nearly running out of cash before the year ended. Rick Wagoner, CEO/President of the company for the past eight years was ousted and the company is scrambling to shut down or sell brands, close plants, fire workers, etc. in a bid to emerge stronger. Also, just yesterday the company rolled out its “GM Total Confidence” program where the automaker has taken away the worry about buying a car in a sour economy.
Chrysler — The smallest of the Big Three automakers, Chrysler’s position is the most desperate of them all. Its only hope for survival is to hook up with another automaker and since January Fiat sPa has been very public about wanting a piece of Chrysler. The two companies have less than thirty days to form an alliance or Chrysler could be liquidated. Fiat will gain a 20% share in Chrysler while Chrysler will gain access to Fiat’s small car technology.
Ford — What’s the best thing about Ford? Not being bankrupt, that’s what. The second largest of the Big Three has been facing its challenges by renegotiating terms with the United Auto Workers, cutting production, shutting factories and sending excess workers packing. Moreover, the company has more new products arriving this year than either GM or Chrysler, including a line of hybrid sedans, a new Mustang, new or updated Lincoln models and an all new Ford Taurus this fall. Ford has also introduced its own consumer protection plan.
Cash For Clunkers — Though not yet available in the US, a “cash for clunkers” program could stimulate sales as it puts cash in car buyer’s hands while removing polluting, older cars off the street. When President Obama discussed his plans for GM and Chrysler on March 30th, he hinted that Congress should get such a program together and submit that bill to him to sign. Germany and several other European countries offered a similar program, which has boosted sales in those countries.
There are quite a number of stories that I’m following right now, but I always leave open the possibility of covering breaking news. Please stop by The Auto Writer for daily updates including a look at corporate specific trends.