Detroit Auto Show: Signs Of Trouble Ahead

Buckle up!

Buckle up!

Interpreting what an auto show has to say about the state of the car industry isn’t always easy. Though there’s enough groupthink in the industry to regularly produce obvious trends (current example, “Shooting Brake” three-door sportscar hatchbacks), these are mostly just the superficial fluctuations of any fashion-oriented business. Looking deeper, however, connecting a show’s trends with the broader market context, is often quite difficult. Not so for this year’s Detroit Auto Show, however. Simply scanning through the new debuts, the lack of mass-market or utilitarian offerings was immediately noticeable. More to the point, the glut of luxury products was inescapable. [Continue Reading]

As the world spins: The mystery of the missing sales

Inside the truck wars black ops...

Inside the truck wars black ops…

Spend enough time looking at anything, and patterns eventually emerge; stare hard enough at auto industry news, and you can discern the movings of the PR teams who craft the messages that drive 95% of all auto media content. Spend enough time reading and a sweeping drama emerges: one side probes a competitor at a point of perceived weakness, the defender digs in or counter-attacks, a problem appears from nowhere while another problem fades away, yesterday’s non sequitor becomes today’s news.

In the polite world of the auto media, the journalist’s role on this battlefield is to be the straight man: to merely repeat each feint and parry in this informational melee as if they were the weather, or stock prices. Even the combatants themselves will back away from any direct confrontation when pressed, caught between the pull to ruthlessly compete and the inherently conservative culture of all large corporate communications departments.

But the battle for reality is constantly being waged in the auto industry… and the action is always most exciting when the stakes are highest. Which is what makes GM’s new truck launch the perfect case study.

[Continue Reading]