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Foreign cars join rebate race
Asian, European automakers take up trend to pump up sales in domestic heartland

By Christine Tierney / The Detroit News

DETROIT — In another sign of just how tough it is to sell a new car or truck today, foreign brand dealers across Metro Detroit are starting to offer rebates and deals that in some cases match the generous employee discounts offered by GM, Ford and Chrysler.

Detroit has always been a tough market to crack for foreign brands because of the discounts offered to employees, suppliers and friends of employees at Detroit automakers.

But now workers from all three Detroit auto companies — and their suppliers — can get the same deep discounts at any Mitsubishi dealer in Michigan.

“Seventy to 75 percent of buyers in this area have some relationship to an automaker,” said Joe Ricci, owner of Joe Ricci Mitsubishi in Dearborn. “We might as well get on their shopping list.”

Foreign vehicle makers are struggling not only against steep employee discounts offered by Detroit’s Big Three, but also against local consumer and worker loyalty to U.S. brands.

Asian and European automakers have a disproportionately meager share of the Detroit market, with the exception of foreign brands owned by Detroit automakers.

For example, General Motors Corp.’s Swedish Saab unit, barely a player on the national scene, is the No. 1 import in Birmingham, beating out BMW.

Although Toyota Motor Co.p. controls nearly 12 percent of sales nationwide, its share of the Detroit market is a scant 2.3 percent.

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