Automakers line up new products to seize 2013 market share

Detroit Free PressJanuary 11, 2013 

For the first time since the financial crisis, automakers are entering a year not only confident that they will sell more cars and trucks, but knowing they have more new products to offer.

Across all competitors, 43 new or redesigned vehicles will launch this year, nearly 50 percent more than in 2012, according to research firm R.L. Polk. Some will do better than others, but, as in any industry, new products attract more shoppers and motivate dealers.

“It’s really a competitive situation where the manufacturers have no choice but to reduce their lifecycles as much as possible to be competitive,” said Tom Libby, head of North American forecasting for Polk. “It requires huge resources in terms of engineering, development and financing, creating a bigger challenge for some more than others.”

Many new models – including the Chevrolet Silverado and a concept version of the Toyota Corolla – are to be on display during the 2013 North American International Auto Show when it opens to the public Jan. 19.

Toyota and General Motors expect to gain market share this year.

Toyota and its luxury and youth-oriented brands, Lexus and Scion, plan to launch nine models, said Jim Lentz, president and CEO of Toyota Motor Sales. Those will include a new Toyota RAV4 and a new Lexus IS sedan.

Toyota plans also to introduce a concept sedan named Furia that should provide clues about the next-generation Corolla. That will be on top of 19 new or significantly updated models the company launched in 2012, when Toyota captured 14.4 percent of the U.S. market, up from 12.9 percent in 2011.

General Motors, which has focused on maximizing profits and keeping production in line with sales, knows analysts and industry pundits want to see evidence that it can take sales away from competitors.

Last year, GM’s U.S. market share sagged to 17.9 percent as Toyota and Honda regained ground lost in 2011, when an earthquake and tsunami devastated some Japanese suppliers and forced them to make fewer vehicles.

“This is a trend line we will keep an eye on,” said Jesse Toprak, senior analyst for “GM can’t sustain this loss of market share.”

In 2013, GM plans to launch 12 new or significantly updated models, including the Chevrolet Corvette, Impala and Silverado, three new Buicks and two new Cadillacs.

“We are setting the stage here … to launch the biggest product portfolio initiative in General Motors history,” said Mark Reuss, president of GM North America.

A year ago, automakers were concerned that the U.S. economy’s weak recovery would stall, but the industry outperformed the overall economy.

This year, executives have a more upbeat outlook.

“Both the economy and the industry have good underlying momentum that we expect will continue,” said Mustafa Mohatarem, GM’s chief economist.

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