Detroit?s Big Three Try Harder To Win Over Customers

Never before have consumers been courted by Detroit?s automakers the way the latter are doing now. The industry that has been long dominated by Detroit?s Big Three – General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler AG’s Chrysler Group – is threatened by the dominion of foreign automakers. This is the reason why Detroit?s automakers are doing their best to win over customers being wooed by foreign rivals.

The competition is so hard-hitting that the financial turmoil engulfing Detroit?s Big Three is made obvious to all. The bright side of the quandary is that auto customers find themselves in a situation where they are deluged with smart alternatives that are tailored to satisfy their individual needs. The consumer-minded strategy is announced at the Chicago Auto Show. In said the show, automakers have announced the some strategies like letting potential customers to test drive the car from their home.

Fresh techniques are now being resorted by the automakers to capture at once the desires of enthusiasts and make them stay with the brand. Employing new technology, interesting features and stunning designs are some of these tactics being tried these days. Chrysler, for one, sends researchers out to watch how real people use their vehicles to gain insight into how to make improvements. “The standard that used to satisfy people 10 or 12 years ago is completely unacceptable today,” GM product czar Bob Lutz said during Chicago Auto Show’s media preview. “And if consumers aren’t happy, there’s plenty of places they can go.”

Detroit?s automakers, while facing the one of the greatest challenges in their existence in the automotive realm, manage to battle their standing problems. The executives of these companies said that they cannot just match products that are being churned out by Japan’s Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Company. In fact, they are saying that they have to do better.

Part of the strategy to rise from gloom is to stride a chord with potential customers. Appeal to customers is essential to automakers. To keep the appeal, GM rolled out a fresh customer service strategy at its Saturn brand. The strategy covers delivery of vehicles by Saturn dealers directly to the customer?s house or office. Some dealers have since adopted the practice however Saturn will be the first to do it en masse.

Saturn will also be offering 24 hours service online. Saturn concerns like model problems and choices could now be addressed any time of the day. Saturn auto parts problems involving Active Brakes Direct, engine and suspension could be entertained by the said service. “We really looked at what great brands are doing to differentiate themselves in the marketplace,” Saturn General Manager Jill Lajdziak said, pointing to industry giants such as Starbucks Coffee Co. and Apple Computer Inc. ?Flawlessly aligning their product with consumer demands is a strength of both companies,? she said.

Also, a shower of strategies is anticipated in the auto industry. ?More Saturn-like approaches are likely on the way from Detroit carmakers,? said Joseph Phillippi of AutoTrends Consulting in Short Hills, N.J. “This is the classic case of the oft-noted axiom, ‘It takes one bad car to lose a customer but it takes you massive amounts of money to win that customer back.??

As competition increases, the chance of winning over customers is getting slimmer. “This hypercompetitive environment, it’s going to make you do things you wouldn’t have done before,” said Cisco Codina, head of marketing, sales and service for Ford in North America. ?When you have such a crowded marketplace, you have to have a more articulated message. The problem is, how far do you go?”

At Chrysler, the company is trying to be hyper-sensitive to customers. Last year it began having people watch unwitting drivers in their vehicles. “As there’s more competitors and more market segmentation, you’ve got to be more precise,” said Frank Klegon, Chrysler’s vice president of product development. “It’s not just ‘I think blue is the favorite color’ anymore. You’ve got to get objective data and apply that.”