Bad Connection? LA Auto Show, A Harsh Reality Check For Detroit

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    LOS ANGELES — Scary and bizarre.

    That just about sums up the Los Angeles Auto Show for the Detroit automakers, which opened last week.

    Well, aside from Ford, which rolled out its 2011 Ford Fiesta to huge fanfare. And as evident by many of the attendees I spoke with at the show, continues to gain ground in the mind of consumers.

    For GM and Chrysler, however, the LA show is a sign that the two automakers might need to seriously rethink their strategies on a number of fronts when it comes to connecting with consumers in key markets such as California.

    Why here? Well, for starters Los Angeles is by far the largest market in the U.S. for new cars. It also represents every major segment when it comes to new automobiles ranging from affordable compacts to premium luxury rides. In addition, California is the largest market for hybrid and electric vehicles, which clearly seems to be where the future of the auto industry is headed.

    In short, if you’re a major automaker and you can make it in California, you can make it anywhere. And after spending some time with some LA auto show attendees, it’s clear that GM and Chrysler are still struggling with how to really connect with some key consumers.

    WARNING SIGNS

    I guess, last week’s breaking news on the eve of the LA show’s opening that GM’s CE0 Fritz Henderson was being ousted and then his daughter’s reported rampage on Facebook (more akin to a reality show) should have been an indication of the troubles still prevalent with GM.

    Much as last week news that Chrysler’s national dealer network is calling for the company to pull ads like the new “I Live. I Ride. I Am” Jeep spots and Chrysler’s “World Without Walls” campaign — arguing that they fail to help sell vehicles is an indication of the troubles still prevalent with Chrysler.

    A dance routine at the GM display booth for the Chevrolet Volt, which GM announced will roll out in LA, evoked the same kind of response from some attendees. “It’s just so random,” said a show-goer. “That’s not going to help sell cars.
    It seems to be an ongoing struggle for GM — exactly what can they do to break through to consumers.

    There are also questions about whether some of the GM product unveilings at the LA show, like the Buick Regal and Chevrolet Cruse, can help the company regain market share.

    Even the new Cadillac CTS Coupe, one of my personal favorite unveilings, didn’t seem to generate the response among show-goers that it’ll need to compete when matched against luxury brands such as Mercedes-Benz and Lexus.


    HEY CHRYSLER, WHAT’S NEW?

    For Chrysler, the question at the LA show was when are they going to showcase any new vehicles?

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