The New York Auto Show this year had a good Vibe. Dealers were excited to have real showroom traffic, OEM’s rounded out there auto show season with final debuts and despite a slightly slower March US SAAR, the industry feels good.
The most popular debuts of the show weren’t the real news, the real news was continued interest in standard cars that press, analyst and industry watchers have carried oversince Detroit. The Ford Fusion, Dodge Dart and Toyota Camry were popular visits on the floor and were mentioned in just about every OEM and supplier presentation. And as Nissan unveiled the all new, and MUCH improved 2013 Altima, the big game is now set for this fall:
- Toyota Camry: the perennial champion
- Nissan Altima: with massive interior overhaul, the main contender
- Honda Accord: steady and popular
- Chevy Malibu: much improved, but with brand baggage
- Ford Fusion: ready for the big leagues
- Hyundai Elantra: currently the newest entry and soon to be oldest participant in its class
From a business perspective, the Altima was probably the most significant product to launch at the show. My initial perusal of the interior tells me that Nissan spent a pretty penny to improve the interior quality with upgrades like soft touch leather door handles and thicker contoured plastic molding replacing the previous smooth panels. With a new IP and control unit featuring the competitive app and connective technology, it’s in the ballpark and set for the battle this fall.
A steady increase on consumer demand has lightened the mood on the floor of the show. I saw a few old dealer friends from the NY metro area who looked a whole lot more relieved than they did over the past couple of years. From my conversations with them, consumer replacement demand is really picking up in the NY area — all those potholes are finally taking their toll. The stronger market added to atmosphere where it visitors weren’t embarrassed to enjoy some flashy, less market relevant debuts like the Dodge Viper and MB SL65 AMG and a flying car (actually a plane you can drive.)
Also some comments from the investor conference regarding outlook for 2012:
- US SAAR probably more like 14.8-14.0 mlllion than the 14.4 I had previously said.
- J3 to take back market share, they’re e already back from their low of 25.3% last May to a more normal 33.2% in March 2012. Even Hyundai has pulled back to the 5% level from peaks of 5.6%.
- Fleet sales should pull back later in Q2 to closer to 20% levels as rental fleets back off restocking and wait for new model year product.
- Trend toward more mid-size cars continues, and will take off like a wildfire with the new mid-size products coming this fall. We saw the more sedans touting fuel efficiency at the show.
- Oh yeah, in case you missed it; Europe’s not doing so well. It may get worse before it gets better. More to come on this…
While we were there, my 14 year old started his dream car search for when he gets his liscense. They never for the minivan or c-segment sedan, do they?