Carmakers have an idea -- they're calling it a car
Automakers hope to reintroduce the SUV-minded public to sedans
By Danny Hakim, New York Times
DETROIT -- Detroit, which has long feasted on trucks, says it has rediscovered the car.
Will the public buy it?
General Motors and the Ford Motor Co. made their case at one of the busier New York International Auto Shows recently. GM's Cadillac division will offer a first look at the STS sedan, which will replace its aging Seville. And Ford's Lincoln brand will unveil a midsize sedan to compete in the swelling market for luxury cars that start at about $30,000 or less.
The two cars will be among a crop of new sedans from the traditional domestic automakers -- GM, Ford and the Chrysler division of DaimlerChrysler.
Some cars will be in showrooms within a few months, including the Audi-like Ford Five Hundred sedan and the redesigned, retro Ford Mustang, as well as the Chrysler 300C, a big sedan with a bigger grille.
Not that Detroit is forsaking trucks. Despite the recent spike in gas prices, consumers continue to shift from cars to sport utility vehicles and other light-duty trucks.
Chrysler will unveiled a redesigned Jeep Grand Cherokee, the granddaddy of the plush suburban SUV And GM's Saab division, until now one of the last car-only automakers, will introduce its first SUV, the 9-7x, based on the same innards used in the Buick Rainier, Chevrolet TrailBlazer and GMC Envoy.
"Twenty-nine percent of the customers who leave Saab do so for a four-door SUV," said Debra Kelly-Ennis, president and chief operating officer of Saab Cars USA. "We really had to respond to customer demands for a product."
But Detroit would also like to make passenger cars a profit center again, now that the industry is flooding the market with SUVs and pickups, which were once the Big Three's sole domain. The plan has been to attack the car market with bolder designs that rise above the government-issue feel of some domestic cars.
"Our business, unlike some businesses, is about 50 percent art: design, the engineering of the vehicle and maybe even the marketing," said Mark LaNeve, general manager of Cadillac. "And it's 50 percent science: manufacturing and purchasing. The Japanese have had a lead on the science part for years, and we're catching up in that area. The art side is where we need to win."
Over the last several years, GM has been gradually updating Cadillac with a new style that is one of the more easily identifiable in the industry. New Cadillacs have a paucity of curves and an abundance of angles. And GM has also tried to make Cadillacs more responsive and European in their driving characteristics.
"We've been carrying the baggage of the floaty-boaty ride and handling from 20 or 30 years ago," LaNeve said, "but our cars today can compete with anybody in terms of ride and handling."
Cadillac sales were up 10.6 percent in the first quarter. The brand's renaissance so far has been driven by its new-look vehicles, the Escalade SUV and the entry-level CTS sedan. The CTS competes against the likes of the BMW 3 Series sedan, the Mercedes C-Class and, eventually, the new Lincoln that Ford will show this week and sell next year.
While CTS sales were up 29.4 percent in the first quarter, sales of the Seville, the ghost of Cadillac past, were down 80 percent. Not only is the Seville's design aging, so are its buyers, averaging in their early 60s.
GM would like the average STS buyer to be a decade younger, which means attracting the younger audience that has flocked to the Escalade.
"I don't think we'll necessarily see people trading in BMWs and Mercedes, but we think we'll see a lot of people moving out of the entry-luxe segment into this," LaNeve said, adding, "We hope it will help to get people to think differently about Cadillac."
Full Article Here