This year may be marked by a turnaround in US automotive sales, which would be welcome enough after a two-year slide because of fuel-price shocks and economic woes. But for some brands in the American market, 2010 may become even more notable as the year that finally saw significant changes in market share.
New evidence is surfacing all the time that there’s more opportunity available for ambitious brands than there has been in quite some time. The automotive group of Jumpstart, a firm owned by Hachette-Filipacchi, for instance, has said that Ford and Chevrolet stand to gain significantly from Toyota’s problems as shoppers remove the troubled Japanese brand from their consideration set and that it may take Toyota two or three years to recover.
Ford clearly has been one of the biggest market-share winners lately as not only Toyota but also old rivals Chevrolet and Chrysler have been dealing with huge retrenchments by their parent companies. Hyundai also has gained partly at Toyota’s expense.
But there’s definite movement in other segments, too, as the disappearance of brands, the overall sales slump, dealer consolidations and other factors roil the waters of the US auto market as never before. Audi, for example, has been gaining on the luxury side.
However, it’s also quite possible to run too far with Toyota’s current weakness and mistake it for a long-term trend. The brand equity built by Toyota over decades in this market was deep-rooted, and it may be too easy to discount the brand even with its current difficulties.
Edmunds.com has been one of the more cautious observers about Toyota’s prospects for just this reason. This week, in fact, Edmunds.com’s AutoObserver blog suggested that Toyota sales this month will end up rising by about 80 percent from its woeful February levels, in part because of Toyota’s huge incentive program in March.
“At this point, Toyota seems to be making large strides in reinstating its good name and appealing to car shoppers,” said Jessica Caldwell, director of industry analysis for Edmunds.com.
There’s no telling at this point how auto-brand market shares will have settled out by the end of the year. The only thing for sure right now is that American consumers are going to be the beneficiaries as the OEMs’ scrap for share intensifies.