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Competitive Challenges: Detroit Gets Back in the Game

How important is product to the industry turnaround?

How important is product to the industry turnaround? Very. If you have any doubt, just look at the domestic OEMs today. For the last 20 years, criticism has been high and pointed at them for producing lackluster product, poor interiors and no excitement.While they were producing outstanding powertrains, horsepower wasn't selling to the new generation.

During this time, Japanese, German and Korean producers introduced hundreds of new products with great exterior styling, high-performance powertrains, and elegant interiors that mirrored luxury vehicles in subcompact models. These vehicles took over the market that the domestics handed them. To add fuel to the fire they had outstanding ride and handling and high quality.

Now as consumers around the world see even the highest quality companies struggle to maintain flawless performance, the question is where will buyers turn? Today's market is very exciting. It is one of the most competitive product and technology periods in history. The domestics have spent billions to redo product lineups after years of stagnant products. They have invested in new interiors that are turning heads and winning buyers. The exteriors are new and are making buyers of Japanese products stop and look twice at these exciting new cars and trucks. And the domestics have continued their dominance with globally competitive high-performance powertrains. Across there board there is an influx of technology in these new products with electronics, on-board diagnostics, infotainment, and other features all of which are designed to attract new buyers. The focus on hybrid and electric vehicles is strong.

GM has many new products that are turning heads. With a focus on four brands in North America, Chevrolet has outstanding new cars like the Cruze and Malibu. The CUVs at GM—Equinox, Terrain, Traverse, and Acadia—are making impacts in the market. The revival of Buick has been incredible with the new LaCrosse and Regal. And what can you say about Cadillac? The products are gorgeous and the power and features in these luxury models rival the best in the world.

At Ford there has been an unbelievable product turnaround. The old days of boring designs and tepid interiors have been replaced with outstanding vehicles like the Fusion and all-new Focus. They are launching the Fiesta with hopes of capturing the small car market as they did in Europe. The new Taurus is a hit in North America. It's beautiful and the interior is sleek and full of technology and features. Ford's SYNC technology from their partnership with Microsoft does some of the most amazing things and gives consumers the ability to bring their style to the car. Ford has also put money into revitalizing the Lincoln brand and the timing couldn't be better. There is need for strong luxury brands and Lincoln does not disappoint with products like the MKT crossover and the MKS sedan.

Chrysler has received criticism for its lack of new product and its ability to survive long term is in question. But if you have faith in Sergio Marchionne, then you will see an incredible turnaround led by outstanding products. They are reluctant to show the new products too early. Insiders say the all-new Grand Cherokee will continue to lead its segment and people will love the exterior styling along with the new larger interior. The new 300 will be out this year, and there is rumored to be new midsized cars with new packaging and great design. The Fiat 500, which will be built in North America, is a small car but Fiat has outfitted it with features and power that will please American consumers. And don't forget the minivan which has incredible competition but is still second to none in features, capability and quality.

When evaluating the still-large market of full size trucks, the domestics continue to dominate. Although this market has shrunk, it will remain significant.

The Japanese, Germans and Koreans are also spending considerable money to introduce similar competitive products and those could be highlighted with the same vigor. But finally they have real competition from the domestics which makes for a very interesting next 10 years as they fight for market share. 

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