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Monday, January 10, 2005


2005 North American International Auto Show - Detroit, MI

Most Significant Industry News?

There's a lot of talk about what is/isn't signficant at the 2005 Detroit Auto Show (ok...it's called the North American International Auto Show...but that's just too darn long). The Dodge Magnum won International Car of the Year, the Ford Escape Hybrid won Truck of the Year. Lots of concept cars being introduced starting yesterday and through this week. But here's my vote for the most signficant thing of the Show this year:

The Honda Pickup Truck

Why...you ask, is a truck that isn't even for sale yet (and hasn't been shown yet!), significant. A few days ago I wrote that the F-series pickup truck has been the best selling vehicle line in America forever (Thanks, in some way, to my contributions as VP, Account Supervisor at J. Walter Thompson to, "The Best Never Rest" Ad campaign of 1990-91 - a story best left for another time). A few years back, Toyota entered the fray and last year, Nissan took the plunge. Now...here comes Honda. Ok...pundits and domestic defenders will froth that they don't have an appreciable share of the truck business yet. But we used to say that about SUVs and passenger and luxury cars as well. Then came the 4Runner, Pilot, Acura, Lexus, Infiniti and so on.

Typical Japanese approach to any problem is to put toe in water and enter slowly. Use continuous improvement over years. I recall one of my Ford product planning friends, Paul Linden (where are you Paul?) telling me about his years planning Lexus when he was at Toyota. With admiration, he spoke about their methodical 15 year plan for Lexus. Trust me on this, 15 year plans do not exist in the domestic car industry. I'm not saying they should...I'm simply saying that long term focus is what drives companies like Honda and Toyota. That means...right about now, in 2004...the first 15 years would be up. Not a bad result with Lexus, considering the plan was to be at the top of the luxury pile after 15 years. I still recall the articles in the bible, Automotive News. Luxury car makers were saying things like, "our customers will not buy a Japanese luxury car..."

So it will go in pickup trucks, I bet. Ford, Chevrolet and Dodge still dominate. I'm hoping that they will maintain their leadership for the sake of our real estate values here in Detroit and because I have friends whose livelihood depends on the profitability of those truck lines. But watch out...the little motorcycle engine company is beginning to put its toe in the water, to join its competitors, Nissan and Toyota. And it would be tough to bet against those three, given their track record in cars, SUVs and luxury products.

"Success is 99% failure," observed Soichiro Honda, founder of the Honda Motor Company.

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Help me Dude, I think I'm lost.

I was searching for Elvis and somehow ended up in your blog, but you know I'm sure I saw him in a car lot yesterday, which is really strange because the last time I saw him was in the supermarket.

No honest really, he was right there in front of me, next to the steaks singing "Love me Tender".

He said to me (his lip was only slightly curled) "Boy, you need to get yourself a shiny, new lcd tv to go with that blue suede sofa of yours.

But Elvis said I, In the Ghetto nobody has a lcd tv .

Dude I'm All Shook Up said Elvis. I think I'll have me another cheeseburger.

Then I'm gonna go round and see Michael Jackson and we're gonna watch that waaaay cool surfing scene in Apocalypse Now on the lcdtv in the back of my Hummer.

And then he just walked out of the supermarket singing. . .

"You give me love and consolation,
You give me strength to carry on "

Strange day or what? :-)
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